So let’s do this! Let’s talk about all the myths, misconceptions, and false information that’s confusing the heck out of parents. Here are the craziest sleep training myths I have come across thus far.
Sleep training is the same thing as cry it out
No, no, no…. and NO! Sleep training is not synonymous with cry it out. Sleep training is the process of helping your baby get to sleep and stay asleep. In other words, when you are sleep training you are simply teaching your baby good sleep habits so that your baby can easily fall asleep, and sleep well at night. How you do that is entirely up to you, but it does not have to be by leaving your baby alone in the dark to cry her little head off. So you wonder, “Why on earth did people start confusing cry it out, with sleep training?” Well, for a long time, the only way people knew to get their baby to sleep through the night, was by letting them cry it out or what’s referred to as “Ferberizing”. I want parents to be clear on this, cry it out is just one of many sleep training techniques. I “sleep trained” my babies using techniques that didn’t involve leaving them alone to cry. So the next time your friends talk about sleep training and cry it out in the same sentence, inform them…sleep training is not the same thing as cry it out. Here are some No Tears Methods of Sleep Training.
Training is for dogs, not for babies
Ummm….what!?! I think the word “training” is what really gets people’s panties up in a bunch. I agree, it’s not a great term to use for a sweet little baby. When you think of training, you think of training a dog. If you don’t want to view it as such, then think of it as coaching, teaching, or guiding your baby to sleep. Whatever term you use, won’t change the fact that if your baby is having sleep troubles, some sort of training, coaching, or teaching will need to be implemented. As humans we are born to learn skills to evolve into fully functioning human beings. Think about all the skills that we as parents teach our children: How to use a sippy cup, to how to eat with a fork, how take first steps, how to use the potty, to ride a bike, to jump rope, and the list goes on. Sure, you don’t have to help your child with any of that. And perhaps one day your child will learn to do these things completely on their own. But as parents, yes we are here to “train”, help, teach, and guide our children with these skills. And sleep is just as important, if not most important of all things that a parent should help with. Because without good sleep, everything else will be very difficult to accomplish.
You don’t have to train a baby to sleep, babies are born with the ability to do so
Yes and no. Sure a baby knows how to fall asleep from the moment they are born, but do they know how to sleep well? That depends on what you teach/guide/train your baby. During the first months of life, a baby learns certain sleep habits, routines, and create sleep associations. When you decide to sleep train, all you are doing is making sure these sleep habits are healthy and promote restful sleep. If they are not, you have to “train” your baby to have better sleep habits, so she can fall asleep peacefully and sleep well at night.
If I don’t sleep train, my baby will eventually sleep through the night.
This comment is usually followed by “I don’t know many college kids that are not sleeping through the night”. Ok, sure. If you don’t teach your baby healthy sleep habits, and don’t do any sleep training, then yes, your baby will obviously eventually sleep through the night. BUT and there’s a huge BUT, it can take up to 3-5 years. Two studies were conducted, one found that 84% of babies that have sleep troubles in infancy will continue to do so until that age of 3. Another study, found that some babies continue to have such troubles up until age 5. So yes, your baby will eventually learn to sleep through the night, but waiting 3-5 years for her sleep troubles to improve is a very long time to be miserable and exhausted. Not to mention what sleep deprivation does to a child’s health. Also worth mentioning is that what ends up happening with some of these children, is that they finally do start sleeping longer stretches at night, but continue to have sleep troubles because they have never learned the skills of independent sleep. I have seen this over and over with my clients. Babies that don’t have these skills, continue to have nap troubles, fight sleep, wake frequently during the night, and wake very early in the morning. In other words, they eventually learn how to get just the bare minimum of sleep. It’s not until good sleep habits are instilled/sleep training takes place, that all of these sleep troubles improve.
Sleep training prevents closeness and interferes with the mommy/baby bond
Wait, what did you just accuse me of doing? Let’s be clear here, snuggling and cuddling with my girls, is my favorite thing in the whole world. Secretly, I’m pretty sure that’s why I had them. There is nothing more enjoyable than a baby draped across your chest, and snuggling up into your neck. Nothing else compares to this special closeness. I do this with my kids EVERY single night before bed. When we are done, I lay them down, and they happily and peacefully drift off to sleep. Usually within a couple minutes. And that’s what sleep training does. It teaches healthy sleep habits, so that your baby knows how to fall asleep on her own, feels safe doing so, and sleeps well through the night. Sleep training has never, ever, interfered with our snuggling, or mommy and baby bond. Picking the right sleep training method is key.
Sleep training is not for every baby. My baby is different and will never learn to sleep without me
Really? That’s like saying my my child will never learn to walk, or use the potty. I’ve heard people say that, but you’ve got admit, it’s slightly dramatic. You have to think about what you are saying. If we agree that sleep training means you are helping to teach your baby good sleep habits, then why wouldn’t your baby learn these habits if you just stick to it and are consistent? Babies, human beings for that matter, are the most adaptable species on the planet for goodness sakes. It’s part of who are, so that we can survive in this world. We are very moldable, teachable, and adapt easily. Especially as babies. Let’s be serious, your baby will learn to fall asleep on her own, and sleep well through the night. Just like she will learn anything else you as a parent will have to teach her throughout her life. What I think ends up happening is that parent’s get confused on what they are doing when it comes to sleep training because there is so much misleading information out there. Parents are not quite sure how to handle sleep training and give up quickly because it doesn’t seem to be working. Sleep training can be tricky. You really do have to have a good system in place that includes an age appropriate sleep schedule, consistent bedtime routine, putting your baby down awake, responding appropriately to the wakings, and using sleep training techniques you are comfortable with. So yes, it can definitely be confusing and overwhelming! That is exactly why I created this site. If you are not sure how to tackle this, here’s a great place to start Sleep Training: The Basics. There are also tons of articles in the left side bar.
So there you have it, the most absurd sleep training myths I have been exposed to. If you have heard some silly ones, please comment below. I would love to debunk some more. It’s a shame that there are parent”s out there that truly need some help when it comes to sleep training, and they are faced with loads of horrible misguided information. I too was one of those parents, and struggled badly with getting my little one to sleep. We were literally up 5-6 times a night, until she was about 8 months old and I decided enough was enough. I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and just a miserable person. I did some major research and decided that sleep training was our golden ticket. I am so glad I was able to weed out the bad information, from the good. Sleep training was the best decision I made for our family. My kids are such great sleepers. To this day, they still amaze me at how easily and peacefully they drift off to sleep. Now my only hope is to help all the sleepless parents out there, so that their babies can sleep well too…