Sleep training is a solution for a lot of people and that’s great. However it is not the solution for every person.
Before jumping into this topic, let me just say it honestly and to-the-point: this blog post here is not intended to be a judgment or assessment of what choices you’re making as a parent. Sleep training is a controversial topic in parenting. I’m not here to convince you to do it or not do it. There’s enough of that already. You’re here because you’re stressed about sleep (yours, your baby’s, your child’s) and I don’t intend to add to that.
This isn’t a message about sleep, this is an informational article about your feelings about sleep. That’s the anxiety that manifests as a result of many days or weeks of sleep deprivation. That’s the anxiety you feel in the middle of the night as you wait for your baby to wake up. It’s also the anxiety that has your self-talk sounding like, “I’m doing this wrong,” or “If I was any good at this, my baby would be able to sleep peacefully.”
That’s the issue I want to get at: the anxiety and depression that you as a mom might be feeling as a product of sleep training and the culture that surrounds it. There’s an entire industry built around sleep training: the programs, the books, the Instagram accounts, the clinics. Sleep training is presented as the solution. But if you’re suffering and you know that your mental health is taking a dive because of it, then I want to validate that experience and let you know that it’s not the only solution. Deal?
How you know sleeping training isn’t working for you
Sleep training doesn’t always work. And it doesn’t work for every single parent, child or baby. We’re all different, right? If you’re reading this, then you might have a hunch that something is off, that this isn’t working like you thought it would, or that you’re not supposed to feel this way.
Listen to your gut. You know what’s best for you. You know when something isn’t aligned. If you relate to the thoughts above or you catch yourself thinking, “Sleep training is stressing me out!” Then you’re in the right place.
If your gut is telling you something’s off, that’s worth investigating. Here’s some signs that sleep training isn’t working for you:
- You’ve become obsessed with tracking everything around sleep, scheduling naptime and bedtime and the intensity of all this is adding to your anxiety.
- Your inner critic has been raging because you try programs and you either can’t stick to them or they don’t work. That makes you feel like a failure.
- You wonder if you’re actually giving your baby what she needs. When she doesn’t respond to the training method of choice, you feel awful. Cue the guilt.
- Nobody is sleeping anyway. You’re exhausted and it’s all adding up.
- Societal messages and expectations around all of this are resulting in anxiety that’s hard to manage. You feel like a bad mom and that everyone is doing this better.
- You don’t want to stick to this method of parenting but you feel like you should.
Getting curious about other issues at play
That list can be hard to digest and sit with. I get that. So, what comes up when you think about this topic? Do you feel validated? Defensive? A mix of both? Sometimes when we’re exploring things that feel difficult, the reason why they feel so difficult or triggering is because something else is at play. There’s a root that goes deeper.
With sleep training, your baby’s sleep is presented as the problem. That looks like: my baby wakes up during the night, is fussy at naptime, cries a lot, and won’t settle. We might think that something is wrong here—either that your baby is somehow “different” from others or that your abilities are falling short.
The self-talk can sound like, “My baby is keeping me up night after night and won’t settle during naptime. It’s triggering my anxiety and the sleep deprivation is making me depressed.”
But what if your baby’s sleep wasn’t actually the full problem?
What if the problem was the societal conversation around this stuff? What if the problem is that you’re unsupported in this season of parenthood and were never given the right tools and support to deal with things like sleeplessness or mood challenges in the first place?
Perhaps the problem is also that there’s a lot of misinformation circulating around infants’ sleep to begin with…
If you’ve established that this piece of motherhood (sleep training) isn’t aligned with you or your values and that it may actually be contributing to poor mental health, then the next part is to work towards letting go.
How does it feel to acknowledge that your baby’s sleep probably isn’t the entire problem? If it was, wouldn’t that part alone actually be so much easier to handle? If external pressure wasn’t a factor, if you didn’t feel like you were failing or doing something wrong, and if your inner critic wasn’t having an absolute party with this whole sleep training thing, wouldn’t that actually feel so much lighter?
So what if you could learn to let go of all of that? You’re allowed to recognize when something feels out of whack and then make a decision based on that knowledge or research further. Consider this your permission slip.
If you’re feeling a lot of stress and anxiety about your child’s sleep and want a solution outside of traditional sleep training, you’re in the right spot. Stress Less About Baby’s Sleep is my mini course that addresses some of the most common issues I hear from moms in this stage. If you’re anxious, sleep deprived and dreading both naptime and nighttime, this is the course for you.