Sleep Training “What Ifs”: Part Three
April 5, 2011 · Posted in Parenting, Sleep · Permalink

Tips from our book, A Mothers Circle:

“What if my baby is whimpering but not really crying? Does that count when I am timing?”

A baby’s heart-tugging but not heart-wrenching whimpers should be heard as the background noises to his sleep work, the sounds he makes as he learns a new way to settle himself to sleep. Do not count whimpering as true crying when you are timing the crying interval.

“What if my baby seems upset the following day?”

Although many parents fear that they will see recrimination in their baby’s eyes in the morning after a night of sleep work, these fears are more projection than not. However, we are not saying that this isn’t challenging for your baby. It is. He is working hard at learning a new skill. It is stretching him. And it can be uncomfortable and even upsetting to him. Some babies will seem out of sorts during the days following sleep training. Often they are in fact more tired, or somewhat disoriented by the change in their routine. Indulge your baby during the day. Hold him more. Make him as comfortable as you can. We have never seen this kind of upset behavior as anything other than a temporary response, and it will not negatively affect the bond you have with your baby.

“What if my baby is sick? Can sleep training make him sick?”

Neither sleep training nor crying can make a baby sick. They cannot bring on a fever, cold, or ear infection. Sometimes, however, a couple will start sleep work only to realize sometime in the course of it that their baby is sick. This can induce intense guilt in parents and some couples will make an incorrect connection between crying and illness. If your baby becomes sick during sleep training, this is purely an unfortunate coincidence. In this case, stop all sleep work and tend to your sick baby as much as he needs. Once cleared medically, you can resume sleep training.

“What if I’ve been true to form for two weeks and still there is no change or progress?”

If sleep training is taking longer than two weeks, if you are seeing no improvement or only consistently erratic patterns in your baby’s sleep, it’s important to check with your pediatrician. Sometimes a baby will develop a subtle medical problem that manifests itself with sleep problems. Sometimes a baby will develop intolerance for the formula he is taking, sometimes he will develop allergies, and sometimes he will suffer from mild ear infections which worsen when he is lying down. In any case, it’s important to get the okay from the pediatrician before you continue with sleep training.

Another reason that you haven’t seen progress is your baby’s reaction to inconsistency. Ask yourself if you are responding differently at different times. Is the baby sometimes falling asleep at the breast or bottle, is the baby sleeping in a stroller, swing or in you arms during the day? Consistency is key to teaching your baby this skill in the fastest and easiest way.

“What if I blow it one night, give in, and nurse him to sleep. Have I ruined it?”

This does confuse your child and it may prolong the process but most parents falter at one point or another during the course of sleep work. Be gentle on yourself. Pick up the pieces and get ready again. Your baby is still able to learn. Remind yourself of your goals, for both you and your baby. Success depends on consistency but it also depends on how whole-heartedly you proceed.

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