Is Sleep Training Necessary? An Expert Weighs In


One unfortunate thing you quickly learn as a parent is that babies don’t come with an operating manual. (OK, maybe you knew this before, but were holding out hope.) There are many conflicting parenting decisions out there, and because every baby and every family dynamic is different, some work and some don’t. One of those methods? Sleep training. If you have been on the fence about how to put your baby to bed, you may want to know, is sleep training necessary?

Romper reached out to certified sleep consultant Christine Stevens, who says the decision to sleep train is completely up to parents. "Parents shouldn't feel pressured to change their sleep situation if they're happy with the way things are." She says if you're getting plenty of sleep (adults need between seven to nine hours per night) and your child is getting the right amount of age-appropriate sleep (usually 13 to 16 hours up to age 2), you should stick with it.

When deciding if you should sleep train, Stevens says you should ask yourself some questions. First, ask yourself if your current sleeping situation is not working and why. Next, figure out what you want your child's sleep to look like. And last, you should determine what you are willing to invest in order for your child to sleep better.

"If you are happy with your current sleep situation," suggests Stevens, "then there's no need to sleep train your child." For instance, if you're happy to rock your toddler to sleep at bedtime and every time they wake up in the middle of the night, then that is OK, and if you are happy with your baby always falling asleep to a Celine Dion CD, that's OK, too. But if your current sleeping situation isn't working and it's causing you to be exhausted, unfocused, depressed, frustrated with your spouse, your job, or even your family, then Stevens suggests it's time to make a change.

"Sleep is a huge component of your health and there are lots of issues that come with not getting enough of it." She recommends venturing into the world of sleep training by first researching the method that fits your parenting style. Luckily, there are lots of options to help, from books to online plans to custom plans from sleep consultants. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages, Stevens adds, as well as the amount of support and guidance you receive. Once you've found the plan that works best for you and your family, you have to commit to seeing it through. "Children love consistency and routine, so whatever method you choose, stick with it," she says.

So depending on your situation, you as a parent need to decide whether or not you should sleep train your baby. What works for some may not work for you, because there is no one-size-fits-all style to parenting. The only thing that consistently works for everyone is happy parents and a happy baby. You just have to decide how to make those happen.