Let go of guilt while trying to get your baby to sleep

Getting your infant, toddler, or even preschooler to sleep through the night is tricky at best.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you may have an “easy” sleeper. You know, the one that seems content after some rocking, singing, and nursing. Things just flow and voila, you actually have a baby that, “sleeps like a baby” so to speak.

However, for many of us, “sleep like a baby” is quite a misnomer because we often struggle to find that magic method that will reliably guarantee us a solid night of sleep. And, for those of us burning the midnight oil, pacing a dark house with a crying bundle cradled in our arms, there are a plethora of strategies thrown our way.

Let your baby cry it out. Don’t let your baby cry it out. Sleep with your baby. Don’t sleep with your baby. Try this sleep training method. No, that one is no good. You must Ferberize. Ferberizing is cruel. Rocking your baby to sleep will set him up for life long sleep problems. Letting your baby cry it out is psychologically damaging to them. If you let your baby sleep in your bed, she will never leave.

Sound familiar?

It’s no wonder we end up confused and no matter which direction we decide to take … guess what? We feel guilty. Guilty because something negative has been said about the sleep direction we have decided to take.

It’s time to let go of the guilt. You are not psychologically damaging your child by letting them cry it out. You are not setting up your child for life long sleep problems by rocking him to sleep. Your happy little co-sleeper will not be in your bed forever.

It’s time to stop perpetuating all these terrible myths. It’s time to stop perpetuating the guilt.

There are only two things I care about when it comes to sleep and babies. The first is that both the baby and her parents end up getting the sleep they need. The second is that they do so safely.

So whether you’ve struck gold following a particular sleep training method or have decided co-sleeping is the way to go, just remember to put safety at the forefront. Whether your baby sleeps in a crib, a bedside co-sleeper, or in bed with you, take the time to review these safe sleep guidelines so you can all rest easier.

As for the negative background chatter? I say let it go. Only you know what is right for you and your family. Follow your instincts. Do what you know is best for your baby and for yourself.

Melissa Arca is a pediatrician who blogs at Confessions of a Dr. Mom.

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  • http://www.myheartsisters.org Carolyn Thomas

    Excellent advice here! Do you know the book “‘Go the F**k to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach – http://www.amazon.com/Go-F-Sleep-Adam-Mansbach/dp/1617750255 It’s been called “the secret anthem of tired parents everywhere…”

    I had one of each: baby #1 was sleeping 11 hours a night by the age of 5 weeks, baby #2 never in her entire life has had more than 2 continuous hours of sleep – and she’s now 31.

    Wish I’d had that book – and your sound advice – back then!

  • Kilroy71

    Wish I could heed this advice but it’s years too late. I’m still haunted by the “let them cry it out” advice and regret that I did that.

  • http://midwestmomments.blogspot.com/ NotJustAnotherJennifer

    Yay, Melissa! Great post. Great advice. Thank you!!!!

  • Frank in L.A.

    You said: “Whether your baby sleeps in a crib, a bedside co-sleeper, or in bed with you, take the time to review these safe sleep guidelines so you can all rest easier.”

    There is a pediatrician in Pensacola, FL who has several billboards around town telling all mothers that the worst thing they can do is have the baby in bed with them. It really seems intended to scare people. But you are saying otherwise.

    How is someone to know who to believe?

    • http://www.myheartsisters.org Carolyn Thomas

      Good point, Frank. In all countries of the world (except in the “advanced” Western world), sleeping with one’s infant is considered perfectly natural and normal. It’s only here that we have decided it’s “normal” to put infants in their own rooms, by themselves, down a long hallway far away from parents all night long. The ‘safe sleep guidelines’ referred to in this post mention nothing about the Pensacola billboard advice.

  • Sarah Sherwood

    Totally disagree with this. Newborns are so young. Listen to the guilt; listen to your instincts. When you ignore your baby you are telling him or her that his or her needs are unimportant. Guess what–parenting is not convenient!

    • Christie B

      As a co-sleeping mom, my first instinct is to give a hearty AMEN to this, but I don’t think it would be productive. I think the balance of guilt at this point drives many moms to try _not_ to co-sleep. This drives exhausted moms out of beds and onto couches, recliners and other places for night feedings where they can fall asleep and their babies can suffocate in these unplanned and distinctly unsafe sleeping spots. And then their deaths are written up in the statistics as “co-sleeping” deaths scaring even more moms into the same situation. (Sadly, these statistics are not presented in an intent-to-treat fashion.) I’m pretty sure less guilt would lead to more co-sleeping babies, higher breastfeeding rates, lower death rates and happier moms and babies overall.

  • Dave

    As for an infant sleeping, I personally would not recommend it. They make cosleeper bassinets that, if used correctly are much safer. Why risk it with your most valuable possession.

    However a cosleeper can’t be used once an infant is mobile and can go from lying to sitting on their own (6+ months or so). At that age put the family bed on the floor without a frame or boxspring (just a mattress). That way falls aren’t a concern. Also don’t try placing the bed up against a wall to keep a kid from falling off. Deaths have occurred due to entrapment and positional asphyxiation between a bed and a wall. In fact thus is tge same method in which dropside crib deaths happened. Its better to just let them roll off if the mattress is on the floor (a rug might be nice if the floor is stone or wood though). It’s unlikely they’ll be hurt at that height.

  • http://de.wetours.com Thailand Reisen

    “I slept like a baby. I cried all night.” ;-)
    But seriously, thank you for sharing these great tips, really helpful!

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