Common etiquette says not to talk about politics, sex, religion, or money. I recently joked that sleep training ought to be added to that taboo list. We have all heard that jokes contain a grain of truth and in this case that would be completely accurate. The term “sleep training” often elicits a myriad of questions, comments and judgments steeped heavily in the controversy around one method in particular…Cry It Out, or CIO. If there were a subject more inflammatory than “sleep training” it is the specific method of “cry it out” that can take the most pleasant dinner party conversation and turn it into a knock down drag out debate with your parenting peers. The problem with CIO as a subject is that it has various interpretations. In sleep consulting we study everything from extinction methods of cry it out to gentle controlled crying to no cry solutions…and everything in between. It makes sense that it is controversial! No one ever wants to hear a baby cry and it is, at best, insanely unpleasant. It is pretty easy to find yourself on the anti-CIO side of the argument. However, exhausted parents worldwide often find themselves on the opposite side of that argument after 6 months (or more) of sleep deprivation and enduring a fair amount of grief. In the end there is an extraordinary amount of science on the subject and it is my job as a sleep consultant to be responsible and balanced with that science.
Truthfully, I do not like the term “sleep training”. I prefer to use “sleep coaching” because “training” feels like a strong word. My work is to demystify and educate parents about their child’s schedule, sleep needs and patterns, not to train anyone. Every sleep plan is bespoke and considers the temperament of the child and the parental comfort zone. So, when I am asked whether or not I “believe in cry it out” or other such versions of the question, it feels similar to being asked whether I am a Republican or a Democrat. What I personally believe is not really relevant but as a sleep consultant I believe that every child (and family) deserves to close their eyes, let go into sleep and have the opportunity for their minds and bodies to grow, process and repair. How a parent teaches their child to do so is very personal and like all personal decisions it ought not be up for debate.