Why sleep training is the new, different kind of parenting controversy - like breastfeeding vs bottle feeding.
Life Parenting SPM SPM/MM

Sleep Training Is The New Breastfeeding Controversy

by Becky Brown

We’re all familiar with the boob-versus-bottle wars. Told you should cover up while you wrestle a screaming kid underneath your specially wrapped “nursing-friendly” top?  Yep.

What about shamed for giving your baby *gasp* formula? I mean, never mind that it took civilization literally thousands of years to invent a shelf-stable milk substitute…. you’re just not trying hard enough, Mamma. That too.

I thought that I was equipped to weather that most controversial of baby topics – feeding. It’s cool- I was prepared to be flexible, fed is best, and so on. Little did I know that the war between sleep trainers and attachment parents rages just a few Facebook “support” groups and FAQ pages away from the feeding controversy.

In my sleep-deprived state with a crabby 4-month-old cemented to my chest at 3am, I googled.

And it was not pretty. I had no idea how much shame was associated with how, where, and when my kid was or wasn’t sleeping.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s *some* surprisingly helpful advice in these groups and on the internet in general to help you with your sleep goals.

There’s also bucket loads of shame being handed out.

Those who favor exclusively co-sleeping from Day One cite the natural needs of infants for comfort and attachment. You chose to have a baby, the reasoning goes, so how dare you subordinate your child’s desire to sleep whenever and wherever she wants to your selfish wish to get some sleep or, like, any time apart? How dare you.

Alternatively, the rigid sleep training gurus seem to shake their heads disapprovingly – you just can’t get your family together. You are disorganized. If you REALLY wanted to get your baby to conform to age-appropriate wake windows and sleep times, you could. Just try harder. YOU are the parent after all, so you need to determine the schedule and make everyone else conform.

I get that people who have achieved success with one method become evangelistic about that. And that’s fine. As a parent who had tried both co-sleeping and sleep training at different times to try to get my baby and myself some decent sleep, I see the pros and cons of both.

And that’s where I think the sleep wars are similar to the feeding wars. Neither approach is perfect. And, as with everything kid-related, something that worked great for one child may be a total bust for another.

So by all means, share your advice. When that bleary-eyed mom with fatigue-related traffic violations (not me, I’ve never run into a parked car at preschool pickup before) asks what to do because she just can not anymore, say “here’s what worked for me.”

But be realistic about your method. No system is perfect, and there might be some excellent reasons your friend/SIL/neighbor isn’t adopting your approach. Let’s just all acknowledge that getting babies to sleep is hard. Really hard. And some parents just get kids who don’t sleep well- and they are still good parents.

Or you know, you could just change the subject to breast versus bottle. Seems less controversial.

************
About the Author

Becky Brown is a freelance copywriter and the mom to nocturnal children who are not impressed by her command of arcane history facts but are very impressed by her knowledge of Disney lyrics.