The Blog

My Beef with the Sleep Training Industry

Episode Summary:

We’re going to really get into it today as I dive into my beef with the sleep training industry. Now, before listening to this episode, I want to be clear that when I say the “sleep training industry” I do not mean the families that choose to use sleep training, I am talking about the industry that is making families think that sleep training is their only option. I’m going to share how the marketing and language that the sleep training industry uses is unethical and preys on parents who are sleep deprived and just trying to do their best. Toward the end of this episode, I’m going over what it means to understand your baby’s biological sleep and attachment needs so that you can make an informed decision on how you can holistically support your baby to sleep while also meeting your own needs. I hope that this episode helps you feel more confident in the choices you make when it comes to your baby’s sleep. Don’t forget to share it with other parents in your life who are struggling, too!

Topics:

  • How prioritizing your social life can actually help you find more rest in motherhood
  • Why it’s so important to be fully educated so that you can make an informed decision about sleep training
  • The genius yet unethical marketing that the sleep training industry uses to pretty on sleep deprived parents
  • The reminder that our ancestors have learned to sleep for thousands of years without sleep training
  • The lie that sleep training can ever be gentle and a reminder of the negative effects of CIO
  • What parent support actually looks like, not the shaming that the sleep industry pushes
  • Understanding your baby’s biological sleep and attachment needs

Resources:

Read a raw, unedited transcript of this episode.

Brittni (00:01.026)
Hello, how are you today? How is your week going? How is your morning going? How is life right now? How is life with your little one? How is sleep? I always ask these questions and I know that I can’t hear you talk back, although I would love to hear how you are doing. But I ask them because I think we often get so caught up in caring for our little ones

being a partner, if we have a partner that we often forget to kind of just like check in and see like how am I? How am I feeling about things? Is my jaw clenched? Are my shoulders raised? Am I holding tension? So let’s just take a moment and just like take this as a little moment for self-care. Check in with yourself. How are you actually doing?

I’m excited to chat today, as I always am. But first, we will start with how I’m finding rest in motherhood currently. And this week specifically, I am finding rest in motherhood by prioritizing my social life. I am going to dinner tonight with a girlfriend that I haven’t seen in way too long. And I have asked my mom to do bedtime with Lila tonight so that I can just have

Some time with a girlfriend and not feel like I need to rush to get back to bedtime. Luckily, we’re in a place where once Lila’s asleep, that girl is down for the count. And I share that because that was not always the case for the first, I would say, about two years of her life. That girl was a chronic false starter. No matter what I did, no matter what I played around with, she would wake up.

especially in the beginning, like every 30 minutes. When she got past like 15 months, I would say maybe she would sleep an hour and then wake up if I wasn’t there. But now that girl can sleep, which just gives you hope, right? Cause she used to wake up hourly her whole first year of life. So she loves to sleep now. So I have that going on. I’m going to dinner. And then Friday is my mom’s birthday. So we will be…

Brittni (02:29.23)
celebrating her birthday. My mom, my sister and I were gonna go work out, then go to lunch, maybe do some shopping, and Lila will be with her dad. So this week I’m finding rest in hanging out with the girls I love and just taking advantage of being around people who lift me up and bring me energy. So as always,

I invite you to think about how you are currently finding rest in motherhood or how you can find rest in motherhood if you haven’t been focusing on that for yourself. So I will jump right into what we will be chatting about today. And this one is something that I’m really passionate about. The reason for my business and something I talk a lot about in depth on Instagram is

why I am so against the sleep training industry.

Brittni (03:37.206)
Haley, I’m gonna start that whole part over.

So I will jump right into what we’re gonna be talking about today. I am really passionate about today’s episode because this is my passion. It’s the reason for my business and something that I talk a lot about on Instagram, but it’s such an in-depth topic. So I’m really excited to dive a lot deeper into it today. Today, we’re going to be talking about my beef with the sleep training industry.

I want to stop right here and say that I am not shaming families who have chosen to sleep train or who are going to choose to sleep train. I am speaking about the industry that preys on new parents. I am a firm believer that each family needs to do what is best for their family, but I’m also a firm believer that each family needs to be educated fully.

so that they can make an informed decision about what is going to be best for their family. And this is where my beef with the sleep training industry comes in. So today I wanna chat about why I have such an issue with the sleep training industry and how my work with families is different. And I know I just said this, but I think I need to reiterate it because it always comes up on Instagram. When I am talking about the sleep training industry, I am not.

talking about families who are choosing to sleep train. I’m talking about the industry that is making families think that sleep training is their only option. So my first problem with the sleep training industry, which is a multi-billion dollar industry by the way, is that they prey on new parents who are sleep deprived and wanna be the best parents that they can be.

