Sleep training. That’s a loaded phrase, especially for new fathers who might associate sleep training with long nights listening to your baby “cry it out.” And while there’s a ton of information out there on what sleep training is, how it’s done, and how it might affect your child, I haven’t found any of that information to be all that helpful. In fact, all I ever learned from any of my Googling is that sleep training is controversial and complicated. And if you’re a dad, don’t count on finding any sleep training advice or information specific to you. There isn’t any.
I realize it’s usually mom that puts in the hard work to sleep train a child. But even if you’re asleep while she’s with your new baby, you’re going to want to know what she’s doing, why, and how to offer your support. Mostly, you’ll want to keep encouraging her. Sleep training can be difficult. But, it’s not as hard as you may have imagined, or as hard as you may have heard. Whether it’s you or your wife doing the training, it’s well worth the effort, and you should know why. Sleep training is the most important thing parents can do for themselves, their children, and their marriage. Without exaggeration, it’s saved my relationships with Lizzy and with my kids over and over again.
Our first child, Henry, was an awesome sleeper. He’d settle down anywhere at any time and we never had any concern about him sleeping. “What’s the big deal?” I wondered. “Why are all these incompetent parents out there complaining about losing so much sleep with a new baby at home?”
But after a few months, reality set in, and I realized, it wasn’t parental incompetency that keeps moms and dads around the world up at night. Like many babies, Henry all of the sudden stopped sleeping when he was supposed to. (By “supposed to” I mean, during most of the night and in the middle of the day when we needed a break.) It was tough, to say the least, to begin spending entire nights trying to rock him to sleep and then to get up early the next morning with him. The lack of sleep affected my productivity at work and Lizzy’s productivity at home. Worse, it made us cranky, which in turn affected the way we parented Henry and interacted with each other.
At some point (most likely at 3:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning) I told Lizzy we couldn’t keep up with our around-the-clock care schedule. Something had to give. In our search for an answer, we spent several days researching sleep training methods, baby sleep schedules, the psychological effects of sleep training on kids, and the experiences of others similar to us. We learned a lot. But in the end, we never found that magic bullet we all want (and need)—the fail-proof instruction manual for sleep training your baby.
Why Sleep Train Your Baby?
And so, we cobbled together our own instruction manual. This post, however, does not contain instructions. Before knowing how to sleep train, you’ve got to know why you’re sleep training your baby. If you have kids, you already know why. But if you’re a dad for the first time, or if you’ve talked yourself into suffering until your baby finally starts to sleep through the night, this post is for you.
Here are 6 reasons, in no particular order, why every dad needs sleep trained kids. (Check out Lizzy’s thoughts on why sleep training is important here.)
1. Sleep Training is Quick (Relatively Speaking)
Yes, sleep training can happen fast. A lot of people, Dad’s especially, give up on sleep training after only a few days because it’s hard to see any progress. And it’s easier to just get up each time your kid cries or throw him in bed with you. In reality, though, sleep training only takes a few weeks. And while those weeks can be long, the work you put in will make the rest of your life (or nights, at least) a breeze.
2. The Instructions for Sleep Training are Clear
All any dad wants is clear instructions. Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. The problem with raising kids is, there aren’t any instructions. But when it comes to sleep training, that’s not the case. You can sleep train any child. And you only have to follow a set of instructions to do it. With an instruction manual, sleep training is fail-safe. And if you aren’t the one doing the actual training, at least knowing the instructions will help you cheer your wife on from the side-lines.
3. Sleep Training is Logical
There is a reason that sleep training works and that there is a set of instructions to implement it: it’s logical. If a baby animal can learn to sleep through the night without any milk, so can your child. Kids of all ages can learn, and kids of all ages sleep. Teaching a kid to learn to sleep makes sense.
4. Sleep Training Makes the Transition from Husband to Father Easy
For first-time dads, sleep training is essential. Becoming a parent is a commitment to embrace change in your life. A new baby in the home will change your schedule, change your work, change your social life, change what you do with your free time, and change your relationship with your wife. Change isn’t easy, so any time you can embrace the change without so much pain, take it. The best way to adapt to the changes that come with fatherhood is to sleep train. Having kids that sleep through the night early on will ensure you don’t completely lose your time, sleep, and intimacy.
Protect Your Time
Sleep training your baby will protect your time. When you sleep train your child, you essentially teach him or her to respect your time. To be an awesome dad, you need time to get some things done. If you can dedicate certain hours of the day to home repairs, yard care, paying bills, and whatever else is on your list, you’ll be able to devote 100% of yourself to your kids the rest of the time you’re at home. Knowing when your child will go to bed and when your child will wake up will help you schedule your day to make sure you can get everything done.
Protect Your Sleep
I’m possessive of my sleep. If I don’t sleep well at night, I can’t function at peak performance during the day. A tired dad makes for a grumpy dad and I can’t have my kids up all night. I also can’t have my kids rolling around in my bed the first 3 years of their life. Getting a good night’s rest is essential to my role as a father and as a husband, and having my kids sleep trained ensures that happens.
Protect Your Intimacy
Anecdotally, new parents have less sex, for a variety of reasons. I’m not here to dive into those reasons, but I will say, I believe the anecdotes. Intimacy can be hard to maintain without time and without sleep. Sleep train your kids, though, and the time and the sleep return. Every relationship needs to be nurtured. Do not give your kids so much around-the-clock attention that you forget about your spouse. A sex-starved marriage is a harder marriage to keep healthy.
5. Sleep Training Creates a Routine
Kids thrive off of routine, as do adults. By sleep training your baby, you’ll create a routine from the outset. Even without sleep training, routine does come. But allow yourself to set the routine. Schedule the kids’ bedtime, nap time, and waking up time in a way that will allow you to thrive while they’re in the sack. Our 3-year old loves his routine so much that he’ll ask to go to bed at nights. That’s every dad’s dream.
6. Sleep Training Allows You to Plan
On top of being able to create your routine, sleep training will allow you to set your own schedule. If you know when your kids will be asleep and awake, you can plan errands, family outings, trips to the park, and just about anything else. And because you have a strong routine developed, it’s no big deal to break that every once in awhile. With good sleepers, you can make personal and family plans without worrying so much about whether the kids will blow those plans.
The Dividends Pay-Off!
Sleep training is doable. And it’s worth it. Yes, you’ll have a baby that sleeps through the night. And yes, that means you’ll sleep through the night. But it also means a whole lot more.
When you sleep train your baby, you’re teaching her more than just how and when to sleep. A sleep trained baby turns into a sleep trained toddler. A toddler who knows how and when to sleep is a toddler who potty trains easier; engages with other kids better; and is well adjusted to spending small amounts of time alone without constant supervision. A sleep trained toddler also respects your time and the family’s time. She understands when it’s time for bed, and won’t make things difficult on the way there.
For all parents, but for dad’s especially, sleep training is empowering. By being consistent in following a few simple steps, you can teach even the youngest of children a skill that will serve them—and you—throughout their childhood.
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