5 Steps For Handling Sleep Training Criticism From Family and Friends

Sleep Training Criticism

Those of you who have done it yourselves will no doubt give a big nod to what I’m about to say:

Sleep training is work.

It’s work that is worth doing, mind you, and (provided you have plenty of resources and support), it is work that can go smoothly and can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. But it’s still work.

Given this fact, I think it’s safe to say that none of us need our friends, co-workers, or family members to make the step-by-step process of sleep training any more difficult or challenging. And yet, as some of you know from first-hand experience, sometimes our friends, co-workers, and family members do just that – they heap criticism and guilt on us at a time when we are already feeling vulnerable and stressed.

How do we handle this? What do we do when the people in our lives criticize our decisions about sleep training? That’s what we’re taking a look at today – a 5-step approach to handling this kind of criticism.

5 Steps For Handling Sleep Training Criticism From Family and Friends

  1. Consider the source. Is this loving, constructive criticism coming from someone you love and trust, or is it a harsh critique coming from someone who’s an acquaintance, and who doesn’t know your situation well? This will obviously make a big difference in how you receive and respond to what’s being said.
  2. Keep an open mind, and look for truth. It’s safe to ignore harsh, hurtful criticism – people offering that aren’t actually trying to help. And you can probably also ignore critiques that come from people who don’t know you or your family well. But if the criticism in question is coming from someone you love and trust, and if it’s being framed in a gentle and loving way, then it might be worth considering. Try to really hear what’s being said, and determine as best you can whether or not there’s a grain of truth in it. After all, constructive criticism may actually be helpful, and sometimes, people close to us may have good insights into our sleep training situations, since they aren’t as ‘close to the action’ as we are.

    I remember, when my oldest son was about 6 weeks old, a well-meaning friend gave me a copy of a popular sleep training book. I read it immediately (I’m a Type-A overachiever like that), and, upon finishing it, I instantly felt stressed out. I started trying to apply all the advice in the book at once, right away – I was trying to create a clock-based feeding and sleeping schedule, I was trying to break my son’s sleep associations and put him down drowsy-but-awake…and in the process, I was driving myself crazy!

    Finally, my sweet and wonderful mother gently suggested that perhaps I should just forget the book for the time being, and enjoy my son. She pointed out that all of the ‘rules’ I’d created for myself and for my son were completely robbing me of the joy of being a new mom. Her criticism was constructive and loving, and eventually, I came to the conclusion that she was right.

  3. Decide on your own course of action. If there are some nuggets of truth in the criticism you are hearing (the way there were in my mom’s words to me), then decide what you’re going to do about that. Are you going to change course? Try a different sleep training method? Stop sleep training for a bit, and start again later? Of course, if there isn’t a grain of truth in your friends’ or family members’ criticism, and if you know that your approach is healthy and good for your family, then it’s probably best to stick to your plans and not change anything.
  4. Decide how you will respond. This is your call, of course – you know the people in your life better than I do! But here are a few suggestions. First, if the criticism is coming from a casual acquaintance, you can always offer something vague, like “Thanks!”, and leave it at that. It’s unlikely that person will follow up with you, to see if you’ve followed their advice. If the criticism is harsh or rude, do your best not to respond in kind. Try to frame some kind of civil answer (such as, “Thanks, but we’re doing what we think is best”), or just don’t respond at all. For advice that comes from close friends and family members, and that’s framed in a constructive way, it may be good to ask follow-up questions. Ask your friend or relative why they hold the opinion they do. Engage them in discussion. Who knows – you may both end up learning something new!
  5. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up! Obviously, your sleep training journey would be made much easier if everyone around you supported you in a loving fashion, offering encouragement and help. However, we know that many of you are not in these kinds of ideal situations. And so to you, we say this: don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up! Remain as consistent as you can. Shut out the negative voices, and draw close to those people who are actually trying to help. We promise that in the end, the hard work you put in now will reap big rewards. 🙂

Did you face (or are you facing) criticism from friends and family members regarding your sleep training choices?

