Lately, it seems like everyone who hears “sleep coaching” assumes that crying has to be involved. Thanks to movies (and the very first sleep book out there), this isn’t surprising. What many parents don’t realize is that sleep coaching CAN be gentle, approachable, and effective…with very few tears.
I think that there is so much information out there about attachment theory that sometimes it’s hard to devise the truth from fiction. The fact is that babies cry. They cry when they want something as simple as a feeding or diaper change, and they cry when they aren’t sure what’s happening (like that time you handed baby to grandma and she had a meltdown). With sleep coaching, you are changing your baby’s routine quite a bit, but in a very gradual and gentle way.
When parents come to me for help, whether their child sleeps in their bed, in a co-sleeper, or in a bed or crib in their own room, they’ve reached a breaking point. Usually the crux of the problem is sleep.
Think about this: if you have taught your child that the only way to go to sleep is to be rocked, walked, bounced, fed, laid down with (or any combination of these), and you as a parent decide that it’s time to stop doing this, your child will cry if he is preverbal or cry AND have words for you if he is verbal. He just doesn’t understand why you are changing the program, and he doesn’t know how to go to sleep any other way.
Sleep is a Learned Skill
At some point, mom and dad aren’t going to be there to ease your baby into sleep – your baby will go to daycare, or preschool, or even a sleep over (when he’s much older). So it makes sense to empower our babies and help them learn to sleep, but we can do so gently, accessibly, and without destroying our parent-child bond.
You’re probably wondering how that is even possible. But I’m here to tell you that it IS possible.
From Good Night, Sleep Tight: “As we feed, soothe, hug, smile at, and look into the eyes of our babies, as we meet their needs and express our love, we cultivate a sense of trust. As they get older and begin to joyously and curiously navigate their expanding world, we encourage them with clear, consistent, developmentally appropriate expectations and protect them—but not overprotect them—with emotional and physical mentorship.”
The same goes for sleep. We are there to soothe, smile, encourage, and instill security, while teaching our children a very important life skill.
From Good Night, Sleep Tight: “We want to strike that balance between security and support, confidence and freedom. We need to let our children learn, slowly and gently, to deal with emotions such as frustration, excitement, and anger and with behaviors such as sleep, to self-regulate. We can’t do this for them, any more than a coach can get out on the field and play for his team.”
If anything, sleep coaching will strengthen your bond with your child, especially as you are coaching your child through positive actions, and allowing him the autonomy to try it out on his own, which still being there to offer an “assist” if needed. Because of this unique structure, my method is the only method that truly has very few tears.
So “Fussing” is Normal?
So yes, your baby will fuss a bit (you’re changing a big part of his routine!), and if your child is older, he may vocalize and tell you that he really doesn’t like this change (at least at first). But a well-rested child is a happy child, and one that has the confidence that he can go to sleep ON HIS OWN will help to build his confidence that he is capable, and that you are there to support and encourage him.
I think that this autonomy sometimes manifests itself in parents as fear that our children don’t need us, which is simply not true. My sleep coaching method is built around the fact that I couldn’t stand to hear my own children crying, but I also knew that I couldn’t put them to sleep forever. Sleep is a skill that all children have to learn, and personally, I would much rather teach my child that I’m there to support his learning process, and that I have confidence in his ability to do it himself.
So if you’re worried that sleep coaching will alter your parent-child bond, or will change your child’s personality, rest assured that it will, but only in the best possible way. Your child will gain confidence not only in himself, but also in you and your ability to support him.
How has sleep coaching helped your parent-child bond? Join the conversation on The Sleep Lady Facebook Page and share your story with our community!
photo credit: Anna Marie Gearhart via photopin cc; legends2k via photopin cc