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.