What Constitutes Sleep Training: TBSTP Position Statement

What constitutes Sleep Training?

It can be hard to know what is and isn’t Sleep Training at first, especially with so many sleep trainers having their marketing skills making it very tricky for a tired parent to distinguish techniques that have been cushioned and trussed up with words that sound so gentle and caring.

So, for the purposes of the project, we’d like to make it clear what we constitute as Sleep Training.

The following techniques are all types of sleep training that are outside the ethos of this group/project-

Basically, each of these techniques involve a parent deciding that their child needs to find sleep independently, in a solitary space.

They all promote ‘self settling/soothing’ and all focus on the child’s behaviour as problematic and in need of fixing.

Each one involves breaking communication between parent and child and limiting responsiveness.

IF you are able to place your baby down and they happily pop themselves off to sleep, roll with it!! But, please know that if this is achieved without training, this is a completely different kettle of fish and is simply where your baby is at. Please also know that it is perfectly normal and okay if that same baby then changes and needs more help and comfort to sleep throughout their first few years of life. Sarah Ockwell Smith has done a great job explaining why babies like this are often described as ‘self soothers’ but this isn’t actually the case.

The Self Soothing Babies who are not Actually Soothing Themselves at all

Does this mean we just have to Wait It Out to be a part of the project?

No, it does not. Many people will choose to Wait It Out, but that won’t be everyone.

In The Beyond Sleep Training Project, there will be windows in time throughout your child’s early years where you may wish to try different ways to help your child find sleep. This may involve them becoming a little more independent. This is a natural progression BUT there is no fine line between truly responsively parenting your child and sleep training.

Anytime you are trying something out and you draw a line in the sand between you and your child and decide that XYZ will happen, you are stepping into the sleep training realm. If your child is saying they need X but you are only willing to do Y and you continue to follow a process that you can see your child isn’t coping or ready with, you have entered into sleep training.

If you attempt changes while working WITH your child and listening and honouring them throughout the process then you can be sure you’ll also know when you should stop and pull back from the process as your child lets you know they are simply not ready for such a change yet.

This doesn’t mean they’ll never be ready, they just aren’t ready right now.

This is the heart of moving beyond the sleep training culture – working with our children, not against them.

From around 18 months on, our children have the cognitive ability to be able to make more significant changes such as night weaning. Sometimes, changes from this age on will be more Parent-led. The difference is, the child now has the comprehension to make these changes more fair.

Does this mean at the age of 18 months, it’s okay to leave your child to learn to sleep alone? Absolutely not. No matter what age, the legitimate need for comfort, closeness and support to find sleep needs to be honoured and recognised.

When your child IS ready to begin sleeping more independently, you will find your parent-led attempts will meet little to no resistance and result in no distress. A toddler who is angry or frustrated with a change is very different to a toddler who is distressed and not coping. Parents will be able to negotiate changes for their unique child by following their responses as a guide for whether that child is ready or not and support and respond accordingly.

So hopefully that makes this area a little clearer than mud.

Never fear asking questions in the group though as we all need clarification and understanding at various times on our journey 


For information on gentle night weaning check out-

The Milk Meg- https://themilkmeg.com/the-night-boob-how-to-gently-night-wean-your-toddler-from-breastfeeding-and-bed-sharing/

Sarah Ockwell-Smith- https://sarahockwell-smith.com/2014/08/10/how-to-gently-night-wean-a-breastfed-baby-or-toddler/

Pinky McKay’s awesome (and free) eBook- http://www.pinkymckay.com/pdf/pinky_mckay-weaning_with_love_ebook.pdf

For information on considering gentle changes to sleep patterns, check out books and blogs by-

Pinky McKay- Sleeping Like a Baby and http://www.pinkymckay.com/beating-bad-habits-gentlywith-love/

Sarah Ockwell Smith- The Gentle Sleep Book and https://sarahockwell-smith.com/2017/09/05/8-ways-to-encourage-better-baby-toddler-sleep-without-sleep-training/

The Milk Meg- Boobin All Day, Boobin All Night and https://themilkmeg.com/so-what-happens-when-that-attached-high-needs-fussy-baby-baby-grows-up/

Elizabeth Pantley- The No-Cry Sleep Solution series

Dr Pamela Douglas of The Possums Clinic- The Discontented Little Baby Book

For more tailored support to consider changes to sleep, consider consulting with-

Tracy Cassels of Evolutionary Parenting- http://evolutionaryparenting.com/consultations/

Sarah Ockwell Smith – https://sarahockwell-smith.com/services-for-parents/

The Possums Clinic – https://possumsonline.com/services/mothers-and-babies

Meg Nagle of The Milk Meg- https://themilkmeg.com/breastfeeding-consultations/

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