I received an e-mail from a client upset about this article expressing frustration about the difference between “cuddlers” and “tamers.” In the article, Pinky berates the “tamers” for treating their babies like objects and having expectations that are too high. The tone of the article implies that it’s cruel to help your baby learn to sleep that involves any crying. She is clearly exasperated at receiving e-mails from parents at the end of their rope/tether, looking for “quick fixes.”
So, how do you handle the judgmental tone of those around you unable to understand why you are sleep training your baby?
While Pinky did explain later why she “flipped her lid”, the damage was done with the judgmental tone of the first article. In the end, some of us/you are still considered “tamers” rather than “cuddlers.” And, it’s still assumed that if you employ certain sleep training techniques with your baby, it says a lot about your character and how you may treat your teenager (even implying you may kick him out of the house one day!).
What is a mom or dad to do when your decision now could be speaking about your character even 15 years from now, according to other people? The pressure is insurmountable! That reminds me of that one person who said cry-it-out would lead to Prozac. **groan**
First, recognize that just because another mom feels parents can be divided into one group or another, that does NOT mean you need to be a part of either of said groups. I, for one, am a big-time cuddler (and I cuddle with my boys who are 5 and 7 years old every night still) and we are very affectionate and a close family all around, but that doesn’t mean I accepted the sleep deprivation as “normal” and one that my son would outgrow. Don’t let someone else lump you into an arbitrary group meant to divide rather than join us together as moms. The mommy wars rage on as to whose “way” is better, which really doesn’t do any one any good.
While there are certain things babies need to outgrow such as being able to go 12 hours without eating, there are other things that boil down to habits and what we teach them. No one would suggest that a child “outgrows” being rude at the dinner table or not using their manners. We teach them the “rules.” So, if your 2 or 3 year old is still expecting milk or food at night, perhaps you simply haven’t taught her the rule that you eat in the morning at breakfast, not in the middle of the night, eh? Or, perhaps your 12 month old waking up for the 10th time for you to grab the pacifier that is right next to him needs to learn how to maneuver the pacifier himself (or learn to sleep without it). And, maybe a 6 month old actually can learn to nap in his crib rather than your arms 3-4 times a day with some direction from you. What if you could get him to do it just once a day and actually get something done during the day?
There is an assumption that crying always means a baby needs something. That isn’t always the case! A baby can’t say “Moooooom! I dropped my pacifier AGAIN! Can you get it for me? I’m really tired and all I want to do is go back to sleep. Don’t you??” If a 3 year old kept calling Mom back to help him tuck in the covers, perhaps his mom would teach him how to tuck himself in. They could practice during the day and everything. You can actually teach him about the expectations for sleep rather than expect him to figure it out “one day” when he’s 5 or even later. Sometimes our babies or toddlers cry out of frustration or as an emotional release and we need to give them the space to do that rather than rush to “fix” it.
A week or two ago, I saw this on Facebook from Dr. Kaylene Henderson of Little Children Big Dreams and thought it was very fitting.
This is important, because while some babies truly lack self-soothing abilities and physically can’t find any other way than sucking on a pacifier or bottle, being swaddled, or breastfeeding, for example, as your baby gets older, these become habits and preferences. Yes, maybe falling asleep will be harder, at first, without a sleep “prop” but that doesn’t mean your baby can’t do it! I recently had to explain to my son that some of the best things in life are harder to come by, after all. And, yes, your baby may have moments of frustration. But, just as I’ve explained before, crying is sometimes a part of changing sleep habits, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be right there with moral support and guide your baby through the change in routine. You can even practice Attachment Parenting and Sleep Train. And, if it’s not going well, you can even take a break and wait until he’s a little older. The pace and the process is up to you and it’s not a race to the finish, but rather, finding that unique process that is right for you and your family.
As I always say, NOBODY is walking in your shoes or living what you live day in and day out. Yes, some people would have said I was mean for sleep training my son, but he was MISERABLE without sleep and so were all of us! If he was at least happy through it all, maybe I could have held on longer, I don’t know. I don’t regret our experience for a second. He needed sleep. Period. I needed sleep to be the mom he needed. Oh the patience, energy, and focus I had as a mom when I got more than 2 hours of broken sleep! If others can tolerate and even flourish on less sleep, more power to you! But, try not to judge others for something you can’t understand.
There will be parents every day at the end of their rope. These parents are frazzled and trying to function on less sleep than THEIR mind and bodies need to perform well. We may not always understand the decisions that other parents make, but remember that all babies are very different and their temperament and personality will be a HUGE variable among many families. I’ve had families contact me with their third child when they thought they had it all figured out. It’s not simple or straightforward at all. And, if you have one of these more challenging babies, take heart that you are NOT alone. The more than 400,000 monthly visitors (and growing) to The Baby Sleep Site tell you that you aren’t the only one trying to help your baby sleep, with and without a lot of tears.
Please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.