Is Sleep Training Safe? Facts and Myths Debunked

As the parent of a new baby, the number of questions you’re going to find yourself asking are, to put it mildly are astronomical!

The old saying about babies do not come with instructions has cemented itself in parental folk law for a good reason. Even after spending nine months doing endless research on what to expect when baby arrives, as soon as we’re sent home from the hospital with our little ones, there’s an unavoidable feeling of unpreparedness.

Every baby is different, after all. There is NO

  • manual
  • set of instructions
  • amount of coaching from friends and family

is going to prepare you for your child in particular.

And since this is just about the biggest responsibility that a human being can have, to raise another living person, we feel an incredible obligation to get it right.

Unfortunately, we don’t get any practice runs or dress rehearsals. Your first run-through is the final performance, so to speak, which only increases our dedication to solving problems before they spring up.

Sleep Training Safe For My Baby

And since babies basically eat, poo, cry and sleep, we’re naturally very focused on those four things.

What to feed baby, that’s often a contentious subject on its own and we often find ourselves with a sudden fascination in poo that we didn’t realise we had.

Which leaves us with sleeping and crying.

As a baby sleep consultant, I assure you, I’ve done a lot of research on both.

Crying is a normal

Because the biggest question that parents have when they start sleep training is, “Will my baby cry?”

This really isn’t the question they want the answer to, of course, because babies cry all the time. In fact, if a baby didn’t cry, it would be cause for concern.

Crying baby

Crying baby

What they’re really asking when they pose this question is, “How much will my baby cry, and will I be able to provide comfort when they do?”

Why is this the major concern with new parents? Well, naturally nobody likes to hear their baby cry, but parents nowadays are able to access a wealth of misinformation that claims if you don’t respond immediately when your baby cries, you could actually be harming them.

Unhelpful So-Called Experts

This wasn’t always such a contentious issue. Up until Dr. William Sears came out with his Attachment Parenting theory in 1993, parents were reasonably

comfortable with the idea that leaving a child to cry for a period of time when they woke in the night was safe, if maybe a little unpleasant.

But once The Baby Book was published, a generation of new parents began to cling to the idea that it was not just ineffective but was causing brain damage.

Sears cited studies to back up his claim, but those studies looked at babies who were suffering from

COLIC

a condition known as persistent crying, both of which are a far cry from allowing a child a few minutes of crying time.

And so the argument has raged on for nearly 25 years now, with attachment parenting advocates accusing sleep training advocates of willfully neglecting their babies for their own convenience.

It’s surprising that the pediatric and scientific community haven’t done more to prove or disprove this assertion, given the magnitude of the consequences.

After all, if we’re causing our babies brain damage by allowing them to cry, even for a short period, wouldn’t almost every parent in the world alter their approach to prevent it?

Misinterpreted information

One reason Dr. Sears’ claims didn’t provoke an immediate and widespread investigation was because they were hugely misleading.

The Yale researchers who conducted one of the studies his research pulled from responded to his use of their work by saying, “Our paper is not referring to routine, brief stressful experiences, but to abuse and neglect.

It is a mis-citation of our work to support a non-scientifically justified idea.”

Dr William Sears

Dr William Sears

 

Another went so far as to actually note in the study’s own conclusion that ,

“Our findings provide evidence that the quality of maternal behaviour appears to be unrelated to this effect.”

So the mother’s response or lack of it to the condition of persistent crying was inconsequential.

So that’s the argument against the original suggestion that started this whole movement.

Sleep Training Safe Isn’t Harmful

But its supporters will invariably ask, “Where’s your evidence to the contrary? How do you know it’s not harmful?”

Well, back in 2012, Dr. Anna Price, a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Centre for Community Child Health in Melbourne, Australia, conducted an extensive study that followed a group of two hundred and twenty six children, measuring mental health, sleep, stress regulation, child-parent relationship, maternal health and parenting styles.

Five years later, she followed up with the families to see the if the one third of the children whose parents had employed some method of sleep training had experienced any of the terrifying side effects that Dr. Sears had warned of.

The result… they had not.

In fact, to quote the study, “There was no evidence of differences between intervention and control families for any outcome.

Behavioral sleep techniques have no marked long-lasting effects.”

But critics continue to try to shoot holes in the evidence. “The sample size was too small,” is a common complaint, no matter what the size of the study might be. “We need further study,” is another, assuming that further study supports their position, which, as of yet, it hasn’t.

Further Research Conducted in Support

So in March of last year, when Pediatrics published another peer-reviewed study that showed sleep training to be both effective and safe, it didn’t change the mind of Dr. Sears or his followers.

But for those new parents who have been bombarded with misinformation and hearsay regarding the safety and efficacy of sleep training, it’s yet another assurance that you can feel confident in the fact that getting your child to sleep through the night is important, safe, and beneficial to your entire family.

Because there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, and that’s the fact that a good night’s sleep is beneficial for mother and baby alike.

So the answer is yes, sleep training is safe. Sleep itself is glorious, rejuvenating, and beneficial to you, your baby, and your entire family. Focusing on your child’s sleep habits is something you can feel good about, and a commitment that will pay off exponentially.

In short, your baby and yourself can both sleep soundly, knowing you’ve made the right choice.

