As soon as you are pregnant, it will probably hit you with a sledgehammer.


Guilt.

There is no way around

it. As soon as you are connected to your offspring, (even if it is only the idea

of conceiving), you’re toast.

The glass of wine you drank…

will it lower his IQ? Did you breastfeed long enough

(or too long, or at all)? Will

your decision to sleep train end all hopes for attachment security?

As a sleep coach, I hear

this last question a lot. So, what

can we do to make confident decisions about baby’s sleep without being crushed

by guilt?

Very often I hear from

mothers who have drifted into a life with their tired child that doesn’t resemble

what they originally envisioned. They are often facing challenges with the very

aspects of parenthood (and sleep) that they thought would come naturally to

them.

For instance, a family may

want to bed-share but may need to re-evaluate their sleeping arrangement

because their baby is too loud or squirmy at night, leading to poor sleep

quality for the whole family.

Often we feel guilty

about these decisions because we are sympathizing too intensely with our

children’s feelings. Although it is admirable to relate to our children, it is

not always the best course of action.

A child’s prefrontal cortex, the

part of the brain responsible for reasoning, is not entirely developed, which

makes it difficult for children to regulate (or even understand) their own

feelings sometimes.

A temper-tantrum at bedtime may be just as surprising and

overwhelming to your child as it is to you, mama! That’s why our children need

us to take charge as the “adult in the room.”

That is exactly what is

happening when we decide to take a more active approach to sleep training.

Many

parents feel anxious just thinking about hearing their little ones cry…let

alone choosing not to respond. It

doesn’t help when parents are bombarded with unsupported claims about the

traumatizing effects of sleep training on our children.

My goal as a sleep

coach is to help relieve some of your guilt in order to foster healthy

sleeping habits for your child.

These 3 helpful hints will get you started on the right track.

There is more than one type of stress…and they aren’t all bad.

According to Harvard

University’s Center on the Developing Child, there are 3 forms of stress.

1. Positive Stress. Think a trip to the doctor, the first

day at school, or, for adults, a first date or public speaking. This form

of stress is normal and important for learning how to cope with life’s

many stressors.

2. Tolerable Stress. This type of stress is more intense

and prolonged. For adults, this might include the loss of a loved one, for

example.

Sleep training is likely to fall in this category.

Tolerable

stress is surmountable for children as long as they are given the chance

to adapt to the situation with some form of support and guidance from an

adult.

3. Toxic Stress. Chronic toxic stress has been studied

extensively in Romanian orphans, who were virtually deprived of any and all

support and stimulation in their first months of life.

When this form of

stress is experienced chronically in childhood, perhaps through extreme

neglect or abuse, there is an increased risk for mental and physical

impairment. Of course, we are not talking about 10 minutes of crying here

and there!

If you are concerned enough about your child to be reading this article, there is a strong chance that you are doing everything you can to help your child adapt to everyday stressors…even if that means a few tears shed at bedtime.

Do what’s right for your child’s unique needs.

It doesn’t matter how

many times we hear we are good parents, we may not always believe it. Even if

your brain knows that sleep training

will not harm your child’s development, you may still have a tough time believing it.

Fortunately, there are

different types of sleep training to suit every family’s needs.

1. Tweak just a few aspects of baby’s

bedtime rhythm, routine, or environment. For instance, firm mattresses are

best for baby’s sleep, but it isn’t necessary for baby to sleep on a

concrete block. Is a new mattress possible? Or, try a little baby massage or yoga after baby’s bath and before reading time.

Make sure the temperature and lighting suits baby’s preferences (through daily experimentation) and try a few different kinds of pajamas to

see if baby tends to sleep more soundly in some than others.

2. Controlled comforting is a

modified form of sleep training in which you stay with your little one

while he falls asleep, gradually moving further and further out of the

room each night. Or, work in intervals. Allow your child a few minutes to

self-soothe and respond only after this time has passed. Gradually

increase these intervals as time goes on. This technique will eventually

help your child learn to calm down on his own, as well as learn how to

cope with stress and fall asleep independently.

3. If you think that your child

becomes even more agitated by your coming and going, and cries even harder

when you leave the room with each interval, consider letting your child

cry it out. Truthfully, checking on your child for brief intervals may be

more of a coping mechanism for you than your little one.

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Go with your gut.

There is no point in doing anything that every fiber of your being is

rebelling against. If your heart is telling you that sleep training isn’t right

for your child, listen to your instinct, mama!

Just remember that the most up-to-date

research is on your side if you choose to actively sleep train your tot.

Whatever you decide to do for your child, just remember that your intentions

are ultimately to promote your child’s health and happiness…and there’s no

reason to feel guilty about that!

Renee Leanna/Facebook

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