Anyone who has dived into sleep training hashtags recently will have seen many anti-sleep training posts – making tired families feel guilty for the choice they are making in regards to their child or baby’s sleep. These posts are largely from people who subscribe to the attachment parenting philosophy. There is nothing wrong with believing strongly in attachment parenting and practicing it every day, but does it preclude sleep training?
Attachment Parenting became popular from Dr Sears in which he encourages breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, and emotional responsiveness. Many people in the attachment parenting space believe that sleep training goes against this philosophy because this means that there will not be that level of responsiveness and having their needs met during sleep periods.
I’m going to get controversial and say that Attachment Parenting doesn’t have to preclude sleep training.
The biggest reason for choosing the attachment parenting style is to be responsive and understanding of your child’s needs, provide love and affection and create a secure attachment in the process. These are things that we all want to do with our baby from the moment of birth. However, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing, and so forth, in and of themselves, don’t cause a secure attachment. A secure attachment is about providing a sense of security and safety and being a secure base from which a child can explore their world. This secure attachment is formed from all the little things a parent does throughout the day to show that they love and delight in their child. That they are attuned to their baby or child’s needs that does this.
When we sleep train a child we can do it in numerous different ways. There is not one method of sleep training, there are many and can range from being with the baby or child the whole time to giving a baby or child the space to work out the sleep business themselves. And yes, this means that a baby will spend time being upset and depending on the method, alone, but the science of attachment isn’t rooted in where a child sleeps or how. And those periods of upset and aloneness are balanced out by them having their needs met and the attunement during the non-sleeping hours.
Crying is a part of the sleep training process that worries parents in general, and specifically attachment parents. No parent wants to see their baby or child upset, but the crying that happens during sleep training is not the cry of distress or fear that we often worry about but instead a cry of “Come back and do what you used to do, I liked that better.” They are crying essentially because they much preferred their parents helping them fall asleep. After all, learning to sleep is new and not easy. Just like us when we get frustrated over a difficult task. And for babies especially it is their main form of communication. They can’t tell us all these things in words.
One way we can also reframe this in our heads is: this won’t be the last time we let our child or baby cry – out of upset, anger, or frustration. We will stop them from touching that light socket they are so excited about and they won’t be happy. If we practice attachment parenting does this mean we protect them from their upset even in those situations?
The other big issue is that if we follow the attachment parenting style of jumping up at our baby or child’s every noise, co-sleeping, babywearing and so on this can lead to exhaustion. If in the process of doing all this we inadvertently start a sleep association this can lead to a very tired parent who is up hours upon hours overnight trying to help their child pr baby fall asleep and maintain sleep. If you are too tired day in and day out this is going to make it hard for you to enjoy being a parent and to meet the day to day needs of your baby or child in the way you truly want to, which has the potential to impact the development of a secure attachment. If sleep training can change things so that parents are well-rested then they can great each day with their baby with eagerness and enthusiasm and be able to show their baby the love, delight, and attunement that is so important.
Now I’d love to hear from you, do you agree? Does attachment parenting preclude sleep training? And for those of you who have sleep trained, did it improve your parent-child relationship?