Handling Parental Advice About Sleep

Sarah Ong Sleep Shaping

I have been feeling somewhat uncomfortable with a certain support network recently, simply because some of them are judgmental, sarcastic and insensitive to mothers who really needed the unbiased support. The most recent incident was when these so-called supportive network started ranting and judging in a closed forum group, about parenting choices that other parents make with their children. I understand that there are many parenting choices that we as parents don’t see eye to eye with, but it does not give us the right to be disrespectful to the their choices.

Hence, I feel compelled to write this post as a support and assurance to parents, especially new ones, that whatever choice you make for your baby is the best one for YOUR family. Besides, you know your baby more than anybody else does.

In sleep training context, the debate about this topic will be endless. There are parents who swear that cry it out was the best decision that they ever made. Then there are other parents who just don’t understand why they would let their baby cry. The thing is, there are no two of the same baby. Each child is different, each parent has different tolerance to sleep deprivation. So sleep training methods are different for different families.

Just to illustrate further, let me share with you my story. I have experienced raising two daughters with very different personalities. Temperament of the child plays a huge role in how well they sleep. My oldest was an easy baby. I hardly encountered sleepless nights except for when she was a newborn had to be breastfed few times in the night and when she fell ill. I never thought of sleep training her because she did not cause us any sleep disruption. Looking back, I thought sleep training was absolutely unnecessary. I thought to myself then, “it’s just lesser sleep at night, I can do this” and to a certain extent, the slight sleep deprivation did not bother me at all.

Then came my second daughter. They said that the second would be easier because I had experience with the first child. Oh boy were they wrong. She was a very persistent little thing and she would not take no for an answer. It was bearable when she was younger than a year old, breastfeeding and co-sleeping just like I did with my first daughter. Then it went on to the second year and she wasn’t showing any signs of growing out of using me as her pacifier. I felt so very exhausted with the frequent waking. So THEN I decided okay, let’s see what all this sleep training is all about. And I committed myself to it. It was never easy to watch your baby fussing in protest because of the new change in the routine. But it had to be done for all of us to get better sleep. It wasn’t doing me or my baby any good if I had just let it be.

Sure, I was getting a lot of comments and advice about sleep like

“Oh I would NEVER let my child go through that” – okay sure.. remember.. never say never..

“Just hold out a little longer, she’ll grow out of it” – na-ah, it has been over a year.. no signs of things improving!

“Why don’t you let her skip her nap so that she’ll sleep better?” – no way! She’d be throwing MAJOR tantrums when she’s overtired.

“Maybe she needs a pacifier” – yeah coz I haven’t tried that for the past month. I am her pacifier, get it? Thanks.

“Her bedtime is so early? Why??” – because if she sleeps any later, she’d have even more night wakings..

The advice was endless and while a lot of it may work for others, (or it worked on my first daughter at least) it was not the case for my second daughter. Breastfeeding to sleep was not a great idea for the both of us. By the way, I am pro breastfeeding (I got certified as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor and support breastfeeding until the age of 2 if possible) I’m just not one who would go out of my way to educate and be very snooty about it to moms who chose to mix feed or formula feed. I protect breastfeeding the best I can and support moms who really want to be successful in their breastfeeding journey.

I have been receiving many emails from parents who are at their wits end with their situation. Some of them just cannot tolerate lack of sleep. It is just not built in them to withstand a little sleep deprivation. It’s not because they are LAZY or looking for a SHORTCUT. They are just desperate to ease the situation they are in. Only severely sleep deprived parents would understand this.

In summary, I’d just like to point out that if whatever you are doing for your child works for you and your family, no one has the right to tell you it is wrong. But if you find yourself in doubt, not confident and need help, please take the initiative and search for the answers. If you find that you can’t come to agreement with a certain group of friends because of your parental choices, I suggest moving on to a different group who are in the same boat as you and discuss openly about your choices without being judged. Your job is to provide the best sleeping environment and routine for your child to have restful sleep according to your child’s needs and not because others say so.

I would love to cuddle and sleep with my 2 year old daughter while she is still a “baby” but I know her temperament well enough that even when we travel, she MUST sleep in a baby cot. It’s just how it is with her and I am happy to accept that. I cuddle and share lots of hugs and kisses when she’s awake, happy and rested.

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