Being a pediatric sleep consultant, I often find myself in conversations about child sleep. It’s not uncommon for the topic to come up in conversations with friends, and family...not to mention mom2mom support groups. I’ve realized that there are a lot of misconceptions about what sleep training is. So...I thought it would make sense to share more about the topic to clear up any confusion. :)
What Sleep Training Is:
1) The main purpose of sleep training is to allow a child to learn the skill of falling asleep on their own.
2) When children are allowed space to fall asleep on their own, they learn how to soothe themselves, which is a valuable skill set when it comes to sleep and other aspects of their day.
3) Once children start to learn how to get themselves to sleep at the start of bedtime and nap-time, they are able to seamlessly connect their sleep cycles. When this happens they start to sleep better through the night and extend nap-times.
What Sleep Training Is Not:
1) Sleep training is not meant to get rid of nighttime feedings. While the result of a child sleeping better can lead to a decrease in nighttime feedings, it is possible to keep nighttime feedings and still sleep train.
2) Sleep training does not mean that parents cannot be involved in helping their child learn to fall asleep on their own. There are a variety of approaches to sleep training, some that have more parental contact for those who wish to be more hands on through the process.
3) Parents who wish to sleep train are not abandoning their child or causing emotional harm. Yes sleep training involves crying, this is to be expected given that crying is a main form of communication for little ones. This doesn’t mean that a child is in pain or emotional distress, it just means that they are frustrated with the changes being put into place.
I’m certainly not here to say that all parents have to sleep train their children. I recognize that it doesn’t fit with all family philosophies. Having said that, I do want parents who are considering sleep training to be aware of its purpose. As I shared above, there are a lot of misconceptions out there. I encourage parents to tune out others opinions, and think about what feels right for them and their child.
One last thought, when dealing with child sleep issues, either route parents choose (to sleep train or not) is challenging. So, shout out to parents for being awesome in whatever path you choose :)