Do you want to know something that really gets me fired up? It’s when mums are talking about child sleep either face to face or online and I hear comments like:
“You should just enjoy getting up to feed baby all night – someday he’ll be all grown up and you’ll miss it.”
“You were the one who decided to have children. Did you REALLY think you’d be getting a full night’s sleep for the next few years?”
Or my all-time favorite…
“Well, you’d better learn to live with it! That’s the role of a mother!” I always remember my sister in law telling me to “kiss goodbye to sleep once my daughter arrives!”
My fingers are starting to burn just writing about this, so I’m going to “fire back” with my top three myths about teaching your baby to sleep well:
Myth #1: Your baby will not love you in the morning.
Really? Do you think that after just one night of changing your baby’s sleep habits she won’t love you anymore? Is that all it would take?
Would all the comfort and cuddles you give her, all the food you provide, all the nappies and clean clothes she wears, all the playtimes and bath times, all the kisses and laughter be for nothing because of a few nights of protest?
The truth is that making changes to anyone’s sleep habits will always be met with some resistance, especially as the baby does not see that in a few nights time they will start to embrace this lovely gift you are giving to them. So yes, it is safe to assume that your baby is not going to happily accept the fact that you are no longer going to rock her to sleep for an hour each and every night, but as long as you are a loving and attentive parent in the first place, the love will endure.
In fact, the hundreds of families I’ve helped, find that once their baby is sleeping well she’s even happier and healthier than before!
Myth #2: Teaching you baby healthy sleep habits means leaving your baby to “cry it out.”
First off, my techniques do NOT use the “cry-it-out” method.
You stay with your child till they fall asleep — if that makes you feel more comfortable.
The bottom line is that it’s not the crying that gets a baby sleeping well or exhausts them to sleep. The crying is simply your baby’s reaction to the change in his or her sleep habits, nothing more.
In other words, your baby isn’t crying because she’s “mad” at you… or because you’re being cruel. The only reason she’s crying is because she’s temporarily confused! I mean, you USED TO rock or feed her to sleep every night… and now (for her own health) you’re not doing that anymore.
And the great news is that your child’s confusion usually only lasts a few days. Children adapt SO quickly that she’ll soon figure out how to calmly get herself to sleep… and then everyone’s happier!
Myth #3: Sleep training is too stressful for babies
First off, there is no evidence that sleep training has any short term or long term psychological effects on children. So you can cross that off your list of things to worry about.
As for those who say that a few nights of crying are “too stressful?” Well, I say you’ve really got two choices:
Make some changes.
This usually involves a few nights of your child crying for 10 – 40 minutes at bedtime. After a few nights, most children start to learn how to fall asleep independently and the crying stops completely shortly thereafter. In this scenario, the total amount of “stress” felt by your child amounts to a few minutes of crying for a few nights.
In this scenario, the parent/carer continues to feed / rock / bounce the child to sleep every night. The child wakes up 1 – 10 times per night, and needs to be fed / rocked / bounced back to sleep each time.
In this scenario, both parent, carer and child are subjected to months (or even years) of systematic sleep deprivation where neither ever gets enough consolidated sleep to wake up and feel rested or refreshed. If these poor sleep habits continue into the school years, there is evidence that it correlates with things like obesity and trouble focusing in class – both of which sound pretty stressful to me!
So what sounds more harmful: A few nights of crying or months/years of depriving your child of a good nights’ sleep?
If one or more of these three myths have been holding you back from taking the simple steps needed to create long term, positive change for your child’s sleep, I really hope I’ve been able to change your mind.
Read more from Judy Clark’s Blog.