What should you do if you and your partner don’t agree on how to sleep train your baby? For example, you want to co-sleep with your baby and he wants the baby to sleep in a separate nursery. Or maybe he believes in letting your baby cry it out but you have been reading about The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight book and want to give a gentler approach a try.
It’s not surprising that you and your partner have differing opinions on sleep training, right? This is not the first, nor is it the last, area of not-complete-agreement!! But it really can be managed in a way that respects each of you and your ideas. Let’s walk through a few tips on working toward the same goal while disagreeing initially about the pathway there.
Focus on what you do agree upon first.
Take some time to discuss the problem in a general way.
Some questions to consider together:
- Is your baby’s sleep problem “bad enough” for you both to want to make changes?
- Is it negatively affecting your marriage?
- Is your child’s sleep negatively affecting your productivity and functioning at work?
- Are you driving safely?
- Do you feel like a failure as a parent?
If both of you do not agree that the situation is bad enough, then I advise you to do nothing for now. Until you have more agreement you will likely not follow through consistently and this can cause even further difficulty when you do get ready to sleep train your child.
Take The Next Step
If you find agreement on many of the above questions, then you have found a great starting point!
Next, discuss where you would like your child to sleep in 1 year and in 5 years:
- Are you currently co-sleeping?
Discuss if both of you are sleeping well at night when co-sleeping. If not, is there a way to improve your sleep while safely co-sleeping? Do you need a bigger, more comfortable mattress?
- Co-sleeping to Crib.
Discuss the possibility of starting off co-sleeping and then moving your child to his crib after a few weeks or months.
- “Let’s End Co-Sleeping.”
If you are both in agreement to end co-sleeping, then can you agree to change things slowly so that it does not seem so abrupt to your child? When I say slowly I mean that this transition would take a couple of weeks and not months or a year.
- Designate The Primary Parent.
Once you are ready to begin a transition to sleep training it is a good idea to figure out who will be the more consistent parent and that parent can be the primary parent in sleep training.
- Present A United Front.
Take as much time as is needed to find common ground as parents so that you can form a truly united front to your child. Agree on your goals. Discuss how much crying you can each tolerate, setting limits for your child, and your commitment to consistency.
A Commitment To Consistency.
Closely related to having a united front is a strong commitment to consistency.
Inconsistently reinforced behavior is the hardest type to change. It will take longer to change a habit that is not inconsistently reinforced and will often provoke even more of the tears we are trying to avoid!
So, create a plan together that you can follow through with consistently. If you agree to something that you know in your heart you can’t do, you will be inconsistent and that’s not fair to your child. It sends confusing messages to your child which leads to greater feelings of insecurity. It also discourages you as the parent from sleep training because you will not see the results you are hoping for and may quit before it can have the effect you want.
- Start Gently. It never hurts to start sleep training gently. You can always progress to timed checks when you feel comfortable with the new plan.
- Look forward and not backwards. Let go of blaming one another and focus on creating a solution for change. It really doesn’t matter whose fault a problem is. It is much better to focus on where you are and create a pathway to change it.
- Say Goodbye To Guilt. There will always be a lot of opinions offered to you on how to care for your baby. Most are extremely well-meaning, even if they are not in line with your parenting style. I encourage you to let go of any guilt you may feel about sleep coaching your child. You have made a well-thought through decision and can trust your instincts on how to care for your child.