Is Sleep Training Bad For Toddlers?

Photo by Laura Garcia from Pexels

Does this question always linger on your mind? Buckle up – you might want to jot these down before going full throttle. Here are some pros and cons of sleep training.

Babies spend a lot of time sleeping. Babies need approximately 9 to 12 hours of sleep a day during their first year of life, in addition to daily naps. The only issue is that they sleep in spurts, alternating between sleeping at night and naps during the day. It takes three to six months for a baby’s internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, to develop. They’ll naturally want to sleep more at night and be up more during the day at this stage.

In simple terms, sleep training (also known as sleep teaching or sleep learning) is the method of teaching your baby how to fall and stay asleep.

The aim is for your baby to be able to sleep on their own for several hours at a time in the night. They’ll learn to self-soothe and fall back asleep if they wake up. Parents may use a variety of sleep training strategies developed by pediatricians and sleep experts.

The topic of sleep training is a controversial one. Advocates and opponents of sleep training have formed camps on opposite sides of the debate, with no apparent middle ground. Sleep training advocates claim that it is not harmful to the infant and has advantages for both the child and the family. Opponents argue that “cry-it-out” methods are abusive to children and lead to long-term issues. Unfortunately, much of the discussion is fueled by false facts. This is unfortunate because clinical studies have discovered a great deal about children’s sleep. Let’s separate reality from fiction based on our scientific understanding of sleep.

This is why, when it comes to sleep training, you should balance the benefits and drawbacks, do your homework, and consider hiring a licensed sleep consultant if you’re having trouble sleep training your child.

Disadvantages of sleep training

It may have damaging long-term effects

Will it have long-term consequences if babies are sleep conditioned under the false impression that they should be taught to “self soothe”? Obviously, it does. What happens to a baby’s brain when he or she is subjected to a lot of stress? Does it grow in a different way than a child who grew up in a more nurturing environment? Most definitely.

A baby who is well-cared for in his early years and has all of his needs met is more likely to develop a brain with strong emotional control skills (also known as “self-soothing”), improved memory, and even higher intelligence.

A baby who has been sleep trained is likely to secrete significantly more cortisol than a baby who has been nurtured, and too much cortisol is bad for the brain.

Babies’ capabilities are overlooked

While sleep training assumes that babies think like adults, this is not the case. We can rationalize our feelings and calm ourselves down when we are frightened or nervous, or at least most of us can. Some adults have difficulty regulating their emotions. I’m sure you know someone who has a bad temper.

A complex chain of neurological events must occur in order to control our emotions, which necessitates a high degree of brain functioning. Babies do not have this high degree of brain development because their brains are still developing.

Most sleep training advocates make the mistake of assuming that allowing a baby to ‘self soothe’ or ‘self relax’ would result in them regulating their feelings and being calmer. This does not occur. According to research, the babies are still anxious, they simply don’t express it. They are not calm, even though they are quiet. They’re not the same thing at all. Some babies are instinctively relaxed, but this should not be mistaken for “self-soothing.”

Even in the short-term, it does not always work

Many people seem to assume that sleep training is often successful. That isn’t the case. In certain situations, traditional sleep training makes the baby’s sleep worse, leaving the parents in a worse situation than before they began. The bulk of sleep training focuses on ‘breaking’ the baby’s tendency to call out (cry) for their parents when they are alone, afraid, nervous, hungry, or uneasy. However, if the desire, or the baby’s need, is too intense, the baby will not become calm (masked as “soothed” or “settled”), but instead will become more distraught and anxious to have their needs met. Some parents say that the method makes their baby “clingier.”

The development of independence is misunderstood by sleep training

Many parents are afraid of having clingy children that will never be independent, so they start sleep training, night weaning, and stop bed sharing. This is yet another example of how much of culture is misunderstood. You can’t make a child be self-sufficient. You cannot force a child to be independent. Allowing your child to be dependent on you for as long as they need is the best way to raise an independent child. When they feel safe enough, they will eventually begin to venture out into the world on their own. You will make them less independent and insecure if you push them to separate from you before they are ready. It’s impossible to hold your baby too much.

Sleep training will cause your baby to lose faith in you

As a parent, you most certainly want your child to grow up knowing that he or she can depend on you. You most likely want them to know that you will always be there for them and that they should come to you with any problems. How does sleep training explain this to them? How does sleep training help them to have confidence in you? In reality, the opposite is true. Their nighttime cries may be tiring and inconvenient, but they’re crying because they need you. If you do not respond to their cries with the reassurance and action that they need (rather than just a pat or an sshh), you might be undermining their confidence in you. How do they know they can trust you with their problems when they get older if they don’t trust you with their problems when they’re small?

