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Why Some Parents Don’t Sleep Train 


Continuing our Sleep Training Series, we asked the internet why some parents don't sleep train. The answers were truly insightful as to the perception of sleep training and moms' preferences on the matter.


Why Some Parents Don’t Sleep Train 

Whether it’s tips for months 1-6, months 6-12, or the Top 5 Most Common Sleep Training Methods, we’re trying to get into the weeds of this difficult but rewarding practice of getting healthy sleep. To do this, we’ve been using Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. We’ll start adding other tools to the mix soon. In this post, we'll also cite bits from Taking Cara Babies.

What we knew we had to do, though, is acknowledge that not all parents want to sleep train. To try to get some insight as to why we asked a couple of questions no the popular forum website Quora. First, we asked about parents’ general perceptions about sleep training and didn’t get many responses. So, we turned to our burning question: Why do some parents choose not to sleep train their baby? This gave us really interesting insights about what some parents think about sleep training, some of which, we just don’t see reflected in Healthy Sleep Training, Happy Child. Here, we take a look at a few answers about why some parents don’t sleep train and analyze them. 

Note: we’ve edited a few answers to correct typos and grammar and shortened them. We’ve purposely left the names out, they’re available on Quora in their entirety for those who wish to read them.

According to a Master of Science in Nursing

“I suppose you are referring to the practice of some parents to let their baby cry in the middle of the night until they become exhausted and just fall asleep out of frustration.

Babies cry for all types of reasons. They are not vindictive and solely want to disrupt your sleep.

Eventually, babies and children learn to self-soothe themselves. It is rare that children wake their parents forever. They cry from wet diapers sometimes, or maybe they have some other illness or discomfort. I don’t care if they just want to be held, babies learn trust issues as they come to understand their world little by little. It is important that they feel safe and loved.

My boys had asthma even as infants and I would never leave them alone in the night if they cried. My first son probably did not sleep through the night until he was 4. I remember checking on him when I came home from work at midnight and he had vomited in his crib. He was around one and he picked up a piece of undigested food and showed it to me. He has ADHD and this may have had some issue with his sleeping issues. too.

[...]

Parents know their child best and if they are having issues during the night they may just need further evaluation from their pediatrician. My second son had reflux which made his asthma even worse. The sooner you soothe them the faster parents will get back to sleep too. My kids never liked binkies or had an attachment object that could spell disaster if they couldn’t find it. They were not heartbroken when I had to leave them at a sitter for a few hours between the time I left for work and their dad came home. They knew that we would be back. They waved and that was it.

Our Thoughts

We’ve seen, with this question and its answers, that the perception of Sleep Training from those who say it’s definitely not for them is still “Sleep training equals crying” Is this true? We turned to two experts in the field Dr. Weissbluth of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Cara Dumaplin of “Taking Cara Babies” to find out.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child on Crying

“There sometimes appears to be a contradiction between whether or not to let your child cry. For 80 percent of babies who have common fussiness, if the parents have ample resources for soothing, sleep solutions that involve no crying, such as the “one-to-two-hour rule” should work to prevent sleep problems. A few, about 5 percent, of common fussy babies do become very overtired four-month-olds. To treat or correct the sleep problem, some crying might occur. 

So, perhaps letting one’s baby exhaust themselves to sleep isn’t quite what Sleep Training is. 

According to Taking Cara Babies

Taking Cara Babies also adds something really interesting about Sleep Training and why it’s not for every family: 

“The two percent that truly this [sleep training] doesn’t work for typically have some underlying medical problem”. This nurse’s children had asthma and ADHD and we think she 100% made the right choice to take special care of their sleep because they needed it. You go, mama! 

Taking Cara Babies says that in order to sleep train, we need to re-think crying. A great example Cara puts forward is that of the mom driving with her baby in the back seat. The baby starts crying uncontrollably. What does the mom do? Stop the car in traffic? Pull over? If she can see that her baby is perfectly safe, has been fed, changed, she must continue driving to her destination. 

