The best way to start a sure-fire blood-filled war on a Facebook mom’s group is to start asking about sleep training your little one (LO). There are some groups that are for Cry-It-Out (CIO) and other groups completely against CIO. There are groups that are for Wait-It-Out (WIO) and still others that are somewhere in between CIO and WIO. OH THE OPTIONS ARE ENDLESS!

So what is a momma to do with all this information coming her way? And where can she really turn to if she gets attacked from another mother coming from a different viewpoint than hers?

There are two points I want to make in this blog. First, do your research mommas! DO YOUR RESEARCH! Second, remember the big picture! There will always, always be a bigger picture.

OK – let’s talk about the second point first, something more than doing your research. Mommas, let’s talk about the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is the family, neighborhood, community, society in which you find yourself parenting in. It is the house you are functioning in, the job you are traveling to, and the neighborhood you park your car and/or stroller. The external forces are here at play far more than you can imagine. And I have no idea why we don’t talk more about these things when it comes to sleep training. All of the finger pointing, guilt, shame, praise is put towards the mother in these sleep training discussions. These mothers are doing whatever it is they are doing within the systems they live in.

I’m going to say something outrageous here now, mothers matter. That’s right. MOTHERS MATTER. Mother’s physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, occupational health matter too. There are research articles that go over the emotional effects of sleep training a baby, but there are articles, too, that demonstrate how harmful it is to go without sleep as an adult. The bigger picture allows us to weigh the costs and benefits of whatever decision you make.  At the end of the day, if a mother’s well-being is being sacrificed, she must make decisions so that she can again be healthy and present for her children. If that includes sleep training, then that includes sleep training. The discussion should end there. It doesn’t.

Here is the last thing I will say on that. I wish instead of discussions then being turned to point the finger at the momma, I wish we could then talk about how we change the situation. If a mom is so strung out and exhausted and has decided to sleep train, why haven’t we begun to talk about what sort of resources we should have available to help said strung out and exhausted mom? If people are so against sleep training, WHERE ARE THE OTHER ALTERNATIVES? I have not and most likely will not sleep train my daughter, so no, I am not advocating for sleep training here. I am advocating for a shift in thinking and a shift in discussion. If we can start talking about these alternatives, we have a potential for change that will actually increase mother’s well-being.

Alternatives could include the following:

  1. Finding ways to increase rest and sleep for mom – either during the week at work or at home and on the weekends
  2. Having places of rest at gyms that also have daycare centers – there are gyms that you can leave your children at while you work out, but there should be places to rest too!
  3. Increased information on health for postpartum moms because getting enough (warm!) water and healthy foods can make an impact
  4. Support groups at work and in neighborhoods for both working moms and stay at home moms to discuss their frustration and exhaustion and receive support from other parents
  5. Increased postpartum services or education around postpartum services so mothers know where to find help when they need it

Now, let’s talk about doing your research. Sure, ask on Facebook, if you are feeling lucky. But, maybe, it would be wise to research some of this on your own. Where are you going to research sleep training? I am guessing you will do all of your research online. That’s what I did. Is it the best way to do it? Not entirely, but (!), you can make use of online research by being critical of the information presented.

To be critical of what you read online, you can look for a few things in a blog or research article. If you are looking at a blog, you will either be reading people’s opinions or reading about different research articles that are cited. If you are reading someone’s opinion, remember, it is someone’s opinion and doesn’t stand on solid footing. When reading research, you will want to track down the actual research articles, if you can, and if you can’t, look at the information presented to see if the research is on solid foundation.

Some key things to look for when reading research (whether a research article or a blog mentioning research):

  1. What is the research question? What is the logic? Are they looking at long term effects? Short term effects? What is article trying to prove? Are there errors in the logic?
    1. This question is important because it is important to understand the underlying theme of what you are reading. For example, yes, if you do CIO, your child will learn to fall asleep on their own. However, most articles that are showing this finding will not address long term effects, if there are any. Nor will the article address other effects. For example, babies that learn to fall asleep on their own may still wake up during the night. At that point could you still do CIO? Yes. What are the effects of that? Understand the question they are addressing and what limitations there may be.
  2. Sample size! Check the sample size to make sure whatever you are reading is significant. The general rule would be the bigger the same size and the more diverse the sample size, the better. Remember every single child has their own personality that won’t fit into any one mold, so reading articles with large sample sizes that are very diverse, will give you better information to go off of.
  3. There are. So. Many. Variables. It is impossible to control for all the variables that will exist in any sleep study. Be aware of this fact!
    1. Important to note! HIGH NEEDS BABIES. Babies that can be described at intense, hyperactive, feeds frequently, draining, demanding, unsatisfied, unpredictable, super-sensitive, can’t-be-put-down, or not-a-self-soother may be a HIGH NEEDS BABY. High needs babies DO NOT respond well to almost any CIO methods.
    2. Personality of baby – like I said above, every single child has their own personality that won’t fit into any one mold, so chances are; you are going to use a combination of other methods that works for you.
  4. Conclusions! Do the conclusions make sense? Are the conclusions only focused on what the writer wanted to find? Are the limitations of the study mentioned?

There are other ways to see if research is valid such as criteria, data analysis, and ethics. However, keeping the four items I listed above in the back of your mind should be helpful. To be honest though, if you only questioned the validity of something you were reading online, you’d be doing something!