When Important People Don't Support Your Sleep Plan
The process of sleep training and getting your child on an optimal sleep schedule pays great dividends, but takes a lot of commitment up front. It also requires some work and sacrifice to maintain this newly found sleep success. The ideal situation is when all parents, caregivers, and other family members are all on board with the sleep plan. This way you're usually spared the guilt trip when you need to, say, leave a party early to get home for bedtime, or skip an afternoon birthday party because it will throw off the nap schedule. But, in my experience, it is more common to have at least a few people in your world who just aren’t going to understand the importance of sleep and all the reasons that you’ve decided to sleep train. So, here are some of the top objections I see my clients facing from other people and how I recommend dealing with them.
1) "We switch all babies to One nap at 12 months old" - Your top-rated daycare
One of the most common but challenging issues that many parents face during the sleep learning process is when the child is in full-time daycare. This often means that there are group schedules to follow to make it easier on the caregiver, but are rarely ideal for your kid. Obviously, individual schedules cannot be followed for every kid, but it is ideal if you can find a daycare that can accommodate you as much as possible, especially when we know that daytime sleep affects nighttime sleep so much.
Although it might be easier on them to have all kids switch to 1 nap at 12 months, they are not the ones who end up taking home a very tired 1 year old who starts waking up throughout the night and/or very early in the morning. Try to explain to your daycare the fallout that you experience as a result of getting off schedule. A good childcare provider will be as accommodating as possible and, even if they can’t meet all your requests, there should at least be a willingness to work with you. See if they’ll use white noise to block out the other kids during the morning nap or be willing to put up blackout curtains – these are some good test questions to ask before choosing a daycare! They might even find that their effort pays off when they find that better-rested babies are much easier to deal with than cranky, overtired babies. :)
2) "But I won't get to see him as much if he goes to bed at 6:30!"- Your devoted husband
Another really common point of resistance for other family members is that the new schedule means less playtime with their favorite baby. This is especially hard when it’s Dad who gets home late from work but baby needs an early bedtime. Grandparents who are caregivers are also often tempted to be lax on the schedule because they just want more time together. It’s such an understandable wish, and what a blessing to have people in your child’s life who want so much time with them!
First of all, definitely express your gratitude to your family member and your empathy for their desire to spend time with your baby. Acknowledge that it’s not ideal, but that the amount of suffering that you and your baby go through when off schedule and very sleep deprived is a price you just can’t pay right now. Your priority is to be the best parent you can be to your kid, and for that, you need adequate rest, and so does your baby!
Remind them that the seasons of early bedtimes and multiple naps go by really quickly, then do your best to compromise and adjust. Maybe it means Dad gets up early with the baby instead of keeping her up late. Or maybe Grandma can take baby out of the stroller during her catnap so that they can still go on fun adventures, but not mess with the longer, more important naps. Also, remind them of the positives- a sleep trained baby can be put to sleep by anyone! That ultimately means more babysitting opportunities for relatives, and more date nights with your husband! But try to follow my recommendation of not majorly messing with your child’s schedule more than 1-2 times per month.
3) "In our family, everyone just shared a bed and it worked out fine!" - Your well-meaning GREAT-AUNT
Sleep training is, admittedly, more common in Western cultures, at least in its formality. In many societies, babies are still carried for much of the day, nurse constantly, and co-sleeping is the norm. While none of theses things are wrong, they often just don’t work in modern society, where moms need to work, take care of other kids, or just simply can’t sleep with a baby next to them all night.
Whatever your reasons are, they are valid. When family members or friends from different backgrounds don’t understand why you insist one sticking to a schedule, or can’t fathom “letting your baby cry”, sometimes it really is best to graciously not engage those comments. If you’ve tried gently explaining your reasons and it falls on deaf ears, let it go, and don’t let it make you question yourself. I have never worked with or even met a parent who is cold-hearted in their reasons for sleep training. It almost always comes from desperation and suffering, and the knowledge that you can’t be as good a parent as you want to be when you’re running on months and months of broken sleep. This alone is a good enough reason!
4) "I can't just let her cry." - The Nanny
There are parts of sleep training that are, undoubtedly, not fun. Listening to your baby or toddler cry, even if you know it is part of a healthy learning process, is just plain tough. During the 2 weeks of sleep training, it’s best to be completely consistent, so it’s usually also best if the parents are the ones there for naps and bedtimes as much as possible. If you have a babysitter one night, you’ll want to make sure they can be consistent with your plan- not resorting to rocking them to sleep or giving a bottle when it is not scheduled. Understandably, some people are not going to be comfortable sticking to your plan though, so do whatever you can to clear your schedule during those first couple of weeks. But, worst case scenario, if they end up doing an old habit and things get off track a bit- don’t freak. Just get right back on track the next day and make sure to be totally consistent for the next week so that no new associations form.
Sleep training is a highly personal decision involving your most precious blessings. Be confident in your decision and know that this might be the first of a long line of parenting decisions you’re going to make that other people in the world disagree with (*shocker!*). But soon you will all be seeing the fruit of this decision and enjoying full nights of sleep and happy, well-rested days!