Sleep training or sleep coaching (I much prefer the term coaching) is a very touchy topic. People are either for it or against it, but one thing is for sure – it’s a very personal and passionate topic. You almost don’t want to bring it up in conversation with a stranger, at the risk of offending them or finding that you have very different opinions on it, thus ending a potential friendship!
There are a lot of myths floating around about sleep training and I have wanted to debunk a lot of these ever since I started out on this career. So here it is – the top 10 myths
10. All sleep consultants are against breast feeding – this is so not true! A good sleep consultant’s entire focus is on making a family whole and happy again through sleep. If the family wants to continue breastfeeding then we will absolutely support, encourage and find ways to continue breastfeeding, while instilling healthy, sleep habits at the same time.
9. Breastfeeding and sleep coaching are mutually exclusive – most people think that if a baby is to sleep through the night, then that means breast feeding has to end cold turkey. Again this is not the case. Sleep coaching and breastfeeding go hand in hand. When a mom starts to sleep well, she is well rested and therefore has the energy to continue breastfeeding for a long time and her milk supply is also well regulated as the baby is on a schedule/routine. So the mom’s body and mind are more in tune to the baby’s needs.
8. Sleep coaching means Cry it Out – a reputable sleep consultant will not recommend letting the baby cry endlessly. They will work with the family to find out what their comfort level is and come up with a plan to minimize the crying as much as possible while providing strategies and tips to handle the crying.
7. If I keep my baby up late he/she will sleep better and sleep later in the morning – if you keep your baby up late, they become over tired and exhausted and it makes it harder for them to fall asleep easily and stay asleep. It sounds counter intuitive, but putting them to bed early is the best thing you can do if you want them to learn to sleep well. Putting them to bed early will not mean that they will wake up early. They will continue to wake up at the time they always have.
6. Babies cry in the middle of the night because they are hungry – this is probably true until they are 3 to 4 months of age. Babies do need to be fed in the middle of the night as they are only capable of holding a certain amount of food in their stomachs. However after that, nursing becomes a prop to go to sleep. It is no longer about hunger, but about soothing themselves to sleep through nursing. They lack the skills to put themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night, so cry out for their prop.
5. My baby will start to sleep through the night once they start eating solids – if your baby hasn’t learnt to self-soothe, then they are going to continue to wake up at night. They will be waking up because they don’t know how to get themselves back to sleep, not because they are hungry.
4. My child is different and there is no way he/she will learn to sleep well – I get this from almost every client I work with. They believe that their baby will not respond to the recommendations that I make. Of course every child is unique, but each one of them is capable of learning to self-soothe and we need to give them every opportunity to learn this lifelong skill.
3. My child will eventually outgrow this – research shows that if a child hasn’t learn to sleep well, they will continue for 3 to 5 years with unhealthy sleep habits. A baby who can’t self-soothe, will most likely become a toddler who can’t self-soothe, who then will become an adolescent and then an adult who will have sleep issues. Is that something you want to risk and live with for such a long period of time?
2. I am emotionally hurting my child by trying to teach him to sleep well – it is an universal truth that babies cry! Research has shown that there are no negative consequences to a child’s physical and emotional development when they cry as they are learning to self-soothe. However, the effects of not sleeping well has negative effects on both child and parents – such as depression, behavioral problems, development, mood, growth etc.
AND the NUMBER 1 myth that I hear from parents ALL the time is:
1. It will be easier to get my child to sleep through the night as he/she gets older – this is so not true! As they get older, they have more stamina, they understand the world around them better and the milestones come faster. Sleep props/crutches become harder to change. As your child learns to sit up, crawl and walk, they are more mobile and more independent, making sleep coaching harder. It doesn’t mean they can’t learn the new habits, it just means there is more resistance to change.
So there it is. What other sleep training myths have you come across which you are wondering whether it’s a fact or fiction? Post them on the comments section and I will be happy to answer it.