I’m a big advocate for “sleep training”. Not the kind where you leave your kids alone or crying, or anything like that. My husband and I have shunned conventional sleep training methods and are doing things differently.
- We acknowledge that each day is different, and in any event, babies can’t tell the time. Bedtime starts when we’re ready to sleep. Our kids have learned that we sleep when we’re tired, and as a result we rarely have resistance at bedtime
- We bedshare. It’s what the cavemen did, and it feels right. Anthropologist Dr James McKenna agrees. Our kids have learned to trust us – we are there to feed, care for and protect them 24/7
- They have no fear of missing out on secret fun things that happen when they’re sleeping, because they know I’m sleeping too. Barring illness, teething or other special situations, our kids aren’t partying in the middle of the night. Our kids have learned that night time is for sleeping and daytime is for being awake
- Bedsharing with breastfed babies is protective against SIDS. Being in physical contact with an infant affects their breathing, body temperature, blood pressure, stress levels and fundamental ability to grow. An infant’s body doesn’t do these things effectively on its own –these controls develop over time. Our kids learned to stay alive during their sleep
- Sleeping together has allowed our sleep cycles to synchronise. My babies nearly never woke me when we slept together – I always roused just before they stirred. It was very easy to settle them before they got worked up. My kids have learned that they don’t need to become distressed in order to have their needs met
- If we’ve had a busy day or if I’ve been distracted and haven’t given my kids the attention they crave, they know they will have me at night. There are none of the “one more drink of water” or “one more story” antics in my house because goodnight doesn’t mean goodbye. My kids have learned they are loved throughout the night.
Our “sleep training” methods do not focus on independent sleep or ability to self soothe. I trust that my kids will seek independence when they are physically and emotionally ready. When my son was 3 he decided he wanted to sleep in his own bedroom.
I won’t pretend to think that our way would work for everyone; I just know it works really well for us. Other parents doing the same thing should not fret that they are teaching dependency or creating bad habits – your children are learning valuable lessons about healthy attitudes towards relationships and sleep.