Does Sleep Training Have Negative Effects? Learn What Science Says

Sleep training is a hotly debated subject among parents nowadays. For a few, the “cry-it-out” technique is cruel to kids and can result in long-term problems. On the other hand, sleep training advocates, like Little Z’s Sleep, argue that it’s not dangerous and is actually great for children and their families. Unfortunately, much of the debate is influenced by misinformation.

So, what does science say? Here, let us separate the facts from myths to help wary parents about the impacts of sleep training on their children.

Myth #1: The “Cry-It-Out” Method is Cruel, Causing Long-term Issues

Fact: Letting a kid cry to sleep has been viewed by several parents as cruel or harmful due to fears it could increase the baby’s stress levels or provoke a behavioral problem later on. But a study published in Pediatrics tells moms and dads not to worry.

The researchers observed 43 babies between the ages of six to sixteen months. They split the team into three, according to three sleep training approaches: fading or camping out, gradual extinctions or crying with checks, and a control group (whose caretakers kept doing their usual bedtime routine). They found out that the first two groups (fading and crying with checks ) were effective and did not show signs of psychological issues one year after the survey.

In addition, their levels of a stress hormone called cortisol were lower compared to measurements taken in babies from the research control group.

On top of these, the infants who were left crying to sleep fell asleep 15 minutes faster. This result revealed three months into the study, but better sleep occurred within the first week.

Myth #2: Sleep Training is for the Advantage of the Parents, Not the Child

Fact: Though parents tend to sleep better and longer when the child is sleep trained, it’s for the child’s sake, not the parents. Imagine how frustrating it is for the kid to wake up many times each night and cry to get back to sleep. Moreover, they always want their parents’ or caretakers’ intervention to fall back to sleep if they are not sleep trained. This is not easy on the kid. That is why learning how to self-soothe is an essential skill for infants to avoid crying nightly. 

This is when professional sleep trainers come in. You can work with them if you need help with preschool bedtime routine, infant sleep training, and other services. Check out toddler sleep training by Little Z’s Sleep if you have no idea how to start. They also have an early morning wakes course if your baby wakes up earlier, even before you start your day.

Myth #3: Once My baby is Sleep Trained, I Can Expect Her to Sleep Through the Night, Everynight

Fact: Sleep training isn’t a miracle!

Even if one method worked for one baby, the effect could wear off after a while, and you need to go back to square one, redoing the training. A recent study found out that two sleep training methods helped babies sleep better only for a few months. The data suggested that these techniques reduced the time it takes for a baby to sleep and the number of times they wake up at night. On the other hand, the data also demonstrated that the babies were still waking, usually, once to twice a night, three months after.

So the bottom line is, it’s difficult to say how much improvement is expected. 

Myth #4: Sleep Training Means I Can’t Share a Room with My Child Anymore and Do Things with Her

Fact: Sleep training does not necessarily mean giving up the activities you love to do with your baby. You can still hold and sing to them as a part of your nighttime routine. Sleep training lets you prevent these activities only during the period of transition from wake to sleep.

Also, it’s perfectly fine to sleep with your baby in the same room during sleep training. In fact, this is more convenient for breastfeeding while reassuring you that your baby is fine. If you would like them in the same room as you, you can set a different sleeping place like a bassinet or crib.

Ensuring Successful Sleep

No matter what style you use to sleep train your child, it’s always best to consult your pediatrician about good sleep habits. Certified sleep trainers can also be your go-to people when it comes to sleep training.

For starters, do not allow your babies to fall asleep while feeding, either breastfeeding or bottle feeding, or when being held. They should be put down when they’re “drowsy” but awake to encourage independent rest. You can sing or stroke their head to calm them.

Most importantly, consistency is the key.