Posts Tagged ‘sleep training’

Is Sleep Training Safe?

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

_DSC2002-2As a first-time mom, figuring out how to get my baby to sleep was a mind-boggling task. Advice from my mom and mother-in-law was confusing. They never had issues with their babies sleeping, they just slept. Maybe they no longer remembered their struggles, or maybe times have changed so much that we parent in a completely different way today.

Today, we debate, question and over search everything with raising children. Sleep training, or teaching a baby older than 6 months how to self soothe to sleep, is a highly debated and theorized topic. In a new study from American Academy of Pediatrics in which 43 babies were tested to see how different sleep training techniques affected their stress levels, the babies were separated into three groups: graduated extinction, where babies are allowed to cry for short periods of time over several nights; delayed bedtimes where bedtime is moved by 15 minutes later every night thus making the baby more tired; and a control group. The babies were tested for a full year by checking the cortisol levels in their saliva both in the morning and at night. At the end of the study, they were checked for parent-child attachment and checked over behavioral and emotional problems.

The study showed that none of the babies had any emotional or behavioral issues. The graduated extinction and delayed bedtimes groups showed lower levels of cortisol later in the day, where the group who received no training had higher levels.

(Editor’s Note: It is important to point out the difference between graduated extinction, which is bouts of crying punctuated by bouts of comforting by a parent, and total extinction, which is what most parents associate with cry-it-out. Total extinction is no contact with baby until he or she stops crying. This is not what the study covered and is unequivocally harmful to an infant’s normal development. The sleep training method covered in this study was graduated extinction.)

Sleep is such an important thing for both babies and parents–both for development and growth but also for an emotional and coping time for parents especially. While the babies in the study showed normal levels of cortisol, the mothers in the studies showed lower levels of stress when their babies slept consistently. Having been an extremely sleep-deprived mama, I remember the stress from exhaustion in those early months and how it affected my family. Sleep benefits everyone.

The learning curve as new parents is as steep as it gets, yet it is reassuring for parents who wish to sleep train to learn that it is safe to do so. In our family, sleep training is a way of life–in fact I revel in the fact that my boys are all decent sleepers. Trusting our gut instinct as a parent is key, and having the knowledge and ability to choose our family’s well-being and mental health is so important.

Pia Watzig is a mom of three boys who lives and works in Portland, Oregon. 

When Your Baby Would Rather Nurse Than Sleep

Monday, April 27th, 2015

IMG_0174This is my life right now. My son Levi is 6 months old. He has woken up the past several nights at least 4 to 5 times. When Daddy goes in, he is looking for me. He would much rather nurse on momma than sleep through the wee hours of the night. So what on earth do you do when you find yourself in this situation?

Breastfed babies wake more often than formula fed babies because they digest breast milk quicker. So, they need us. They need to nurse. Night nursing helps to keep milk supply plentiful. The highest milk supply levels and levels of prolactin are released during the night hours. This ensures mom can keep up with the demands of baby’s milk needs.

There are all sorts of sleep-training methods that claim to “break” baby from night waking, but there are several reasons why a young baby would rather nurse than sleep. Here are some common reasons for night waking and nursing:

  • To Get Mom’s Attention:  Nursing creates a secure, safe environment for baby. The smell of mom, the touch of mommy’s hand, all create a safe place. Baby has your attention and you are there to respond.
  • To Not Feel Alone: Babies are not fans of mom leaving the room at night. Sometimes when they wake, they just don’t want to be alone. Cue crying, cue mom entering, cue nursing session.
  • Because they’re Hungry: This one seems obvious, but many pediatricians will tell you that a baby should not need to eat in the night. Sometimes, they are just hungry. My baby boy is usually hungry a few times a night still, because he has limited solid foods in his diet. Don’t ignore the cries. Feed your baby.
  • Growth Spurts:  See above. Feed that baby. An hour later…feed that baby.
  • Learning New Skills:  Babies wake often while they are learning new things. Crawling, rolling, learning to sit-up. All of these skills can cause baby to wake in the night and maybe just maybe want to nurse. Nursing to sleep is not a bad thing.
  • Teething Pain:  Sometimes, babies who are teething just want to nurse for comfort. Mommy is the ultimate soother and being close to you is just what the doctor ordered.

While it is good to know there are reasons why babies wake often in the night to nurse, it can still be hard to get through. Hang in there, mom. I’m right there with you. I have nights where I am exhausted. Levi will wake hourly to nurse and I just want to hand off the feedings, but then I remember how special I am to my little guy. Nursing in the night helps with SIDS prevention, as well. I can’t tell you how often I check on Levi. At least with all of his waking, I know he is safe.

So when your baby is waking hourly to nurse, remember there is a reason. They aren’t trying to manipulate you. They aren’t trying to drive you crazy. They need you. You need them. Together, you make the breastfeeding relationship work and be successful. Together, you may not get as much sleep, but I promise that one day when they sleep all night and are weaned, you will miss those precious hours of the night where they were close to you and only you.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of two from Northeast Indiana. She loves breastfeeding and sleep. That’s why she drinks a cup of coffee each morning.