Brittni (05:30.966)
The sleep training industry uses messaging that scares new parents into thinking that sleep training is their only option. So these new parents who wanna be good parents and do the best that they can for their baby or babies if they have multiples are led to believe that sleep is a skill that they must teach their children. They hear things like, your child needs to learn the skill of sleeping or give them the lifelong gift of sleep.

which is just complete BS. Sleep is a biological function, not a skill. We are all born knowing how to sleep. There’s absolutely no training necessary. And if sleep was a skill to learn, our ancestors would have never quote learned to sleep, which would mean that we wouldn’t be here today. Another way to think about this is babies sleep just fine in the womb.

So why would this change once they’re born? I find it completely unethical to prey on new parents and make them feel like if they don’t sleep train, their baby won’t ever sleep. From a marketing perspective, it’s absolutely genius. Take vulnerable parents and scare the hell out of them. Make them feel like if they don’t sleep train, their baby is never going to sleep.

Once you can take a step back from this and look at it through common sense, you realize how absolutely ludicrous it is. We know that we don’t need to be trained to sleep because for thousands and thousands of years, sleep training didn’t exist. And yet when we are tired and overwhelmed and we just wanna be the best parents that we can be, we lose sight of this.

And on top of this, not only are parents being lied to about sleep being a skill, they are lied to about what cry it out actually is and the impact it has on the infant brain. If you wanna learn more about the actual impact of cry it out and what it is, you can check out my debunking sleep training myths podcast episode, which I’ll link in the show notes of this episode.

Brittni (07:51.634)
And next, my next beef with the sleep training industry is that they lie about being gentle. I have worked with countless clients. I actually just spoke to one the other day who signed up to work with a quote, gentle sleep trainer who promised that there would be no cry it out and everything they would recommend would be 100% gentle. These people spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars

to work with these gentle sleep trainers only to realize that they’re being told to leave their baby to cry covertly. This is often in the form of pick up, put down, the chair method, et cetera. And this is a complete lie. Any method that limits responsiveness or comfort is a behavioral method, meaning that it has absolutely nothing to do with sleep. It is simply modifying a behavior.

So in this case, we are teaching our baby that we won’t come for their cries. When the family brings the fact that they are doing cry it out to the sleep trainer, they’re often met with something like, it’s just a little bit of crying, or sometimes they’re even shamed for not wanting to continue. I’ve heard stories of sleep trainers telling parents, like you just need to be tougher, or they’re never going to sleep if you don’t do this.

which is just absolutely ludicrous to me. It’s a bait and switch. I’m gentle, I don’t do cry it out, and then you spend these thousands of dollars or hundreds of dollars, and I’m not kidding. Some big sleep trainers charge like $1,000, and they’re giving you, which we’ll actually get to in just a second, but they’re giving you the same information they’re giving the next family in line. But they’re lying. They’re telling you, oh yes, I’m gentle.

where I’m not gonna do anything like cry it out and then you pay this money and then that’s exactly what it is. And then they kind of downplay it. It’s just a little bit of crying or you’re gonna have to be stronger. I’ve heard some gnarly stories about how mean these sleep trainers can be once these people express discomfort in what they’re doing or that they don’t wanna do it. Another big issue with the sleep training industry that I have is just like I said.

Brittni (10:17.438)
Everything they recommend is one size fits all. They use a baby’s age as the basis of everything they’re going to recommend. They’ll say wake windows need to be an exact length for a certain age, or that a baby no longer needs to eat at night after a certain age. The problem with this is that it completely ignores that babies are unique humans with unique needs. All babies have unique sleep needs, temperaments, sensory needs, and more.

We can’t expect all babies to be exactly the same and the same goes for sleep. I’ve worked with clients who have previously worked with sleep trainers and they will send me the notes from their consult and it is literally a cut and paste PDF booklet that gives the same information that they are giving all other parents. And I know that that’s what this is because I’ve had clients who’ve worked with the same sleep trainers send me these books and it’s literally

like a guide of mine that you could buy. But the difference here is when you buy one of my guides, you know that it’s a guide that everyone’s buying. Whereas when you work one-on-one with me, I might send you my guides, but our work together is very individualized and what I’m recommending to you is going to be based on who your child is. But these sleep trainers are truly just giving out these books after they’ve charged thousands of dollars or hundreds of dollars.

