Will Your Baby Be Spoiled If You Don’t Sleep Train?

Sleep Training Spoiled ChildA client e-mailed me not too long ago concerned about what a co-worker told her about her baby. Her co-worker told her that if she didn’t sleep train and let her baby cry it out, her baby would grow up to be spoiled. She alluded to the fact that by the time he was 7 or 8 years old, he’d be “running the show.”

This particular client has experience with two very different cultures, one being in the West and one in the East. In the West (where she lives now) she feels tremendous pressure to let her baby cry it out. In the East, in her experience, this is unheard of and co-sleeping until the age of three is the norm. Of course, not everyone in each culture follows the norm and, given the number of clients I work with on a daily basis on no-cry methods, I would argue that there really is no “norm” in the West. I would say most parents try to limit crying. I’m not sure what parent likes to hear their baby cry, though.

Will your baby be spoiled if you don’t sleep train her?

I obviously feel passionately that sleep is very important that it needs a whole website focused around it, complete with a support system to help you through it, but honestly, this might be one of the more absurd things I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t mean to offend anyone who feels strongly about sleep training, but to put pressure on a parent to say that if you don’t sleep train a 6-month old he will be “running things” in a year, three years, or ten years is simply ridiculous! Does that mean I believe you should give up and NOT sleep train? Nope. Work on it, yes, but don’t make it your life’s mission or sacrifice your beliefs because you believe your baby will turn out to be a terror if you don’t.

Your 6-month old is not manipulating you. Your 8-month old twins are not conspiring to keep you awake at night (as much as it might feel that way). Your toddler is not planning his night-wakings to correspond with that work deadline the next day. (Note: If you are convinced your baby is conspiring, when you are ready for a good laugh, read Awake Training for Parents).

Our babies are simply not NOT sleeping on purpose. As much as my five year old says he doesn’t like to sleep, he still sleeps through the night every night (unless he has a nightmare). We successfully established healthy sleep habits when he was a baby and worked hard to do so, but by no means did I think if we hadn’t he’d be a spoiled brat. He just needed the sleep!

It makes more sense that there will be some non-sleep-trained babies that are spoiled and others who are not, just like there will be spoiled sleep trained babies and those who are not. Why? Because spoiled comes from what we do with our children day in and day out. It might be related to sleep, but it might not.

If, as a baby grows into a toddler, she is allowed to come into your bed every night, she can learn one of two things:

1. She can get whatever she wants OR
2. She can go to mommy and daddy whenever she needs them and feel secure

Which is it?

One of the keys to navigating this crazy thing called parenting is to learn your baby’s temperament. Children need limits in order to feel secure, but they also need confidence and to know they can go to their parents when they need them just the same. By far, I am not saying I am a perfect parent (oh how I wish I were!), but somehow I have made sure I have given my son the “ok” to come to me for a nightmare or when he loses his “blankie” when it falls down between the crack of the bed and wall, yet set enough limits to make sure he stays in his bed all night, if he doesn’t truly need me. It has not been a perfect road, nor a short road, and sometimes I feel like we never quite ever get off the road, but when I think back to the baby I once had, I know just how far he’s come. And, I would say he does have his “spoiled” moments, even though he is “sleep trained” and we are trying our best to teach him humility and appreciation, yet another parenting challenge that does not happen overnight.

If you need help establishing healthy sleep habits in your baby or toddler, 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.

What do you think? Will babies be spoiled if you don’t sleep train?

How Sleep Training Progress Looks

When clients update me on their sleep training progress, sometimes it is a little frustrating for them if their baby has a good night then a bad night and some back and forth. I thought it would be a good idea to talk about that and why it happens. If nothing else, it helps to have realistic expectations while sleep training.

Sleep Training Process Going UpOne of the biggest lessons I learned when I was struggling with my own son’s sleep problems is that when the books implied all of our problems would be gone by the third or fourth night, they lied. I don’t think it was intentional, but they must lump a small minority of babies into a group who may be taught to sleep and then sleep well for the rest of their childhood (gross exaggeration there). In my experience (personally and professionally), this is rarely true. I will say that a large minority will have great success (maybe not perfection) in 1-2 weeks.

For some babies, sleep training is a linear progression where each day is better than the last much like the baby going up the stairs in the picture here. Most of the time that might look like two really rough nights followed by an okay night, then the next night and most nights after those first three are decent. The baby may have an off night due to teething, illness, or sleep regression, but jump right back into the swing of things afterward. These babies are usually highly adaptable (some might use the term “easy”).

