Will Sleep Training Damage Your Relationship With Your Baby?

Will Sleep Training Damage Your Relationship With Your Baby?

Sleep training your baby can produce lots of emotions: frustration at the pace of sleep coaching, elation at the prospect of a full-night’s sleep, anxiety over the sleep training method…it’s an emotional roller coaster, man! But does sleep training damage your relationship with your baby?

Recently, we turned to some of our valued clients who have recently finished sleep coaching their little ones, and we asked them to share their reflections about the sleep coaching process. Some interesting things emerged:

  • 59% felt unable to function at home and/or at work before sleep coaching, due to sleep deprivation
  • 58% worried their relationship with their baby would be damaged by sleep training
  • 75% were afraid sleep coaching wouldn’t work, and that all their effort would be for nothing.

Fear and anxiety can certainly paralyze us and prevent us from taking the action necessary to reclaim our sleep; as these moms demonstrate, anxiety over the sleep coaching process can be significant. Look at that middle statistic in particular: 58% of moms worried that sleep coaching would damage their relationship with their babies. That is a serious concern! But so is the first statistic – more than half of moms were so exhausted by sleep deprivation that they could not function in their daily lives.

So how does a tired parent address these very real concerns? How can you overcome these fears and sleep coach in a way that preserves your bond with your baby and that actually works? Keep reading for answers!

Bonding With Your Baby: What You Need To Know

First, let’s make it very clear: sleep training will not damage your bond with your baby. Why? Because your bond with your baby isn’t something that can be “broken” by a few specific actions on your part.

For instance, let’s say your baby monitor is broken but you don’t know it, and only later do you realize that your baby has been crying for 45 minutes. Will that damage your bond with your baby? No. Or let’s say that you have a night of heavy sleep, and only in the morning do you realize that your baby slept in a dirty diaper for a few hours and was up fussing about it in the night. Will that damage your bond with your baby? No.

Here’s what’s important to remember: bonding with your baby is an ongoing process that occurs over time. It’s the by-product of all the love and care you provide to your baby on a daily basis. Bonding is not something that happens quickly, or within a specific time period after birth. And because your bond with your baby is complex and is formed over time, it can’t be damaged or broken by a specific action like sleep coaching, which usually happens over a period of weeks.

Yes, there might be fussing and crying involved with sleep training, and that will naturally make a loving, concerned parent worried. But think about this- does it really sound reasonable to assume that some crying, broken up over the course of the day, can effectively cancel out all the feedings and diaper changes and cuddling and rocking and reading and singing that you give to your baby during that same day? Not likely, right? Intentional sleep coaching just is not powerful enough to have a real impact on your bond with your baby, since that bond is made up of all the care giving you provide to your child over time.

4 Tips for Gentle But Effective Sleep Training

That said, if you are concerned about how crying during sleep training will affect your child, we get that; we work with parents all the time who want to minimize crying (and being parents ourselves, we totally get it!) These tips can help:

  • Start slow, but take that first step. The hardest step to take in sleep training is the first step. That’s why we recommend setting reasonable expectations and starting slow. You can start, for instance, by creating a strong bedtime or nap time routine – that’s an easy, gentle first step to take, and it’s also a key component to successful sleep training.
  • Try a gentle sleep coaching method, if you are concerned about how crying will affect your baby. There are many gentle methods you can try that are very effective. Fading, substitution, and pick-up-put-down are all gentle methods that minimize crying but can also be very effective.
  • Adjust your pace as necessary – but keep going! If you’re worried about crying, it’s generally a good idea to move slowly. You can adjust the pace as necessary. If your baby is doing really well, no harm in speeding this up a little, but if your baby is crying more than you’d like, you can slow down, too. But do remember to keep going – that is key!
  • Gather a network of supporters (like us!). Sleep training always works best if you have a support network around you. And, of course, we’re here too: our team of expert consultants specializes in being sleep coaching “cheerleaders”! Our sleep consultation packages come with an unlimited supply of encouragement and compassion.

Remember that survey I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Well, you may be wondering how those anxious, exhausted moms fared after they finished sleep coaching. Here’s your answer: 78% of our surveyed clients said that sleep coaching was easier than they’d expected, that it was tough but worth it, and that they’d do it again!

Remember, your ability to function on a daily basis and to care for your baby is important. Ultimately, well-rested parents are better able to care for their babies and to enjoy all those bonding moments along the way. You CAN reclaim sleep for yourself and your baby, and you can start today!

