Okay, parents, let’s just get it right out in the open. It’s an elephant in the room for many of our consultation clients. We think it’s high time we addressed it here on the blog and talked about it openly.
We’re talking about sleep training guilt.
Have you felt this? Does the idea of sleep training in order to achieve hours of glorious, uninterrupted night sleep and long, peaceful naps sound wonderful to you? But maybe it’s also tainted by a weird, lingering feeling of guilt, that somehow even wanting to sleep train (much less actually doing it) is somehow selfish?
If so – you’re not alone. MANY of the families with whom we’ve worked have said this very thing as they’ve started their consultations. “I’m so excited to be doing this finally, but I also feel super guilty. I feel selfish for wanting to fix my child’s sleep!”
Well, readers, this is the question we’re answering in today’s post: Is sleep training selfish? We say yes AND no – read on to find out why!
Sleep Training “Selfishness”: Why The Guilt In The First Place?
Why does sleep training feel selfish in the first place? Well, most of us end up sleep training out of our own crippling exhaustion. While some parents do sleep train solely based on their baby’s needs, for most of us, it’s a combination of things. IN short, it’s because “my baby isn’t getting enough sleep, and NEITHER AM I!!” If we’re honest with ourselves, we need sleep, too. We need adequate sleep in order to have healthy relationships with our partners. We need sleep to enjoy our daily lives and activities, and to be the best parents we can be.
I also think that sleep training guilt over “being selfish” has a lot to do with the pervasive myth of The Super-Mom. What is the super-mom? Well, super-moms…
- …breastfeed with ease (no latching problems, nipple soreness, or supply issues) and do it exclusively for years.
- …make ALL baby and toddler food from scratch, using only organic, locally-grown ingredients.
- …can churn out ALL the crafts on Pinterest. And they always look just like the pictures. (Meanwhile, mine end up looking a whole lot more like Pinterest fails…anyone else??)
- …retain their girlish figures indefinitely (because why let a little thing like multiple pregnancies be an excuse?)
- …have 18 month olds who are potty-trained AND reading independently.
- …are unfazed by their toddlers’ monster-sized tantrums and NEVER resort to raising their voices or losing their cool.
- …can happily subsist on just a few hours of sleep per night, and still be patient moms and loving spouses all day long.
Now, not all of these are unachievable dreams. Some of these bullet points may describe you, actually! (Although if the bit about the girlish figure fits you, I have to ask — what’s your secret???!) And that one about never raising your voice — could someone please tell me how to manage that on a daily basis??) But the point is that there is NO mom out there who fully fits this profile. Because it’s not realistic. A mom who could pull all that off would be more robot than human. Especially that last one — while a small percentage of you may be able to function long-term on very little sleep, I’ll bet you’re doing just that – functioning. Not living life to the fullest, not enjoying your family and your life – just functioning. And I’ll bet that most of you (me included) can’t even function on just a few hours of sleep for very long.
You know, I used to wish SO HARD that I was the kind of mom who could be up with the baby all night long and then be sweet and calm and happy the next day. But I’m not. Not by a long shot, actually! I need a minimum of 6 hours at night to function well the next day. If I have a few nights in a row of getting less than 8 hours of sleep, I need to make up for it with one or two nights of getting 9 or 9.5 hours. In the past, I used to feel bad about this – can you believe that? I’d feel guilty for needing to get the recommended amount of sleep each night. But it’s true – and I’ll bet most of you can relate. Because that’s not what super-mom is supposed to do. She’s not supposed to let a little thing like constant sleep deprivation slow her down!
Is Sleep Training Selfish? For Some Of Us…Technically Yes!
You know, the word “selfish” is a pretty loaded one. It has a ton of negative connotations. Lots of dictionary definitions define selfish as being supremely concerned with oneself, and not caring about the needs or interests of others. In short, selfishness is bad, by standard definitions!
But do you know what selfishness technically means? Break the word down, and it simply means ‘concern for one’s self.’ By this definition, then, sleep training can be selfish, if you do it out of a concern that you might literally DIE if you don’t start getting enough sleep! Or if you do it for fear that your marriage might fall apart if you and your spouse don’t start getting enough sleep, and you don’t want your partner to leave you. Or if you do it because you feel yourself sinking into a deep depression that you know is brought on by sleep deprivation.
Technically speaking, those are all “selfish” acts – they’re done out of concern for yourself.
Is Sleep Training Selfish? Ultimately, No.
