Q: Should I sleep-train my baby?

Question: My baby is due to be born in about a month’s time. I have read so much confusing information on this subject. Some people say that if you don’t put your baby into another room and sleep train him right from the very beginning, your baby will never learn to sleep through. But my best friend has a two-month-old baby who sleeps in the bed with her, and wakes to feed at least twice in the night. My friend says she gets plenty of sleep and so does her baby. So I am very confused. I want to do the right thing. Please can you advise me?

Baby Sleeping with Mom

Babies need their mothers at night too.

Answer: It’s lovely that you are thinking about this before your baby arrives, because so many mothers are unsure about how to handle the sleeping arrangements and night feeds of their newborns, and by the time your baby is born, you have so many other things on your mind. Mothers who haven’t thought this through, often try out (and abandon) various ‘techniques’, which can confuse their babies and themselves. Your baby will know when he or she is hungry or tired, and if allowed, will set his or her own routine very quickly and going to bed early and taking your baby with you is the best way of getting a good night’s rest for both of you (and probably your husband too.)

I am going to reply to you a little differently than I normally do, by posting a link to an article written by a mother who did sleep-train her baby and tells how it impacted her life and the life of her child. But before I do, I just want to reassure you that having your baby sleep with you — in your bed or in a crib (cot) up against your bed, with the side down — is the very best thing you can do for your little one, because whether or not you are breastfeeding, your baby will need night feeds for at least the first six months of life and probably longer. If you are breastfeeding, night feeds are even more important, as they help make sure you will have an adequate milk supply. Also when sleeping close to you, your baby will be able to hear you breathing and smell your familiar smell, which tell him Mommy is close by, so it’s okay to go back to sleep because he is safe.

So here is my answer to your question. Just click on the link and you will be taken to the story of the mother who sleep-trained her first child, but has decided never to do it again… FROM [GINA] FORD TO [WILLIAM] SEARS: MY HEARTBREAKING AWAKENING.

Finally, a few points that may help you.

  • When mothers co-sleep and feed through the night, they don’t have to let their babies nurse ‘all night long.’ When babies start waking up more and more often during the night, especially after a year old, it is because they are carrying stress from all the many little frustrations that have built up during the day. ‘Allowing’ them to cry in our loving arms and not ‘shushing’ them when they try, helps them release the stress, and they tend to sleep through more peacefully.
  • Meeting babies’ needs responsively and never leaving them to ‘cry it out’ alone, creates secure and happy children who have learned that the world is a good place to be. They learn that the people in their world are loving, and that Mommy meets their needs when they tell her they need her, always responding immediately to their cries.
  • I am going to be following this up with an article on the two above points, so if you have questions, please use the contact form and leave your questions there. Comments can also be left at the bottom of this article.

I hope you found it helpful and look forward to hearing from you.

To read more about babies, sleep training, and how mom can get enough sleep too, visit this article on “Parenting with Love” DOES SLEEP-TRAINING WORK?

Recommended Reading

  • The Aware Baby, by Aletha Solter, (Shining Star Press, USA, 2001 )
  • Sleeping Like a Baby, by Pinky McKay, (Penguin Books, Australia, 2013)
  • Helping your Baby to Sleep: Why Gentle Techniques work Best, by Anni Gethin and Beth Macgregor, (Finch Publishing, Sydney, 2007)

Written by © 2013


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10 responses to “Q: Should I sleep-train my baby?

  1. Wonderful work Patricia! Thanks for creating more awareness to the sleep-training debate. Sleep-training is potentially damaging to the developing brains of babies and there is no question about it. It’s consoling to see another article against sleep-training to help more parents follow their maternal instincts. Thanks again.

    Sandy from Journey of a Spoiled Mum

    • Hi Sandy, Isn’t it tragic. Sleep-trainers expect tiny babies to spend one third to one half of their lives separated from the warm comfort of their parents’ bodies. Like you say, leaving babies to CIO actually causes brain damage. It has been found that even when they may appear to be sleeping peacefully, babies who have been left to cry themselves to sleep have elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can cause damage to their growing brains.

