Will your baby be spoiled if you do NOT sleep train? We hear this question circling around often. In fact, a 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. Given the number of clients I work with on a daily basis with no-cry methods, I would argue that there really is no “norm” in the West. I would say most parents try to limit crying.
Will your baby be spoiled if you don’t sleep train?
I obviously feel passionately that sleep is very important that it needs a whole website focused on it, complete with a support system to help you through. 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. Those 8-month old twins are not conspiring to keep you awake at night. Your toddler is not planning his night-wakings to correspond with your work deadline. (Note: When you are ready for a good laugh on this, read Awake Training for Parents).
Our babies are not NOT sleeping on purpose. As much as my son 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 spoiled. 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 might 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. They also need confidence and to know they can go to their parents when they need them. I am not saying I am a perfect parent (oh how I wish I were!), but somehow I’ve made sure I have given my son the “ok” to come to me for a nightmare or when he temporarily loses his “blankie.”
I’ve also 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. Sometimes I feel like we never quite get off the road. I do think back to the baby I once had, and I know just how far he’s come. And, I would say he does have his “spoiled” moments, even though he is “sleep trained.” We are also trying our best to teach him humility and appreciation. This is yet another parenting challenge that does not happen overnight.
9 thoughts on “Will Your Baby Be Spoiled If You Don’t Sleep Train?”
As parents we feel pressure to conform to certain ideas or things. It is nice to see we are not the only parents that are “spoiling” our 9 month old. With all the pressure we started thinking maybe we should try the cry it out method, but after many long conversations we realized there was nothing wrong with the way we chose to comfort our little one. It is a personal preference and we are very happy to have our little girl cuddle up to us at night. It will not be very long before she will be more than happy to be away from us at every possible chance she gets during her fun teenage years.
How many mammals sleep away from their young? It seems very sad to me to stick a little one that only wants to be comforted by their protectors in another room and let them cry themselves to sleep. We also have a 15 year-old that also slept in our bed when he was younger and needed to be comforted after a nightmare or for whatever reason. He is very well adjusted, outgoing, amazing kid. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I think every situation is different and everyone has their own way of doing things, but sometimes you just have to do what feels right. In this fast-paced, crazy world sometimes it’s the little things that create lasting memories and wonderful kids.
People talk a lot about ‘training’ kids to do this or that, but in the long term we know that children learn by example too. So I do think if you do whatever you do out of kindness, patience and strength that is the lesson you are giving to your little ones. If you do it out of anger, frustration or powerlessness then it is the same.
I went to boarding school when I was ten/eleven and wasn’t particularly homesick but a lot of the girls were. I spent a lot of hours up comforting the little ones. Some of them cried for hours, some of them just liked the attention but if they did I made it into a game and once they were smiling it was easy to say ‘there! all better now time for sleep.’ I don’t remember that the girls who were awake or upset at night were naughty or attention-seeking during the day. I think maybe they were the more sociable girls. Night is a lonely time if you like being with people. It’s easy to forget once you have a partner to curl up to.
Now I have my own nine-month old these memories came back to me. He still wakes a couple of times in the night briefly to nurse (more if teething or ill). I don’t feel I’m ‘giving in’ or creating bad habits any more than I did when I helped the other kids at school. I am just there for him in his struggles and one day when he doesn’t need me I hope he’ll do the same for someone else.
I was one of the many parents that was facing this problem. At one point I blaming myself, thinking I was not good enough. Then I decided to change that attitude, when Aly woke up in the night crying. Instead of taking her in our bed, I left her in her bed. I talked to her and gave her a hug and she went to bed. It works so I proceed with same. I am happy, she is happy. To note good parenting does exist all we have to do is to keep on trying techniques that bring out the best in our children and techniques that not only teach our children but also ourselves, respect, responsibility love compasssion etc…..
