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Invest in your health

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

To me sleep training is about investing in your family’s health, but it is also about doing what is best for your family. Of course I recommend sleep training as it is overall beneficial for all parties involved, that does not however mean everyone agrees.

If helping your little one to fall asleep at night is no longer working for you or them, then it is time for a change. The belief is that when babies learn to rely on a parent or a prop (e.g., rocking, nursing, soothers, co sleeping etc.) to help them go to sleep, they don’t learn how to fall asleep by themselves and will inevitably need those same behaviors or props to help them go back to sleep.

Waking 5-6 times a night can be physically and mentally exhausting, and can have a negative impact on one’s overall health. Research shows that babies that can fall asleep on their own at bedtime are the ones that are most likely able to fall back to sleep on their own in the middle of the night, which is likely to happen every 30-60 minutes. In fact, one study showed that the factor most related to babies not sleeping for six plus hour’s straight at night was due to high need from a prop or parents’ presence at the time a baby first falls asleep.

You may wonder well how can I help my baby learn to fall asleep on their own, or how do we eliminate props.... first is creating a sleep plan that your family is comfortable with one that focuses on positive sleep environments, routine, consistency and support. Sleep training also involves teaching parents ways to support their child while pulling away from parent-centered methods (e.g., rocking, nursing).

The most common argument to not sleep train a child is the so called negative impact it has on them, which in reality there is no real evidence to back this theory up. As some researchers have pointed out, the only evidence that crying can be detrimental to infant development comes from studies on long term abuse and neglect; none of these studies look at the effect of brief periods of crying in an otherwise loving family. When working with Sleep Tight consulting I do not focus on sustained crying for long periods of time. We do however need to look at the entire family in order to create an age appropriate-plan. This is how we ensure only brief and controlled periods of crying that usually do not last more than a few days. My goal is to encourage healthy and safe sleep habits, positive sleep associations, appropriate awake times, and family focused plans.

One recent study looked at children who had been sleep trained as babies five years later to see if there was anything different about these now 6-year-olds when compared to 6-year-olds that weren’t sleep trained as infants. The study found that there were absolutely no differences between these kids: Sleep trained kids were no more likely to have emotional problems, sleep problems, or attachment issues than kids that weren’t sleep trained as babies. In fact, there was nothing negative about sleep training in the long-term. This study suggests that there aren’t any negative long-term impacts of sleep training.

Despite there being no evidence of negative consequences of sleep training, there’s a lot of evidence that there are serious long-term negative consequences of sleep deprivation, including depression, inattentiveness, and marital problems. Even if you’re getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep total, research shows that waking up several times in the middle of the night (e.g., for nursing, soothing, etc.) can lead to depression-like symptoms and problems with attention as well. In fact, moderate sleep deprivation has effects that look similar to being drunk, and just like alcohol, puts you at risk for getting into a car accident.

Sleep deprivation affects babies too, and in similar ways, making them cranky and possibly inhibiting their attention and learning. Therefore the idea that parents who use these methods are selfish or careless couldn’t be further from the truth. The idea that parents who choose not to sleep train are selfish is just as ridiculous. Listening to both sides of the argument can make you feel like you can’t win; like you’re a bad parent either way.

Everyone seems to have an opinion these days, what’s important to remember is that in the end, the only opinion that really matters is yours. Every baby is different, and every family is different; you should do what works best for your family’s needs.

Its okay to ask for help, and it is okay to not need help! We are all different for a reason, but if you need help I will be here and I will guide your family every step of the way!



This blow was originally posted here. Vanessa LoBue, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers University.

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