A Simple Explanation of What Sleep Training Actually Is
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When you hear the phrase ‘sleep training’ what do you think of? After seeing so much confusion I want to share a simple explanation of sleep training and what it actually is.
This post will define it for you in simple terms so that you can develop a better understanding of what it actually means to ‘sleep train’ your baby.
Sleep training is a broad term often used to describe a gazillion different methods that parents use to get their children to sleep.
Some equate it with abuse, while others, like myself, see it as a brilliant tool that when used correctly gives children the ability to fall asleep independently.
The act of teaching your child to fall asleep independently, without sleep aids such as nursing to sleep, rocking, the use of a pacifier, etc, etc.
In essence, my explanation of sleep training is providing your baby with the option to get themselves off to sleep all by themselves.
However, let me elaborate more with the points below:
Table of Contents
An Explanation of Sleep Training:
1) It Is Not CIO
Contrary to popular belief, sleep training is not equivalent to cry-it-out (CIO).
CIO is a sleep training method, but it is not one that every parent chooses to follow. And then even the CIO method has many methods that fall within that. Ferber and extinction are two that are the most commonly referred to.
You can totally sleep train your baby with little to no tears involved.
Controlled crying is also a term I’ve seen used more recently in many mom groups online.
Check out this post from the Baby Sleep Site that offers some great advice on how to utilize the CIO method.
2) It Is Parent led
Sleep training is parent led. This doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t take into consideration the individual needs of their child, but ultimately, it is up to the parent to decide what the sleep training entails.
This also means deciding what the sleep environment looks like.
Some parents choose to use pacifiers, white noise, swaddles, blackout blinds, etc, etc. Regardless, those are choices made by the parents and not the child.
The sleep schedule is also decided by the parents based on the needs and development of their child.
3) It Needs To Be Intentional
An explanation of sleep training would not be complete without discussing this point.
Sleep training, true sleep training is and needs to be intentional. It can’t be done properly if there is no consistency or discipline.
It isn’t an easy task, but most parenting tasks that are worthwhile come with significant challenges.
For sleep training to be the most effective and easiest to implement, parents need to sit down together and make a plan. It’s never a good idea to make rash decisions in the middle of the night when you are desperate and sleep deprived.
I am a huge advocate of being prepared for the big things in life. Sleep training is one of those ‘big things’ for anyone that is in the stage of having small children.
Research the methods that are available, or decide on a hybrid of your own. For my second child, we used a mixture of Babywise and Moms on Call. The methods are similar but not the same and so we took what suited our child best and created the ultimate routine.
Decide when you’re going to start sleep training and make it a priority. Life is busy and there will always be potential disruptions. If you want sleep training to be successful, then you need to rank it high on your priority list.
So often I see moms complaining because their baby won’t sleep, but they also can’t put in the effort because of ‘this, this, this, and this’.
I get it.
Life isn’t perfect and circumstances are rarely ideal. However, with something like sleep training, you can’t expect to reap the rewards without putting in the hard work.
4) It Can Be Done From Day One
This is why I felt like an explanation of sleep training was a post I needed to share.
I’ve seen it said so many times to forget routines etc and to just focus on holding your baby for the first 3 months of their lives. And I get the intention behind it.
However, it frustrates me because while the sentiment is lovely, the reality is that many mothers cannot ‘just hold their baby’ for 3 months straight.
This is especially true for any mother with more than one child.
The second issue is that it is more difficult to sleep train a baby the older they get. So, holding off for several months can prove more challenging for everyone in the long run.
Sleep training from day one doesn’t need to be dramatic, and there is definitely room for compromise. You bet I spend plenty of time just snuggling my newborns during those first early weeks!
However, there are also things that we do right from the getgo that serve to establish healthy sleep habits long term.
You don’t have to let your newborn cry at all to start sleep training. Something as simple as working on an ‘eat, wake, sleep’ routine is a great place to start.
Read more about that in –> THIS POST.
5) It Looks Different For Everyone
I wish more people could understand this about parenting in general.
We all do things differently, and so we should because we are all different. Even between children sleep training looks different.
There is no one way to do things.
Some families are comfortable with the CIO method, while others are not. Some parents choose controlled crying over extinction.
One thing that is certain is that sleep training a baby is difficult for every parent that ever undertakes it. You will find it takes patience, consistency, determination, and selflessness on your part.
That’s right, I said selflessness. Those who think of sleep training as selfish on the part of the parent don’t understand it.
Sleep training is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Which is what makes it such a valuable tool.
I equate it to potty training. In many cases it needs to be taught, it needs to be parent-led, and while it isn’t enjoyable, the long-term benefits are so worth the effort.
I hope that this explanation of sleep training has helped to clarify things for you. It can be difficult to know what’s what in the parenting world.
The best we can do is learn what we can and make decisions based on that knowledge.
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Hi! I’m Christine. I am a former registered nurse, turned stay-at-home mom, turned work-at-home mom!
Motherhood has always been my passion and blogging has only added to that and given me a creative outlet to share about the things I love.
As my blog has grown, my desire to share the knowledge of what makes my life less stressful, simplified, and more fulfilled has become one of my driving forces.
I have a heart for mothers that feel as though they are just existing from day to day and are longing for more. You can find out more about me and my family over on my ‘About Me‘ page.
As well as the abundance of posts you’ll find on my blog, you can also find me over at Today Parenting.