Sleep training is one of the areas of debate among parents nowadays. For many, the “cry-it-out” method is cruel to kids and can result in long-term issues. On the other hand, sleep training advocates, such as Little Z’s Sleep, argue that it is not harmful and is actually good for children as well as their families. Unfortunately, much of the argument is influenced by misinformation.
So, what does science say? Here, let’s separate the facts from myths to help worried parents about the impacts of sleep training on their children.
Myth #1: The “Cry-It-Out” Method is Cruel, Causing Long-term Problems
Fact: Letting a child cry to sleep has been viewed by a few parents as unkind or harmful because of fears that it could increase the infant’s anxiety levels or provoke a behavioral problem later on. But a study published in Pediatrics says moms and dads do not have to worry.
The researchers observed 43 infants between the ages of six to sixteen months. They split the group into three, based on three sleep training approaches: fading or camping out, gradual extinctions or crying with checks, and a control group (whose caretakers retained performing their usual bedtime routine). They discovered that the first two groups (fading and crying with checks ) were effective and did not show signs of emotional problems one year after the study was completed.
Furthermore, their stress hormone levels, known as cortisol, were lower than measurements taken in babies in the study’s control group.
On top of these, the babies who were left crying to sleep fell asleep 15 minutes faster. This result revealed three months into the study, but better sleep occurred within the first week.
Myth #2: Sleep Training is for the Benefit of the Parents, Not the Child
Fact: Though parents can sleep longer and better when their baby is sleep trained, it is for the child’s sake, not for them. Imagine how frustrating it is for your kid to wake up several times every night and cry to get back to sleep. Additionally, they always need your intervention to go back to sleep if they are not sleep trained. This is not easy on the child. That is why learning how to self-soothe is an essential skill for babies to prevent crying nightly.
Myth #3: Once My baby is Sleep Trained, I Can Expect Her to Sleep Through the Night, Everynight
Fact: Sleep training is not a miracle!
Even if one approach worked for one baby, the effect could wear off after a few weeks or months, and you have to go back to square one, redoing the training. A recent study found out that two sleep training methods helped infants sleep only for a few months. The data suggested that these techniques reduced the time it takes to get an infant to sleep, as well as the amount of time they woke up at night. However, the data also demonstrated that the infants were still waking, on average, one to two times per night, three months after.
So the bottom line is, it’s hard to say how much improvement is expected.
Myth #4: Sleep Training Means I Can Not Share a Room With My Child and Do Things Together With Her
Fact: Sleep training doesn’t necessarily mean giving up the activities you like to do with your infant. You can still sing and hold them as a part of your nighttime routine. Sleep training lets you avoid these activities only during the period of transition from wake to sleep.
Moreover, it’s perfectly fine to sleep with your baby in the same room during sleep training. It is even more convenient for breastfeeding while reassuring you that your child is fine. If you like to keep them in the same room as you, you can set aside a separate sleep place such as a bassinet or crib.
Ensuring Successful Sleep
No matter what style you use to sleep train your child, the most important thing is to discuss with your pediatrician about good sleep habits. Certified sleep trainers can also be your go-to people when it comes to sleep training. For example, if you want your preschool kids to sleep in their own bed or for them to fall asleep within 15 minutes, Little Z’s Sleep recommends preschool sleep training.
For starters, don’t let your babies fall asleep while feeding, either breastfeeding or bottle feeding, or when being held. They should be put down while they’re “drowsy” but awake to encourage independent rest. You can sing or stroke their head to calm them.
Essentially, consistency is the key.