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Dec 18 2013

Sleep Training Gets a Bad Rap

By at 2:13 pm

sleep

After reading Mayim Bialik’s recent article on why she disagrees with sleep training, I felt I had to write a response to show everyone the second side of the sleep-deprived coin.

I want to start out by saying that I think Mayim’s take on parenting is so refreshing and honest. She is so in tune with herself and what her needs are as a mother–which is the single most important aspect in parenting our children. I am not writing this response to “battle” anything she has written, or to contribute to the “Mommy Wars” that exists today. I just want every mother to feel true to herself…

Unfortunately, sleep training has a very negative connotation these days. It is often wrongly associated with leaving Baby to cry for endless hours alone, leaving him emotionally and physically traumatized. Although there are many methods out there, amongst them are also gentle, holistic ideas. Sleep training doesn’t always mean teaching your baby how to sleep. It also means teaching your baby when to sleep or how to become less irritable. There are so many factors included in the blanket of helping improve sleep habits that I could write a 20-page article alone just discussing that!

But don’t worry, I won’t bore you. I also won’t spend time addressing what sleep training is in more detail. I just want to share my thoughts on why it isn’t necessarily a disciplined, last-resort measure.

A constant theme throughout Mayim’s article is that sleep training goes against a baby’s innate nature. It goes against our motherly instincts and against what Mother Nature intended for the healthy bonding of mother and baby.

Yes, it is normal for babies to wake up at night… and sometimes wake up a lot at night! But if a mother is unhappy and disconnected from her baby because Baby is irritable all day long and screaming endlessly throughout the night, then that”normal” behavior quickly becomes anything but normal.

I have a good friend who has a lot of small children. She has seven kids and her oldest is barely 10 years old (that’s practically a baby every one and a half years!). She doesn’t own a crib. Kids don’t have set bedtimes. Her family is beautiful, happy, and amazing.

I, however, also have small children. I prefer to keep my babies in my room until they are around 2 to 3 months old, and then I move them into a room with their siblings. I like my kids on a routine. We have set dinner time, set bed times, and yes… I always keep my babies in cribs.

Does that mean one of us is right and the other one is wrong? Does that mean my friend is a better mother because she is more laid-back and doesn’t abide to routine? Does it mean that I’m a Sleep Sergeant because I teach my children how to sleep for long stretches of sleep starting from an early age?

The answer is: who cares? At the end of the day my friend is happy with her situation and I’m happy with mine. Although we are extremely different, both of us have warm, loving homes that fit all of our needs.

Some mothers may be quite perturbed at the idea of having their 3-year-old come out of bed at night, while others prefer bed-sharing (like Mayim) and embrace it whole-heartedly.

So what’s the bottom line? A happy mother is a good mother.

As a sleep coach, parents sometimes contact me feeling guilty. Am I doing something wrong by wanting my baby to sleep? How do I know what’s right? Is there something wrong with wanting private time with my spouse in the bedroom (i.e. without my baby there)? My answer to these questions is always the same. You have to do what works for you and your family, and it’s as simple as that.

So whatever your parenting sleep philosophy is: Attachment Parenting, gung-ho sleep training, or anywhere in between, just remember that the only one who can determine what is right for you and your baby is you–there’s a reason that God chose you to be this baby’s parent.

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