I think we’d all agree that our reasons for sleep training involve more than just our own well-being. Most of us sleep train for our spouses and partners, too. We recognize the toll that sleep deprivation is taking on them. And, of course, we do it for our children, because we know that as long as they are waking too often at night, or taking too-short naps, they are not getting the rest they need for healthy development. Many of us know firsthand that our overly-tired children are simply too tired and cranky to enjoy each day. That’s something that no parent wants for their child!
So, even if some of your motives for sleep training are technically “selfish”, in that they are focused on your needs, it’s likely you have other reasons for sleep training, too.
And what about those “selfish” motives? Should you feel bad about them? In a word – NO. Taking care of yourself, while it may not be part of the “super-mom” myth, is, in reality, a very, very healthy practice. If you are so busy taking care of everyone else in your family that you completely ignore your own needs, it won’t be long before you are too burnt out to be much use to anyone. Better to pay attention to yourself AND to your children and your partner Balance means meeting your own sleep needs AND on making sure that the other members of your family are rested.
You Don’t Have To Feel Selfish For Reclaiming Your Sleep — Let Us Help!
If you feel desperate to solve your baby or toddler’s sleep problems, and to reclaim your own sleep, don’t let yourself be bogged down by guilt! Sleep training may be one of the best decisions you ever make for yourself and for your family – so why not start today? Our trained sleep consultants are standing by, ready to help you get started. Your consultant will create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for you and your family, and walk you through every step of implementation.
Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Sleep History questionnaire right away – it’s that simple!
Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers.
How about you – have you struggled with sleep training guilt? Do you think sleep training is selfish? Share your opinions with us!
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8 thoughts on “Is Sleep Training Selfish? Well, Yes…And No”
I’m a mother of a six months baby boy who sleeps for 9 to 10 hours at night but not straight which is very exhausting to repeatedly wake up at night to give him the pacifier to help him go back to sleep, specially that I’m 4 months pregnant. Please give me an idea of the non crying method to try it since my partner did not agree with the crying method. I’m ready to try watever helps and is for sure efficient Thank you.
@ Sabine – no wonder you’re so tired! It’s tough enough to endure sleep deprivation, but it’s extra tough when you’re pregnant! There are several gentle methods that you can use to help your 6 month old learn to sleep. You can read about them in our free guide, 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night. You can also see our sleep training “cheat sheet”; that has an overview of a few of the gentle methods we recommend.
Hang in there, Sabine – and thanks for commenting!!
I think it is important to talk about some of the recent studies about crying it out that show that it is bad for the baby’s brain (like the NIH study about the baby’s stress – showing that wven though babies stopped crying at some point after being left alone, their stress hormones were still very high. ) And it may even be harmful to future emotional development. Why not put all that information out there? WIO – or, waiting it out – or even gentle sleep support like the “No Cry Sleep Solution” are much better for the child. More and more experts say that sleeping is a developmental milestone like walking. You wouldn’t force your child to walk before they are ready …
@Maria – You’re absolutely right that sleeping through the night without feedings is a developmental milestone! For some babies, things like sleep associations impact their ability for that milestone to develop naturally, and so they may need help learning how to fall asleep independently. We agree that there are gentle approaches to sleep training available that would be great options for many families. Thank you so much for commenting!
If you feel guilty then it means something it’s not right.. Why so many people feel guilty about CIO method they use for their children- because it’s against their instincts, against the nature. I’ve been there, I felt that with my first child. I wish I could do it the other way, I wish I knew better. And no- I am not a super-mom 🙂 With my second child I did not make this mistake. I feel so much better even if I may get a bit less sleep 🙂 Do whatever feels RIGHT for your family – I mean whatever is guilt free.
@Anna – I’m happy you were able to find what works for you and your family with your second child! I think your comment about doing what feels right for your family is key. CIO is not for every family, and there are also many other limited or no-cry methods to help teach your child how to fall asleep independently. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us!
@ Maddison – awesome response! I agree completely (obviously – I work for The Baby Sleep Site®! 😉 ) But truly, I think you’re right – a mom (and baby) can only go so long without sleep before it starts to seriously impact quality of life.
Thanks for commenting, Maddison!
Oh boy did I feel selfish! I knew it was the right thing, but the hard part came when my MIL kept saying that my baby was crying because he felt abandoned, then I was a huge mess! I know her intentions weren’t bad, but her comments, along with comments from Facebook friends about how CIO ruins children, made me wonder if I shouldn’t be doing it and if my life was destined to be catering to a tired and cranky child just because it was apparently abusive to let him cry. Luckily, I realized the benefits to sleep training, realized that my and my baby’s personalities were very different from these naysayers, and I did what I felt was the right thing. It was totally worth it!
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