The Sleep Training Selfishishness Checklist

Is Sleep Training SelfishSometimes I will get a critical e-mail (occasionally hate mail) in my Inbox saying that sleep training is selfish. This tends to get me riled up a bit. While I’m sure there are cases of some parents sleep training out of pure selfishness, the majority of families we speak with EVERY DAY only want the very best for their baby and families. Sleep deprivation is not a form of torture for nothing. It is effective in making even the most put-together human being unravel at the mere thought of being woken up just one. more. time. This checklist is for you to determine whether you are selfish in sleep training.

Instructions: Mark “yes” or “no” next to each item.

1. My baby is happier when he’s had enough sleep.
2. My baby is more alert and engaging, eager to learn, when she’s had enough sleep.
3. My toddler is better behaved when he’s had enough sleep.
4. My toddler is less clumsy after a good night’s rest.
5. My baby or toddler and I have a lot more fun and can go out to activities when she’s had a good nap.
6. The evening or dinnertime is so much more pleasant when my child has napped well that day.
7. I am a better mom (or dad) when I haven’t been woken up numerous times at night.
8. All I feel like doing is falling asleep on the floor with my baby during the day, when I’ve been woken up all night.
9. I have more energy to take my baby out to activities when I’ve gotten enough sleep.
10. I laugh with my baby more when I’ve gotten enough some sleep.
11. All the little jobs taking care of a baby feel so much more mundane and/or tedious when my baby wakes up all night.
12. Sometimes I feel like I resent my baby.
13. I am starting to feel depressed about my baby’s sleep problems or my abilities as a mother/father.
14. I want to scream right along with my baby when he doesn’t sleep.
15. I have raised my voice at my baby, because he won’t sleep.
16. I feel like I’m going to lose it if I’m woken up again tonight.
17. I worry about my baby’s growth and development without adequate sleep.
18. I worry my baby will have sleep problems in adulthood, if I can’t do a good job right now.
19. I feel like I would love having a baby even more if we were both sleeping.

and…

20. I love my baby beyond words and would never do anything to intentionally hurt him or her. I know what’s best for my baby and this is not it. I love my baby and care for my baby to the best of my abilities all day and every day.

If you said “Yes!” or agreed to more than 5 items, you are most likely NOT selfish in sleep training your baby.

Note: This is meant to be a light-hearted look at this topic and in no way has been sanctioned by a licensed psychologist. :D Only you know if you’re being selfish or not in sleep training your baby. Only you know your most inner thoughts and feelings on the matter. And, sometimes, you may only think you’re being selfish, because being a mom is a guilt-provoking job. That’s what we do: worry and doubt. :D

A part of my personal story is this: My son was MISERABLE without sleep and still is to this day. He’s now 6 years old. His mood and behavior are worse without adequate sleep, too, including in school. I could not sit back and see the misery on my baby’s face every day when he was a baby. I did not feel like that was being a good mom. I had to do something about it. Add to that, I was miserable too. I was depressed not being able to see my husband, going to bed at 7pm every night to “help” my son sleep, yet still being woken up ALL. NIGHT. LONG. I was not able to be the best mom I could be. Actually, I was not able to be the mom I wanted to be. I would fall asleep on the floor in the toy room for goodness sakes! I don’t care if people think I was selfish to teach him how to sleep better. I know better. It was not for the cushy lifestyle, so I could party at night or anything of that nature. It was not only the most important thing I had to do for our family’s well being, but our happiness, too. It could not be better to grow up in an unhappy home absent of sleep training merely to avoid it, could it?

Would I do it again, if my son was happy being sleep-deprived? I’m honestly not sure. All I know is what we lived every day and it wasn’t right. I can’t tell you what you live every day and know if it’s right for you. What’s one family’s end of the rope is different from another family’s and I always pray people will seek help before the end of the rope. I am in awe when I work with a family of a 2 year old still getting up numerous times a night. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but they have and I couldn’t. That doesn’t make me less of a person. That just makes me a different person.

