Infant Sleep Training: Is It Safe?

baby sleeping on crib

The first thing you’ll notice about the title of this post is that it specifically states infant sleep training. Now, if you were to ask me if newborn sleep training was safe, I’d respond by stating that newborns just need to be and grow, and not to worry about sleep training. However, the age in question pertains to infants, so the short answer is yes, infant sleep training is safe. Let’s take a look.

Infant sleep training and safety

When Philadelphia-area parents ask me if it’s safe to try sleep training with their infant, I’ve learned to read between the lines. What they’re really asking is whether sleep training their infant will traumatize and psychologically damage their baby. And if we explore the question even further, what parents are really asking when they ask me if it’s safe is whether their baby will be left to cry without any comforting.

Crying connection

Look, crying comes naturally to an infant, just like eating and evacuating. And most parents can likely discern the difference between an “I’m hungry” cry and a “my diaper’s wet” cry. It’s how our babies communicate discomfort, hunger, and pain with us. And because no parent likes to hear their little one cry without comforting them, the thought of letting their baby lie in a crib alone — all quivering lips and soft wails — is just unbearable to think about. I get it, I really do. Infant sleep training is not meant to make your baby suffer, it’s meant to teach your baby how to self-soothe by giving them the space to figure it out. The short answer — if you’re wondering how to sleep train your baby — is that it doesn’t involve leaving them to cry it out for hours on end.

Blame Dr. Sears

Dr. Sears and The Baby Book are to blame for creating fear surrounding sleep training and bouts of crying. Thanks to the incorrect use of research findings, Dr. Sears spread fear that persistent crying was damaging to a baby’s brain. The reality is that prolonged crying due to abuse and neglect can have ill effects, but short bouts of discomfort and crying prove to have no ill effect.

In 2012, Dr. Anna Price of the Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health in Australia conducted research to measure the effects of sleep, stress regulation, maternal health, parenting styles, and mental health on children. A five-year follow-up showed that those children subjected to sleep training techniques showed no long-lasting ill effects.

Here’s the thing — I won’t likely change the minds of those who already believe that infant sleep training is harmful. I understand that, which is why I try to provide you with as much information as possible. If the thought of working with your infant doesn’t sit well with you, and you can make it longer with broken sleep, then consider sleep training toddler instead.

Whatever the case, realize that when the time is right, I can work with your family to show you how to sleep train your baby. Give me a call today!

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