Sleep and sleep training have become hot topics in the last few years, which I think is great! I’m so glad that we’re having the conversation and acknowledging the need for healthy sleep habits after so many years of this, “Sleep is for the weak” mentality.
Even though I occasionally find myself burying my face in my hands at some of the misinformation and lack of understanding regarding sleep, especially when it comes to babies, I’m glad that it’s being discussed. People are really starting to take an interest in its impact on our health, or well-being, and our quality of life.
As always, interest breeds information, and it seems like there’s a new sleep training book coming out every other month these days. I make it a point to read them when I can, but it’s a one in a hundred shot that I’ll find anything innovative. The vast, and I mean vast majority are just tiny variations on the tried-and-true methods.
I can see why people like Ava Neyer get frustrated with all of this conflicting information. Her article, I Read All the Baby Sleep Books, in the Huffington Post was a great laugh, and reminded me so much of myself when I first started looking into sleep training.
With the hope of clarifying the issue for anyone who’s finding the information a little overwhelming, I thought I’d offer a quick overview of the different methods of sleep training, and where Sleep Sense falls into the mix.
So first off, we’ve got the Dr. Sears approach, which you can find on his website. I’ll keep myself from going off on a tangent here, but I really wish he would rename this, “31 Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep for 20 Minutes,” because that, in effect, is what he’s doing. Nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, driving to sleep, all great approaches if you don’t mind getting up to nurse, rock or go for a drive six times a night.
Another popular approach is the No-Cry Sleep Solution. It’s been a big seller for a lot of years and, obviously, must have helped a lot of people, given its popularity. It’s a very gradual approach, which is good for parents who want to take things slow. I have no objections to this approach, but it can take months, literally months to get results. All the while, Mom, Dad and Baby aren’t getting the sleep they need, and the drawn-out process can lead to parents giving up a month or two into the program.
The extinction method is the one that has created so much controversy. Also known as Cry-it-Out, this involves putting baby to bed, closing the door, and not opening it again until the next morning. It’s very difficult, for obvious reasons, and doesn’t address the fact that baby might be crying for legitimate reasons, like needing a diaper changed or having a foot caught between the crib railings.
The Ferber method involves putting baby to bed, leaving the room, and going back in after progressively longer intervals. This involves some crying, which, despite the abundance of misinformation to the contrary, will not harm your child. It’s a very popular method, and it works for a lot of babies. It’s not very versatile though, and many parents find it too difficult to leave the room while their baby is crying.
Finally, we have the Sleep Sense approach. Maybe I’m a teeny bit biased, but this one is, hands-down, my favorite technique. The Sleep Sense Program actually has a number of different approaches, which allows you to customize the program to your baby, as well as your level of comfort with leaving her alone.
If you prefer to stay in the room with her the entire night, that’s covered in detail, including what to do when she cries and when to start easing your way out of the room. If you want to leave the room and check back periodically, I’ve got a step-by-step guide to that approach as well.
What all of the approaches in The Sleep Sense Program have in common is that they teach your child how to fall asleep independently, and that’s the single most important piece of the puzzle. Once your child has learned to fall asleep on her own, it doesn’t matter how often she wakes in the night. As long as she’s learned the skills, baby will wake briefly, see that she’s in her crib, and go happily back to sleep.
I often hear people say, “The right approach is the one that works for your baby,” and I totally agree. Just make sure it’s actually working; actually teaching your baby to sleep on her own, and not fitting the criteria in which she’ll agree to go to sleep.
If she’s got to have a pacifier, three of her favorite stuffed animals, and a ride in the car to fall asleep, she’s not learning anything, and she’ll be demanding all of that again at two in the morning when she wakes up.
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