I didn't really set out to be a co-sleeping parent. In fact, I wasn't a co-sleeping parent for my first child at all. No, in the end sleep training went so horribly the first time around I think it kind of scared my partner and I away from ever trying it again. That said, I know there are a lot of things co-sleeping parents can learn from sleep training parents.
I'm not one of those parents who is steadfast and unwavering in my commitment to any one particular parenting style. If my kids are nice, compassionate, and healthy, I'd say whatever I'm doing is working just fine. That said, after our first sleep training nightmare the one thing I was die hard committed to was never sleep training again. I stayed true to that commitment, and have yet to ever try sleep training ever again. I don't even care if that means I don't get any sleep for the next 18 years, and you guys: I love sleep.
But sleep training is prolific enough among my parent-friends who I greatly admire and respect. So I thought I'd breathe through the remainder of my trauma surrounding sleep training, hunker down, and really contemplate what sleep training parents can teach me. The not-so-surprising part is that despite my strong opposition to sleep training, I still learned a damn lot from sleep training parents. For all you co-sleeping parents out there, here are the top 10 things we can learn from sleep training parents:
That Your Baby Is Tougher Than You Think
I was pretty devastated when I read that I had damaged my first child by attempting to sleep train. The sleep training parents I know, however, are damn amazing and absolutely not damaging their kids in any way, shape, or form. In fact, a recent study out of Flinders University in Australia found that the "cry it out" method is not harmful to children, nor does it cause children to develop emotional, behavioral, or parental attachment problems or cause any long-term damage.
I know babies are fragile, but as long as you love them and do what you think, know, and research shows is best for them, your baby will likely be totally OK.
That Independence Doesn't Mean Ambivalence
Sleep training parents swear by the independence it helps create in their children. For a long time that shocked me. I don't want my baby to think they have to be independent at such a young age! I want them to know that mama will be there for them no matter what.
When witnessing my sleep training friend's 20-month-old child, however, it's apparent that she still absolutely knows mama is always there for her. She is not damaged, traumatized, or at all ambivalent toward her mother. Independence does not equal ambivalence.
Sex Is Better When Your Baby Is In The Other Room
Do I really have to explain this one? Duh.
You're Going To Wish You Sleep Trained
When your 5 year old and your 7 year old are constantly crawling into your bed, still, you might look back on your decision to co-sleep and be less-than-thrilled.
It is a conundrum, to be sure, and I'm not willing to sleep train my 15 month old to avoid the repetition of this cycle. But there are moments, especially after the fifth night in a row of having a 7 year old's elbow in my spleen, where I wish I'd had the gut strength to sleep train.
Being Alone In Your Bed Feels Good
There's nothing like it, in fact. There's nothing like the sleep I get when my baby is not in bed with me, either, as evidenced by the comatose state I inhabit when my partner sometimes takes the baby in the morning and I sleep for two more hours.
Being Able To Go Out For The Night Is Awesome
It's been a while for me now. In fact, I've never spent the night away from my 15 month old. I'm not sure my little one knows how to get to sleep without me or my partner. But when you have that freedom, as sleep training parents usually do, it must feel damn amazing to have a guilt-free night out not worrying about how your children are (or aren't, as the case may be) sleeping.
When You Don't Have To Worry
Not having to worry a bout what time you'll get home because your baby will fall asleep without you? Priceless.
Netflix Binges Are Healthy
Not only are Netflix marathons healthy, but they can't happen as much or as reliably when you have to go to bed at 7 o'clock with your infant.
Traveling Is Easier
Sure, you never know what type of crib the hotel will have, but at least you know the pack n play will suffice. Whereas us co-sleeping parents? We could be looking at a last minute how-to-prevent-baby-from-falling-out-of-this-tiny-full-sized-bed crisis.
That It's More About The Parent Than The Kid
Whether you choose to co-sleep, sleep train, or your baby is one of those fabled few that sleep perfectly without assistance from the start, what my sleep training friends have taught me is that it's likely more about me than my baby. Any sleep method is, isn't it? I totally didn't have the stomach for sleep training and I still cringe when I think about the horror my partner and I went through when we tried it. But is my first baby really damaged by that attempt, almost eight years later? Probably not. Am I still OK with the fact that I don't have the stomach for sleep training? Absolutely. Co-sleeping or sleep training both appear to actually be fine for our babies. So just pick the style that works for you and your family and don't let other families, with different needs and styles, shame you on any count.
That Your Baby Will Be OK
Sure, babies are fragile and need their parents for so many thing, but the one thing sleep training parents can (and do) teach co-sleeping parents like me is that babies are also super hardy. Whether they thrive or not has literally nothing to do with whether we sleep train or co-sleep with them.