As a sleep consultant I obviously read a lot of pediatric sleep-related articles and I sometimes make the mistake of scrolling down to the comments. Good lord, there is a lot of judgment on the internet. I’ve seen so many disparaging things said not only about sleep training but, more disturbingly, parents who sleep train their children. One of the recurring themes is that parents who sleep train their kids are selfish. Um, what?
The assumption behind these remarks is that parents who sleep train their little ones do so only because they want more sleep themselves. Okay, so first of all shame on these parents for being…human? Even if this is a part of the motivation behind implementing a sleep training plan, let me say this:
There is nothing wrong with wanting more sleep.
A lack of healthy sleep causes problems for parents, not just children. One major concern is that it can increase the effects of postpartum blues or depression in mothers. Even if you’re not suffering from PPD, sleep deprivation affects your temperament. I know that I’m a much more patient, spontaneous, and fun mum when I’m rested.
When you sleep, you’re able to be the parent you want to be.
The pressure to be a mommy martyr is real y’all. It’s as if the less sleep you get (hell, the less you do for yourself in general) the more caring a mum you are…but taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you’re taking less care of your baby! Like this Huffington Post article says, taking care of yourself serves your family as well.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about a couple of the other reasons that sleep training is a decidedly unselfish thing to do:
Reason # 1: Sleep training isn’t necessarily the easy answer.
When your little one wakes in the middle of the night, it can be easier to do whatever will get them back to sleep as soon as possible, even if you know this is perpetuating the problem. If your toddler wakes several times a night and needs you to cuddle them back to sleep, cuddles will seem like much less effort at 3:00 a.m. than implementing whatever sleep training method you’ve chosen.
You know that sleep training will stop these repeated night wakings but finding the energy is a challenge. This is why I think parents who choose to put in the work, knowing that it’s the best thing for their little one, are doing something selfless. It’s so worth it to get your whole family sleeping well but that initial effort isn’t always easy.
Reason # 2: Your little one needs to get enough sleep.
Everyone needs sleep, but little ones especially so, as such a huge amount of growing and development is happening in their tiny brains and bodies.
In addition, studies have shown that babies and children who do not receive enough sleep can suffer from a host of detrimental effects1such as behavioural issues, problems with cognitive functioning (including attention, learning, creative thinking, and memory), or increased levels of obesity.
These issues will appear in kids who have a significant sleep debt but even in less serious cases parents will notice the impact that being very tired can have on their kids. They may observe that their child is more prone to tantrums, or they have a lower threshold for frustration, or their attention span is shortened, to name a few examples.
The bottom line is that sleep is important for the whole family.
If you sleep train, are you a neglectful, cold parent? No. As a Certified Child Sleep Consultant, I have worked with some of the most nurturing, engaged, and affectionate parents I’ve ever met. These parents recognized that their children weren’t getting enough sleep (which, yes, meant that they weren’t sleeping either). They were willing to do whatever they could to get their little ones into a pattern of healthy sleep in a way that was loving and safe, and customized for their needs.
As parents we are constantly making choices. Whether to sleep train or not may be one that you’re facing and it’s probably crossed your mind that sleep training your little one would also mean that you’ll be able to get more sleep yourself. If that’s the case, I promise you that you are not selfish. You are human.
And you are a good parent.