Increasing stress hormones

With elevated levels of stress hormones, babies may become anxious while crying for longer periods of time. Furthermore, failing to respond to a baby’s cries runs contrary to all we know about establishing healthy attachment relationships. Babies who learn that someone will respond to their needs in a caring and appropriate manner are more likely to have positive social, emotional, and educational outcomes.

Advantages of sleep training

The health of your baby

Humans need more sleep than most people realize. It’s impossible to say, “I just don’t need that much sleep!” The majority of people’s hectic lifestyles has resulted in a whole host of issues including but not limited to health.

Babies need a great deal of sleep. In your baby’s brain, there is a lot of growth going on. Pathways are being built, synapses are being developed, and the individual your baby will become in the future is a product of these fundamental elements.

Any aspect of the growth is reliant on a good night’s sleep. During sleep, the connections between your baby’s right and left brain hemispheres are created. This means that sleep training is important for your baby’s brain development.

The temperament of your baby

A well-rested baby is a happy baby.

For the next 18+ years, you’ll be doing a lot of child care. It’s very difficult to successfully teach your baby if she or he cries all the time. You’ll never know whether she’s crying because she’s sick or because she’s tired from lack of sleep.

It’ll be hard to tell whether she’s crying because she’s teething or because she’s exhausted. When you can’t say whether she’s crying out of fatigue or food aversion, determining whether or not she can tolerate a food will be extremely difficult.

When you know your baby is getting enough sleep, every aspect of your parenting will be healthier, more successful, and just plain easier!

Obedience foundation in your child

The base of obedience you’re building is one of the most basic (and important) benefits of sleep training.

Let’s use metaphors for a moment and see parenting as a journey. You set your parenting up for a successful next step on the road when the first step is to confidently provide your child with the sleep she requires, by firmly setting loving parameters that support her wellbeing.

As a result of your early success with sleep training, you can approach subsequent authoritative parenting with more confidence. This is good news for both you and your kids!

Mom and dad have a better relationship

Sleep training for babies, sleep schedules for children, and going to bed together for mom and dad are all things to consider. When your children are older, sleep training allows you to develop a sleep routine for them. A predictable sleep schedule helps you to spend some quality time together as a couple, investing in your relationship!

FAQ

Is it necessary for me to sleep train my child in order to ensure that he or she gets enough sleep? If I don’t sleep train my kids, will he or she be a terrible sleeper?

Certainly not! Many factors influence how well a child sleeps. One of those variables is how a child falls asleep in the first few hours of the night. There are children who fall asleep with parental assistance early in the night and still get a good night’s sleep. However, in the vast majority of cases where night waking is listed as a sleep issue, we find that removing parental assistance at bedtime significantly reduces night waking.

Is sleep training going to harm my relationship with my child?

One way to foster a strong connection is to help your child develop and sustain safe sleep patterns in a caring and mindful manner. We still encourage parents to use the pre-bedtime routine to snuggle up and enjoy their infant, including feeding or rocking – but not all the way to sleep, regardless of which sleep training strategy they prefer. It’s natural for children to object when their habits are disrupted; some fussing and/or crying is a common (though not always) part of the sleep training phase. We provide several ways to minimize crying in our personalized sleep plans so that parents aren’t expected to leave their comfort zones in order to affect change.

What are the most popular techniques for sleep training?

  1. Cry-it-out (CIO) or the Extinction Method: This technique entails allowing a child to fall asleep on his or her own without being consoled. 
  2. Fading, also known as the Gradual Method, is the process of gradually weaning your child away from your assistance in falling asleep until they can do so on their own (usually over a few weeks or more).
  3. Ferber, also known as Controlled Crying or Check and Console Method, is often mistakenly known as “cry-it-out,” owing to the fact that the baby is left for long periods of time and crying is required. The Ferber method and its variants, on the other hand, have parents tend to the baby at predetermined intervals and seek to console them before leaving to try again.

Conclusion

Now is sleep training bad for toddlers? It’s something to think about. To conclude, sleep training can be challenging, and if you want to do it, there are some important factors to keep in mind for both you and your child. Sleep training isn’t for the weak of heart, but it is for the exhausted. Each family’s dynamic, as well as their babies, is unique. Some families are fortunate enough to have a baby who sleeps well from the start, while others have children who are restless at bedtime until they are six years old. Every. Child. Is. Unique.

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