Sleep Training Myths

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Over the last few years I’ve heard it all.

I’ve witnessed the mum shaming that goes on, both online and in person.

To be honest I’m a little bit disappointed.

There’s a large anti-sleep training movement happening at the moment and a lot of the opinions being thrown about are extreme and misinformed.

I am saddened for new mums who so desperately need help but get lost in the noise and are scared or feel ashamed for wanting to sleep train their babies.

Here are just a few of the sleep training myths out there…

1. Sleep training means cry it out (CIO)

Sleep training is NOT synonymous with CIO. The CIO method of sleep training is just one of many. So many families are put off because they think they have to shut their baby alone in a room, leaving them to cry for hours. This is simply not the case.

Sleep training is the process of teaching your child to fall asleep independently. It goes beyond just how you settle your baby to sleep. It's about setting up strong foundations and providing the optimal conditions for your little to sleep well. When it does come time to change sleep associations by reducing your involvement within the settling process, this can be done in a very supportive and responsive way. If parents wish, they can even remain in the room with their child while doing this.

Yes, there will be some crying. Babies are creatures of habit and love predictability, so when you do something different in order to change those habits, of course they will be upset at first. The crying is your baby’s reaction to the changes you are making, not because they hate you or feel neglected. They are crying because they are temporarily confused or frustrated.

The good news is that the crying usually dramatically subsides in just a few days as they get used to the new arrangements and you end up with a happier, well-rested child who cries less overall.

2. By sleep training you are abandoning and neglecting your child and teaching them not to signal to you overnight

This one doesn’t even make sense, especially when you understand the science behind infant and child sleep.

Firstly, you are not abandoning your child. As mentioned, you can stay in the room with your baby while sleep training if that is what you want. Even methods like controlled crying/graduated extinction have the parents intermittently entering the room to reassure, check and console.

Parents who sleep train do it from a place of love. The number one reason families come to me for help is because they are concerned their child isn’t getting the sleep they need.

You are not neglecting your child. In fact, by changing their sleep habits you are making a positive change to benefit them. Giving them the skills to settle independently means they are able to achieve quality, restorative sleep which is so important for their growth and development.

We all sleep in cycles, and we all have several brief spontaneous arousals throughout the night. A baby who relies on their care giver to put them to sleep by feeding, rocking, bouncing etc will require those same conditions to be recreated every time they wake.

A child who can put themselves to sleep won’t stop signalling or calling out to you when they need you. They will still call out for help if they are uncomfortable, hungry, sick, in pain, scared or just need a cuddle. But, if all is right in their little world, they will be able to put themselves back to sleep without your help.

3. Sleep training is harmful

There is no evidence that sleep training has any negative short term or long term physiological effects on children.

The crying involved with sleep training invokes a tolerable stress response, which when done in a loving and supportive environment, is actually a positive part of your child’s development. There are many scenarios that are comparable and seemingly more acceptable, like sending them to daycare for the first time.

Your child is loved and cared for. You keep them warm, dry, clean and fed. You cuddle them, you care for them and provide their every need. Short periods of crying over a few days will not undo any of that.

Newborns with colic will cry for hours on end, day in, day out no matter what their parents do. Are these babies going to suffer long term effects from all the crying?... No!

If you and your child are running on minimal or fragmented sleep, this may be of more concern. Chronic sleep deprivation is likely to be more harmful than any sleep interventions. Parents of children with sleep problems are far more likely to suffer poor mental health and experience breakdowns in relationships. There’s also evidence that shows a correlation between long term sleep deprivation and health issues like obesity, diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease.

If sleep training still doesn’t appeal to you, I’m not here to persuade you or change your mind.

But, if any of these myths have been holding you back from sleep training, I hope this eases your concerns.

Sleep training is not as scary as it sounds, and I can be there to hold your hand and be your support while you make some positive changes to your sleep situation.

One on one consultations and downloadable sleep guides are all available online x

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