The real truth of Sleep "Training"....

So today I met up with a close friend and we got onto the topic of my business. The first question she asked me was “so how does it work, do parents have to leave their babies to cry in order to get them to sleep?”

This seems to be the most common question I get asked since starting my journey as a Sleep Specialist. The fact I’ve been asked this by most people that ask me about what I do, really made me think, where does this image of “Sleep Training” come from?

What mum’s think about Sleep training

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This month’s blog is inspired by this perception and I thought I’d ask 5 mums, which three words that comes into their minds when they hear the term “Sleep Training”? Unsurprisingly 4 out of 5 mums said the first word that came to mind was “leaving your child to cry”.

If you type in “What is sleep training?” into a search engine, a frequent definition is Sleep training is the process of helping a baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Some babies do this quickly and easily. But many others have trouble settling down to sleep – or getting back to sleep when they've wakened – and they need help along the way”. There is no mention of leaving your child to cry, this begs the question where has this perception of “Sleep Training” come from?

Obviously I can’t speak on behalf of all mums, but being a mum myself I believe that the perception of Sleep Training has derived from us mums sharing our opinions on what we think sleep training is. The reason I say this is because, before I became a sleep specialist, the first thought that came into my mind when hearing the word “Sleep trainer” was Gina Ford. I know exactly where this came from, another close friend who had warned me off Gina Ford’s “sleep training” as she felt it doesn’t consider the needs of the child.

 Why I don’t like Sleep Training

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I personally don’t like the term “Sleep Training” for three main reasons. Firstly, it sounds harsh and reminds me of my hockey training days, where our trainer would say “drop down and give me twenty”.  Secondly, it doesn’t consider all of the factors that affect a child’s sleep, and makes you think that “Sleep Training” only involves using a “training method”. Lastly, it is hugely misunderstood and therefore most people believe that Sleep Specialists/Trainers/Therapists are “training” parents to leave their children to cry.

What is the Holistic Sleep Coaching?

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For all of these reasons I consider myself to be a holistic sleep consultant. My holistic approach includes working with parents by exploring factors such as their own sleep expectations, exhaustion and coping strategies for dealing with severe sleep deprivation, as well as their child’s day time activities, nutrition and bedtime environment before even considering timings, sleep associations and their chosen sleep coaching method.

How do I feel about leaving babies to cry?

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You may be thinking where I stand with the “leaving babies to cry”. I always offer clients a sleep “coaching” method to suit their needs, wishes, lifestyle and their child’s age and personality. There are so many factors to consider and there isn’t one method that suits every child. There are some parents who strongly disagree with an approach such as controlled crying and other parents who feel that a very gentle approach would cause their child further distress. No matter what side of the fence you are on, it is important to remember that each of us have different parenting values and beliefs. The key to my sleep coaching is that it is non-judgemental and parents choose a method that they feel 100% comfortable with. After all they know their child better than anyone, including myself. That said there is a difference between cry it out and controlled crying. Controlled crying is when a parent goes to their child when they are crying at set intervals, whereas cry it out is when a parent leaves a child to cry themselves to sleep for however long it takes. I do not use the cry it out method in any of my work.

So what’s the verdict?

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So my response to anyone who asked me “Do parents have to leave their children to cry to get them to sleep better?” Parents do not have to do anything, they are given the choice on the approach they wish to use and I support them with their decision so that they can reach the ultimate sleep goal for their family.

Are you feeling confused about everything you have read online and have no idea where to start to help your child sleep better? Book your discovery call with me to find out the next steps on how to resolve your family’s sleep challenges.

Kathryn Stimpson