@Sabine Thank you for sharing what worked for you! Congrats! 🙂
@Emma Thank you for commenting and for sharing your experience at the boarding school. I definitely can empathize with children missing their parents at bedtime. My boys LOVE for me to cuddle and on the rare occasion we go out to dinner and they have a sitter, they often ask for me at bedtime. They love to cuddle. I’m sure it’s easier for them because they know they will see me the next day. I agree that night time can be a lonely place, but a baby who wakes every 1-2 hours all night and sees their mom all day during the day, for example, is most likely waking out of the result of a sleep association rather than loneliness. I don’t really like the word “training” in that it’s really teaching, just like we teach them manners at the table, to ride their bike, and so on, but I do think teaching babies to sleep better is usually a good idea, if they are waking frequently and it is difficult to sustain. It sounds like things are manageable for you and your 9 month old, so that’s great! I’m sure other parents would find it hard to get up more than twice a night month after month, though. It doesn’t mean he’s lonely. It could just mean he has developed a habit of “needing” to nurse every time back to sleep. Only you can decide whether it’s worth it to “teach” him something else, but I don’t think it’s wrong to want to teach him, as long as he isn’t lonely. Given I’m sure you give him lots of affection and attention during the day, I can imagine he isn’t. Those girls at the boarding school I’m guessing weren’t able to see their parents very much and that sounds entirely different to me. Just my opinion. Thanks again for sharing!
I agree that going to your child at night will not necessarily result in a spoiled child. But, in my experience with other moms, and similar to what Isabelle said above, I do find that mothers who constantly give in to their chidlren’s demands at night (and I mean mothers who ALWAYS give in), do tend to “give in” in other areas of parenting and discipline.
It seems to me that sleep is the first real test of our parenting skills. It gives us as parents the opportunity to stick to our guns, regardless of the protesting, because we know deep down what is best for our children. Of course, we will do that many, many times over the course of our children’s lives. Sleep is only the first of many instances.
Nicole, thanks for your insightful articles!
My family doctor told me that children whose parents tend to them at night grow into difficult teenagers…. I thought that was the most interesting comment from a doctor no less. I would agree with you that a parent’s attitude with sleep and sleep-training is not the only factor in how our kids ‘turn out’. There is so much more to raising kids than sleep. However, as I reflect on my own attitude about sleep, sleep training, and parenting in general, I can see how they all very much align in one general approach to parenting. In a sense, chances are that a parent who tends to give in when it comes to sleep will also give in in other areas of parenting. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on this!
Will baby be spoiled by not sleep training? I sure hope not, because letting her cry it out isn’t an option in my book.
You hit the nail on the head with, “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.” Babies are smart enough to learn when they can push limits and when they can’t. Spoiled comes from consistent backing down in many areas of life. if you only back down on sleep, that will be the only area he/she will push you.
2 more things:
1. don’t be so foolish to think that you ever have control over your child. He/she always has the option of disobeying you. It’s your job to make him/her want to obey you. How you do that will depend on how you want him/her to feel about you and him/herself in general.
2. For Nicole: My definition of a perfect parent includes making mistakes b/c absolute perfection would be too hard an act for my son to follow and he’d end up always feeling bad about himself. Let him learn how to cope with being imperfect by my (sometimes many) examples!! =)
@Rima So true! And, yes, you are right. We all learn from our mistakes and I often explain to my son that everyone makes mistakes, even mommy and daddy. He doesn’t seem to think we do. 🙂 I would say he is a little bit of a perfectionist at times. I wonder where he gets that… 🙂
@Varda Oh didn’t you hear? I redefined “sleep training” to include “no-cry” methods. 🙂 Here is the article: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/attachment-parenting-sleep-training/
@Isabelle That is a good point. I do find my “moderate” approach to sleep has also been a common theme in much of my parenting. Thank YOU for reflecting. 🙂
@Natalie Very true. Another good point. I would agree that if you give in to a lot related to sleep to a toddler, I’m sure that means you have a persistent child and given my experience in how difficult it can be to parent a persistent child, I can imagine it could/would bleed into other things. I definitely see it different to “give in” to a 3 year old versus a 6 month old, though. Their level of understanding is just so different that I can’t imagine even a 6-month old baby who is “given in to” with EVERYTHING will necessarily be spoiled provided that parent begins to set limits as he gets older. But, you make a good point on more of the personality of the parent in the first place. Interesting! Thanks for commenting!
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