Sleep is such a hot topic that can cause some pretty heated debates. Whether you bed-share, room-share, sleep train or anything else there always seems to be a reason that what you are doing is wrong. I must say, I am getting very tired of these debates! I want to address 3 things that I think are very important when it comes to the topic of sleep. This article isn’t about who is right or wrong when it comes to sleep, it’s about respect and getting the right information when you want to make a decision.
1. Getting (or giving) accurate information and reading it with a critical eye
This is a big one for me! I frequently see parents posting articles as proof why someone should or should not sleep train their child. I always click on these articles to see what they are about and find that, most of the time, they are not addressing the appropriate age, the method a parent is thinking of using and some are just not based on fact!
As an example, I saw a Facebook post from one parent to another on the dangers of sleep training. It had a frightening title that would scare any parent off. When I read the article, it was about leaving a baby under 6 months old to cry endlessly with no intervention whatsoever and no feeding. In my experience, very few people would ever do that! I would agree that you shouldn’t do that, but that isn’t what sleep training is about. I don’t know of any sleep consultant that would give this advice. I have a feeling the parent who posted the article, didn’t read it critically, meaning that they likely only read the first few lines that are catchy and scary. It’s important to read an entire article and find out what the actual study was, what age group it was conducted with and what the actual findings of the study were.
A great example of this is the work of Dr. Sears. Many parents have read his books and become terrified when he discusses the elevated levels of cortisol due to crying causing brain damage in babies. Did you know that Dr. Sears was citing studies that were NOT about sleep training at all, but about children starting daycare or with colic or those who were severely neglected by their parents. The authors of these studies have even publicly made statements that Dr. Sears has misused their work! It is so important to understand what you are reading so that you can make an informed decision. It also prevents you from sharing inaccurate information with others.
2. Respecting other people’s choices
I find it really disheartening when a parent reaches out for help only to be told that the choices they are making are wrong. Whether you are co-sleeping, sleep training or doing something in between, every family needs to do what works best for them and that should be respected. One method doesn’t work for everyone. We need to understand that all families are different. What works for one parent may not work for another. As well, all babies have their own temperament, which means that not all babies sleep well under their own circumstances. If someone’s choice doesn’t align with yours, it doesn’t make it wrong! Let’s respect one another.
3. Don’t undermine the innate need for sleep
Sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Sleep is restorative: it helps us heal, improves memory, increases attention, helps in weight management and so many more important areas. We NEED sleep and don’t need to make people into martyrs who must go through life exhausted if they want to be a good parent. Quite the opposite is true, especially when the lack of sleep affects a parent’s mental health. Sleep deprivation leads to irritability, anger and difficulty coping with stress. For people with a history of depression and anxiety, it can increase the risk of battling these issues again. Due to this, I get very upset when parents are told to “suck it up” or even to enjoy it because the “time goes so fast”. Some people can function on little sleep but it can have severe consequences for those who can’t. Please, don’t undermine a parent’s need for sleep. It is a basic need. In fact, a human can survive longer without food then they can without sleep. That’s how much we need it!
All families need to do what works for them and it may be different from what you would choose. We don’t need to agree with someone else’s choices, we just need to respect them!