Have you tried sleep training with your baby? 




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12 thoughts on “Will Sleep Training Damage Your Relationship With Your Baby?”

  1. In addition, we’ve tried sleep training. His usual bedtime is 830pm. We have a bedtime routine (shower, dress in pyjamas, say goodnight to daddy n mummy, sing then sleep) and he has cried for more than 30mins with no sign of tiring out. We stop it because we couldn’t take the crying any longer. Any earlier for bedtime and he treats it like a evening nap. We’ve been up until 12mn before because we put him to bed at 7pm as recommended and he woke at 11pm fully awake.

  2. Hi,
    I have been feeding and rocking my 8 month old Son to sleep since he was a newborn but I’m starting work soon and I cannot function in the day waking up so much at night. We need rock him until he’s fully asleep before putting him down because we’ve tried putting him down when he’s sleepy and he’ll cry loudly immediately when he touches his crib and become fully awake again. Also, when he whines at night, we pick him up to feed/rock him to sleep which affects our own rest too. I would love any suggestions to help us out.

    • Hi @Jamstar, thanks for writing to us. I am sorry you’ve been struggling with frequent wake ups at night. We’d love to help, and there are lots of approaches to help doing this besides just leaving him there crying alone, so don’t worry. Here is a link to a free guide with tips to help your baby sleep through the night: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-through-night-free-ebook/
      If you need more help, we’d love to work with you on this. Our sleep consultants can take you through every step of the way and provide you with a plan you feel comfortable with as you begin to break those sleep associations he has to being rocked. You can view the options to work with a consultant here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
      I hope this helps! Hang in there!

  3. We sleep trained our baby at 4.5 months and it was like a dream come true, he slept consistently for 12 to 13 hours per night, every night, unless ill. His routine was simple and when done we would lie him in the crib, he would immediately pop his thumb in and quietly fall asleep as we closed his room door behind us. Even traveling, he would struggle perhaps for a night or two but then very quickly settle in back to his 12-hour night sleep.

    Until last week, when he turned 1. It’s like our perfectly sleep trained baby has been kidnapped and replaced. Now approaching the crib has turned into a drama session, we continue the same bedtime routine diligently but now as soon as he is put down into the crib he immediately stands up and bounces and wails, tuning in to a much worse wail when we leave the room.
    Whereas in his first sleep training when he was tiny he never cried for longer than 12 minutes, yesterday we had to leave him almost 30 minutes crying in his crib and he did not give up or slow down at all. His usual wake up ( 7, 7:30 am) has now shifted to 5:30am, followed by another struggle of now wanting to go back to sleep. Is this just a regression or will we have to entirely retrain him from the scratch? It is so much harder now that he is older.

    • Hi Brie,
      Thank you for reading The Baby Sleep Site! I’m sorry you’re experiencing this sudden setback, especially since it sounds like your family’s been doing so well with sleep. If you haven’t already considered illness, it may be worth a check-in with your pediatrician just in case you’re dealing with an ear infection or other medical issue. If your son is healthy and still having trouble, the unfortunately the issue could be a lot of things, including a growth spurt, a scheduling issue, a change in sleep needs due to his growth, etc. There is a 12 month sleep regression that affects some babies – we have an article on that here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-naps-2/12-month-olds-one-nap-transition/
      If you do need more help diagnosing the issue, our sleep consultants would love to help! We work with this age very often. You can read more about our consultation packages here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/

  4. Ignore my previous post. sent the post too soon. here is the full post.
    My daughter is 13months old now.
    Until 7 months, she used to sleep in her crib.. we never had any problem putting her to sleep. And then she wants to touch our hands when going to sleep. Otherwise she can’t sleep. so we started putting her in the baby sling (Ergo Baby) and she falls alseep within few mins. we followed that as it made our life easier. Maybe thats the problem. and then gradually it got worsened as she can’t sleep on her own anymore. Now when she became 1 yr, She wants to put her fingers into our mouth.. that’s how she gets pacified. she’s been doing this lately and we tried to stop her doing that. But she starts crying and getting restless.

    ince last month we started leaving her in the day care, as my wife has started working. She was sick for few weeks, so we started putting her in our bed. After she became well, sleeping has become difficult for her.. She keeps crying and wants us all the time. We think it is due to the fact she is in a place where it is new for her(day care) and her dependence on us to sleep. she wakes up after an hr so and keeps looking for us and starts crying if she doesn’t see us.
    we are thinking about starting the sleep training as she is not able to sleep on her own and also not sleep continuously. we are bit worried how this is gonna as she is already suffering from separation anxiety and now putting her through this sleep training.

