3/15/12

It's time to take the guilt out of sleep training



Sleep training gets a bad rap. You don't have to talk to too many moms or look on the internet for too long to get this message. If you want your child to sleep well (especially for reasons that don't purely involve your child's welfare), people start to point fingers and call names.

"What a bad, selfish person!"

"What an uncaring, lazy parent!"

"How dare you not put everything, your health, well-being and marriage, before your child's every need and happiness."

"What a bad, selfish parent!"

Maybe you don't even need someone to tell you this before the guilt sets in. As parents, we give physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to our children all day, every day. We sacrifice like crazy. We try so hard to do things so perfectly that feelings of failure and guilt are never far from many of our minds. But what about us? What about our marriage? What about our family as a whole?

Can nurturing ever be taken to the extreme?

I think it can.

Balance is needed in everything. And we have our own limits to consider. There is a time when we turn from a great mommy to a mommy martyr. And it seems the subject of sleep is often one of these times.

We need sleep to survive and most of us need a fair amount of it to take us from mindless zombies to functioning humans (I know I sure do). We shouldn't feel guilty because we want some of it. We need it just like our children need it. It isn't a desire, it is a need. Sleep is food for the brain.

Inadequate sleep has many costs. If you aren't getting enough sleep you're more vulnerable to depression, your marriage can suffer, your temper and emotional stability suffers, your health suffers and your children can suffer. "A sleep-deprived family is an unhappy, unhealthy one." (Bedtiming 4)
See adults and sleep and children and sleep for more on this.

We need to balance our needs with the needs of our family. We are no use to anyone when we are too tired to think or control our emotions or function in any ability beyond eat, step, sit. If you aren't nurturing yourself, you don't have any energy left to nurture your family.

A baby's sleep must work for the entire family. Everyone's needs should be considered. You are a family, after all.

Maybe this means you will continue doing what you are doing. Everything is nice and peachy. Maybe this means your sleep training will only involve the encouragement of good sleep habits (see how I define sleep training here). Maybe this will mean you will do some other form of sleep training (some thoughts on some of that). Personal capabilities and limits vary just as situations vary. We need to do what is best for us, our baby and our family.

So drop the guilt. And get some sleep!

18 comments :

  1. AMEN! Once I saw the benefits of my son sleeping more, I threw the guilt out the window. He also gets there much faster on his own fussing for a few minutes. I secretly wish I could rock him to sleep occasionally, but he fusses more so in the crib he goes where he's out in 5 minutes!

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    1. Sara J,
      My oldest always fussed more when I held him to sleep too. Being my oldest, this was especially tough for me because I thought all babies fell asleep peacefully in their mom's arms. Isn't that what the media shows? If I had to choose between the two, I would choose sleeping in their own beds to only being able to sleep in my arms, but still I wish I could get a little more snuggling and sleeping in my arms!

      Rachel

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  2. Sleep? Who needs sleep? It's highly overrated lol But seriously - I know I function better when I actually sleep!!!! There's enough guilt to go around - don't waste it on the small issue of how you get your sleep, right? Thanks for reminding us to do what is best for our kids AND us! :-)

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    1. Sharon,
      Yes, there certainly is enough guilt going around as it is. Too bad that we moms who should be supporting each other are so often the ones that are pulling each other down.

      Rachel

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  3. Four years ago I sleep trained my son. It was the best decision I ever made! And it only took 2 nights. Now I am pregnant again and noticed the backlash against it. All I know is it worked for my and my family and will do it again.

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    1. Tanya,
      Yeah, parenting beliefs really seem to go through phases. I read a book about this once that was really interesting. It talked about where certain philosophies came from and how they affected things. Teaching my kids to sleep was definitely one of the best decisions I ever made too--especially with my oldest who is the crankiest kid alive if he doesn't get perfect sleep!

