Parenting Styles and Sleep Training
We are all different. It is meant to be that way. In my profession, I see a lot of different parenting styles. There are great aspects to all of them, just like there are pitfalls too. The thing about parenting is, that there is no ‘right’ way. What works for me, might not work for you. You are different to me, and your children are different to mine. I have collected my ideas about parenting from different people and places to you too. And all of these factors join together to make us the kind of parent we are, and when we get it right, it’s like a symphony!
I’m an attachment parent, why I am, and what that means to me:
The kind of parenting that works for me is called Attachment Parenting. Attachment Parenting is based around guiding your children in a gentle way, and being very respectful to their needs, understandings and feelings. This has come very naturally to me, because I have worked with children for all of my adult life, so I found it second nature to read my children’s cues and respond to them. It also works very well for me because I have quite relaxed children! For me, this style of parenting also helps me to care for my own emotional health, because I’m a natural worrier, and if I am gentle with my children, it helps me to have less mum guilt!
Attachment Parents come in varying degrees, just like anything, people take the information that works for them, and discard what doesn’t. Some Attachment Parents follow Sears’ advice to the letter, and other Attachment Parents are more relaxed about their philosophy, but generally attachment parents believe in mothering through breastfeeding (although we know this is not always possible), baby wearing, co-sleeping or room sharing, normalising night waking, gentle sleep training (most actually would prefer to call it sleep teaching, and some are even very against that!) gentle discipline methods and minimizing separation from your baby.
For me, I take a middle road – with most things in life actually. I breastfeed my daughter, but I couldn’t breastfeed my son. I babywear, but not all day – my daughter is happy to play on her own too. My daughter co-slept with us until recently, and she is now in her own cot. I used gentle sleep training techniques to teach her to sleep on her own, and she now sleeps through the night. I use gentle discipline methods always, and my children respond very well. I do work and have time away from my baby (it is a necessity for my family), but I have made sure she has very high quality care when I can’t be with her.
It’s okay to parent how you want to:
In saying that, I have worked with hundreds of different parents over the years, and I can say with confidence that it is perfectly right for you to choose the way that works for you, and your child will be happy and healthy for it. The one thing that I have learnt is that we all love our children equally, and it is that love and the time we spend with our children that makes the difference in the long run.
Why I think it’s important to support your choices:
As a Sleep Consultant, I’m not here to judge you. As long as your children are healthy and happy, you are doing the right thing by them. I know that there are many factors that you will consider before making your decision about how you teach your children to sleep, and only you will be able to come up with the right answer. My role is to make sure you have all of the pieces of the puzzle in place so that you will reach your sleep goals. This is especially important for cry-based sleep training – if you are going to leave them alone, you definitely need to make sure they are 100% safe, and have had all of their needs met.
Even I would choose cry based techniques if I found myself in certain circumstances:
Personally, I would choose gentle sleep training methods, but if I found myself in certain circumstances, even I know that gentle sleep training wouldn’t be my first choice. An example of this would be if I suffered very badly from Postnatal Depression. The relationship between my child and I would be suffering considerably from this. I know that I would need sleep to get better, and I would need to get better to re-build the relationship with my child. I would want to be starting to re-build that relationship as soon as possible, so I would choose a cry-based technique, because they generally will work within a few days, versus several weeks for gentle techniques.
So next time you are talking to somebody about how they choose to parent – or how they choose to teach their children to go to sleep. Remember that you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. They have probably agonised over making decisions about how they raise their children, and they have done the best that they can with what they’ve got. They love their children, just like you do.
Aimee – Sydney based certified infant and child sleep consultant