This is sleep training. Your baby is adjusting to change and crying is the only way they can communicate anything. Discomfort, frustration, change. So, the fact that we immediately assume that they’re feeling abandoned, lonely, desperate, is just projecting our adult feelings on a baby.

It’s not fun to see your baby frustrated about change, but you know that it’s your responsibility to set these schedules so that they’ll experience less overtiredness and frustration.  

Why Some Parents Don’t Sleep Train According to Moms

1: Some Parents Don’t Sleep Train Because “Babies Train Themselves Naturally”

Because some babies naturally train themselves to sleep at the right times as they get older.
Or because they think that it's better to let a baby sleep when it needs to sleep, rather than dictating to it.
Or because “sleep training" often involves strategies such as “controlled crying” which is a euphemism for allowing your baby to cry and cry for an hour or more, till they fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. Some people think that allowing — or even endorsing and encouraging — your child to cry themselves to sleep each night is not very nice.

Our Thoughts

We certainly agree that it’s better to let a baby sleep when they need to.

 The tricky part lies in when they need sleep, but are also pushing that bedtime trying to get some extra playtime in. Just like, when they’re older, as parents we have to limit some “fun” time to make time for responsibilities, when they’re babies we also have to limit their playtime to make time for a much-needed sleep. This may require starting a sleepy-time routine, making sure they’re in the right conditions to doze off. 

This is also sleep training.

To add, Dr. Weissbluth has a whole bunch of no-crying sleep solutions that he recommends from the moment you come home from the hospital in his book. 

2. Some Parents Don’t Sleep Train Because it’s “just not necessary”

I chose not to sleep train any of my children because it’s just not necessary. Babies are meant to wake up during the night. It isn’t them being difficult or anything of the sort, it’s just how babies are. I like to allow my children to set their own routines regarding sleep. I wouldn’t sleep when I didn’t want to or I wasn’t tired, so why should we make babies?

So much emphasis is pushed into parents to make sure their babies are sleeping through the night. While it can be so frustrating and draining to be sleep deprived, it’s just part and parcel of being a parent to an infant. If only we pushed for people to just accept that it’s okay if their baby isn’t sleeping through, then maybe people would be less inclined to use damaging methods like Cry-It-Out or the like to force their children to sleep.

Our Thoughts

This, again, makes us very aware that parents often have a negative perception of sleep training. While every parent’s dream is to sleep through the night, sleep training isn’t making sure babies sleep without needs, it’s making sure they’ve got the tools to put themselves to sleep after being placed in their crib drowsy. We would never promote anyone not tending to their baby’s needs for nourishment or even comfort. You know what’s right for your baby. If you don’t want to cry-it-out, that’s totally your decision to make. Just keep in mind that there are other methods that are much softer on a mama’s heart.

"It comes as a surprise to many parents that healthy sleep habits do not develop automatically. In fact, parents can and do help or hinder the development of healthy sleep habits."



Dr. Weissbluth on How Children Sleep

“Healthy sleep appears to come so easily and naturally to newborn babies. Effortlessly, they fall asleep and stay asleep. Their sleep patterns, however, shift and evolve as the brain matures during the first few weeks and months. Such changes may result in “day/night confusion”- long sleep periods during the day and long wakeful periods at night. This is bothersome, but it is only a problem of timing. The young infant still does not have any difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. After several weeks of age, though, parents can shape natural sleep rhythms and patterns into sleep habits. 

It comes as a surprise to many parents that healthy sleep habits do not develop automatically. In fact, parents can and do help or hinder the development of healthy sleep habits. Of course, children will spontaneously fall asleep when totally exhausted- “crashing” is a biological necessity! But this is unhealthy, because extreme fatigue (often identified by “wired” behavior immediately preceding the crash) interferes with normal social interactions and even learning.” 

3. Other Parents Don't Sleep Train Because it “goes against nature” 

Because studies have shown that long after a baby has exhausted itself crying to sleep, cortisol levels continue to remain high.

Because it’s normal for children up until 4–5 years of age to continue to wake at night, and seek comfort from another human being.

