Sleep Training a 2-Month-Old Sounds Awful -- but This Doctor Recommends It

crying baby

Getting a new baby to sleep through the night is pretty much the Holy Grail of parenting, and it's a quest that can take months or even years to complete! So it's no wonder that exhausted moms and dads are willing to try just about anything for a few hours of consecutive shut-eye -- but sleep training at two months of age

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New York and Los Angeles–based practice Tribeca Pediatrics is raising eyebrows with its rather extreme recommendations to start sleep training at two months of age, and it's no surprise that people are, well, surprised. Sleep training at any age is somewhat controversial: As you're no doubt aware, the practice (also known as Ferberizing) involves letting a baby "cry it out" at night instead of picking her up to soothe and/or feed her when she fusses.

Advocates of sleep training say it helps to teach babies the all-important skill of "self-soothing" and claim that it's completely harmless; detractors say that ignoring a baby's cries is a form of neglect which can lead to increased cortisol levels and actual physical (as well as mental) trauma. But generally, even pro–sleep training types have agreed that parents shouldn't attempt the "cry it out" technique until babies are four to six months of age.

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At two months -- eight weeks! -- old, many babies are still being fed on-demand (particularly if they're breastfeeding). Some doctors say they're physically not even capable of sleeping for more than a few hours at a time. Are these incredibly tiny and vulnerable creatures really ready to tough it out on their own for an entire night?

According to Michel Cohen, MD, founder of Tribeca Pediatrics, sleep training "actually works better at two months than at four months. It is tougher when the baby is used to more soothing," as he told the Wall Street Journal.

And sure, yeah, I believe that's probably true. But at what cost? Even if sleep training is considered medically safe (though not by everybody), what kind of damage does it do to babies emotionally?

I want to make it clear that I'm in no way judging parents who do choose to sleep train their babies -- new parent exhaustion is unbelievably difficult to deal with, and we've all been at the point where we feel like we would literally do anything for a decent night's sleep. Plus, it's easy for new parents to be convinced that one way or another of doing something is the best way for their kid (especially if highly qualified docs are the ones doing the convincing). But personally, I just didn't have the stomach to sleep train any of my three kids.

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They were so tiny, and helpless, and completely new to this big and scary world ... how could I leave them to cry alone in the middle of the night, not knowing if anybody was ever going to come to their aid? The very thought of it made me ill. Every family is different, but I knew in my heart that my babies needed to be reassured. They needed to know that they have parents who love them and will always be there for them, no matter what. And I have an extremely hard time understanding how anyone could believe that responding to an infant's cries will "spoil" him. How is making sure that the basic physical needs of a weeks-old baby are met the same thing as "spoiling" a child?

I will admit here that it took a long, long time for my two older children to sleep through the night, and my little one is still waking up periodically. So, who knows, maybe the joke's on me. But I know myself as a parent, and I know that I would lose more sleep over the fact that I was letting my baby cry alone than I would over actually getting up to feed or cuddle my baby, so in the end, my decision to not sleep train was as much a practical one as an emotional one.

I just hope that parents of a similar mindset don't feel bullied by their pediatricians to sleep train because it's supposedly the "best thing" for their baby. We all have to do what truly, truly feels right for us and our children -- and I can't believe that sleep training at two months feels right for everybody!

 


Image via iStock.com/FamVeld

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