If you’ve been hanging around long enough, you’ll know that while I definitely talk about sleep a lot (my business did start out with sleep, after all!), I talk about boatloads of other things also.
And you’ll know that I rarely talk about sleep training.
Somehow, though, people who’ve heard a vague idea of what I do tend to refer to me as (or ask me if I am) a sleep trainer.
Now, aside for the fact that I hate the term “sleep training” in general (especially since most people think of it as this big, bad scary boot camp with lots and lots of crying), sleep training is just one, very narrow, slice of the whole big beautiful pie called Motherhood.
And no, I’m not a sleep trainer.
Sleep training sounds pretty simple, right? Train your baby to sleep -- come on, how rough can that be? Especially for all those who make it sound like it’ll be 3 nights and then ::wipes hands:: done. Home free. Never have to think about your kid’s sleep again.
If you’ve had that kind of experience, well… You should know your kid is an anomaly.
For most kids, regardless of age, stage or behavioral skill they’re learning (yes, mastering independent sleep is a skill), it’s never a one-and-done. There will always be ups and downs, regressions and tough spots, and that’ll mean that it’s not a one-time thing.
So here’s what sleep training does: sleep training (done properly) guides your child in building self-soothing skills to learn to fall asleep on their own in replacement of a prop.
That’s all it does -- takes away props.
But, if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll know that prop-free sleep is just one of the very many factors necessary for your child to sleep well.
So taking away a prop may mean your baby’s sleeping through the night - or may not. It may mean that he falls asleep easily - or may not. It may mean that you and he get the sleep that you need - or it may not.
Your sleep, sanity and self-confidence during the early years of your children’s life is so much more than just “sleep training”, because your child, and her nighttime, doesn’t exist in a bubble.
Your child - whether a newborn, an infant, a toddler or a preschooler (or beyond) - is part of a family.
And her bedtime or nighttime happens within the larger scheme of the day.
That means that, as a toddler or preschooler, her behavior during bedtime will be a spill-over of her behavior during the day.
That means that the time that you go to sleep is going to affect what happens if she wakes at night.
That means that your baby’s naps, or her kvetchiness levels when she’s up, are going to affect the attention you’re able to give your other children - and that means that your other children’s behavior is also going to affect your ability to enable her to get the sleep she needs.
Sleep training only looks at what the child is or isn’t doing -- but it’s missing a very large and very important piece of the puzzle: you.
And in order for anything we do in parenting to be successful long-term, we need to be very very aware of ourselves.
We need to be aware of our needs and limitations.
We need to be aware of our goals, ideals and priorities.
We need to be aware of who we are, what our strengths are, how we operate -- and what we want motherhood to look like for ourselves and our families.
This may be something you take a logical look at (if that’s your strength), or something we tap into in our gut (if that’s what speaks to you), but if it’s going to be successful and something you build into your family long-term, it has to go far beyond sleep training.
Motherhood is not about sleep training. It’s no more about sleep training than it is about toilet training or breastfeeding or weaning or buying clothes for your kids. Sure, those are some of the things you may (or may not) end up doing, but that’s not what it’s about.
Motherhood is about building yourself as a human being, and about doing the best you can with what you have for the little (and then not-so-little) human beings that Hashem has entrusted in your care.
Motherhood is not about the goal, it’s never a one-and-done.
It’s a journey.
Of learning about yourself and your kids, of acceptance and growth, of pushing and learning when not to push.
It’s a beautiful journey, and one that I love doing together with my clients. Check out some of their stories HERE.
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