So, do you feel selfish in sleep training?

If you’re looking for ways to to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine, 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.

Comments

  1. Jane B says

    I loved this article. Sometimes I have felt selfish for putting my daughter to bed at 7pm when I know other babies were staying up later, or trying to keep her routine nap on schedule. However, I know that it has been the best thing for her. My daughter (turning 2 in May) has always been a pretty great sleeper. However, we went through a rough 1-2 month period before she turned 1 and it was horrible. She had learned to stand and couldn’t lay back down and her very routine 2 naps a day were ruined, and she woke many times at night when she had been sleeping the entire night with no waking for months. So many of the items in the checklist were true to me at that specific time. I don’t think I could have handled it if she had been like that since birth, and if you asked me at that time, we were never going to have another baby (I’m now due in Sept. with our 2nd). I was cranky and she was most definitely not the baby she had been up until that time. Everyone needs adequate sleep! Thankfully, the period passed and she turned back into my good sleeper. Sleep training is certainly NOT selfish!

  2. says

    My 10 month old still takes three naps. Three! I feel like he should be down to two by now, and every so often he’ll go down to two longer naps, but we always seem to end up back at three. I’ll feel guilty for putting him down so often and wonder if I’m just having him nap when I get tired (not him), but when I think about it I know that, 1) I put him down for a nap whe he’s starting to act tired and 2) he’s an incredibly happy little boy, so why stress about whether I’m doing something wrong? These days he goes down to sleep most of the time without a peep of complaint.

  3. Angela Fogarty says

    I was just talking to my husband today about it.. If I’m doing the right thing to start training our almost 5 month old daughter.. am i doing it for me? do i need some sleep? yes, but not just for me to get some sleep is that I’m doing it.. I told my husband and i truly believe that i want to offer her the best for her development.. she is going through amazing development stages so quick and will continue on it and if she is rested she could face those development so much better. We know first hand how clumsy we are when we are tired, I want her to be at her brightest when she starts crawling and walking, etc and i want to get some rest too, so i could be the best mother i can be for her and not feel anxious every time she goes back down to sleep because i know she will wake up again soon and i can’t rest fully and then end up with no energy all day long. Thanks heaven I’m on maternity leave until she is one I couldn’t handle being sleep deprived and working… hopefully by then she would be a better sleeper, fingers crossed :)

  4. Morgan says

    My 2 year old son (my first) was such a good sleeper until that dreaded 4 month sleep regression, and it all went down hill from there. He slept horribly at night and never took more than a 20 minute nap, and he was so cranky, moody, just hard to deal with because he was so tired all the time. Because of his extremely persistent, intense personality no book had the answer for him, but thanks to The Baby Sleep Site we started to get a handle on his sleep issues by about 9 months old. At first, I felt like I was being selfish in needing him to sleep better because “isn’t this what I signed up for in having a child?” I thought to myself. But I came to realize that not only was he not the happy, healthy child he could be by getting better sleep, I wasn’t the best mom I could be because I was so sleep deprived, too. Since neither of us was getting enough sleep, we were both extremely emotional, much less patient, etc. I quote Nicole Johnson all the time: “It isn’t a problem until it is a problem.” If you can live off of 2-3 hours of sleep a day and your child can, too, with no ill effects for either of you, then sure, sleep training would be purely selfish, but for the rest of us it is a necessity to be the best moms and dads and to have the happiest, healthiest children possible.

  5. Sana says

    Definitely not selfish! Were I being selfish, I’d put my kids down to sleep really late – like 10 – so that we could be out at night with them, catching a late dinner, at a friend’s house, etc! Instead I have my 5-year-old down at 7:30, and my 11-month-old at 6-6:30.

