In my early 20’s, I didn’t understand why mother’s would run to their crying baby and not sleep train. Shocking, right? I had strong opinions about how babies should be forced into independence.
These weren’t my own of course. It was all conditioning. However, the older I got and the more I started to understand the big job of raising children, I raised questions about my beliefs.
I’m going to narrow it down to capitalism. I know I said this in a previous post, but it’s true. They want to sell cribs, so convince mom that she has to sleep separately from her baby. They need body’s to work for their company, so convince mom to sleep train because she’s tired and needs rest.
I’m not here to tell you not to sleep train your baby, but to explain why it just wasn’t an option for me.
1. It’s Not Normal For Babies To Sleep Like Adults
Let’s be clear, babies and young children are not meant to sleep like adults. Let’s be even more clear, none of us sleep through the night. I don’t care if you are 10, 20 or 40 — you don’t sleep through the night. Our body has sleep cycles that occur in their own intervals of time when we are sleeping at night. Every night we sleep, wake a little, then start a new sleep cycle. Young babies have a sleep cycle of about 45 minutes and adults are about double that time. Have you ever found yourself up from your sleep at night and had a hard time going back to sleep? This is what your baby may experience, but more frequently because their sleep cycle is shorter. Therefore, they can wake anywhere from 10-12 times in a night! Yes, I know that is a lot, but remember frequent waking helps protect them from SIDS. If they are frequently waking and seeking their parent for comfort, then they are doing what comes natural to them.
Babies are born from being in complete darkness. They don’t have a concept of day and night. We all know that babies are not born with a fully developed brain. Their circadian rhythm does not fully develop until they hit school age. So, it is very common for babies to be awake at night. Simply put: babies are supposed to wake as often as they need to at night.
2. Sleep Training Can Have Long Term Negative Effects
Babies are not born with the brain functioning responsible for regulating emotions. Babies wake at night for comfort from their parent/guardian and bonding time. Babies do not have a fully developed brain, so they are not aware of how to soothe and calm themselves. When one has completed sleep training, it is assumed that the baby has learned to properly regulate their emotions and gained independence. This is far from the truth.
Research has shown that babies remain in a high state of anxiety. In fact, when we sleep train a baby, they stop communicating when they are in stress and we assume that is the baby self-soothing. Let’s be clear, not all babies need soothing to go back to sleep. Some babies are naturally calm, but a state of calm does not mean that the baby is not in distress or anxious. When a baby is sleep trained they learn to stop communicating their stress to their parent/guardian. Which leads me to my next point, a baby experiencing a high degree of stress can have long-term effects into their adult life.
Research has shown that when a baby is given proper nurturing, has their needs met and are allowed to step into their independence they exhibit better memory, better intelligence and better self-soothing skills. Let’s be clear, I am not saying that sleep training is the worst thing in the world that you can do, but explaining why I chose not to do it for my son. Sleep training essentially tells your baby to not cry for help because no one is going to answer them.
We have this belief that what we do with our children when they are babies is forgotten, but this is far from the truth. Did you know that reading to your baby helps their vocabulary? You can even read to them while they are in the womb! Your baby knows your voice before he has even laid eyes on you! Babies can experience your stress through hormones while in the womb. So, the effects of our parenting start far earlier than what we are taught to believe. Sleep training can bring about early separation anxiety within a baby. Let’s be clear, all babies will experience separation anxiety. You know this because your baby may cry when you put him down. Your baby needs reassurance that you are going to come back. Babies lose trust in their parent/guardian when they do not receive reassurance. When their needs are not being met because sleep training is being enforced, then the effects of this will be felt by the parent in the long term.
3. Sleep Training Doesn’t Always Work
Sleep training does not always work mommy (and daddy). In some cases, it actually makes the situation worse! The goal of sleep training is to force a baby to not cry for their parents when they are lonely, scared, anxious, hungry or uncomfortable. In sleep training, the adverse may happen and cause the baby to become more clingy.
4. Sleep Training Can Interfere With Breastfeeding
I have been breastfeeding for all of Biggie’s (my son) life. I can remember how tired I was when he was first born and how co-sleeping helped so much with my journey. In fact, it is perfectly normal for babies to feed during the night. I had to keep telling myself that my son was adjusting to this new world and it was not my place to rush him through that process. If I were to place him into a crib and ignore his cries at night, then I knew how this could impact my milk supply. One of the best ways to encourage a “let down” is to bond with your baby skin-to-skin.
The fact that I was new to motherhood and breastfeeding is why I wanted to do everything possible to ensure that I did not impact my baby’s source of nutrition. I am aware of the factors that can impact a mother’s milk supply, so I took every precaution necessary. There are ‘experts’ that state that a baby should stop night feeding after about 6 months of age. I personally believe that this is ridiculous because guess who will tell you when they no longer need to feed through the night? Your baby! I completely trust my son to communicate when he is hungry. If I were to force him into sleep training, then I would be forcing him to go against his natural instincts.
5. Sleep Training Misinterprets Independence
Let’s be clear, it is culture and societal norms that conditions a mother into night weaning, sleep training and ending bed sharing because of the belief that if they don’t their children will turn into clingy, codependent young adults. I can not express to you enough how this is not true, please read more here. Please understand that the only way you can raise independent children is to allow your baby to depend on you for as long as they need you. Forcing your baby to become independent does the opposite; it creates anxiety within them.
Please watch this video:
6. BONUS: I Love Holding My Baby While He Sleeps
I absolutely love cuddling my son at night. I could only cuddle him while breastfeeding when he was a newborn because he was so tiny. When he reached about 2-3 months of age, I had to get used to sleeping with someone nestled up under me all night. Yes, there was an adjustment period. Yes, I was sometimes on the edge of the bed. Yet, it will never push me to evict my son from our bed. I totally understand every mother’s reasoning for wanting to keep their bed and bedroom KID-free; to each their own. However, I knew what I signed up for when I decided to have my son. I knew that this meant that this little person looked to me for continued warmth in a world that is foreign to him. The love we share in our bed with endless cuddles and morning greetings is worth the temporary loss of space. My son is a baby for months and a toddler for a few years. The rest of his life will be years of endless exploring and independence. How could I deprive myself of these years with him?
Mommy (and Daddy) baby’s sleep will get better with time. I promise.
Your baby may be trying to communicate something to you about their environment at night. Is it too cold? Too warm? Too many items? Sleep position? Milk intolerance? Gassy? Lip/Tongue Tie? Your baby can only talk to you through cries; remember that.
C O N N E C T – W I T H – M E