Why And When to Sleep Train...

I get asked so many times about the 'why' and 'when' of sleep training that I thought I would write a blog on it, to help more of you answer these questions.

I would first like to start by stating that I do not mean the 'cry it out' or 'extinction' methods when I refer to sleep training. They are proven to cause negative mental health effects in babies due to the ongoing high levels of Cortisol found in their bodies. If you aren't aware what these methods are, it is the belief that you should put your baby down in their cot, and leave them to 'cry it out' without returning to reassure them, feed them or any of the above. While some may argue that they are effective as the babies do stop crying - it is because they learn pretty quickly that nobody is coming - and that does not create a happy, safe, relaxed baby. Quite the opposite.

This is why I do not recommend starting sleep training before 4 months old. The first few months after a baby is born they need you. The 4th Trimester, as we call it, is a huge transition for them and you. In these first few weeks and months, they need to be fed, held, snuggled and loved, however they need to be, to feel safe and secure. Yes, you can absolutely start sleep shaping in these early months, and there are a lot of things you can do to encourage better sleep (I will write another blog on this topic), but just soak them up, and enjoy every moment of this new born phase, as they really do grow so quickly.

So, this leads me to the why?

Sleep training is a completely personal choice. I didn't have much of an opinion of it before I had my children. After my first and the mental health challenges that I battled with, no doubt exacerbated by the many months of sleep deprivation. Well, for me, it was the best decision I have ever made. Sleep deprivation is no joke - it can be extremely serious for your mental and physical health, it can affect relationships with those closest to you and even your babies - I know it did for me. If your little one is also not getting the sleep they need developmentally it can also have negative impacts on their growth, immune system and behaviour.

Who is sleep training for?

Sleep training is for any family who are experiencing sleep challenges, and it can work with every child - as long as any medical issues are being appropriately managed. I say that because if your baby is suffering with untreated reflux for example, then it is not likely sleep training will suddenly help them sleep much better. As they are still going to be in pain, and like you or I, it is really hard to fall asleep or stay asleep if we are experiencing a lot of discomfort and pain. Sleep training is a behavioural intervention and can work very well alongside medical intervention too.

Will there be crying?

This is another question that I get asked a lot, and to manage expectations, the honest answer is yes, likely they will. This is not a bad thing, babies use crying as a form of communication and so they are likely to cry as they are experiencing something new for them. Toddlers and infants are the same, it is a change to what they are used to and that can be frustrating. However, it is possible to approach sleep training in such a way that we can make very small incremental changes at a time, to make it less daunting for you and for them. The important thing when it comes to crying is to understand their cries. It is important to always respond to their needs, but not always necessary to respond to their wants. If my near three-year-old had his way every night and I gave in to all his wants, he would be up and down like a yo-yo. Last night alone, he demanded he wanted to sleep downstairs, he wanted another three books, milk in his sippy cup, and his daddy to sleep in his bed! As those were all wants not needs, we stuck to our usual routine of two books, getting into bed, cuddles then out of the room, popping back in intermittently. Routine and consistency are two of the key elements of sleep training and whilst they sound simple, when your in the midst of it with sleep deprivation it can be really hard to figure it out on your own.

If you are currently wondering if sleep training is right for you, do reach out and we can talk more about it. I offer a completely free and no obligation 45 minute sleep consultation, which will give you the opportunity to ask me any questions you may have for you to decide what is best for you, your family and your little one.

I hope you have found this helpful.

Keri x





Keri Rock

Child Sleep Consultant & Holistic Health Coach

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