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 and, given the number of clients I work with on a daily basis on no-cry methods, I would argue that there really is no “norm” in the West. I would say most parents try to limit crying. I’m not sure what parent likes to hear their baby cry, though.
Will your baby be spoiled if you don’t sleep train her?
I obviously feel passionately that sleep is very important that it needs a whole website focused around it, complete with a support system to help you through it, but honestly, this might be one of the more absurd things I’ve heard in a long time. 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. Your 8-month old twins are not conspiring to keep you awake at night (as much as it might feel that way). Your toddler is not planning his night-wakings to correspond with that work deadline the next day. (Note: If you are convinced your baby is conspiring, when you are ready for a good laugh, read Awake Training for Parents).
Our babies are simply not NOT sleeping on purpose. As much as my five year old 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 a spoiled brat. 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 can 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, but they also need confidence and to know they can go to their parents when they need them just the same. By far, I am not saying I am a perfect parent (oh how I wish I were!), but somehow I have made sure I have given my son the “ok” to come to me for a nightmare or when he loses his “blankie” when it falls down between the crack of the bed and wall, yet 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, and sometimes I feel like we never quite ever get off the road, but when I think back to the baby I once had, I know just how far he’s come. And, I would say he does have his “spoiled” moments, even though he is “sleep trained” and we are trying our best to teach him humility and appreciation, yet another parenting challenge that does not happen overnight.
If you need help establishing healthy sleep habits in your baby or toddler, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.