I find that the term "sleep training" often times gets a bad reputation. Parents get confused with what to do because they hear about polar opposite ideas. Pediatricians don't always discuss the importance of sleep and how to help your child get better at it. Society makes it seem normal for a family to go with sleepless nights for months and years straight. A majority of lactation consultants believe it means an end to breastfeeding.
I would like to clear up what sleep training means to me as your Child Sleep Consultant.
Sleep training is helping your little one learn how to independently fall asleep, to help your little one get the quality of sleep he needs by forming a daily pattern or routine based on his biological clock, and to get the optimal quantity of sleep he needs in a 24-hour period using a method that is best for your family while allowing progress. It also allows you to continue night feedings if preferred.
Sleep training offers such a wide spectrum of methods, however, when the term "sleep training" is used, we most often hear about cry-it-out (CIO) or attachment parenting. With one, you leave your child in a room by himself to cry until he falls asleep. With the other, you are expected to respond to every peep.
Now, to be fair, CIO can work and is often the quickest route. But! If you can't handle the few nights that might involve long bouts of crying, which is understandable, then it doesn't work for you. Attachment parenting isn't a negative idea either. However, what our society portrays it to mean can be detrimental to a child's development (more to come in a another blogpost).
Let me clear this up for you. Those are not your only options! There is a spectrum of sleep coaching methods. The spectrum between CIO and attachment parenting involves allowing you to provide comfort and trust to your little one while also allowing him to develop comfort and trust within himself. You choose what best fits your parenting philosophy and your child as long as it allows progress.
Research shows that all methods work, but the main key to success is consistency and attunement from the parents. Sleep training does not mean a quick fix that will solve all your sleep problems overnight. You must be patient to allow your child to adjust over time. One line that I always say to parents is that children are often more capable than what we give them credit for. If your child is having trouble sleeping, trust that they can learn healthy sleep habits if you guide them and allow them to do so.