Can Sleep Training Psychologically Harm My Baby

Rookie parents are often faced with a host of dilemmas and issues when it comes to taking care of their baby. One of those dilemmas has to do with the long age question: should one sleep train their baby and not respond to their baby’s cries? Which sleep training method should one use?

With the belief that sleep training can cause emotional damage to the baby, most parents, if not all opt to avoid it. Others just cave to the baby’s cries. Whatever the reason behind the uncertainty of the sleep training method, it remains a fervently debated topic.

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Is Sleep Training Really Harmful To The Baby?

Both the opposing and supporting groups seek to address the issue of whether sleep training is harmful or not.  With mounting scientific evidence, this issue can finally be addressed based on facts, instead of misinformation.

So, does sleep training cause harm to the baby? Will it eventually disrupt the child-parent bond that you worked so hard to create? Before we address the above questions, let us first start by defining what sleep training entails.

Sleep Training Defined

Sleep training, also known as sleep-teaching,  merely entails a method that a parent takes to help the baby learn how to fall and stay asleep. Of course, this entails that the baby will no longer have to depend on the parents to fall asleep. This way, the baby will be able to sleep throughout the night without waking.

Now, is sleep training harmful?  Recent research confirms that sleep training is not harmful to the baby at all. However, regardless of the sleep training, depends on how the training is administered.

Parents are advised not to let the baby cry for long periods of time. According to a pediatrician at the Indiana University Health, Kimberly Schneider, M.D., letting the baby cry indefinitely could cause the baby to experience high amounts of stress.

Instead, parents are advised to check on the baby for short intervals until he/she falls asleep. By checking on the baby, you are letting the baby know that you are still around. Moreover, you get to make sure that there’s nothing seriously wrong with the baby. This way, you get to gently nudge your child towards learning how to sleep alone.

That said, which sleep training method should one use? Which one is more effective?

Sleep Training Approaches

There at least two main sleep training approaches that parents can use. They include gradual extinction and bedtime fading. Let’s take a look at each of them in detail.

  • Gradual extinction: Gradual extinction is a sleep training method that was established by Richard Ferber. Hence, the reason the gradual extinction method is also referred to as the Ferber method. However, it has also come to be known as the Cry- It- Out method.
  • Bedtime fading: Bedtime fading focuses on putting the baby to bed when he/she is tired. Putting the baby or child to bed when he/she is tired decreases the likelihood that the child will fight bedtime. This means that the parents will have to find out what the child’s natural sleep time is.

This method entails that the parent ignores the child’s cries by leaving him/her alone to sleep for short time intervals.

Below, are a few steps that involve the use of bedtime fading:

  • Establish the baby’s or child’s natural sleep time: You can do this by noting the time he or she sleeps on a daily basis.
  • Establish the child’s natural sleep time as a ritual: Once you’ve noted the time your baby or child tends to fall asleep, make it a ritual. Beforehand, engage in activities that promote a sense of calm, such as bathing or reading a bedtime story.
  • Move the bedtime to an earlier time: Once the child/baby starts associating these activities with bedtime, you can move bedtime to an earlier and much suitable time. However, ensure that you do this in increments.
  • In other words, change the bedtime to 10 minutes earlier than the child’s natural sleep time for a certain period of time. Once the baby is used to the change, have the child sleep 10 minutes earlier to the usual time again. Keep doing this until you’ve established a suitable bedtime.

Try and stick to these activities every day before bedtime. By doing this, the child can associate these calming and positive activities with bedtime. This way, you can help encourage your child to look forward to bedtime.

Remember, do not rush this bedtime fading technique. Make the time changes subtly and be consistent until you’ve reached the desired bedtime.

Which Is The Most Effective Method?

Between the two main methods of sleep training, which one is the most effective? As a parent, it’s only natural to want the best for your baby. However, numerous research confirms that there is no single approach that is more effective than the other.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, both methods are effective in helping your baby learn how to sleep and develop a healthy sleep pattern. However, they continued to state that for the sleep training method to work, consistency is key.

Kimberly Schneider, M.D. states that developing a consistent bedtime routine at an early age is essential. According to her, parents should start as early as 6 months. Both approaches can take the gentle approach in guiding the child to sleep.

That said, what things should one consider before putting into effect a sleep training method? Let us take a look.

