Independent Sleep and Gentle Parenting: Sleep Training

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I practice gentle parenting and I sleep trained my baby

Mind=blown, right!?

I mean, sleep training is cruel! According to Facebook experts all over the Gentle Parenting sites, parents who sleep-train are cold and neglectful; abusive, even!

I mean, we throw our kids into a cold, dark room, on a cold, hard mattress for heaven’s sake! That’s not love! That’s not gentle!

Reading random comments and anti sleep-training articles on the internet will have you believing that parents who let their children “cry it out” at bedtime are throwing their babies in a cold, dark dungeon, promptly at 7pm every night just so we can drink wine and laugh at their cries. Is that really what happens, though?

No. I mean, sometimes there might be a little wine involved…

Anyway, enough about parents ever, even once, enjoying themselves. Let’s get to the meat of this post!

How can I call my parenting style “gentle” if I sleep trained my baby?

Will sleep-training hurt my baby?

Well, I’m all about research and evidence. As far as research of parenting practices and their long-term effects on children, the “evidence” that the anti- sleep-training crowd uses to justify their (sometimes dangerous) sleeping practices, and to bash sleep-training parents, is very weak. Laughable, even.

The studies are poorly conducted and the synopses are heavily bias and, for a lover of science, difficult to read.

To say that setting a bedtime, after a long day of bonding and love, can cause lifelong brain damage is ridiculously…well, ridiculous.

And here science is (Hey, science!) to back me up.

What is sleep-training?

Let me paint a more accurate picture for you of what sleep-training really is:

The evening routine commences with a relaxing bath and some soothing lotion, maybe even a little massage to relax those muscles that worked so hard, rolling and crawling all day. Then, we put some nice, warm pajamas on, taking care to make sure no hair is wrapped around tiny toes.

A favorite book is read. The baby’s room is set to a comfortable temperature and the crib is cleared of anything potentially harmful. The light is turned off, leaving a calm-inducing atmosphere, lit only by a nightlight. Mom might nurse, or either parent might offer a bottle, while humming or singing a familiar lullaby. Then, before the sweet baby is laid in his crib, awake, mom and dad give a gentle kiss and say goodnight.

Now, up until this point, your little angel has gotten used to being bounced, rocked, sleeping in your bed, or whatever arrangement you had. So, they are going to be upset at this change.

Being upset isn’t going to hurt them, though.

They may wake up to eat, and, of course, you go in there and feed them. Then you lay them back down, awake. They are again going to be upset, but not as upset as they were at bedtime.

Rinse and repeat, and after a few nights, there will be no tears. Your baby might even smile as you lay them down.

This, now, is their new routine, and they appreciate no deviation from it. Just like with their old routine!

How to make bedtime easy

From there on out, bedtime will be a breeze! They will love it, and it is easier on you, as well!

There is usually some crying involved in sleep-training, and that is why it is not considered a “gentle” parenting practice. But there is crying involved in other gentle parenting practices, including co-sleeping. We “allow our children to express their emotions” at other times. We make rules, say no, and don’t give in to every whim, even if a river of tears ensues. But bedtime is somehow different?

Babies can figure put not to pull the dog’s tail, not to hit mommy, that we need to be buckled up in our car seat, but we think they are unable to understand how bedtime works?

You see, when I had my first child I very much bought into the “science” of Attachment Parenting. I slept with my daughter in the bed with me and it was nice…for a little while.

Then, simply nursing wasn’t enough for her to fall back to sleep at night. She wanted rocking. So we rocked and nursed. But that wasn’t enough. She wanted to walk the halls, but not just walk ..she wanted deep knee bends.  I am not talking about a 5lb newborn. I’m talking about a 6 month old! We would do this dance at bedtime, during feedings, and after every feeding, which was about 4 times a night!

Then something terrible happened. I was so bleary-eyed and exhausted that I dropped her. She was fine, thank God! But it was a real wake up call for me!

If she was happy co-sleeping, then…why didn’t she seem happy co-sleeping? She didn’t seem to like being in my bed at all, in fact!

And then there was my husband. He was struggling with where he fit into our new family.

So, basically nobody was happy with this arrangement. This “gentle” method of parenting didn’t seem so gentle…for our family, anyway. This is what the Attachment Parenting/Evolutionary Parenting movements ignore; not every child sleeps well with their parents and bed-sharing is 1) unsafe and 2) often not desirable for the rest of the family.

So, the takeaway here is to do what works for your family. If that stops working, try something else.

Attachment and sleep-training

There is a ton of controversy around encouraging independent sleep, especially in the Attachment Parenting segement of the parenting population.

(To clarify, Attachment Theory and Attachment Parenting are two separate things. It’s crazy, but not a lot of people seem to know that!

The Attachment Theory is a valid scientific theory that basically says that a secure, healthy attachment to a caregiver in the early years if a child’s life is necessary for optimal development.

Attachment Parenting evolved from the Theory and took it to another level.)

Love your baby, comfort your baby, talk to your baby, show them affection throughout the day...and they will know that you love them. They will also come to know that nights are for sleep.

And what a gift for your child! Their own sleep space and a full night’s sleep! What a wonderful taste of independence!

It’s a contraversial topic, I know. I’d sure like to hear your views! Comment below or on our Facebook page!

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Cheers!

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