Search icon


31st Mar 2016

‘Sleep Coaching at 8 Weeks? No Chance. I Won’t Be A Part of It.’

"Their doctor 'prescribed' a full-on cry-it-out method. Leaving their daughter cry, potentially for hours..."

Niamh O'Reilly

Do you see this little teeny baby? She is my delicious niece, Sive, when she was eight weeks old. Don’t you just want to squeeze her? Love her? Tend to her every need?

Or maybe you want her to cry continually ‘for her own good?’

Sive at 8 weeks

Well, for one US woman who shared her story online (I am sure she is one of thousands all over the world), this is what she was told to do by her paediatrician. In fact, she was told to let her little baby cry it out at night in order to teach her to self-soothe. Like many other new parents, she believed this was what she needed to do. She was asked “do you have the guts to cry-it-out?” To me, this even implies that you would be taking a risk.

Why take any sort of risk with something so precious, so new, so fragile?

Aimee Molloy wrote in the New York Times of her experience at her paediatrician’s office. She and her husband went for a scheduled check-up with their two-month-old. They were feeling confident that all was well. She was putting on weight and feeding well. She was even getting great stretches of sleep at night – often up to eight hours. But as they proudly told their doctor all about their little beauty, they sensed the doctor was unimpressed. She told them their baby could, and indeed should be sleeping up to 12 hours a night. They were told to consider sleep training.

As I read this, I was shocked. That someone working in the field of paediatrics would feel that 12 hours a night, at eight weeks old, was normal. It is not. Not at all.

An eight week old needs feeding, first and foremost. She would also need reassurance and love and comfort, and more love. Their doctor ‘prescribed’ a full-on cry-it-out method. Leaving their daughter cry, potentially for hours on end, and not to go into her. Not to check her. Not to reassure her. Worst of all not to feed her.

This is something I would never recommend. Ever.

These parents were basically told if they didn’t do it now; it would be game over. They would continue to struggle with sleep for months and perhaps years to come. It would mean putting their own instincts and gut feelings on the back burner, which as any parent will tell you, is a bad idea.

In the early months, that’s what you exist on – instinct and emotion. Nobody wins when cry-it-out is used to teach self-soothing. Your baby starts to learn that resistance is futile – you’re not coming back, and parents fight with their own instincts.

And yet, this story isn’t that unfamiliar. New parents are under all sorts of pressure, not least placed on themselves to have a sleeping baby from day one. Yes, I am all in favour of routine, and indeed a little gentle coaching – but when the time is right.

But these parents weren’t at the doctors’ office looking for advice. It was given to them without their asking. They didn’t think they had a problem with sleep until their confidence was shaken a little. And while the idea of 12 uninterrupted hours was tempting, thankfully, as Aimee says, they “didn’t have the guts”.

Sleep training isn’t for everyone. I know that only too well. For some, though, it is exactly the right choice for their family. It’s personal. We shouldn’t judge people for going down that route, and we also shouldn’t judge those that don’t want to or don’t feel the need to make a change. And while I see a place for it in many people’s lives, I would NEVER suggest it unless I am asked directly. Making unsolicited recommendations is not how I operate. Parents can find me when and if they need me. But I will never tell you what to do. It is ALWAYS your decision. There are choices…

Sleep coaching at eight weeks? No chance. I won’t be a part of it.