Handling the Sleep Training Guilt
The reason many parents would rather stay up all night for months on end with a crying baby rather than teach them how to sleep is because of the guilt they’re afraid to feel. As loving parents, we all feel bad to hear our babies cry, and the only way to teach your baby healthy sleep habits is to give them the space to learn how to fall asleep on their own, which will usually involve some tears.
I had a cousin who knew that the pacifier was ruining her baby’s sleep but couldn’t bear the thought of taking away the pacifier because of the tears that would undoubtedly ensue. So the broken nights continued, with her replacing the pacifier for her baby every time it fell out at night. Every week or two she would text me
Riki, today I’m really gonna take away the pacifier!
And of course, she didn’t. Until the day came when she reached a breaking point, where the exhaustion of being up all night with her 5-month-old and taking care of her toddler and baby during the day was too much for her to handle. When she realized the benefits of taking away the dependency that her baby had on the pacifier, she stopped the pacifier at night and within 2 days, her baby was sleeping through the night.
When sleep training, guilt can come from a few sources – most strongly and powerfully from within ourselves, and often compounded by well-meaning (but quite unhelpful) family member and friends. Feeling guilty is not something you can usually avoid, but there are ways to deal with it!
Before we get into that, let’s take a look at how damaging guilt can be when you’re trying to teach your baby how to sleep. Here’s why mom guilt is the NUMBER ONE cause of failed sleep training attempts.
When a baby cries during sleep training, it can be so hard not to go in immediately and comfort them. The feeling of guilt at letting a poor little baby cry engulfs the mom, she caves, goes into her baby and comforts him. The mom-guilt abates, the baby calms, and the mother lays baby back down in the crib and quietly tiptoes out of the nursery, hoping and praying that this time, baby will fall asleep. And of course, within 5 minutes, the cycle begins anew. Baby cries, mom feels guilty, mom goes in and comforts baby right away, baby quiets, mom lays baby back down and tiptoes out of the nursery, praying that this time, baby will magically fall asleep. And within another few minutes… you get the picture. This is why mom guilt interferes so badly, and actually sabotages any and all efforts to teach your baby how to sleep.
To master sleep training, you need to get a hold of your mom guilt.
The best mom for your child is a mom who is strong, healthy and sets limits for her kids in a loving and confident way. Feeling guilty does no good for your baby and no good for you.
Change your thoughts, change your feelings
Emotions stem from our thoughts. When we change our thoughts, it automatically changes our feelings.
A great way to easily transform your guilty sleep-training feelings into emotions of strength and empowerment is to create a Sleep Training Mantra.
A mantra is a helpful soothing statement that reminds you what really matters to you. Identify the core reason you are trying to teach your baby healthy sleep habits and boil it down to one punchy sentence.
I am doing what’s best for my baby so she can have a healthy night’s sleep
My baby is safe, healthy and learning how to sleep
My baby will thank me one day for teaching him how to sleep.
We all cry when we have to change habits. It’s normal and expected. Everything is going according to plan.
I will get through this.
The next time your baby cries in the middle of nap time, repeat this mantra for a few minutes instead of rushing in to immediately soothe them. Remember, babies need space to learn how to soothe themselves back to sleep. You need to honor that learning process and give your baby the chance to learn.
Don’t let your negative emotions interfere with your child’s learning process. And remember that it’s a process- it won’t happen overnight.
Think long term. What is best for you child: putting them through a few nights of discomfort, or putting them through potential years of sleep deprivation?
Teaching your baby how to sleep is a gift that lasts forever. Learning how to channel the feelings that come along with the process will go a long way towards a smoother, more peaceful sleep training journey.
If you know any sleep-deprived and exhausted moms in your life, please share this article with them. It may be the first step they take towards better sleep for their family!