    I actually recently nap trained my 11-month-old when my 5-year-old was on Spring Break, and he did great for a whole week. He wasn’t sleeping well for naps and I decided I needed to get over my fear of hearing him cry a bit because he REALLY needed this day sleep and I wasn’t being fair by keeping it from him. By the end of the week, he was taking two one-hour naps! Unfortunately, the very next week he started skipping his morning naps completely, and since I have to pick my older son up from preschool, I can’t afford to just give the little one a single nap right when I have to pick the older one up! So I went back to bouncing, walking, jogging him to sleep to make sure he would get adequate naps in. :( My back hurts, my knees hurt, my ankles hurt! The last thing I feel is selfish! :)

    Oh well. At least he puts himself to sleep for nights.

    Any advice welcome! :)

  6. Rebecca says

    Helping your children to sleep is not selfish. It may be challenging. It may require you to do all the things you swore you would never do, from pacing the floors with a screaming baby to doing cio. But it’s not selfish.

    After finally coming to the realisation that what my little girl really wanted me to do was just leave her alone, with some sleep training, she puts herself to sleep for night time and naps and if she’s not ready yet will play till she is. I only rarely have problems now with putting her to sleep. Saying that, I’m waiting for the dreaded 18 month sleep regression. :-(

    @Sana Could it be the 11 month sleep regression? I thought I had this sleep thing sorted when that hit and because I didn’t realise what it was it threw everything out and I’ve been struggling with the one nap/two nap thing until she was finally ready to have one decent nap. There’s a good article on here that deals with it, and I really wish I’d read it at the time, because I misread the situation completely and it took me months to get back on track.

  7. Sana says

    @Rebecca,

    Yeah, I read about the 11-month sleep regression and figured that’s what was going on. That’s why I went to soothing him to sleep for his naps again. I want him to keep the two naps, he still needs them! I’m not sure what else I can do.

  8. says

    @Jane That is great that your daughter is such a good sleeper, now! I know what you mean about doubting whether you can have another, but congratulations on your pregnancy! :)

    @Meagan 10 months is definitely on the upper end of average for 3 naps, but all babies are different and if he’s sleeping well at night and during the day and is happy, it sounds like the right thing for him! Good work! :)

    @Angela I couldn’t agree more. I wish we got one year maternity leave here in the U.S. :) Continued luck to you in your sleep training efforts! We are enjoying working with you in the Helpdesk and keep up the great work! :)

    @Morgan I know exactly what you mean in terms of wondering if this is what we signed up for being parents or whether there is a better way. I think we all find that point where we have to do something to change and that point is different for all of us. I’m glad you have found success in sleep training!

    @Sana Awww! I hope your back, knees, and ankles start to feel better! I agree that this could be the 11-month nap “blip” that some of us (not all of us) will have. In 1-2 weeks, I would urge you to try again and stay consistent for him to nap on his own. You may need to offer a nap and then again an hour later, if he hasn’t slept. And, sometimes, it’s just timing once they are better rested. When he wasn’t taking long naps on his own, he may have felt more tired. Once he became more rested, he may simply need a bit more awake time before his naps OR he’s enjoying some “freedom” and that will fade. :) Good luck!!

    @Rebecca That’s great news that you were able to figure out what your daughter wanted! :) Sometimes it’s the least likely solution, isn’t it? :) Hopefully the 18-month regression won’t hit too hard for you! Sometimes it’s not so bad.

  9. Sana says

    Thanks Nicole!

    I love this site!

    I am nervous about him not napping at the times he usually naps, and trying again later, because I have to pick my older son up from preschool and I don’t want my baby to be asleep when I have to go get him. Then I’d have to wake him up. The schedule we’re on works so well, and he falls asleep (with some hard work on my part) and then for the most part stays asleep for an hour. I think it’s just that when I leave it up to him, he’s willing to fight it. I tried leaving him in the crib for the whole hour and he cries/plays the whole time.

    Would it be bad to just continue this and nap train again in 2-3 months when we’re on summer break and we’re probably down to one nap?

