The way we think about sleep training needs a reboot.
Why? Because the main method (some version of crying it out) doesn't work for a lot of parents.
Many parents do not want to use CIO ("extinction" in the research). Many have tried it and it didn't work or there was significantly more crying over many more nights than they were told. These parents deserve options in sleep training.
This is especially true for parents of alert, sensitive, persistent, "on" little ones.
Sleep books virtually never take temperament into account. As a result, parents try to use techniques that work great for mellower children and blame themselves when it doesn't work. Spirited children tend to have more trouble with sleep, fight it harder, and cry longer. I know. I've been there.
The sad part is that advice makes parents feel totally responsible for sleep problems.
Most sleep researchers and experts consider sleep as a purely behavioral event that involves removing “reinforcement” from some unwanted behavior. Because they only consider behavior, if the baby doesn't sleep, it's because the parents have done it wrong. I talk to parents all the time who say, “I know I’ve really screwed this all up.” The struggle with sleep is then compounded by the feeling that, as a parent, you don't know what you're doing.
Sleep is about so much more than just behavior.
There has to be a better way to think about sleep.
I've been researching and writing about sleep training research and advice for 20 years. I started on this journey after my own experience with two amazing, sensitive/intense young children who did not sleep (ever).
I have examined the research that underpins the sleep advice that parents are getting. This research has significant gaps when it comes to real-world practice. Further, advice is not always consistent with this research. No sleep training approach works for ALL children or ALL families.
As a certified pediatric sleep consultant specializing in working with sensitive/intense non-sleeping children and their very tired parents, I know that parents are struggling to implement strategies that just don't work for them (and they feel awful in the process). I also know that there are options.
I have a B.S. in Human Biology from Stanford and a Master's degree in applied psychology (with an emphasis in Infant Mental Health) from Antioch University Seattle where I'm currently a senior lecturer in the Counseling Psychology Dept.
Download CV here.