We know sleep training, and even Cry It Out, does not harm the attachment between caregiver and child. We also know that it is likely that sleep training and CIO may benefit that attachment. The necessary step in order for the attachment to grow in this process is the repair. Repair means that you are reconnecting with the baby and helping him to soothe any leftover emotions that he was not able to do himself . If this all sounds foreign to you, check out THIS POST to get caught up!
The other necessary ingredient for secure attachment with your children is to be responsive to their needs. This means that when they are in distress you respond. It grows to mean that when they are in distress they know you will respond. In essence, trusting that you are there for them. I’d like to share four ways you can nurture both parts of attachment while you are sleep training your baby or child .
Be Responsive to Your Infant
Being responsive to your infant (0-4 months) is the first necessary step to building a secure attachment. This comes naturally to us. When your newborn cries you go to him, pick him up, feed him, burp him, change him, swaddle him, etc. Infants can be hard, and despite our best efforts, they can cry for hours. Remember, that even a newborn left to cry alone is better than a shaken newborn. Take care of yourself too. Get support from family, friends, your community, neighbors, and church. The more you reach out to others for help and take care of yourself the better you will be able to respond to your newborn and, therefore, strengthen your attachment.
Talk Openly About Sleep
Once you are ready to begin some sleep training, whether the most gentle method or CIO, you will want to have conversations with your baby telling him what you are going to do. Explain to him what will happen, why it is important, how he can help, and how it will end. One way to communicate with your baby is to establish clear routines so that he can know when it is time to sleep. These routines can begin within the first few weeks of life, but some choose to wait to establish clear routines until they get close to beginning sleep training.
Celebrate Any Successes
Any time our babies learn something new, from rolling over to walking we celebrate with them. Sleep training is no different. Whether you are gently helping your four-month-old lay down drowsy to fall asleep on his own, or practicing CIO with your eight-month-old, you will celebrate any time they fall asleep on their own. They did it! When they wake up greet them with a big smile, and verbally tell them how proud you are of them and the new skill they are learning. I still remember the first time my oldest son fell asleep all on his own. It was actually on accident, but I was so proud of him regardless! I got him all ready for bed and then realized I needed to go the bathroom before I began to rock him to sleep. I laid him down, and when I came back he was already asleep. No crying and no fussing! And we celebrated, after he woke up of course.
Be Extra Attentive During Wakeful Hours
When you are sleep training, be it gently or with CIO, your baby is left alone to self-soothe and fall asleep. Sometimes this takes place with crying and sometimes without. Oftentimes this means your baby will be overtired for the first few days of sleep training and, therefore, extra clingy. Be prepared for this and plan to be extra attentive to your little one during his wakeful hours. Leave your calendar open and take some extra time to snuggle, read books, play together, go on a walk, etc. Just enjoy each other!
Remember that a healthy attachment is not formed from perfect situations. Instead they are formed by building a trust that you can rely on the other person and that when stress does come they will be there for the long term to comfort and support. Isn’t that beautiful! There is no need to be perfect to have a perfect attachment. Which is good for us, because perfect and life don’t really go together all that well.
Now that you know how to move forward with sleep training while strengthening your attachment don't wait another day to get the sleep both you and your little dreamer need! Check out my Sleep Guides to start sleeping great now! They include best practices to improve your attachment while sleep training!
Douglas PS, Hill PS. Behavioral sleep interventions in the first six months of life do not improve outcomes for mothers or infants: a systematic review. pubmed. 2013 Sep [accessed 2017 Apr 19]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24042081