Sleep training is Voldemort

By Jolandi Becker – MD of Good Night

Once again recently I came face-to-face with the question of whether I am for or against sleep training (working in the baby and sleep industry this seems to come up quite often). And once again my answer was, as always, I am not for sleep training I am for sleep.

But this time it got me thinking. Is parenting that simple….? I am either for or against sleep training?  I am either an attachment parent or not? I am either breastfeeding or formula feeding? Is there NO in between???

That prospect seems sad. And the truth it that as a parent of two children, I know it is not the case. Nothing in parenting is that black and white.

My philosophy (or rather one of them) even when it comes to sleep is this: Change it when you need to, not because someone else thinks you should but because YOU feel you should. Parenting entails a million different things (tasks, jobs, responsibilities, education, love, attachment, etc.) and as a parent you need to make time for these things. My logic tells me if one of these tasks takes 80% of your time, that only leaves 20% for the rest, which means you are neglecting something and something needs to change. Parenting is NOT just one thing.  

For me the word sleep training has become like Voldemort, that which must not be spoken. But this causes fear and misperceptions and gives it so much power. Of course being the owner of Good Night, it is a given that I believe in what we do, and I would call it sleep training. But as a mom I lived it and that is why the passion will always remain. And now I have hundreds (over 650) families of experience to help. This experience has taught me that sleep is complex, that each family is truly different and there are many roads that lead to sleep. From the co-sleeping, breastfeeding mom of an 18 month old (that continues to do all of it throughout the process) to the mom of the 4 month old, formula feeding with her baby in her own room (that continues to do all of it throughout the process), each journey is different, varying in method, length and difficulty.

The perception of sleep training also varies. If you have the idea that sleep training is leaving your baby in their cot the entire night to cry, then NO that is also not what we do, especially not with small babies. But once again from experience I also know this could work (FYI I would never recommend this and I have yet to find the parent that would be able to do this). It does NOT help you to let you baby cry itself to sleep if you give them a litre of coke before they go to sleep – that’s not fair and not wise. The child will still not sleep. Sleep is an intricate puzzle, made up of different pieces that make the whole (again like Voldemort). And sleep training methods (and there are a lot – not all of them meaning that you should leave your baby unattended) are just one of those puzzle pieces.  

I come from that place of not sleeping. I did not sleep properly for more than 2 years and reached proper breaking point at the end. Sleep became an obsession. I was always looking for ways to have it and to improve it, but to no avail. I felt like a failure: “Is this not what I should do to be able to do get my baby to sleep?” I felt like helpless: “What am I doing wrong?”  I felt like a bad mother: “My baby clearly needs sleep and I cannot provide it.” I lived in fear each night. If she woke already at 21h00 I could just imagine what the night will be like and quickly went to bed to at least try and get in some sleep before the nightmare started. I hated myself for being so useless, envied my husband who got to escape the torture by going to work and resented my own baby for all of it. Oh the guilt… I still feel guilty about it. Good Night literally changed my life. I could not believe how empowered it made me feel. I was amazed at how much happier my baby and I were, and then finally the attachment and bonding started.

Just like walking, sleep too is a developmental milestone. Would you as a parent be concerned when you toddler of 2 years is still not walking? Of course! Similarly, you should be concerned if your child of 12 months is still not able to sleep through the night.

So now again when you ask me am I for or against sleep training, like always I will answer, I am not for sleep training, I am for sleep (and yes sometimes I use sleep training methods). When is the best time to sleep train your child? When you are ready. That could be before baby comes or when your child is 9 years old. If sleeps takes up 80% of your time, due to struggles or lack of it,  please let us help you find your pieces of the puzzle to change it (and thus conquer Voldemort).

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