and saying, this is what you need to do for your child without taking into consideration, who is this child? What are their sleep needs? What are their sensory needs? What’s their personality like? Do they have any underlying issues that we need to be looking into? Sleep is intricate and is unique to each individual. So we can’t apply the same techniques, which I don’t even recommend using techniques with babies.

or expectations to all babies just because they’re the same age as another baby. Lastly, and this one is a big one, the sleep training industry has perfected the art of parent shaming and making it look like support. Hear me out here. By telling parents that they are creating bad habits or that they should ignore their instincts to comfort their baby,

Brittni (12:40.962)
They are effectively telling parents that they don’t know how to parent. They are disconnecting parents from their biological instincts to respond and show up for their baby. I have moms come to me all the time saying things like, I know I’m weak, but I just can’t listen to them cry. This messaging comes straight from the sleep training industry and is such a crock of shit. I hope you don’t have a child listening with you.

You’re not weak because you can’t listen to your baby cry. Your instincts are strong, and you know deep down that your child’s cries need responding to. Parents are force-fed these lies and ultimately feel like they are bad parents or they’re screwing up for doing exactly what their baby needs. Parents feel embarrassed because their baby will only sleep on them or because they don’t wanna sleep train.

Or because their baby’s naps aren’t the length that they are supposed to be. When in reality, all of these things are normal. There is no perfect nap length. Instead of disconnecting babies and parents, we need to be educating them on what is biologically normal and educating on the importance of attachment. And that’s where sleep training is failing. And to kind of follow up on that idea of parent shaming.

They’re also, like, if you scroll on, I don’t like to do it because it literally, like as an empath, it literally brings me really low when I look at a sleep trainer’s account because I think of these babies that are being left to cry and it literally keeps me up at night if I will go on the sleep trainer’s page. But sometimes I just have to see what’s out there. And so when I start scrolling and I’m looking, it’s so much shaming, like your baby needs to be doing this.

You’re gonna create bad habits. Your child will never sleep without you. All of these things are parent shaming. And what cracks me up is when I share about Cry It Out, what it really is, you should see the messages I get saying that I’m parent shaming and all I’m doing is sharing information, but we have it so backwards. Or if we talk about safe bed sharing, so many people will come on and tell me that I’m gonna kill babies.

Brittni (15:03.382)
First off, we need to be educating on how to bed share safely. But my point is, is how is it not considered shaming when we’re telling people that they’re gonna kill their babies for doing something that is biologically normal and that our species has been doing for thousands of years? It’s backwards. And yet the sleep training industry is so powerful that it’s not seen that way, right? Like we just see it, I don’t. Society just sees it as support.

So this is why I will continue to shout my message loud and clear. I want parents everywhere to know that they have options. I want them to be able to make an educated choice about how they want to parent at nighttime. Their options aren’t just cry it out or wait it out. There is an in-between, which is where I come in. As a holistic infant sleep specialist, I help families get more sleep without any form of sleep training.

So what does this even mean? It’s a question I’m asked frequently. And to start, we need to truly understand what biologically normal infant sleep looks like. This means looking at what humans are and what our sleep has looked like throughout time. Humans are carrying mammals, which means that our babies are designed to be on us or near us at all times. Carrying mammal infants eat frequently due to the composition of their milk.

which is a low percentage of fat and protein and a high percentage of water. So with this, so with this, we need to understand that human infants are designed to eat about every two to three hours, day and night. When we know this, we know that it’s biologically normal for babies to wake about every two to three hours throughout the night to get a quick feed or a snuggle. In addition to this,

We need to think about the fact that our babies are designed to be on us or near us at all times. If we look back throughout human history, babies have been sleeping with their mothers for thousands of years. This is our starting point, because when we look at sleep holistically, we need to understand what the biological norm is. And then we can work from there.

Brittni (17:23.954)
I quickly want to say here that when you go on a sleep trainer’s page, they’ll cite science stating that babies can sleep through the night at X amount of age. Babies don’t need to eat at night by X amount of age. Whatever like those things, they are using science studies that were done in the formula era. Meaning these studies that they’re citing were done on babies who weren’t breastfed.

and they had always been solitary sleepers. Meaning from day one, they were not sleeping near their parents. I mean, think about back in the 70s, babies were born in the hospital, they were taken to like the baby ward, mom didn’t see her baby, right? Like the baby was taken away from her. And these studies were done on these babies who were formula fed and were not spending contact time with their parents. And so,

