Is Sleep Training Harmful?


Have you, or other people, asked you if sleep training is safe? Do you worry it might be harmful or damaging? If you’ve asked these questions, you are not alone. I get asked this question a lot by parents, and I am always happy they do ask it. This means you are a good parent who cares deeply about your baby’s physical and emotional needs.

Of course you want to ensure the safety of your baby always. Knowing all the facts around sleep training and why babies cry will help you make the best decision for your child’s sleep. You want to be comfortable and confident in your choices, so let’s look at the facts.

Sleep Training and Crying

It is perfectly natural to worry about your little one crying. No parent likes to hear the sound of their bubba upset. But there are things that every single baby does around the world: eats, sleeps, poops and cries.

Sleep training comes with a myriad of benefits, not the least of which is a rested and happier baby. And you will benefit, too. When your baby is sleeping better, both of you will get more rest and be at your best during the daytime. It is not only a gift for your baby, but parents and siblings also reap the rewards. It benefits the whole family.

Often parents worry about the crying they know will happen with sleep training. Will sleep training hurt my baby? Will my baby feel unloved? These worries are understandable but one thing I always remind my clients of is this: You are doing this for them, not to them. Helping your baby get the sleep their little bodies and brains need so much is an act of love. first let’s take a look at why babies cry.

Why Babies Cry

Let’s take a look at why babies cry. There are many reasons that babies cry. Essentially crying is their method of communication. Babies cry to communicate hunger, discomfort, and even confusion. They can’t tell us how they feel so they use crying (and laughing) to let us know how they are feeling. It is perfectly natural for babies to cry. You would be more worried if they didn’t.

Will my baby have to cry it out?

Sleep training does not equal ‘cry it out’. By far the most common misconception when it comes to helping your baby learn to sleep is that you will be required to leave your baby to ‘CIO’ (use the cry it out method).

Nogood sleep consultant would ever suggest that you leave your child to scream persistently for a long period, and ignore hunger or panic. But crying for a short time due to confusion over a new routine isn’t going to harm them.

Also, there are many tools available when it comes to teaching a baby to sleep better and CIO isn’t one of them. Firstly, you need to look at sleep environment, naps and nap timings, feeds and feed timings, awake windows, bedtimes etc… and then we look at a technique to help them learn to sleep. There are many ways we can support our baby while they learn to sleep. And the word support is the key.

Babies tend to protest during sleep teaching out of frustration and tiredness. And babies are entitled to communicate this. They are simply not getting the sleep associations that they are used to, and they protest that change. So we need to support them as much as needed, as well as allowing them some space to have dominion over their little bodies. This is the key to them quickly learning to fall asleep on their own.

The effects of crying on babies

In a recent study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers found that leaving an infant to cry for short periods from birth up to 18 months does not adversely affect their behaviour development or attachment. They also discovered that those left to cry cried less and for a shorter duration at 18 months of age.

The results also showed that whether contemporary parents respond immediately or leave their infant to cry it out a few times to often makes no difference on the short -- or longer-term relationship with the mother or the infants behaviour. They also discovered that babies who weren’t attended to immediately upon crying allowed them to learn over time to self-regulate during the day and also during the night.

Is Sleep Training Safe?

The simple answer is yes! Multiple studies show that there are no negative consequences in parent-child bond due to sleep training. In fact, some studies actually show an improvement in security between parent and child following sleep training.

For me sleep training is really teaching the skill to a baby or toddler of learning to fall asleep independently. It is a lifelong essential skill that will ensure your little one gets the sleep that they biologically need and that allows the parents to get the rest that they need as well. It is respectful, gentle, and always should be done in strong collaboration with the parents.

And finally, remember this…

Sleep is not a luxury it is a human necessity!

If you have any questions or need any help with teaching your baby this skill, contact me HERE.


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