What is sleep training, and is it good or bad for your child?
What is sleep training? It’s a phrase that now has quite a lot of stigma attached to it.
You will hear some people claiming that sleep training is essential for babies, and there are some very strict methods of doing it, and then, on the other hand, there are others who will tell you that sleep training is the worst thing you could do, and will actually harm your child.
So which of these two polar opposites is true? Or is it perhaps possible, that there is a way, or maybe even more than one way, to help, or train, your baby to sleep better at night and at other times, which does not involve the strict methods which cause so much controversy?
Do my methods involve sleep training?
In today’s video, I’m taking a good look at sleep training. I will examine a couple of the traditional methods that have given sleep training such a bad press, and I will tell you why I also disapprove of them. The methods that I use in my holistic sleep coaching practice to help you and your baby to learn how to sleep better, have very little to do with these extreme sleep training methods. In the video, I explain the different approaches that I would take if we worked together, to help you understand sleep better, so you can gently change your baby’s sleep patterns and stop sleep from becoming so much of a struggle for you.
Is that a form of sleep training? Well, it is training your child to sleep differently, so yes it is sleep training, in as much as we don’t have a different term for it. But this does not have to be a scary thing, and whatever you choose to do should always fit with your lifestyle, what you are comfortable with and what you are prepared to tolerate.
My online sleep plans give you the information you need to make informed decisions for yourself about how, when, and for how long your baby should be sleeping. You will be encouraged to look at nap times in the daytime, at bedtime routines, and the various methods you could use to help your baby get to sleep, at nap time, at bedtime and if they wake in the night.
You will understand what is normal for a baby of your child’s age, how much sleep they need, and how to spot the signs as to whether they are not tired, just tired enough, or overtired when it is time to sleep. You will learn about cortisol and melatonin, and how you can regulate the production of these in your baby’s system so they stand the best chance of feeling calm and sleepy when the time comes to sleep.
The online support package that comes with the sleep plan will allow you to ask me individual questions about your child, so I can guide you to make changes slowly, gently and in your own time.
With all this information and support, and with all your naps, daytime practices and bedtime routines in place, it shouldn’t be necessary to use the extinction method, controlled crying, the Ferber method, the Solihull method, or any other of these scary-sounding protocols to get your baby to sleep. You can set up a haven of tranquility, trust and calm, then make the changes slowly and gently. There may be a few tears as your baby gets used to the subtle changes, but you should find that your baby can soon learn that they are safe, and to feel their own tiredness and respond to it.
So if you are worried about sleep training, and maybe things that people have told you about it, then please watch the video in full. I’ve gone off on a bit of a rant because there is a lot of information out there on the internet about sleep training that has absolutely nothing to do with what I do in my own holistic sleep coaching practice.
So what exactly is sleep training?
Some people think sleep training is all about you leaving your baby to cry alone. This is something that in America is used massively, which, I’ll be honest, sends the hairs on my back on edge – every single part of this feels wrong. But for some reason, in America, they are very big on the extinction method. This sounds awful, they basically put their baby to bed, they walk out the room, they say night night and that’s it till morning – they don’t go back in.
That’s just for me. That just doesn’t sit right – but that is one form of what they call sleep training which you will find on the internet
Further down the line, you’ve got controlled crying, which is sometimes called rapid return or the Ferber method or Solihull technique. At the end of the day, that’s basically putting the baby down, walking out the room and then popping back at intervals. Now, I’m not saying you should never walk out of the room when your baby is crying – there are times when that absolutely need to happen. But generally, where your Ferber and your controlled crying is coming from, you haven’t done any of the groundwork to find out why your baby might be crying at that time – you’ve not actually considered anything that’s going on with the naps and the routines.
So Extinction and Controlled crying. These are the two protocols that are most commonly thought of as sleep training – and this, I believe, is why it’s got such a bad reputation and why some people, particularly fans of attachment parenting believe that it is harmful.
Helping with Bedtimes
So what is the middle of the road? There is a different form of sleep training, which is what I provide. You start from where you are. You look at what your baby needs and what your lifestyle allows you to tolerate. You look at the whole day, waking times, nap times, bedtime and pre-bedtime routines and the sleep environment – then you make small gentle changes until your baby and you are happy and can tolerate things better. Is this sleep training? Yes it is, because I teach you things and you use that knowledge to make changes – but it’s a lot different to the traditional approaches which are commonly called sleep training
There’s a huge variety of things that fall under this coaching or training. So maybe you have a six-month-old. It might be your six-month-old still needs night feeds – many of them do. So maybe you can accept this as a fact, but before trying to change those, you can change the bedtimes, routines and nap times so that they get better sleep generally. Then, once they are more settled, maybe the night feeds will become less stressful, and you can move towards dream feeds, and eventually towards sleeping through the night
If you look at their sleep patterns during the day, you can get to the point where they are just tired enough at bedtime, and then it is easier. They’re not crying loads before bedtime and then passing out, because they’re absolutely exhausted. If your baby at six months has only had 2 30-minute naps in the day, and they are massively overtired, you’ve got a high chance that your baby is going to scream the house down at bedtime. And in that situation, control crying, especially, will never, ever work in that situation because your baby is just absolutely exhausted and their cortisol levels are so high. which is what stops your baby from being able to go to sleep.
So what we’re wanting to do is make sure we’ve got all these bits into place – get the daytimes sorted and get a good bedtime routine in place that help them be ready for sleep. Then your baby is going to be less resistant and they’re going to be more ready to go to sleep. Their cortisol won’t be high, and you will also have put the right routine in place to boost the melatonin, which is the thing that’s going to aid sleep. Then you will be feeling calmer, and this in turn will help your baby to feel safe and calm as well.
If you have a baby that routinely wakes in the night, the first stage is to understand why night waking is happening. I speak to so many people that tell me, “but they go to sleep fantastically for me at bedtime, they go to sleep really, really fast and then they sleep for like five or 6 hours. And then when I go to bed, they wake up every hour. It’s like they know I’m going to bed”
That may be the case and that’s actually completely biologically normal if the baby is overtired at bedtime. They crash to sleep at bedtime, and they go straight into deep sleep. They have a mega sleep in deep sleep mode. Then they move into their predominantly REM sleep mode, which is a lighter sleep, and then they’re waking up at the end of every sleep cycle. So it’s actually completely biologically normal that this happens. So get your knowledge. Understand what’s going on with sleep know the why’s, because then you can deal with it better and then make the right changes.
I hope this makes sense and reassures you a bit that the kind of sleep training I could help you with, does not involve leaving your baby to cry for hours on end. Please grab the ebook below if you haven’t already, and, if you enjoyed the video, please also subscribe to my YouTube channel where you will find lots of help and support in bite-sized chunks. My Build Your own Sleep Plans are here if you feel that you need help right now – I hope that you will find them useful.