When we look at that sleep, we can’t use that on most of today’s babies. I know people use formula today, but my point being, if you have a breastfed baby, you cannot use that science done on only formula-fed babies and apply it to your baby because it’s completely different. And so we need to realize that, that when this science is being used by the sleep training industry, it’s not…

science that is accurate and applicable to many of today’s babies. So the base of my work is infant sleep science, so how babies sleep and what that actually looks like, and connection, which is a baby’s greatest need. Once we have that foundation established, we can then move on to looking at how I can support a family with their baby’s sleep. When I work with a family,

I want to make sure that they have realistic expectations about what their baby’s sleep should look like. If a family comes to me and tells me that they want their four month old baby sleeping through the night, I’m going to be very kind, but I’m going to spend a lot of time going through why this isn’t a realistic goal. Although some unicorn babies will do this on their own. And then from there, I’m going to educate them on what is biologically normal.

Brittni (19:46.986)
what they can expect through that first year of life. From there, we can look at their sleep routines to see what we can tweak or change to make everything feel more sustainable. We can look at sleep hygiene. What can we be doing to optimize that sleep hygiene for the whole family? Now, if a family comes to me and their baby is waking hourly, or nap time is a fight every day, or bedtime is taking over 45 minutes each night, or baby is waking up,

very frequently all night long, or baby is waking up in the middle of the night for hours at a time, or they’re waking up at 4 a.m. and won’t go back to sleep. These are just a few examples. There’s lots of other ones, but this is where I’m going to step in and really start making those changes to optimize sleep. I like to look at infant sleep as an intricate puzzle, and each infant has their own unique puzzle.

The big players when it comes to the puzzle pieces are underlying medical conditions, individual sleep needs, sensory needs, temperament and personality, birth history, home life and parental mental health. There are other pieces at play here, but these are the big ones. So when I work with a family, I’m going to take an in-depth look at who their baby is, what their sleep is looking like.

And then from there, I’m going to start looking at all of these pieces. Remember I said that each puzzle is unique? So what I recommend to each family is going to be different based on their unique child. For some children, underlying medical conditions are going to be the key piece of their puzzle that was missing. For other children, their sensory needs and temperament are going to be that key piece. This is something that I absolutely love about my job.

every family and baby I work with are different, meaning it never feels monotonous. I could have four babies of the same age, like client calls back to back, and what I recommend and discuss with each family is going to be different based on baby’s sleep needs, any red flags that come out during our conversation after they’ve completed the intake form, baby’s sensory needs, home life, and parents’ goals for sleep.

Brittni (22:11.23)
And that’s what I love, right? It just goes to show the individuality of sleep and how we can’t be just slapping on one size fits all advice. Holistic infant sleep support means looking at the unique child in front of me and figuring out what their puzzle looks like and which pieces are missing or need some adjusting. And this is where my work as a holistic infant sleep specialist differs so much from a sleep trainer.

We’ve talked about this already, but a sleep trainer is going to give you a one size fits all recommendation without doing a deep dive into who your baby is and what their unique needs are. They aren’t going to make sure that there aren’t any underlying issues disrupting sleep, which is another thing that’s really scary. If a child is having trouble breathing at night or they are in extreme pain, leaving them to cry is not going to solve the underlying issue. It’s going to ignore it.

and they’re so much missed with sleep training. When a family works with me, it’s my job to look at every single piece of the puzzle and get to know who their baby is and what their sleep needs are. From there, we can work at making sleep feel more sustainable for the whole family. Yes, this process takes more time, but it keeps baby and parents in harmony with one another instead of putting their needs at odds.

which is another huge difference between my work and sleep training. Sleep training benefits one side, which is the parents. While the baby’s needs aren’t really taken into consideration, parents are told that they need to withhold comfort from their child in order to get more sleep, which may help the parents, but we are forgetting that there is another human involved in this process and they have needs and we’re building their brain and we’re building their…

the basis for how they attach and relate to other people in the future. But when we instead look at sleep holistically, it’s my goal to ensure that the needs of the parents and the baby are being respected and met. So this is my beef with the sleep training industry. This is how my work really differs from a sleep trainer. And if you are struggling with sleep,

Brittni (24:36.478)
If you just wanna chat about what’s going on with sleep, maybe you don’t have a specific goal, but you’re just feeling stressed out, let’s work together. If you are dealing with a really hard issue, I wanna be there to support you through it, and we can work together on that as well. So I hope you have a wonderful day. I hope you took some time at the beginning of this episode to check in with yourself, reflect on how you are. And like I said, if sleep is a pain point right now, if things just aren’t working out,

I am here to support you through it. Have a wonderful day.

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