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, or 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. The Baby Sleep Site specializes in being sleep coaching “cheerleaders!” Our sleep support 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!

If/when you’re ready to start sleep training with your baby… We’ll be here! 




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