Sleep Training for Attachment Parents

Written by:

Maia James

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The following is an adaptation of an article that I recently wrote for Five Seasons Healing Acupuncture

Why is it that pediatricians advise parents to sleep train their babies when they are 12 weeks old? Probably because it wouldn’t work before that—the baby wouldn’t learn to “self soothe” and the screaming process would repeat every night. Until they are around three months old, babies have no capacity for long-term memory and therefore cannot appreciate repetitive behaviors, much less daily routines.

Of course, if you’re a follower of Dr. William Sears, you won’t ever contemplate sleep training your baby. Like any good attachment parent, you’ll be happily tandem breastfeeding a five-year-old as well as a newborn all night on a king-sized futon.

Lazy Moms Love Attachment Parenting!

I practice attachment parenting because it caters to my intuitive understanding of what’s the most natural developmental experience, for both Felix and me. But frankly, it also caters to my laziness – it was easier to nurse on demand than to mix up bottles of formula or drag out the breast pump. It also was easier to allow Felix to sleep in our bed, where I could roll over and nurse every couple of hours instead of stumbling down to a nursery four or five times each night.

The Problem with Co-Sleeping

Because babies do begin to recognize routines at the three-month mark, the ones that form at this stage can be difficult to break. Any parent who has allowed their baby to join them in bed will attest to this, probably with a grim countenance of weariness and doubt.

Of course, it’s not sharing a bed with your baby that’s the problem. More likely, it’s the all-night nursing party that turns otherwise sane women into simpering, irritable, intolerant shrews. In prehistoric times, women who nursed their children all night were likely able to nap during the day while family helped with childcare. The gutting twist of our “gender equality” is that modern moms are expected to go work each morning in a nap-free office or (arguably even harder) hang solo with the baby all day.

The Problem with Sleep Training

Theoretically, I’m against sleep training; intuitively, I know there’s no benefit to a baby being left alone in a room to scream himself to sleep. Studies both confirm and refute this hunch, but I don’t need proof to convince me that Felix is better off not being forced to cry it out. Given the demand of modern motherhood, however, many of us could probably benefit from…let’s call them sleep “exercises.”

Co-Sleeping Soundly

When you look at the current popular theories on sleep training (Weissbluth, Ferber, Sears, Pantley) they seem to be either unduly complex or totally oversimplified.

What worked for us was Dr. Jay Gordon’s method, (I have blogged about this before), which essentially consists of night weaning while continuing to co-sleep. What’s so incredible is that once a child learns he will not be able to nurse in the middle of the night, he just stops waking up! I am addicted to Felix’s snuggles, and am now in no rush to get him out of our bed.

The crushing fatigue I suffered during Felix’s first couple of years is less unbearable in memory than it was in reality. Still, I plan to employ Dr. Gordon’s methods a little earlier with any future kid my husband and I have. This is assuming, of course, that Felix ever moves to his own bed and gives us a chance to conceive another child.

Stay sane,

Maia, Founder & CEO

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Leave a Reply

  1. Sue Avatar

    I’ve read a lot about sleeping training. My daughter is 1.3 years but no one method really work for us. I try one, two days and gave up as she crying heavily and I can not stand. Maybe I’m not really ready for this or she… But I want to sleep all night without interruptions. Dr. Jay Gordon’s method is nice but I’m not sure we can do it.

    My daughter sleep in her own bed till 3 am, then I take her in my bed. She can wake up every hour or two in her bed to nurse. I even think that may be the problem is in the mattress after reading this article:

    although it seemed to me that we chose a sufficiently high quality one. Or it’s just a habbit to nurse at night?

  2. Paula H. Avatar
    Paula H.

    I just realized I have been misspelling your name all the time! I am so sorry Maia!!!

  3. Paula H. Avatar
    Paula H.

    Hi Mia, have to read in more about the Gordon’s method, it is subject close to home. I do breastfeed and we co-sleep with our baby, but what really struck me reading this post was “lazy moms loves attachment parenting”. Can’t talk for others but I personally feel offended. Yea yea I know touchy feely, and yea maybe my luck of sleep have something to do with it, but I know one thing that there is nothing lazy about attachment parenting, and yes I do love it. Wouldn’t want it any other way. Haven’t read any sleeping methods yet because it always just felt the most natural. At this point though I am getting curious how and when I will see my baby (now 18 months) sleep on her own. Will continue reading Your blog. Thanks!

    1. Maia James Avatar
      Maia James

      Hi! I am so sorry that this was offensive, Paula! It was meant as a self-depricating jab because I am a bit lazy. But you’re 100% right–the true attachment parents I know are FAR from lazy! In fact, they are by far the most self-sacrificing, motivated, invested parents I know, who thoughtfully research each decision they make. Again, please accept my apologies!

      1. Paula H. Avatar
        Paula H.

        Thank you Mia! I guess I just didn’t get that or didn’t feel like depreciating myself haha.
        Can’t wait for the new blog!

  4. Childcare centre in Singapore Avatar

    Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you
    if that would be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.