  2. I couldn’t of found this article at a better time. Thank you. I have a couple questions concerning my 9 (almost 10) month old DS. I EBF and we co-sleep, my son has almost always been in the habit of suckling mostly the whole night long, which I’ve let him do, but once he turned 9 months old (which I’ve read most babies do become restless due to milestones, teething, etc.) sleeping ‘peacefully’ does not exist and the all night suckling is completely restless as he is literally trying to crawl, nurse, and sleep at the same time (did I mention this suckling is ALL NIGHT long?! lol) . Neither my son, husband or I have slept anywhere near soundly for over a month now (which I’ve of course expected to come with motherhood!) and it’s really starting to take a strain on all 3 of us. Baby spends most of the day tired and cranky and I wake up feeling like I’ve been beaten with a baseball bat! My husband and I are coming to terms that co-sleeping may not be in the best interest for us, including baby, in hopes that everyone will get a better nights sleep. We have a cot for him right next to our bed and for the last 2 night we’ve been trying to get baby to fall asleep in his cot, which of course has resulted in a huge crying and screaming fest, but either me or his dad are by his side with a comforting hand on his stomach and soothing hums or shhhhs until he finally falls asleep (first night it took an hour and 15, and last night it was about 30 minutes). My questions are really: are we doing the right thing? how can we make this transition less stressful for mainly baby but also mom and dad? and how (or should) I be breaking this all night suckling? I hate to think about stressing baby out, or making him feel abandon, but I truly think that if baby has his own sleep area it’ll be better for everyone in the long run. Any advice is welcome. Thanks!

    • Hello, I think it is wonderful that you are co-sleeping and nursing your baby. But I hear you that you are really exhausted, and no wonder! By the way, what you describe is very common, and is a story we all hear over and over. There is nothing worse than sleep-deprivation, and it can make you desperate. I am going to do a whole article on it here in the near future. But meanwhile I hope I can help you in three ways…

      (a) I suggest that you get hold of the book, “The Aware Baby” by Aletha Solter, which covers this problem and how to deal with it without ever leaving your baby to cry it out, or having to stop co-sleeping.

      (b) Do you belong to facebook? We have a group there dealing with this kind of problem at:

      (c) You might find the following articles helpful:

      Hope it helps, and feel free to keep in touch!

      • Thank you for much for the support, advice and extremely helpful articles! Just a quick update:
        We have not let baby cry in his crib, even with one of us right by his side through the whole ordeal, since writing this. My mother instinct wouldn’t allow me. I instead have been attempting the cry in my arms (before I even read the article you just sent :)), cuddles, nursing sitting up rather than laying down, or just plain rocking, then once DS falls alseep he’s gently placed in his cot at the foot of our bed to peacefully sleep for at least the first half of the night. With great relief we’ve all been sleeping MUCH better, we’re all much happier throughout the day, and with much more energy. I bring baby into bed with us in the middle of the night so I still get the joy of holding him at night and waking up to his smiling face each morning. Let’s hope this continues!
        Thanks again for the support!

  3. Re TEEFAY
    My bub the same. He wouldn’t go to sleep in a cot, but my partner does night shift sometimes and I noticed when he isn’t in the bed bub sleeps longer for the first half of the night. I think in modern beds, perhaps we are waking them up when we toss and turn. So I had to make my partner be ‘conscious’ of when he turns in bed. As a few rustles of a bedsheet is quite loud in the silence of the night, and babies sleep lightly for a good chunk of their sleep cycles.

    • Hi Belinda,

      Thank you for your feedback. I had never thought of parents who are light sleepers and move around a lot, possibly waking their babies. So glad you and your husband managed to figure out what the problem was, and I hope that things got better after that.

  4. I am so happy that I found this article. I am currently 5 months pregnant with my first and have been hearing a lot of repetitive advice. This is something that I haven’t heard, sort of. What I am hearing on this subject is that you should allow the baby to cry himself to sleep. Don’t be so quick to pick up a crying baby because then they’re gonna get spoiled and expect you to pick them up every time they cry. This advice is coming from parents who are around my age but have had 3-5 kids and have done the same thing to every child. And you never allow a baby to sleep with you because then they will never learn to sleep on their own. As a student half-way through a Bachelors Degree in Psychology, I understand that a lot of these things can hurt the child in the long run. My only concern is 1) what others think and 2) if I ever need them to baby-sit, if they’ll do as I do and request or do as they did to their children.

    Worried and Scared

    • Hi Quinetta, I found your post only now, so it means that your baby has been born and you are well into parenting this little one. I hear how confused “worried and scared” you were feelings. It’s heart-warming to know that you were researching this before your baby was born. I hope things went better than you feared, and that you were able to find support people to help you feel more confident and not be intimidated by people who told you your baby had to be “trained” to lean how to sleep. Please feel free to let us know how things are going now if you would like to.

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