Last week was a bit of a rough ride.
An Australian mommy- blogger shared one of my consultant training ads to her Facebook page, and her followers flew into a rage.
“How can she advocate this practice? Doesn’t she know how damaging CIO is to babies?! She’s promoting another generation of cortisol-soaked babies!”
Yes, someone actually used the term “cortisol-soaked,” which, to my knowledge, has never been said before.
I got in on the discussion in an attempt to clear the air about what the Sleep Sense Program is all about, but really, I think they had their minds made up that I was an evil, heartless profiteer, and no amount of logic and reasoning was going to convince them otherwise.
But I did realize, after the fracas, that if someone had not read the book, they might easily be under some false impressions about what’s involved in the program, so I thought I’d take a minute here to clear the air on a few common misconceptions.
- Sleep Sense is NOT a “Cry-It-Out” approach.
At least no more so than refusing ice cream for breakfast or turning off the TV while Caillou is on. Because here’s a fact I’m sure most of you are aware of… kids are going to cry. Kids cry when they don’t get their way, when they’re frustrated, when they’re overtired, or sometimes for no good reason at all. So yes, when you change up their bedtime routine, or stop supplying their sleep props, there’s going to be some crying. However, baby’s going to cry a lot more if she’s not able to fall asleep independently. There may be years of waking up, looking for a pacifier, a comfort feed, or a cuddle, and crying until someone responds, not to mention crying during the day because she’s cranky from a lousy sleep the night before.
When your baby does cry, you are absolutely free to go check on her, calm her down, and reassure her that you’re there. Just don’t rock her to sleep, feed her to sleep, or otherwise deprive her of the chance to learn how to fall asleep on her own. And hey, if you still feel like leaving her alone in her room is a step too far, good news…
- You don’t have to leave your baby alone
Around half of the parents who use the Sleep Sense Program choose to employ the “Stay in the room” method. This allows you to sit right next to baby while she sleeps, and to respond to her as soon as she wakes up. The program helps you to identify the behaviors that reinforce her wake-ups and substitute them for others that help her learn to fall asleep on her own.
- Sleep training is not a sedative
I get a boatload of people commenting on my Facebook about the fact that “nobody sleeps through the night, why should we expect babies to?” This is absolutely correct. We all sleep in cycles and wake numerous times a night, and sleep training won’t change that. What it will do is teach your baby how to fall asleep independently when they wake up in the night, which prevents a whole lot of unnecessary crying and stress for both baby and parents.
- I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t feed a hungry baby
If your child is under 6 months of age, she may still need a feed during the night, so don’t expect her to be getting 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep right out of the gates. Babies typically require a night feed until they reach at least six months, and sometimes beyond that if there are health concerns. Talk to your pediatrician before you pull a night feed, and make sure that baby’s growth and weight gain are on track.
But when you DO feed baby at night, don’t “feed her to sleep.” If she’s falling asleep on your breast or while she’s working on a bottle, then she’s not learning to make the journey on her own. Until she learns to fall asleep without sucking on something, she’s going to need you to come in and provide that something, which means crying, agitation, and a broken night’s sleep for the both of you.
- I’m not trying to convert people to my methods
I love to help families get the sleep they need, and I get a daily dose of happiness from the inspiring comments I read from people who have used the Sleep Sense Program and benefited from it. And since sleep and its benefits are what I’m passionate about, I can honestly say that it doesn’t matter to me if you sleep train, co-sleep, room share, or dreamfeed, as long as you and your kids are getting the sleep you need!
If co-sleeping works for you, that’s great! Co-sleep until your little one outgrows your bed! If sleep training solves your problems, that’s great too! I’m a firm believer! If turning on Barry Manilow and performing a 45 minute bedtime puppet show gets your baby consistently sleeping through the night, well, I feel bad for you, but go for it! Whatever it takes, do that. Sleep can’t be an option if your family’s health is a priority.
My program is for people who get their best sleep in their own bed, and who want to teach their kids how to fall asleep independently. I know it’s not for everyone, and I’m not saying it’s a superior method to any others. It just works beautifully for some people, and those are the ones I want to help.
- Sleep training is not damaging to your child. Lack of sleep is.
I understand why people have such passionate views on parenting. I have many resolute opinions myself, and I totally understand that hearing a child cry, for any length of time, runs against our instincts as parents, but there are two things I want to make clear here. One, although I wish they would do more studies, the peer-reviewed, scientific evidence we do have is essentially in agreement that responsible sleep training poses absolutely no threat to your baby’s development or the bond you share. So says this article from Time Magazine, this one from Slate, this study from St. Joseph’s University, this assessment from the UK’s National Health Service, ‘Science of Mom’ author Alice Callahan, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Director of Yale’s Pediatric Sleep Center.
Two, sleep is essential! I won’t bother posting links to support this claim because it’s not even remotely in dispute. Every study on the subject confirms that sleep deprivation is damaging to health and well-being, and can lead to a variety of serious health issues, including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. So if someone’s telling you that your child will sleep, “eventually,” don’t accept it as a solution to the problem. You and your kids need sleep, and waiting for the situation to resolve itself could have serious consequences.
- Sleep training does not prevent breastfeeding
I don’t know where this leap was made, but there is nothing that says you can’t breastfeed when you’re sleep training, and I’m not against breastfeeding. In any way. Whatsoever. OK? Just want to make sure that’s clearly stated, because since I wrote a piece saying that I’d had a bad experience with it, breastfeeding advocates have been kicking my door down, suggesting that I don’t think others should do it. Nothing could be further from the truth, I assure you. I support all mothers and their God-given right to breastfeed wherever they want. I’m officially stating my continued and unequivocal support for breastfeeding and all things breastfeeding-related.
To sum up, you and your child need to get enough sleep. How you accomplish it is 100% your call. The right approach is the one that works for you. I don’t advocate starving your child, ignoring their cries, or leaving them alone for prolonged periods of time. Sleep training is safe and effective. Breasts are wonderful. Nobody should be made to feel bad for choices they make in the best interest of their family. We’re all in this thing together.
So, with that being said, I’m assuming I’ve now, officially and single-handedly, ended the mommy wars.
Please, no statues. I look terrible in bronze.
If your baby, infant or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, help is just a click away! The Sleep Sense Program has helped over 57,00 parents to get their kids sleeping 11-12 hours through the night AND taking long, restful naps during the day. If you’re ready to get started today – I’m looking forward to helping you!