Sleep Training ProcessMany babies, in my experience, don’t generally improve in this way during or after sleep training. For these babies, the sleep training process is more like a roller coaster. You might start to go up, then come down, and then go through some twists and turns (especially during teething or after illness). Part of the thrill of a roller coaster is not knowing what’s coming next, but when you are sleep training, this leads to frustration and the feeling that you might be doing something wrong. You are likely sleep training a tortoise, rather than a hare.

So, why are some babies taking you for a ride on a roller coaster?

My mom has been a smoker for most of her adult life. She has tried to quit many times. My older brother even quit for a whole year and then one cigarette led to another and another. My father-in-law had triple by-pass surgery, but still can’t seem to give up yummy-too-rich-for-heart-problem foods. Have you ever tried to break a habit such as smoking, eating a whole bag of chips at a time, or biting your fingernails? Have you ever tried to develop a new habit such as exercise 3-4 times per week or floss every day?

Breaking habits take time, commitment, and consistency. Remember my brother who quit smoking? That one cigarette after a year led to many. Inconsistency can spin you way off track and lead you right back to the beginning.

Why can your friend break her habit before you break yours? You are different people, right? What drives us to break a habit is different for everyone and our ability to stick with it varies, too. Perhaps you aren’t as persistent as your friend or your daily stresses are too insurmountable. Whatever the case may be, you are different than your friend. Not better. Not worse. Just different. What one person must work at, others work double to achieve the same results (remember that friend who could eat a whole bag of chips and NOT gain weight? Grrr!). Ever try to lose the same ten pounds with a weight loss buddy and you take longer? It sucks, but you can feel doubly good when you achieve your goals.

Making new habits take the same time, commitment, and consistency. I used to be an avid worker-outer (yes that’s a word). Now, I am lucky to get on a treadmill once a month! My daily responsibilities have completely overwhelmed my daily schedule that I can’t seem to fit in the time consistently. I think to myself “I can find 30 minutes.” but then 30 minutes doesn’t include getting dressed, then showered afterward, telling the boys they can’t exercise with me, etc. All of a sudden, I don’t have an hour and I can’t work out anymore. I have recently taken steps to help me with this by recently announcing two jobs for assistants to help me with my daily responsibilities here at The Baby Sleep Site. Yeah!

So, when you are sleep training your baby, please remember that they aren’t too different than you. No two babies are the same. None are better or worse, just different (believe me they all have their own challenging aspects!).

Babies aren’t always happy about changing habits much like the person with a heart problem who has to stop eating red meat. Not all babies can learn a new habit in just two or three nights.

Babies might fall off the wagon a few weeks later and have a rough night.

All your baby asks is for you to be realistic. Don’t expect too much more from them as you expect from yourself in terms of breaking or making habits.

As I mentioned in my recent post 7 Tips When Hiring a Sleep Consultant, part of my job is to help you stick with your sleep plan just like a personal trainer helps you stick with your exercise regimen. If I can help you stick with it long enough, I believe many (not all) babies will make large strides in a relatively short amount of time. Just remember, your baby has had their habits for 4, 6, 12, 18, or 24+ months. They won’t just go away overnight for all babies. I wish we were all among those lucky few. I might not have this job, but I’d sure have happy families! :)

Is/Was your sleep training progress like stairs or a roller coaster?

Can You Mix Attachment Parenting With Sleep Training?

Can You Mix Attachment Parenting With Sleep Training

Before I had a baby, I did not know anything about “attachment parenting” nor had I ever heard the term. It is a little “weird” considering I am an avid reader (well, before kids and this website when I used to have time), but I guess none of my friends ever mentioned it and I was never exposed, even though Dr. Sears coined the term with his wife over 20 years ago. I did know I wanted to breastfeed. I did know I didn’t want to co-sleep (though we did anyway out of necessity for a short time). If there were Attachment Parenting Police, I’d probably fail at least two and two halves of the Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting (as I understand them, which may not be fully, so feel free to comment below):

