So your baby doesn’t sleep, which means you don’t sleep. Mama, I so have been there. If that’s the case, you may be ready to try sleep training—extinction, Ferber, cry it out, or whatever name you’re using. And if that’s true, you need to prepare for sleep training.
And I’m not talking about prepping your tiny Sleepless in Seattle. I’m talking about preparing you for sleep training.
Because while sleep training is hard on the baby, it’s equally (if not more) difficult for Mom.
I’ve sleep trained both Peeper and Kiwi—and am SO FREAKING GLAD I did. But it’s still hard to worry about your baby and know you could end her tears by sticking a boob in her mouth or bouncing her for 2 hours on a giant yoga ball.
Despite that anxiety many of us moms feel, studies repeatedly show that sleep training is not harmful in the long run. A recent study out of Australia showed that the babies in a Ferber-like sleep training (where they’re allowed to cry for gradually longer periods until they fall asleep on their own) had just as strong bonds with parents and fell asleep on their own faster than their peers in a control group who did not do sleep training. What’s more, they actually had lower evidence of stress in the afternoon than babies who weren’t sleep trained.
Plenty of parents still debate sleep training, and that’s fine. But for someone reading this—likely a parent who is ready to give it a try—having someone try to convince you that sleep training is unsafe is just not helpful.
That’s why I offer these tips to prepare for sleep training. They’ll help you stay strong, get through the few tough days and make it to the other end. When you and Baby are sleeping better, I’ll take a bet that you’ll be glad you tried sleep training, too.
How to prepare for sleep training—for moms
- Commit to a plan. Make sure you and your partner are clear on whatever you have decided for sleep training. A miscommunication (“Why are you going in to him now? I thought we were letting him cry for 7 more minutes!”) can easily expand into a huge argument in the stress of the moment.
- Avoid the Google. Now is not the time to search “problems with sleep training” or “damage from cry it out.” Obviously. So turn of the computer if that’s a temptation.
- Call in support. Tell your mom friends—particularly ones who have had success with sleep training—while you prepare for sleep training. They’ll be there to ease your anxiety/your conscience when you second-guess yourself. They can also text you funny gifs or pictures of Channing Tatum to distract you on the nights you start sleep training.
- Grab a drink. Alcohol will never change the fact that it’s hard to listen to your baby cry, but a glass of wine, a cocktail or a beer can help take the edge off.
- Consider a supplement. If sleep training means you’re changing your breastfeeding schedule—and if you’re prone to clogged ducts—talk to your doctor about taking a lecithin supplement. Lactation experts agree that lecithin can help prevent clogged ducts, which can occur when you cut down on the number of feedings or stretch the time between breastfeeding sessions. (If you’re looking for ways to fix a clogged duct, check out my post about getting rid of ’em.)
- Look ahead. Nearly every single mom I’ve talked to about sleep training says, “I only wish we’d done it sooner.” So although sleep training can be really hard, remember that you and your whole family will likely be sleeping much better in a matter of days.
- Reassure yourself. Sleep training does not make you a bad mom. It makes you a normal human being who is choosing a safe method to benefit the entire family. I speak from experience when I say that sleep deprivation can do real damage to a mother, to her relationship with her baby and to her ability to lead a fulfilling, productive life.
You will probably feel mad mommy guilt about sleep training. But fuck that. And while I’m at it, fuck all the haters who love to tell you that you’re messing up your child or that you didn’t try enough “gentler” sleep methods. They don’t know.
Mama, I get it. And let me say it again: Sleep training sucks in the moment, but for most families, it’s a way to get everyone more sleep. And that makes for a happier, healthier family with a whole lot more smiling days—and nights—ahead.
Did you do sleep training with your kids? What worked for you? How did you prepare for sleep training?