Sleep training is where you try to ‘train’ your baby to sleep through the night. There are many ways to do it, but all of the, are inherently flawed for a few different reasons I obviously can’t list them all, but these are the ones that concern me the most:
1) babies do not make their own melatonin. They are meant to get it from breastmilk. They have to wake at night to replenish their supply. Which is why co-sleeping is so awesome because baby can roll over, find the boob, and replenish they melatonin before they become fully awake. Meaning mom doesn’t have to get up, walk around, and try to soothe a baby back to sleep. Plus, the breast milk moms produce at night is higher in fat content, which indicates that babies are meant to nurse at night, why else would mom produce her healthiest milk at night?
2) babies sleep cycles are different from adult sleep cycles. Adults go through 4 cycles of sleep: transition, light, deep, and dream. Babies go straight to light and dive right into dream. The light sleep cycle can last anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes. Trying to lay a baby down before they enter their dream state of sleep is never going to work. They’re going to wake up. Most parents try to lay their kids down as soon as they close their eyes and get frustrated when the babies eyes snap open as soon as their tooshie hits the mattress. Instead of leaving the baby there to cry to ‘train’ them to go to sleep on their own parents have to simply observe their child and learn to recognize the signs of true dream sleep. Most children will close their eyes, their hands will relax, their weight will suddenly become mush heavier in their parents arms because all their muscles have relaxed, and the child will exhale. You may see the child making repetitive sucking motions with their lips. When the child is truly in deep sleep, they usually exhale a second time. I usually wait about 10 minutes longer to lay my baby down after the second exhale. The length of the child’s dream sleep phase depends on three things: the time of day, the location of the mother, and the child’s natural circadian rhythm.
3) most people who sleep train are trying to make their child sleep in a room on their own. This is biologically incorrect. Part of what keeps children asleep once they fall into a dream sleep is their mother’s breathing and heartbeat. A child who can hear their mother’s breathing and heartbeat will match their breathing and heartbeat to hers and be more likely to sleep for longer stretches of time. Children left alone in a room are much more likely to come out of dream sleep after 45 minutes or so because they can’t hear anything, the room is silent, and their instincts tell them that silent = alone and alone = dangerous and dangerous = cry for mom.
4) most people feel like sleep training is cruel. And I agree, to an extent. Before 10 months, babies have no sense of cause and effect. They don’t have any sense of object permanence, and they are instinct driven to protect themselves. Sleep training of any kind before then is cruel in my opinion because they will never understand what is happening to them. They think that their parent has abandoned them and what most people take as the child crying them self to ‘sleep’ is actually the fall out from the rush of adrenaline caused by their supposed abandonment. Adrenaline gives them a sudden energy high, you can hear the moment it’s released in their cries, they get frantic, it has a hysterical edge to it. Shortly afterwards they’ll being to wind down, they are not being trained to fall asleep, but rather, their body used all of it’s energy in one swoop of adrenaline and now their body is shutting down from exhaustion. If you were to open the door to their room at this point you would see flush cheeks, a heaving chest, and the shaky-hic sounding breaths that comes from their body still trying to process the last dregs of adrenaline. Their brain is now exhausted from the hormonal dump and it shuts down to protect itself. The child falls asleep, but not in a natural, healthy way.
Personally, while I would never do it, I think the kind of sleep training known as ‘controlled crying’ can be acceptable for children over a year old but ONLY if used correctly and ONLY at each parents discresssion. You have to know you child and know their maturity level. For example, neither of my children were mature enough for it at a year old. My son probably would have been a good candidate for it at around 18 months when he weaned if it wasn’t for the fact that he was terrified of falling asleep on his own after we were pressured into trying CIO with him when he was around 10 months old.
True controlled crying is where you meet all the child’s needs, place them in a safe, comfortable place, tell them goodnight. and close the door. If they cry, you come back. Some people like to wait 5 minutes or so before they come back. The goal is to prove to the child that you’ll come when they call and that you haven’t abandoned them. You soothe them, tell them goodnight again, and leave the room. Some people extend the time before they back each time they leave until finally the child falls asleep.
Personally, my son was sleep ‘trained’ like this: when he was 18 months he weaned from breastfeeding. He also got to where he seemed like he just couldn’t get comfortable in our bed. So one night I explained to him that we were going to try the crib again and I promised I wasn’t going to leave him this time. I got him read for bed, and I sat quietly in the rocking chair by the door. I didn’t talk to him or look at him. If he got fussy, I’d look up from my book, smile at him, tell him it was alright, he’d lay his head back down. Some nights he wanted to hold my hand through the crib bars, other nights he wanted me to stroke his hair. It took about 4 weeks, but eventually he got to where I could lay him down in his bed, and I would have to sit in the chair by his door for no more than 10 minutes, just long enough for him to lay down, close his eyes, and fall into dream sleep. Then I could get up and leave. A few weeks later, he was letting my husband take him up to bed and close the door immediately, falling asleep completely on his own. No crying no screaming, no fuss. Just me, him, and a good book was all it took to ‘train’ my chid to sleep in his own bed throughout the whole night.
So yeah, as always, my reply got a bit rambly, hopefully you got the gist of it, excuse any typos. My iPad keyboard is lagging like crazy, like, I type a word and it doesn’t show up until like three words later. Plus, Boogie is leaning on my elbow. -_-