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9 thoughts on “5 Steps For Handling Sleep Training Criticism From Family and Friends”

  1. My mother in law told me when my first son was born, “I won’t give my opinion but I will give suggestions.” I wish she wouldn’t. She has a completely different view on bringing up children and on caring for babies so I’m not interested in her frequently given suggestions. If I get up to sooth my fussing baby, she’ll say, “He’s fine!” I feel like saying, “I didn’t ask you,” or, “I know he’s fine but he’s my baby and he knows mama’s here to help him when he needs it.” Obviously, I don’t want to start a war so I don’t say those things, but what I do say when she starts up with her little comments about my sons’ sleep schedules is, directing it at my sons, “Mama’s babies need their rest. Mama knows her babies like the back of her hand, doesn’t she?” It’s non-confrontational and since I didn’t direct my comments at her, it sends the message that I’m not responding to her negativity. Also, the choice of wording lets her know that I, not she, will be the decided of how these boys get their sleep. Hope that helps someone else!

    • @ Elaina – Thanks so much for sharing a bit about your story!! We love when moms chime in and share insights and tips with our readers…thank you for taking the time to do this! 🙂

  2. @ Christin — SO frustrating! As if anyone needs additional mother-in-law drama, right? 😉 I’ll be honest, though, it sounds like you’re handling this really, really well. Biting your tongue and responding with something vague and general is the way to go, I think. You could, of course, confront her about it (in a loving and non-combative way), and that may be the way to go if you want to end her comments. But then again, you know the situation best, and maybe confrontation wouldn’t end well.

    At any rate — you’re doing a great job! Keep up your good work, and keep prioritizing your little guy’s sleep. Even if your mother-in-law doesn’t thank you for it now, you’ll thank yourself. 😉

    Thanks for commenting, Christin!

  3. Good article. It seems every time I go to my mother in law’s I get criticism and I’m about to lose it. She always makes a comment about “how early we put him down” or it’s “you’re putting him down for a nap already? He just got up.”. My son, thanks to my sleep consultant, takes two great naps a day and sleeps through the night. She has been the only one that has been non supportive of my sleep training because she didn’t do any of these things that I’ve implemented and I don’t think she fully understands the importance of sleep at his age (he will be ten months on Saturday). As a matter of fact she thinks he sleeps too much which I find insulting. I just bite my tongue or reply “well it works for us” but I wish I knew how else to respond.

  4. @ Kelly Stellato — good observation! I try to do the same, when I get unsolicited advice that I know won’t work for me — I respond with something vague and polite.

    Thanks for commenting, Kelly! 🙂

    @ Tara — I’d say you’re right — usually, people don’t intend to be rude or hurtful. The problem, however (in my opinion, at least), is a combination of two things. First, as you mention, sleeping and sleep training (and just mothering in general, in a lot of ways!) is a touchy subject, and one that some moms have very strong opinions about (and very emotionally-charged opinions about). Second, moms who are sleep training are often feeling extra-vulnerable (no doubt because they’re so completely tired themselves!)

    I think that combination – someone’s strong opinion on sleep training colliding with a sleep-training mom’s own feelings of vulnerability – is what ends up causing escalation and conflict.

    But still, your point is a really good one, and one that all sleep training moms should bear in mind. 🙂

    Thanks for commenting, Tara! 🙂

  5. I agree with Kelly Stellato’s comment. Most people are trying to be genuinely helpful – there’s no need to get offended by every little comment. To be honest, I often appreciate input from other moms. More than once they’ve given me a suggestion or idea I hadn’t thought of! Sleeping is a touchy subject among parents though, so I usually try to be vague or just not get into it with people I don’t know well.

  6. Excellent article. So I’m not the only one that gets an abundance of free advice? I often respond with “Thank you. I will keep that in mind.” Or I say, “that sounds like it worked well for you.” I feel its important to remember that most people are trying to be helpful and share their experience.

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