  10. Sana says

    Okay, me again. Just spent 30 minutes (worked up a sweat) getting my son to sleep for his morning nap. He fights it SO much. He doesn’t really ever stay still, so while I walk/bounce/jog in place, he’s climbing me, trying to wriggle out of my arms, etc. I really would just love to nap train him again. So I have a general question about naps:

    He woke up at 6:15am, after sleeping at 6:15pm and had one feeding at 3. He was rubbing his eyes by 8:45 so I was aiming for a 9am nap time. My question is this: other sleep consultants based on the Weissbluth method insist that you want to put the baby down no later than 9am, with a controlled wake up time of 7am at the latest. And this apparently works for a lot of people! But your site has a schedule that says a 10-10:30am nap is appropriate with a 7am wake up time for an 11-12 month old. Why the difference? What is your opinion on that hard-and-fast 9am rule? It’s strange to me because 5 months ago, when he was just 6 months old, I was still putting him down at 9am. So it makes sense to me that his wake-time would have increased by now. But why do Weissbluthians insist on the 9am nap time? They also say no later than a 1pm afternoon nap, with a controlled wake up from the first nap of 11am.

    I’m so tired of fighting him for every single nap. I did this with baby #1 and swore I wouldn’t do it again. But here I am, doing it again. Any thoughts?

  11. Cara says

    Looking for some help. I have a 5 month old boy. He’s been a great night sleeper since the beginning. He was always up for regular feeds (every 3 hours) and recently started going through the night, on occasion. Daytime on the other hand has been a complete nightmare since the beginning. I have read every sleep book there is…..and nothing seems to work. I think my son Henry has the one-sleep-cycle disorder as he consistently wakes up after 36 minutes. The first nap of the day, he usually wakes up happy after 36 minutes, but by the 3rd nap (we usually have to do 4 or 5 naps during the day) he wakes up in complete hyserics. He is just so tired. I patiently waited until he was 14 weeks before starting any kind of ‘training’.
    When I did, our sleep training started with him learning to fall asleep on his own – which I am happy to say he can now do nearly all the time with only a few, if any, tears. I understood once they could learn to fall asleep on their own, they would put themselves back? This is not happening, at all. When Henry wakes after 36 minutes, I always leave him at least an hour in the crib, sometimes more. He very rarely puts himself back to sleep. When he does, it seems it is just by fluke as for some reason he sleeps thru the cycle (but this happens once every 20 naps….not nearly enough). I honestly do not know what to do. I have let him cry after one cycle for 45 minutes (with a couple checks) and I don’t see any progression (he is 21 weeks now). If he was happy and seemed rested, I would not care about the short naps – but by the endof the day I can’t even set him down he is so fussy. I’ve tried other softer methods – using a pacifier when he wakes, shhhh, rocking – but the reality is, he puts himself to sleep now, and I am just a distraction. The only thing that keeps him sleeping longer than 37 minutes is the stroller. I would spend hours a day walking – not sustainable and I am completely exhausted . I keep hoping he will just start to extend – but I honestly don’t know how. Poor thing wakes so abruptly – it seems impossible for him to get himself back down and crying it out, despite my consistency, has not led to any progress. I feel so horrible for him – and completely frustrated. Any suggestions?

  12. Sana says

    Cara, I believe Dr. Weissbluth says naps can possibly still be hit-or-miss like that at this age, since that part of the baby’s brain is not yet developed completely. I believe he says at 4 months, day sleep should start to become more organized, but for some babies it can take longer. I believe mine took longer, if I remember correctly. They will lengthen eventually, just hang in there.

    Also, did you check our Nicole’s 4-month and 6-month schedules on this site? Perhaps your baby can stay up a little bit longer, to lengthen the nap a bit?

    OR, perhaps he needs to sleep a wee bit earlier. Often, if they can’t put themselves back to sleep after the first cycle, it means they are overtired. Experiment with the wake times a bit. Take away 15 minutes, try that for a week, and if that doesn’t work, then go the other way and add 15 minutes to the original wakeful time.

    Good luck!

