Episode Summary:

Welcome back to The Resting in Motherhood Podcast, today’s episode is going to be a little bit spicy because we are talking about why sleep training is so dangerous. Spoiler alert: it is not about the attachment aspect, it is not about not responding to cries, or even the trauma aspect. What I want to talk about today is the fact that sleep training views sleep as a behavior, meaning that when you leave your child to cry it out, or you’re doing Ferber, or the chair method, or pick up put down, these are all behavioral modifications, they have absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with sleep. Sleep is a biological function, which means nothing about sleep has been learned. The only thing that has been learned when sleep training is used is that cries won’t be answered at night. So we have modified the behavior, we have modified the crying. We have not modified a biological function, which is sleep. I’m diving into this more as well as sharing what can be done if sleep is currently feeling unsustainable for you and your little one.


  • The reminder that if there’s a transition that needs to happen to create more sustainable sleep for you and your baby, you can do it now and sustainably
  • The danger of viewing sleep as a behavioral function instead of something that is a built in protection against SIDS and as well as a biological norm
  • How sleep training puts a band aid over bigger issues because frequent waking is not the sign of a bad habit, rather something is going on that we need to resolve
  • What to do if you have a little one who is hourly waking, extremely restless, or if things are currently feeling really hard


Read a raw, unedited transcript of this episode.

Brittni (00:00.974)
Welcome back to the Resting in Motherhood podcast. I’m so excited to sit down and chat with you today. I hope you’re having a beautiful day and wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope that you take this next 30 minutes, we’ll see how long the episode is, but 30 minutes to just fill your own cup, really ground yourself and center yourself.

so that you can head into the rest of your day, or maybe you’re heading into sleep, but head into the rest of your day feeling a little bit more refreshed, rested, so that you can rest in your role in motherhood. And speaking of resting and resting in your role in motherhood, I wanted to share how I’m currently finding rest in motherhood. And it’s not actually right this second, but…

Lila and I just went up to our family cabin up in the mountains where we spend a lot of our time in the summer and our bedroom up there has two beds, like two full -size beds for like if the whole family goes up there and we need more space. And I’ve always slept with Lila in that bed in one tiny, well it’s not tiny, but one full -size bed.

our bed at home is a king. It’s a very big bed. So when we go up, I’ve noticed like the last three times that we’ve gone up, I just cannot sleep at night because she has her feet buried in me all night long, or I get an elbow to the face, or I get a head to the face, which we’re actually experiencing some of that in our bed at home too, which cracks me up because I was actually thinking this morning, like.

How funny is it that many families will sleep like two parents and two children in one like king -size bed? I don’t know how you do it. You’re amazing. I don’t even know how families do it with two parents and one child in a king -size bed. And if you’re in an even smaller bed, how are you doing it? Because I am slowly losing my mind. I love my child. I love her so much.

Brittni (02:11.342)
but I’m getting really sick of waking up to feet in my back or whatever, like I said, an elbow to the face, which is rare in our bed, but does happen. And it’s actually funny, because this morning I woke up and I felt something in my head and I was like, my gosh, is there a spider crawling in my head? And it was just Lila’s toes just chilling in my head, which leads into where I’m going with this story. So.

I, we were up at the cabin and I was like, I cannot, I had, I started the night next to her. Well, I supported her sleep. Then I went out to the living room. I was watching TV and then I came back in. and I like laid in bed to read my book with her or next to her. And she started already like putting her feet into me and I was like, I cannot do this tonight. I’m going to move to the bed, which is like four feet away from this bed. and then when she wakes up in the middle of the night or whenever she wakes up, I’ll crawl back into bed with her.

So I had zero expectations. I slept in the other bed. She didn’t even wake up until 5 a And it was just a simple like, mommy, where are you? And I woke up, I said, I’m right here. And I crawled into bed with her and slept with her until she woke up at like eight. No preparation, right? This child who has co -slept the majority of her life, except for like the first three beginning months of her life, easily slept a full night.

without her mom in bed with her, with no tears, with no drama, with no stress, it was easy. So then the next night we did it again. We did not make it as late or I guess we could say early into the morning. It was like 2 .30 and she called and I went into bed with her. So then I asked her, are you thinking that like you’re ready for your own bed at home? Was that kind of cool to sleep by yourself? And she’s very much wanting her own bed at home.