Helpful Tips On Sleep Training

  • Check and consult the pediatrician: It is imperative to check with the pediatrician before deciding on which method is suitable for your child. If the baby is healthy and is on the right path in terms of growth, the pediatrician may allow you to proceed with the training.
  • Be prepared: It is important that you are prepared for the necessary changes that come with sleep training your child. You, your spouse and your family might have to adapt to the changes to suit the baby’s sleeping time.
  • Establish a routine: Establish a routine for both sleep training methods. Incorporate calming and positive activities with bedtime. This way, the baby can associate bedtime with positive emotions. Moreover, this helps the child develop a consistent routine.

Trying to sleep train a child that is unwell will not be as effective.

In conclusion, sleep training can help your child develop a healthy sleep pattern while they are young. There are two main sleep training approaches. Each approach is considered to be effective, as long as they are administered in a consistent manner.

Moreover, regardless of the approach being used, parents are advised to be gentle. With the gradual extinction method, parents are advised to check in on the baby for physical and verbal reassurance. Parents should do this at short intervals of at least 10 – 15 minutes until the baby falls asleep.

Are you worried about sleep training your baby? Do you find some success with a certain method or way, and not so much success with another? Please let me know in the comments below how sleep training is going for you!?

Great article. So, sleep training is not harmful to a baby. Thanks for letting me know this on time.

Also, I learnt about the two sleep training approaches; Gradual Extinction and Bedtime Fading and that none among the two is more effective. But I think babies do love the Bedtime Fading 🙂

Thanks for sharing the helpful tips on Sleep Training. Cheers and keep sharing. Success all the way

Great article. So, sleep training is not harmful to a baby. Thanks for letting me know this on time.

Also, I learnt about the two sleep training approaches; Gradual Extinction and Bedtime Fading and that none among the two is more effective.

Thanks for the helpful tips for sharing the helpful tips on Sleep Training

Is sleep training harmful is a very good article. Me being a Father Again I have something new to try with my baby in which she doesn’t have a sleep time. This article was very informative you gave me a whole lot to think about and how to move my babies sleep time up earlier so I can have some time to myself. And I really like the part when you explain that the baby will no longer need his parents when it’s sleep time.

Thank you for this very wonderful article I really appreciate it.

Hi Quinn I can sympathize how being a new father again means you have much less “me time” now that you are obligated to your little one. I am so glad that I was able to help out with some tips and advice. Thank you for your comment.

I have 2 boys. now 18 and 7 years old. My oldest slept like a log from day one he never had any issues going to sleep alone or near me. To this day he still sleeps very well and easily. Now my youngest is the major challenge, he get’s up in the middle of the night very often and I know it disturbs his sleep pattern. We tried when he was younger many methods. It’s just how he is for now. We hope that he starts to make a change as he is no longer a small kid at 4’4 and 7 years old the days of sleeping with mom and dad are certainly over. LOL . Great article!

Yes you are right. I only have one son, who is 18 months old and has had sleep regressions, and lots of trouble sleeping well. I have managed to learn some techniques which I employed, and I find that that the Ferber method works the best ( for me anyway ) and I do understand that all children are different. Sometimes babies are good sleepers right from the get-go, and they never have issues waking up or going to sleep. I know that I have good sleeper, *somewhere inside of him* and that I need to work on it, as a mommy that is my job to make sure I help him learn how to sleep if he has trouble learning how to, right?

I really like those 4 steps to sleep fading. You can never force anything, especially with a baby, and those steps really look like a natural way to get that bedtime on a great schedule. Nicely written post!

Thank you! I want to consider myself more of a realistic, “attached parent” and trust me, I have tried mostly everything to get my son to sleep well. I have managed to have some success, but with a lot of work on my part. But that is okay with me! #momlife #beingamom

It’s only now that I came to know about this thing. I usually understand that when a baby cries this is how she/he communicates with whoever in her/his surroundings are to respond to what she/he needs. I usually find possible reasons or causes why a baby cries and address it if I can. And the earlier the problem is addressed the better.
In this sleep training you can even ignore the child crying which I can’t do.
I hope parents will learn from your posts and be careful enough not to create something the child will never forget as she/he grows mentally and physically.

Not all methods of sleep training involve abruptly ignoring your baby for long periods of time. Some techniques are flexible and allow you to go in and check on your baby in 2 or 5 minute intervals. Some sleep training methods involve having one parent camp out in baby’s room. It really depends on the family and what the needs are. I know it can sound like a harsh thing to do that will leave emotional scars but in the long run if you make sure that baby feel loved in all other ways, and has all their other needs met, then sleep training with some adjustments should be okay and not mentally scaring.


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