Changing the way we parent our babies to sleep.
Sleep training by definition is the process of conditioning young children to fall asleep on their own, typically by means of techniques in which the child is left to cry without being comforted, either for gradually increasing periods of time or until they fall asleep.
Sleep training works for many families and can make a huge difference in the quality of life for a family, but leaving your baby or toddler alone to cry for hours each night doesn't feel right to most parents. Better sleep doesn't have to involve sleep training or isolated crying. We know that healthy sleep improves brain development, prevents illness and helps regulate emoiton. We also know the dangers of sleep deprivation and the benefits of healthy sleep for adults. Sleep is necessary and as imporatnt as good nutrition, but knowing when sleep is impaired, when it's truly a problem for your child and when it is completely normal and developmentally appropriate is key. Sleep is the first behavioral nmessage your little one may show you and often becomes the first challenge that requires a thoughtful parenting decision and plan.
Sleep training has the stamp of approval from the AAP and reportedly causes no harm to the baby or child that we are aware of. Sleep training, however, often needs to be repeated at each stage of development, with travel, illness or regressions along the way. The process looks different for every family, it requires careful consideration of temperament and needs, as well as an assessment of the child's response and emotional reaction. When applied incorrectly, it can result in long term emotional problems. For many parents, leaving your baby or toddler to cry just doesn't "feel" right and can cause extreme stress for mothers, including physical symptoms such as hives. Surprisingly, this seems to be the only time when a parent is encouraged to go against their intuition, maternal instincts and "mother natures perfect design."
Despite the support of doctors and pediatricians in North America, many countries do not support sleep training. One can get lost in the sea of information available on the topic, numerous experts have a wide range of opinions and conflicting research studies can be found on opposing sides of the fence, but nothing concrete has been presented to suggest we should avoid this practice. Parents remain confused and conflicted when it comes to making these choices. As such, the need for more advanced, emotionally supportive sleep solutions has become the focus.
Trusting mother's instinct, learning how to attune to your baby, practicing connection through mindfulness, reading baby's cues, blending social emotional learning and using holistic practices to get to the root of the problem is the key. The idea is based on the concept that babies are born with the ability to fall asleep but that barriers come up emotionally that prevent the "surrender to sleep." As human beings we are incredibly intelligent and highly emotional, it appears we are the only species who experience such challenges with sleep. Our ability to co-regulate with others, as well as the impact of the environment and our increased sensitivity to change, is superior to other animals. It is through this lens that we begin to work towards a solution. In our busy culture, there is often a disconnect from our true selves, from our inner awareness, with the inability to pause and reflect in the moment, which can cause resistance to sleep.
Expectations for young babies in western culture is also very high. Knowing what is biologically and developmentally possible for our children, is a big part of the process. Parents want more education in an ever changing world, with access to the latest up-to-date research, and an understanding of the impact of their parenting choices on emotional wellness. We are shifting away from sleep methodologies that were researched and practiced in the 1980's, to a new generation of parents, seeking sleep solutions through emotional wellness, conscious parenting, and holistic integration. Sleep is the end result of a well-balanced baby or child when foundations for sleep are in place, areas of emotional conflict are resolved, and the physical aspects of sleep science are in line, you will discover a baby who is willing to enter such a vulnerable state. Finding sleep solutions in a modern world goes beyond behavioral approaches.