1. I prepared for birth and educated myself on newborn care. I was flexible and set realistic expectations. (PASS)
2. I breastfed for the first year. (PASS)
3. I tuned in to what my children needed and responded appropriately, but we did work on self-soothing. (PASS AND FAIL)
4. I carried my babies in a sling or Bjorn and had lots of skin-to-skin contact (my younger son who is 2 1/2 still likes to lay on my bare belly) and yes, even let them sleep there when they were young! (PASS)
5. I only co-slept for eight weeks and sleep trained. (FAIL)
6. I did not stay home with the kids, though I worked from home, so I did breastfeed during the day, at least. (PASS AND FAIL)
7. We practice positive discipline, but not completely and use time out, too, along with loss of privileges. When you have a persistent and strong-willed son, these tactics just didn’t always work for us. (FAIL)
8. I try very hard to balance personal and family life. (PASS)

I would argue that my boys have still formed a healthy attachment to us, but I’m not here to debate the philosophies or theory of Attachment Parenting. Anything that promotes healthy and positive relationships is a great thing in my book and, as I always say, you need to find what works for your family. I am all about balance. I eat fast food, but not every day. That sort of thing. So, it doesn’t surprise me that my instincts led to some attachment parenting principles and not others. I doubt I would have done anything differently had I researched attachment parenting more than I have to date. We simply could NOT function how we were in the subject of “baby sleep.”

I am continually happy when parents say something to the effect “Thank God you gave me advice that actually comforts my baby.” I don’t know everything about Attachment Parenting, but one thing you can’t NOT learn is that it is frowned upon to do sleep training when you are practicing attachment parenting. And, I take it very seriously when someone shares with me they practice AP in their communication with me, because I do know how passionate AP parents are.

But, what is a mom to do when she’s waking up 10 times a night with a breastfeeding, pacifier-demanding, or rocking-addicted baby? I say sleep train!

But, I am here to change the definition of “sleep train”. Sleep training does NOT have to mean controlled crying or cry it out or any other variation of it. I’m pretty sure that attachment parenting parents potty train (baby led mostly), so why can’t you sleep train? Well, yeah, you potty train a toddler, not a baby (unless you practice Elimination Communication). I get that. If you can potty train gently, you can sleep train gently, too. Once you understand the mechanics of sleep associations, you don’t necessarily want to wait two, three, or four plus years later for baby-led, though, in my opinion. I think it’s always worth a try and you can always re-evaluate if it doesn’t go well. Just because the baby hasn’t self-soothed, doesn’t mean he CAN’T self-soothe, does it?

I received an e-mail one day from a woman named Rebecca and she wanted to know if she thought I could help her. She sent me an overview of her situation, a little bit about what she had tried, and her parameters: I practice attachment parenting and I can’t let him cry at all. I wrote back that I felt I could help her, but could not promise NO tears. Limit tears? Yes. Do you have to leave him alone? No. I explained how babies cry to communicate, just like my son cried when he wet his underwear when he was first learning to use the potty. It’s not like your baby is going to calmly say “Mommy, why aren’t you feeding me to sleep anymore? I don’t really like that. I’m sleepy and now I can’t sleep because YOU decided you were going to make some changes to my routine. I don’t like to change my routine much, even if I might be fine with it in a week.” I go over in detail why I can’t promise NO tears in my article How Crying Can Lead to Babies Sleeping, so I won’t fully go into it here.

I must have said something right to Rebecca because she bought an email package and another one once we were in full swing to keep our momentum going. I will say that she was so nervous about this process that she gave me permission to give up on them in her first e-mail. Luckily, I don’t give up…much. :) I’m not really going to tell you what happened because I thought it might be better for you to hear it from her (see below). She wrote such a nice letter to YOU, that it seemed better to share it here (you can also hear her at the end of my Basics of Toddler Sleep Tele-Seminar saying thank you). This is NOT to tell you to hire me as your sleep consultant (unless you want to ha!), but more to give you hope that you can possibly make a difference in your and your baby’s life by “sleep training” even when you are “attachment parenting.” Truth be told, success will NOT come as quickly for everyone as it did for Rebecca and only some will succeed without sacrificing their philosophies, but until you try, you just never know.

