Sleep Training is an Option, Not a Requirement

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Earlier this year, I wrote about why I refused to sleep train my babies. Now that my daughter is 1, I still refuse to sleep train her.

My Journey to My Decision

When my son was a baby, I read a lot about sleep and babies. He was waking every 2 hours every single night. On the rare nights that he slept 3 hours, I woke up after 2 and freaked out, rushing to make sure he was still breathing. He was born at 34 weeks and the risk of SIDS was slightly higher for him, so I didn’t complain about how often he was waking. It meant he was still alive.

But he hit 6 months and was still waking every 2 hours. Even though my body was starting to adjust to this new sleep schedule, I was still tired. So, I read. And read. And kept reading. Everything I found was about sleep training and every method under the sun. Not once did I read about moms who chose not to sleep train or even that sleep training wasn’t a requirement.

So, I tried sleep training. It didn’t go well. My son wailing for comfort and mommy broke my heart. I decided it wasn’t worth all the tears. If he needed me, I was going to take care of him, no matter how exhausted it made me. It took 19 months, but he finally slept through the night, and is almost 4 and still sleeping like a champ. Though we did recently take him to a museum exhibit that I wanted to see and thoroughly freaked him out, so sometimes he will wake at night and scream. Our fault, though.

When it came to my daughter, I made the early decision to just not sleep train. She has been a more varied sleeper, with good nights and bad nights. But sometimes she just wants to be held. So, I hold her. I hold her and snuggle with her, fully knowing this is the last time I will ever do this. She is my last baby, so I will take any extra baby snuggles I can, even when I’m 3/4 asleep.

Babies Wake for Many Reasons

Recently, after reading numerous mom bloggers write about sleep training and the tricks that got their babies to sleep, I asked my mom if she ever sleep trained me and my siblings.

“No. It didn’t make sense to me.”

Babies wake for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they want a new diaper. Sometimes they want to eat. Sometimes they’re hot or cold. Sometimes something is scratching them. Sometimes they’re just uncomfortable. Sometimes they just want to snuggle. Sometimes they want their pacifier and can’t find it.

Making babies cry and try to learn to self soothe feels mean in light of these many reasons. They can’t change their diaper. They can’t feed themselves. They can’t snuggle themselves. They might not even be able to figure out what’s making them uncomfortable. They can’t change the temperature in the room.

Besides, every human, child and adult, wakes at night. Sometimes even adults have a hard time getting back to sleep and need something to lull them back into dreamland. Babies are no different!

Perhaps it’s the way I approach parenting. I think of children not as children, but as little people. There isn’t a real difference, other than age, maturity, and number of experiences, between children and adults. Both have problems sleeping. Both have temper tantrums. Both can have a hard time sharing. Both want independence. The manner in which these behaviors are dealt with, of course, is different. I’m not going to place my husband in time out because he’s upset about something. I’m not going to expect my baby to calm herself down. So if I, as an adult, sometimes need to get up in the middle of the night because I can’t sleep and need to read a book, then I’m going to take my baby’s waking seriously and see what I can provide to help her go back to sleep.

Babies will sleep through the night in their own time. Yes, it’s exhausting. But I’d rather be tired and know my kids are happy than cry my eyes out while my baby is crying it out. Or spend 2 hours tenderly teaching her to go back to sleep on her own while I become more awake every minute and then spend the next hour after she falls asleep trying to fall back asleep myself. Before getting up an hour later to start things all over again. Seriously, how does that even make sense?

Sleep Training is an Option

Okay, so sleep training will be tough a few days or a week or so and then everyone will get some sleep. I get it. It’s probably a perfect solution for parents who work. They need sleep! Of course, I get it. Spend a few days suffering and zombieing through the day. Baby will eventually sleep and you’ll get sleep, too.

And then the sleep regressions happen (4 months, 6 months, 8-9 months, 12 months, 18 months, 2 years). And teething occurs off and on until those 2 year molars pop out and all the teeth are finally accounted for. So, sure, baby can be sleep trained, and then go through teething and/or a sleep regression a month later. And then it all has to start over again. But at least there are a few weeks of sleep to be had! Followed by a week or so of teaching baby to sleep all over again.

No thanks! That’s not for me. I’ll stick it out. I’ll comfort my child. I’ll realize this won’t last forever. I’ll adjust. And so will my baby. My baby will sleep and my baby will wake and I will be there for every waking.

Besides, what do I do about my daughter who chooses to go down drowsy, but awake and still sometimes wakes every hour? Before she turned 1, she decided she really wanted to go down in her crib awake so she could move around and settle herself while I sang her to sleep. This is a key part of sleep training and she was choosing to do it on her own? Was she sleep training herself? No. She still woke at night, still wakes at night at 13 months. So I’m suspicious of the idea that a baby who goes down drowsy, but awake will sleep through the night. It’s been at least 3 months and I’m still waiting.

Sleep training is an option. Many parents think it’s the logical step and must be done since everyone is doing it and recommending it. That’s not true! It doesn’t have to be done. It’s a choice. Parent after parent will swear by it. But this mom will swear by not sleep training. My toddler is a champion sleeper. My daughter is only 1 and teething, but will get there. Her sleep stretches on good nights is often about 1.5-2 times longer that her brother’s were, so I’m not complaining.

Besides, babies grow so fast and will start to push mom and dad away. Take those snuggles as often as you can!

6 Comments

  • Justme!

    I enjoy reading your take on sleep training. I am very interested in sleep training but not to the extent that you explain it with the self soothing method and etc. I work with children with high needs in the school systems and I attended a conference where they talk about the rising rate of stress and anxiety in children and the key speaker spoke of the self soothe method
    And how it made children feel
    Vulnerable and abandoned which leads to the fight or flight response and than instead of learning how to cope they are learning to fight or flight which is completely different then self resolutions. Therefore that cycle of anxiety is started in the child at a very young age. I’m not saying I agree a 100% with his theory and there are others who would say the complete opposite but I think there needs to be an in-between. Not cry for a long time but give them a few minutes and then check in…. But I don’t know I’m pregnant with my first and my opinion of everything is whatever is best for mommy is best for baby. And I’ll go by the Flow. Thank you for sharing your insight and experience.

    • kat

      That’s so interesting! I always wondered how the effects of sleep training might carry over as a child aged. Of course, every child and every family dynamic is different. I just wanted to point out that parents don’t have to sleep train if they don’t agree with it or feel it works for them. I agree; what makes mom happy makes baby happy. I was not a happy sleep training mom, so it just wasn’t the route for me. It’s difficult to know what to do with your first because it’s so new and you don’t know anything about who your child is, but every parent gets there through trial and error and you’ll figure out what works for you and your baby! Best of luck, and welcome to the mom club!

      • Justme!

        Thanks hun. And I’m not saying he said sleeping training carries over anxiety but that self soothing does not all forms of sleep training use the self sooth method.

  • Divya Krishnan

    This post is so relatable to my present situation. I also tried sleep-training my child, failed multiple times, learned the art of being there for him whenever he needs me, even if it means trading my most precious sleep time. The latter seems easier to me now, there’s no rush for a routine, he’s a baby after all.

    • kat

      It’s so nice to know there are other moms who have tried the process and decided it’s not for them. Even though it’s hard to give up sleep, I think it very much reassures the heart, not to mention the baby, when we can be there when they need us. Besides, baby won’t be a baby forever and, no matter how hard it is, this is a time that should be cherished.

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