Sleep training is a hotly debated topic among parents these days. For some, the “cry-it-out” method is cruel to children and can cause long-term problems. On the other hand, sleep training advocates, like Little Z’s Sleep, argue that it’s not harmful and is actually good for children and their families. Unfortunately, much of the debate is influenced by misinformation.
So, what does science say? Here, let’s separate the facts from myths to help wary parents about the impacts of sleep training on their children.
Myth #1: The “Cry-It-Out” Method is Cruel, Causing Long-term Issues
Fact: Allowing a baby cry to sleep has been viewed by some parents as cruel or harmful due to fears that it could raise the baby’s stress levels or provoke a behavioral problem in the future. But a study published in Pediatrics says moms and dads don’t need to worry.
The researchers observed 43 babies between the ages of six to sixteen months. They divided the group into three, according to three sleep training methods: fading or camping out, gradual extinctions or crying with checks, and a control group (whose caretakers kept doing their usual bedtime routine). They found out that the two groups (fading and crying with checks) were both effective and didn’t show signs of emotional problems one year later after the survey was completed.
In addition, their levels of a stress hormone called cortisol were lower than measurements taken in babies from the study’s control group.
On top of these, the babies who were left crying to sleep fell asleep 15 minutes more quickly. This result showed three months into the study, but better sleep happened within the first week.
Myth #2: Sleep Training is for the Benefit of the Parents, Not the Child
Fact: Though parents tend to sleep better and longer when the child is sleep trained, it’s for the child’s benefit. Imagine how frustrating it is for the child to wake up many times each night and cry to get back to sleep. Moreover, they always need their parents’ or caretakers’ intervention to fall back to sleep when they’re not sleep trained. This is not easy on the child. That’s why learning how to self-soothe is an essential skill for infants to avoid crying nightly. What sleep trainers do is they teach you a much needed baby sleep support to avoid night wakings.
Myth #3: Once My baby is Sleep Trained, I Can Expect Her to Sleep Through the Night, Everynight
Fact: Sleep training is not a miracle!
Even if one method worked for one baby, the effect could wear off after a while, and you need to go back to square one, redoing the training. In a recent study, they found out that two sleep training methods helped babies sleep better only for a few months. The data suggested that these techniques reduced the time it takes for a baby to slumber and the number of times they wake up at night. However, the data also showed that the babies were still waking up, on average, once to twice a night, after three months.
So the bottom line is, it’s hard to say how much improvement is expected. For customized guidance sleep training from birth, a newborn sleep help from Little Z’s Sleep is an excellent way to start. They also have online sleep training for babies, toddlers, and preschool.
Myth #4: Sleep Training Means I Can’t Share a Room with My Child Anymore and Do Things with Her
Fact: Sleep training doesn’t necessarily mean giving up the activities you love to do with your baby. You can still hold and sing to them as a part of your nighttime routine. Sleep training lets you avoid these activities only at the time of transition from wake to sleep.
Also, it’s totally fine to sleep with your baby in the same room during sleep training. It is even more convenient for breastfeeding while reassuring you that your child is well. If you want to keep them in the same room as you, you can provide a separate sleep location such as a bassinet or crib.
Ensuring Successful Sleep
No matter what method you use to sleep train your child, it’s always best to consult your pediatrician about good sleep habits. Certified sleep coaches can also be your go-to people when it comes to sleep training.
For starters, don’t allow your babies to fall asleep while feeding, either breastfeeding or bottle feeding, or when being held. They should be put down while they’re “drowsy” but awake to encourage independent rest. You can sing or stroke their head to calm them.
Essentially, consistency is the key.