Thursday Parents: Do I have to Sleep Train?

Do I have to use a sleep training method for my child?
No. Parents often decide to try a particular method because they're exhausted or frustrated by their child's sleep habits and nothing they've tried on their own seems to work. If you're happy with the way things are going, count your blessings and continue what you're doing.

Families have different expectations and tolerances. A 9-month-old who wakes up twice a night might have one set of parents tearing their hair out while another family wouldn't have it any other way. If sleep isn't going well for your family, you'll know it — and you might want to read up on methods devised by experts and other parents for help.

Here are a few things to consider:
Parents Comments
My first daughter was sleeping through the night (10 p.m. to 9 a.m.) by 6 months. We had a complete bedtime routine: a bath, a book, a bottle, then to bed, a little music in the crib, and asleep in ten minutes. It was wonderful, but that scenario didn't work for my second daughter and hasn't worked for my son, so I've tried different things for each of them. Sometimes a plan doesn't work. Listen to your baby — he or she will tell you what you need to know."

"My 3-month-old doesn't sleep through the night, and it's fine with me. I keep her in her crib or a bassinet until her 3 a.m. feeding, and then she joins my husband and me until we get up for work. She won't go in her crib unless she's already asleep, usually from nursing and rocking, but she'll fall asleep in her bassinet beside our bed. She's happy and we're happy, and even if it goes against the wisdom of the experts, it's working for us."

"My first cried it out and all was well. My second cried it out but it took much longer until all was well. My third, if allowed to cry too long, literally freaked out. He threw himself around his crib and would rarely calm down and fall asleep. On the rare occasion that he fell asleep, he'd wake up within minutes screaming bloody murder. Letting him cry it out was clearly not working so I looked for other options. Find your child's groove. You'll be glad you did."
L.B.'s Mama

"My 4-and-a-half-month-old will only sleep through the night if we do everything the experts say not to do. She must be nursed or slept with unless we want to see her turn purple and cry for 45 minutes or more. She's like a wind-up doll when she starts and never settles until she's comforted, and she's been that way from the beginning. It really became a matter of, do we want to sleep or do we want to do what the books say? If she's comforted and put down sleeping, she sleeps eight to ten hours. To all you parents out there who have a baby like mine, do not despair — just do what works for you."