 

Baby and Toddler Sleep Pattern

It’s spring again, which means the clocks go forward an hour. In some ways that’s lovely, because it means summer is on the way and the nights will get lighter. But if you have a child who you’ve just got into a good bedtime routine, you might find that the changing of the clocks affects their sleep. Bear in mind that your baby or toddler doesn’t actually know the time – they use their own inner clock – use that to your advantage. The secret is to be prepared, and with just a little bit of effort, you’ll find their sleep routine gets back to normal really quickly. Here are some tips to help you prepare your little one for time changes.

Adjust daytime naps to compensate

You’ll probably find that after the clocks change your little one will be tired before their “usual” bedtime – for example, if it’s 7pm they will be tired at 6pm once the clocks go forward. Try waking them a little later, moving their daytime naps forward or letting them sleep longer during the daytime – this will help regulate their body clock and assist them with moving their natural bedtime an hour later.

Move bedtime earlier

Perhaps the easiest way to get your little one used to the time change is to move bedtime earlier by a few minutes every day. Start about a week before the clocks change and move bedtime earlier by just 5 minutes every day. They will not notice this small difference and within a week of the clocks changing bedtime will be back at its proper time.

Stick to the original time.

If your little one normally wakes up too early then you might be able to use the clocks changing to your benefit. Leave bedtime at its usual time – so an hour later by the clock – and with any luck, they will sleep an hour later in the morning, at least by the clock. So if little one normally goes to bed at seven and wakes at six, put them to bed at 8 (new time) and they will hopefully wake at 7 (new time), giving you a psychological lie in!

Finally, another tip is to fit blackout blinds. Lighter evenings can make it harder for a child to sleep, whatever time you put them to bed, using blinds keeps the daylight out and helps your little one realise it is time for sleep.

How have you handled the time change previously? What do you do when you travel to another time zone with your little one? I love to hear from you, the information you share will benefit other parents.

I get asked this question a lot, and I have two answers for you.

First of all, the clinical one. If your child’s six months or older, gaining weight as expected, and your doctor says you’re okay to end night time feeds, then go ahead and give it a shot.

But that doesn’t really answer your question, does it? Because that information is readily available on about a thousand different websites. If that was all you needed to know, you’d know it already.

Chances are, what you’re really asking is, “Why does my baby refuse to give up his night feeds?”

Because if you’d pulled his night feeds and he just accepted it and started sleeping through the night, you wouldn’t be online looking for information about it. You’d either be in bed, enjoying eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep, or you’d be at the playground, telling all the other moms how easily your little guy gave up night feeds, and how this whole parenting thing is such a breeze!

(Don’t do that though. Moms hate that.)

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If there’s anything that can send your child’s sleep off the rails, if there’s an arch-enemy for sleep training, it is, without a doubt, the dreaded condition of overtiredness.

Kids, as with all people, have a natural rhythm when it comes to sleep. Our bodies secrete hormones to keep us up and running during the day, and different ones to help us rest at night. They’re dependant on a variety of factors, but timing is the most prevalent.

So what happens when your little one stays awake past the time when these natural cues to sleep are activated? Well, the body assumes there’s a reason that it hasn’t been allowed to get to sleep, assumes there’s a need to stay awake, and fires up those daytime hormones again.

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Is It Too Noisy For Your Baby To Sleep?This week’s question is from Tammy. She writes:

“My in-laws are coming to visit for a week and are under the impression that babies will sleep through anything and that they just need to “get used to” the noise. What are your thoughts on this issue? Is it possible for it to be too noisy for baby?” Read more

When Should I Stop Swaddling My Baby?This week’s question comes from Victoria:

“At what age should I stop swaddling my baby? It is the only way she will fall asleep and stay asleep.”

That is a great question Victoria and it can be a tricky one because I recommend that people swaddle newborns. I think it’s a great tool.

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My Baby Won't Sleep Anywhere but His Cot!Today I want to talk a little bit about getting your baby to sleep somewhere other than their cot. I get emails from parents a lot of times saying, “My baby sleeps so well on The Sleep Sense Program. She takes great naps in her cot, but she really won’t sleep anywhere else.” Read more

Will Putting Cereal In My Babys Bottle help Her Sleep“Cereal in a bottle will help baby to sleep better!

I hear that all the time. I know it’s an old wives’ tale. Your grandmother probably told you, “Oh, put cereal in a bottle with breast milk or the formula, and this baby will sleep all night.” The truth is that is not true.

You want to be very careful and cautious about when you introduce solids to your baby. There’s a lot of evidence that suggests starting solids too early can lead to some allergies in the future. Read more

Sleep Training Twins who Share a RoomThis week’s question comes from Trina and she writes:

I have boy twins who share a room but not the same cot. They are six months old and they wake up two to four times a night. I just do not know what to do. I feel like I cannot let them cry because one is going to wake up the other one.” Read more

BabyWinkz Consultancy - Mother & Baby Magazine - toddler nap

Softly softly approach to a toddler nap

In the May Edition of Mother and Baby parenting magazine, hear two sides of the argument should I drop my toddler nap at 2 years old? My stance is “NO – Children who nap when they need to are much happier”. The other side is “YES – Unnecessary daytime napping can eventually lead to tantrums”.

I take the gentle approach to sleep training, I want my clients to be comfortable about the steps they are going to take in their child’s life. Because we both want what is best for your child with as little stress involved as possible. Read my comments below.

 

 

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