A sleep scientist vs her mom hormones
When each of my children were babies I found it physically unbearable to hear them cry. I’d sit in a different room listening to them and felt as though I couldn’t possibly stay away. In my book coming out in August I go into great detail about what is happening to our brains during and after pregnancy. You’ll feel emotions you didn’t realize were possible, babies crying will break your heart while before they were just a bit annoying.
“We have done studies that show that within 100 milliseconds of the onset of an infant cry, women show a motor-evoked response associated with arm movement,” says Dr. Marc Bornstein in an article for Time that showed moms from cultures all over the world had the same reaction to babies crying, picking them up, soothing them.
These hormones are natural but sometimes the emotions they produce seem counter-intuitive. Examples of myself and many others feeling like they’re playing a losing game against their hormones can be seen perfectly in that ‘baby crying in their room moment’. And by the way it’s not just women having these hormonally-influenced experiences. Men have them too, they’re outlined in this New York Times article, they’re often just a bit less pronounced.
If your baby doesn’t learn self soothing they may have a hard time falling asleep throughout their life. Plus if you have to constantly attend to your baby you’ll increase your own stress and exhaustion which is unhelpful to you and your baby.
Self soothing, sleep training, cry it out, these are all contentious phrases and there's a lot of opinions on them. Instead I teach a “gentle sleep training” method. This method allows you to both help your child and in turn yourself sleep better but it’s also gentle because those hormonal feelings you’re having are perfectly legitimate.
Here’s the gentle sleep training method:
- Baby begins to cry at night before feeding time, your heart feels that ache to go to her. Begin a 90 second timer.
- If she’s still crying when 90 seconds are up go into the room to placate her for one or two minutes. Rub or pat her tummy and make a gentle shhh sound. This will help her know she’s not alone.
- Leave the room. This is important even if she’s still crying.
- If she continues to cry, set another timer for 90 seconds and enter again.
- You might need to repeat the process a few times the first few nights.
If you can get the non-feeding parent to do the placating even better because it reduces the temptation to feed to sleep.
I’ve had clients use this method and have success on night one or two and be able to then let their baby self soothe easily when they wake going forward. If you’ve tried my gentle sleep training method I’d love to hear from you. DM me on Instagram or Facebook.