      Rachel

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  4. I agree. I am worth nothing if I don't have the sleep I need. I'm dealing with this issue now with my granddaughter, and honestly, I have no clue how to make it work. Her parents are on a 4 p.m. till 4 a.m. work shift, 3 and 4 days a week. On those nights, she either stays with me or her other grandmother. So she has three different household schedules to work into. When her parents are home, they go to bed around 6 a.m. So if I put her on our schedule when she is here, I am effectively ruining their ability to sleep. It just seems like a lose/lose situation. Not asking for a solution-just whining :-)

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    1. theresa,
      Yikes! I would whine too. That is so difficult for all of you and for her. You are great to help out. Too bad there isn't a good solution for this besides a work change or a permanent day/night nanny or something.

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  5. your blog is such a wonderful resource for parents. Hugs and happy weekend wishes!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Katherine! Have a great weekend too!

      Rachel

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  6. Thanks for sharing this advice with my readers and myself! Thank you for also taking the time to link up today at Saturday Show & Tell on Cheerios and Lattes. Hope to see you back again next week! :)

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    1. Happy to share Mackenzie (love your name, btw). Thanks for inviting me!

      Rachel

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  7. Kelsi said(sorry kelsi, I can't figure out how to get your comment to post here, the new and old commenting systems are fighting each other),
    I think you make some really good points here. While I do practice night time parenting as Dr. Sears calls it, I do hear you. I think sleep deprived parents aren't in the best shape to parent as well as they can. I think we really need to take care of ourselves to take better care of our children. I have been co-sleeping with my 15 month old since we brought him home from the hospital and I do think it was a good decision for us because we were all able to get more sleep and we all felt comfortable with that sleeping arrangement, but I think with my next child, I don't plan to co-sleep quite so long. I'm thinking there has to be a cut off somewhere in the first year even if that means I'm not the perfect parent who can do it all with no sleep.

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    1. Thanks for your great comment Kelsi. I appreciate how open minded you are with your parenting. It sounds like you are doing the best thing for your family which is the most important. And I think the "perfect parent" idea goes around so much and that none of us are really like that but many of us think we should be.

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  8. I used to be one of those people who was soooo anti-sleep training. While I ate a big ole slice of humble pie at 9 months when it was a last resort. Our family dynamics were horrible. My son was up 10 times per night, my husband was tired and stressed, I was tired and stressed, and nobody had any energy. Adding to the stress was that our son would fight sleep for over 3 hours every night...arching out of our arms, biting my nipple, nonstop screaming, etc.

    So we started CIO and he was sleeping through the night within 3 days. Now he never cries more than 5 minutes. Much better for him than crying for 3 hours. Much better for us than having to deal with that at bedtime then be up all night with him.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience Amy. You are certainly not the only one who has gotten to this point before and decided that there might be something worse out there than sleep training--zero sleep and all the other stuff that often comes with it. I'm glad your family is getting some rest again and not having a nightly battle.

      Rachel

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  9. I used to be completely against sleep training since I read Dr Sears' Baby book and learned about the benefits of co-sleeping. So we co-slept from day 1. But with some really bad postpartum depression, it wasn't a pretty picture for me. I would wake up from nightmares that the baby was falling off the bed, that I was smothering him, and so on. It wasn't working for me. But we hadn't even bought a crib, bassinet, or anything. So at 8 months I finally bought a pack-n-play and started sleep training. The only one who made me feel guilty was my husband (who I had convinced that attachment parenting was the only way, and co-sleeping was the best!). He made me feel horrible when the baby would cry for longer than 4 or 5 mins. So we let the baby sleep in the bed with us again... Big mistake! He would wake up countless times in the night, and almost push us out of the bed, sleeping criscrossed in the bed. It was another nightmare in itself. So I realize that we all sleep tons better when he is in his separate space. We're talking 10 to 12 hours without waking. He would never sleep that much in my bed. And I feel lots more rested. I wish I would have done it earlier, and when I have another child, they will be sleeping in a bassinet by my bed from day 1!

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    1. Hannah Sheets Perez,
      Thanks for sharing your experience Hannah. There really are different sleep arrangements that work better for different people. I love that you were able to realize that one way wasn't working for you and that you needed to find some other way that was different, but still good. I'm sure you feel like a completely different person with more sleep now!

      Rachel

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