Without further ado, here is Rebecca’s story, in her words (non-edited as it will be on the Parent Stories page):

“When I came across The Baby Sleep Site, it was quite by accident. I wasn’t looking for it, but I stumbled across it while searching for websites that addressed sleep issues. At the time, I had a 10-month old son who was sleeping in a sidecar arrangement (crib up against my bed with one side missing) and waking 4-6 times every night. He went through a bad time early on: he had reflux for the first 9 months of his life, plus around month 5-6 he had a bad reaction to an antibiotic treatment and wound up with serious gastrointestinal issues (waking every 2-3 hours with diarrhea). Nursing was always a method of deep relaxation leading to sleep and had now become a necessity to get my son to sleep even after all the physical issues were over. His napping was always very poor and then around 7 months of age the only time he slept for naps was in the car. If I tried to put him in his crib or even lay with him in bed, he’d only sleep for 30-45 minutes once a day, twice only if I was very lucky. While I had done a ton of reading on the subject of sleep issues and Attachment Parenting (the methodology I had followed since birth) and tried to believe that someday my son would “grow up” and would grow out of this stage he was in, I was feeling a tremendous uneasiness about how things were going. Deep down I felt like he was missing out on precious sleep, even though his attitude was positive most of the time. Something in his eyes told me he was more tired than he let on.

When I first entered the site, I was more skeptical than I can ever express in words. The first thing I did was download the “5 Ways To Help Your Baby Sleep Through The Night” and “7 Common Napping Mistakes” figuring they’re free and maybe they would help. No dice – not for my situation. I started receiving the newsletter and reading Nicole’s in-depth commentaries. At the end of each newsletter is the invitation to visit the services page and/or to contact Nicole with questions. For weeks I saved these newsletters and kept mulling over and over whether I wanted to spend the money to start emailing Nicole. Although everything sounded legitimate, I thought there had to be something I was missing and that it would be a mere waste of money. Another online scam. Finally I couldn’t take it any longer – I decided simply to start by taking Nicole up on her continuous offer to “email with questions.” I gave her a very brief synopsis of the situation and asked if she felt it was something she could indeed help me with. Her email back to me was quick and left me feeling very positive. I decided to purchase an email package and get to work trying to help my son, and myself for that matter.

What transpired from that point on (we started our work together at the beginning of August) was nothing short of miraculous. Granted, the first day or two was the most difficult but in retrospect, there were close to no tears from either my son or me. Being a Christian woman I’d been praying for something to happen to bring the needed rest for my son. I would pray daily, before every nap and before every bedtime, to “please let Ben get the sleep he needs.” Enter Nicole and The Baby Sleep Site. I can honestly say that “meeting” Nicole and taking the financial and emotional risk that it felt like at the time, was the answer to prayer that I’d been looking for. Nicole had given me a multi-step approach to getting my son to disassociate the breast with falling asleep at nap time (we worked on that first, which incidentally is opposite to what Nicole would normally do) and from there another step-by-step approach to get him disassociating the breast with falling asleep at night, and then to get him into his crib completely away from my bed. From there we were going to work on getting him into his own room and getting him to allow being put to bed by other people (his own father included). I am grateful to report that within 3-4 weeks, my son was taking two 1.5-2 hour naps in his own crib (with all 4 sides up) and being put down with NO breastfeeding at all and completely awake/sitting up. NO TEARS. Not only that, but the bedtime issues were resolved almost on their own, just utilizing some of the same methods we’d come up with to fix the napping issues. Something I expected to take months, took mere weeks, days even. My son is now, and has been for quite some time, sleeping 12 hours a night and two 1.5-2 hours naps a day. No more night waking or nursing to sleep. All 98% tear-free. Any change as major as the one my son experienced is most likely going to cause some degree of sadness, and invoke tears, depending on the sensitivity of the child. For the changes and benefits I see now in my son’s sleeping habits, the 10 minutes he cried for a couple of days is so worth it – and I was completely against ANY amount of crying around “sleep training.” With Nicole’s help and understanding, something you’ll never find in a book, I was able to truly “train” my son in the most gentle and personalized manner I could ever find.

God bless you, Nicole, for the help you have provided to me and countless other families. You were the answer I was seeking. I wish you continued success in your endeavor to bring peace in the form of needed sleep to many, many more babies and parents to come!

Westfield, MA

Personalized sleep Help For All Parenting Styles

You don’t have to sacrifice your parenting philosophy in order to sleep train – there is a sleep training style to suite every parenting style! Our consultants at The Baby Sleep Site® specialize in creating Personalized Sleep Plans™ that are customized to your own parenting philosophy, and that will NEVER make you feel guilty or pressured to give up your unique parenting style. Even better, once you have your Personalized Sleep Plan™, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing it at home.
Browse our list of consultation package options here.

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Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Sleep Resources That WORK

bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.


bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

So, what do you think? Can you mix attachment parenting with sleep training?