The truth about baby sleep

Baby. Sleeping baby. Dummy. 3 months.
Baby. Sleeping baby. Dummy. 3 months. Photo: Kylie Pickett

Baby sleep methods are always a controversial topic. Pinky McKay recently raged against parents she called 'tamers', in contrast to the 'cuddlers'. 

I was recently interviewed on Today Tonight about this, and here’s the thing. We all want our babies to sleep… because when they sleep so do we. That’s why many of us scramble for ways to settle and encourage our babies to ‘sleep like a baby’. 

But there are differing opinions on the best way to tackle baby sleep. You can broadly divide the approaches into attachment parenting styles and teach to sleep methods.

In general, although there are variations, attachment parenting involves holding your baby, sleeping with your baby, and wearing your baby. 

Teach to sleep methods involve, to varying degrees, leaving your baby to cry so they can self-soothe. (Just so we’re clear, when I talk about teach to sleep, I’m not talking about leaving your baby to cry for hours and hours.)

I don’t condone one particular parenting style or approach. I don't advocate an attachment parenting style or particular teach to sleep approaches.

Both methods can work for parents and babies. But both methods may not work for you. And here’s why…

If attachment parenting doesn't fit with your values, it will be very difficult to do everything that’s involved in parenting this way. Holding your baby, sleeping with your baby, and wearing your baby won’t work for everyone.

Similarly, if teach to sleep methods don't fit with your values, it won't work either. If you find it difficult to leave your baby to cry for even a minute, it will be difficult to follow through.

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The truth about baby sleep is that there is no silver bullet. No particular approach can guarantee success. Raising kids is not a science. There is trial and error, learning about your baby, and learning about yourself.

I believe it is up to each family to create an approach that is going to work for them. Then you will feel comfortable and confident picking your baby up whenever she cries or trying some gentle teach to sleep routines once she’s over 6 months of age.

I know the topic of baby sleep can be very emotional for lots of people. But I think the vast majority of parents are trying to manage what is a very difficult and demanding time.

We all need to find our own way, and there is room for diversity. We don’t have to all follow one approach. Instead, we can treat ourselves, our babies and each other (even those who choose a different approach) with compassion and kindness.

Then we are all more likely to get a bit more sleep or, at least, manage our sleep deprivation better.

Jodie Benveniste is a psychologist, parenting author and the director of parentwellbeing.com. Jodie helps parents look after themselves and love family life!