Toxic Stress and Infant Sleep Training

One-Year-Old-Baby-Girl-Boy

If the first thing that comes to mind when you think about infant sleep training is hours of endless, pitiful crying, then this is the blog for you. It may help to know that you’re not alone in thinking that sleep training is stressful for your baby. Still, it’s my goal to help you realize that the splashy headlines about sleep training do not apply to your situation. We’re talking about toxic stress and infant sleep training today.

Infant sleep training and stress

Yes, there have been studies showing that babies left to cry it out suffered long-term damage as a result. However, what the news reports often forget to mention is that these studies pertain to babies suffering chronic neglect, not babies undergoing a week or two of sleep training.

Let me ask you this: when you make a significant change in your life, do you feel associated stress? You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who encounters zero stress or anxiety when trying to stop a bad habit. Infant sleep training is no exception. Yes, it will be stressful because you’ll be responding to your little one differently, and they may not like it at first.

Types of stress responses

Before learning how to sleep train your baby, it’s essential to understand that there are three major types of stress responses in children. The Science of Mom shares that the categories of stress responses in children include: positive, tolerable, and toxic.

Positive stress responses are characterized as brief in nature, with parental support, and providing learning opportunities. Tolerable stress is one-off in nature, such as a natural disaster, accident, or family death, that is, again, undergone with parental support. Lastly, toxic stress responses, the ones most commonly misassociated with infant sleep training, are characterized by being long-term or chronic, lacking parental support or protection, and typically have far-reaching consequences.

How to sleep train your baby

When I work with Philadelphia-area families to teach them how to sleep train a baby, we approach it with a plan. While plans are tailored to each family, they always include consistency and predictability, which negate a toxic stress response because we work by providing sleep cues for babies.

We’re not throwing your baby into something new each night and causing undue stress. That’s not to say that the infant sleep training process will be completely stress-free, it depends on each baby and their individual response. However, the stress your baby experiences fits into the “positive” category, as their discomfort will be brief in duration and marked by parental support. Again, a significant portion of learning how to sleep train your baby is creating a predictable routine, which, in turn, reduces stress as you remain consistent.

Now that you know you won’t be scarring your little one for life, are you ready to learn how to sleep train your baby? If so, give me a call. I offer a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation to determine if sleep training is right for your family.

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