    I am wondering if this training is still possible for a 13 months old baby or is it too late?

    • @Arvin I am so sorry to hear you are struggling with your daughter’s sleep! It is not too late to sleep train and help her improve her sleep. We would love to help.
      I understand the concern since she is adjusting to daycare and being worried about her separation anxiety, but the good news is there are many gentle approaches to sleep training and our sleep consultants would love to help walk you through them. Here is a link to an article series that will take you through various sleep training techniques you may want to try: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-training-from-no-cry-to-cry-series-part-1/
      Please let us know if we can help and we wish you the best of luck!

  5. Hi,
    I have 13 months old daughter. since last month we started leaving her in the day car, as my wife has started working. Since then my daughter has problems sleeping. She keeps crying and wants us all the time. we are thinking about starting the sleep training as she is not able to sleep on her own and also not sleep continuously.
    I am wondering if this training is still possible for a 13 months old baby or is it too late?

  6. Very nice article. I have done some sleep training for my infant and I used the crib warmer mattress pad from http://heatingmattresstopperpad.com/ The product worked really well and my son had no problem sleeping with the pad. Not only did it keep my child warm throughout the night but it also allowed me to get a good nights sleep.

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for using the Baby Sleep Site as a resource! We’re so glad to hear you found a sleep training approach that worked for your family. We’re not familiar with that product, but are happy your family is sleeping well!

  7. I have to admit, I have a lot of fear of sleep training! Both because I don’t want my baby to cry/fuss/distress and because I don’t want to impact my husband with the crying/fussing/distress! I know it doesn’t have to be that way, but my little one can be quite vocal when things don’t go the way she wants them 😉

    I’m coming to the realization that I may have to do something. I am 50/50 about this being a sleep regression or a new normal. Sleep was great until about 3 weeks ago – regularly down between 8pm and 10pm, solid sleep until between 2am-4am, quick feed, then down again until 6-8am. Then my sleep angel 5 month old got sick. 4 days with a fever and feeding her at night whenever she woke up. I think she also started teething and hit a “Wonder Week” at the same time, so pretty much a recipe for disaster.

    Over the past 3 weeks, she consistently goes to sleep well, stays asleep until somewhere between 12-2am, then is up at 4am, 5am, 6am, 7am…
    Each time I feed her, its quick like always, and she’s right back to sleep. I’m hoping I didn’t create a habit 🙁

    And her naps…oh boy 🙁 She used to be a great napper – sometimes I even had to wake her up so she didn’t snooze too much. Now I MIGHT get one 1-2 hour nap per day (usually the first one), and every other nap is 30-40 minutes. She wants to be up for the 2-3 hour range, which again, makes me think its a developmental shift.

    I’ve read the articles about sleep regression and she has some of the other things you discuss – clingy, frequent nursing, fussy.

    Anyways, its not horrible, but I miss my good little sleeper! I’m afraid she won’t take to sleep training and part of me hopes she’ll just work it out.

    Sigh. And yawn.

    • @Sarah – Hello and thank you for using our site as a resource! We can most definitely understand this worry – we’re all moms here at The Baby Sleep Site and none of us relish the tears or distress that can happen when you start your sleep coaching journey. 🙁 This is one reason we usually start with the more gentle methods of sleep training in almost all of the cases – you can read a bit about that here -https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/gentle-sleep-training/.

      It sounds like you’re really in tune to your daughter’s sleep and her sleep needs, which is a great first step in sleep coaching, Sarah. From what you describe, it’s possible your little girl is going through a regression which commonly hits between 3-5 months of age. It’s very likely though that she also picked up some habits during all of her TLC when she was sick. Don’t feel bad, though – TLC is just what babies need when they’re sick! You can always get back on track with sleep when they’re well. To help you better determine if what you’re seeing is a regression or a habit, I’d suggest taking a minute to read here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-patterns/baby-sleep-regression-phase-habit/

      If you find you’re dealing with a habit and you need some support working through it, we’re always here to help. If you would like to work one on one with one of our expert consultants, you should consider one of our consultation packages, which you can read more about at any time here – https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/

      Thank you again for your question and I hope this helps you some. Please keep reading! 🙂

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