  13. Cara says

    Sana, I appreciate your response. Thanks for that. I’ll hang in there – it’s just so tough when your in the thick of things, but I know it will get better. I will check out the schedules as well – have not done that yet.
    Only recently did I start experimenting with wake time. I had been trying so long to hit the perfect window – which was absolutley key when he was first learning to sleep – if I was too late, he would be in hysterics going down. It used to be 1.5 hours between naps. Now that he consistently goes down, I have started pushing him. I try and keep him up 1.45 before the first nap and b/w 2 and 2.5 hours until the second and third. The last last nap is a cat-nap and I most often go out in the stroller to get him to sleep a little earlier than he normally would. To be honest, usually 2 naps of the day are in the stroller for a break….not sure if that’s a good habit, but that’s where we are at:)
    So far, no change to how long he sleeps, but I’ll keep experimenting as it’s only been a few days. Maybe if I keep the same times for naps everyday, it will help?? Right now I’m +/- hour, depending on when he wakes and how rested he is.
    Anyways, your comments make me feel better….I’ll keep at it. Thanks.

  14. says

    @Sana I know it’s nerve-racking, but it would hopefully just be very temporary, maybe just a few days, hopefully! And, then you may have a napper every day! :) Start on a weekend when there is no school, perhaps. And, no, it’s not “bad” per se to wait, but toddlers get more and more persistent. It’s really up to an individual problem is “worth” it to fix. It’s hard, because we don’t have a crystal ball to know if it will be a 2-3 day scenario or whether it will take a couple of weeks. All we can do is try! :) Oh just saw your second comment. Well, Weissbluth’s theory is that babies are “hard-wired” to sleep naturally at 9am and 1pm. In my experience, though, I find that it isn’t true for all babies. Some sleep better based on how long they’ve been awake. My son was like that and, as he got older, so did his awake time. It made sense to me! So, I have based on my schedules more on awake time that I’ve seen is typical for that age baby. At this age, it just isn’t always possible to have an 11-month old go back to sleep after being awake 2 to 2 1/2 hours! I find the awake time is more like 3-4 hours! :)

    @Cara Congratulations on achieving the first step of having your baby go to sleep on his own! :) That is an achievement! However, not all will translate to going back to sleep, unfortunately. Babies 5-6 months old are only now beginning to organize their sleep, so sometimes their naps are shorter. The first nap of the day is usually the first to organize and lengthen. So, you may simply need to wait for his central nervous system to mature a bit more. But, it is a good idea NOT to rush in when he first wakes to see if he will go right back to sleep. I’d limit that to about 15-20 minutes right now and slowly lengthen to up to 30 as he gets to be 6 to 7 months old. My son’s sleep took until about 7 months to organize. He finally went to 3 naps around that time and then 2 naps just one month later, so he changed super fast! Keep awake times short in the 1 1/2 to 2 hour range to help with over-tiredness. Hang in there!!

  15. Cara says

    Hi Nicole, thanks for that perspective. A question though – if he wakes up ‘happy’ after his first 35 minute nap, should I still leave him 15-20 minutes? Usually he will wake happy from his first couple naps and play for about 10 minutes, and then start crying. Just don’t want him to develop a negative association somehow with naps. The same question goes for when he wakes up in hysterical cries – leave him the whole time, or should I do a check and say he needs to keep napping? Sure there is no hard and fast rule, but I just wonder if when he starts really crying if there is any hope he will put himself back down? What do you think, in your experience? Thanks agian.

  16. Sana says

    Thanks Nicole! You ROCK!

    Cara – I’d say, leave him for a little bit either way, whether he wakes up happy or crying, if you can. You never know if he’ll go back to sleep.

    As for them crying and putting themselves back down: it does happen! I’m speaking from experience (my first child). Now I just need to muster up that strength again and make sure my 2nd gets opportunity for the sleep he needs!

  17. says

    @Cara Yes, I would. When I was working on my son’s sleep, sometimes he’d wake, play for 10 minutes and then go back to sleep. :) Even if he wakes crying, he could be back to sleep in 5-10 minutes. Some fussing/crying is normal between sleep cycles. If he’s crying hard, try to settle him, but then lay him back down to go back to sleep. Good luck!

    @Sana Thank you! :)