Because it’s just easier, to let the baby sleep when they need to, feed when they need to, and co-sleep for as long as they need to - easier [...] everyone all around gets more sleep, than trying to make the baby fit some sort of arbitrary, externally imposed schedule.

Because it goes against nature to sleep train. Following babies’ lead/cues they naturally develop a loose routine. It’s also Babies 101, that they awake often for the first 12–24 months. Their little bodies are going through so many physical and mental changes it messes with their sleep cycles. Sleep patterns change all the time. Are you just going to keep training every time a new pattern emerges?

I also absolutely do not agree with making a baby cry to sleep whether it’s controlled or for less than 5 mins.

Our Thoughts

Like before, we have to reiterate that the “extinction method” or “cry-it-out” method isn’t the only way to sleep train a baby. These natural “loose routines” are precisely what Dr. Weissbluth is talking about when he says “avoid the overtired state by trying to soothe your baby to sleep within one to two hours of wakefulness.” Definitely follow the schedule as set by your own baby’s drowsy signs.

When things change like you start to see new developments in your baby or they’re ill, or you have a special event, you’ll see some interruptions in your training. However, according to Dr. Weissbluth, those interruptions and changes should be minimally invasive to your sleep training if you’ve been consistent with sleep practices throughout your baby’s life thus far.

Dr. Weissbluth on "Natural vs Unnatural" 

In those societies where the mother holds the baby close all the time and her breasts are always available for nursing and soothing, there are still great differences among babies in terms of fussiness and crying. The mother compensates by increasing the amount of rhythmic, rocking motions or nursing. She may not even expect the baby to sleep alone, away from her body. As she grows up, a child might. Share the bed with. Her parents for a long time. This is not necessarily good or bad; it’s just different from the expectations of most middle-class Western families. 

So not. Only do babies sleep differently, but every. Society’s expectations condition parents’ feelings in different ways. Remember there are no universally “right” or “wrong” ways, or. “natural versus “unnatural” styles, of raising children. Less-developed societies are not necessarily more “natural and thus “healthier” in their child rearing practices. 

 Remember there are no universally “right” or “wrong” ways, or. “natural versus “unnatural” styles, of raising children. 


4. Because You Constantly Have to Re-do the Process

Because every time another set of teeth are coming up, or the baby gets sick, you have to go through the whole thing again. And again. After half a dozen attempts to set up some routine, I realized that I spend more time on it than if I just go with a flow.

Our Thoughts

Healthy Sleep may have a set definition according to our biology as babies, but the way to get there isn't one size fits all. If you as a mom notice that your baby is exceptional at keeping their own flow of sleep and doesn’t have a particularly hard time putting themselves to sleep, we see no reason why you should follow someone else’s rules. Sleep Training is about making rest, and healthy sleep easier, not harder long term. So if this is working for you, mom, we’re all for it. 

Dr. Weissbluth’s Take

Healthy sleep is “a collection or group of several related elements grouped together to form a “package.” All must be present to ensure good-quality or healthy sleep. The five elements of healthy sleep are: 

  • Sleep duration: night and day
  • Naps
  • Sleep consolidation (unfragmented, allowing for some arousals)
  • Sleep Schedule, Timing of Sleep
  • Sleep regularity: Naps, and bedtimes occurring at approximately the same times.

At the end of the day, Sleep Training (or not) is one of the many decisions parents have to make in their children’s lives.  Whether it's right for you isn't for us to say, it is a highly personal one and one you should make taking into account your child, their needs, their circumstances, and (if present) their medical conditions. 

What we want, is for parents to make the decision knowing full well that Sleep Training isn't making your baby cry alone until they're exhausted. It isn't meant to stress your baby out for no reason, and there are certainly a variety of less emotionally painful ways (for mom and dad) to do it. 

 So, whether you decide to sleep train or not, we wish you the healthiest sleep and the happiest baby. 

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Cubo Ai
Smart Baby Monitor, bird, techie, baby guru, and sleep-safety enthusiast. Cubo has a keen eye for detail, loves baby photography, and never sleeps on the job. You can find Cubo in thousands of nurseries around the world and here on the blog helping parents learn more about the topics they care about.
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