Every new parent will tell you the first question every single person asks is: “are you getting any sleep?” From parents-in-law to strangers in the grocery store, suddenly the whole world is obsessed with how you and your babies are sleeping—and as quick as they are to ask the question, they’re even quicker to tell you you’re Doing It Wrong.
There’s something about the topic of infant sleep that brings out the absolute worst in everyone. Words like “always,” “never,” “spoil,” and “neglect” get tossed around more abundantly than glitter at the Gay Pride Parade, and there never seems to be any middle ground. Snuggle your sweet one to sleep every night, and your aunt will warn you’ll be doing it until college. Place your kid in a crib in his own room, and that Attachment Parenting guru in your mom’s group will not-so-silently judge you for causing abandonment issues.
Family Sleep Habits: Science Has Its Say
Well guess what, self-appointed sleep experts? You’re BOTH wrong! According to a recent long-term study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, there is absolutely no difference between six-year-olds who were sleep trained as babies and those who weren’t. The study followed 225 families who had been randomly assigned to either sleep train infants who had trouble sleeping at 7 months, or continue soothing them to sleep as they had always done. Five years later, it found no difference in the children’s sleep patterns, emotional health, behavior, stress levels, attachment to parents or caregivers, and relationships to peers.
“This study suggests that there aren’t any negative long-term effects of sleep training, and that there aren’t any positive ones either,” reports Psychology Today. “That means whether you choose to sleep train or not, your baby will probably be fine and eventually sleep through the night.”
What This Means for Your Family’s Sleeping Habits
So what does that mean for you? It means it’s time to tune out the people trying to convince you that your choices are wrong, listen to your gut, and do what’s right for you, your baby, and your family. If you love co-sleeping and are doing it safely, you now have evidence that your kid will sleep fine on her own by elementary school. If you need to return to work and be well-rested, do not let the Attachment Parenting groupies convince you that sleep training will turn your baby into a love-starved psychopath—a simple Google search can tell you the research they cite is bunk. And if your baby is still waking several times a night at 3, 6, or even 12 months, take no guff from the sleep training evangelists who claim that all babies can and should be sleeping through the night by 12 weeks: your baby is simply being a young, healthy, completely biologically normal baby. As long as you follow basic safety guidelines for your choice, you’re good.
Now ditch the guilt, Mama, and go get some sleep!
YA author, freelance writer, fan of books, beats, babies, Brooklyn. Check out my latest YA novel, When The Beat Drops, out now.
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