So that will be how I’m finding rest is getting her bed set up for her, which I’ll need to do like a whole different episode on that in itself, like our whole co -sleeping journey and then the transition out of it. But that is how I’m finding rest is I’m really leaning into her desire right now to get that independence at nighttime, which I know is going to in turn make me a better mom because I am waking up very

Brittni (04:33.678)
rageful or ragey most mornings just because I’m sick of having the darn feet in me or the elbow in me or the arms smacked across my face as I’m sure if you have a bed sharing toddler you’re probably laughing right now or shaking your head. And that’s just a reminder right that things I mean she’s almost five she’ll be five in August I can’t even say she’s four and a half anymore because she’s past that.

And I’ve always said like I’m going to co -sleep with her for as long as it works for us and the key is works, right? And I it’s funny because this transition is kind of naturally happening. I think when she’s ready to But it’s not really working for me anymore. I’m just feeling really touched out in the mornings Just because I’m having feet dug into my back or my butt all night long. So this is a reminder that There can be normal

And then there can be something that’s not working, right? So if it’s working for you, great, keep doing it. If it’s not working for you, if it’s not feeling sustainable, if making this change is going to help you show up as a better mom, this is your reminder to make the change. If something is feeling unsustainable, whether that be night weaning, whether that be transitioning out of bed sharing, transitioning to independent naps, transitioning to a partner supporting your little one to sleep.

transitioning away from rocking to sleep or anything like that. If there’s a transition that needs to happen, if you know it’s time, this is your reminder that you can do it in a loving and gentle way. And if you need help with that, I am here to help you with it. So I’ll jump right in to today’s what I want to talk about. And it’s gonna be a little bit spicy. And I’ve kind of talked about this topic before in my…

I can’t remember the title, something like it’s about sleep training BS. But what I really want to talk about today is why sleep training is so dangerous. And the spoiler alert here is it’s not what I’m going to talk about today, although this is another dangerous part of it. It’s not about the attachment aspect. It’s not about not responding to cries or the trauma aspect. What I want to talk about today is the fact that

Brittni (06:55.982)
sleep training views sleep as a behavior, meaning that when you leave your child to cry it out or you’re doing Ferber or you’re doing the chair method or pick up, put down, whatever you’re doing, those are all behavioral modifications. They have absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with sleep. So,

For example, with Cry It Out, what we’re doing is we’re locking a child, and it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re locking, but I mean, if they’re left alone in a crib, it is essentially locking them in a room because they have no way to get out, especially for a child who’s not mobile. So you’re locking them in a room and you’re not responding to their cries. So what their brain is learning is, okay, I’m crying, I’m calling out for them, they’re not coming.

This response is not getting what I need and in order to protect myself, I’m going to shut down and I’m not going to cry. And then the brain learns, crying at night does not bring a caregiver, so I’m going to stop crying. Nothing about sleep has been learned. If you’re watching the YouTube version, you see me put the learned in quotes.

If you’re listening, I’m putting learned in quotes because you cannot teach sleep. It’s a biological function. So nothing about sleep has been learned. The only thing that has been learned is that cries won’t be answered at night, so I’m not going to cry. So we have modified the behavior. We have modified the crying. We have not modified a biological function, which is sleep.

And that’s what we need to understand is that sleep is a biological function. It’s not a behavior. So when we’re telling families to cry it out or do fervor or whatever, however they want to label the sleep training, we’re missing a fundamental piece, which is that sleep is a biological function. And then to go a step further, we’re missing the fact that what sleep trainers are selling or

Brittni (09:16.43)
trying to make us believe is not actually a biological norm. So we’re being fed this lie that babies can sleep 12 plus hours at night or do an eight hour stretch or by the time that they’re, I think they say 15 pounds maybe, by the time that they’re 15 pounds, they don’t need to be eating at night. Or by the time that they’re six months, they don’t need to be eating at night. All of these arbitrary made up things are not in line biologically speaking.

with how babies sleep. 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 and go back to sleep. That is the biological norm. And this frequent waking, although very frustrating, is a built -in protection against SIDS, okay? So sleep training is dangerous, again, apart from the attachment piece of it.

because it tries to view sleep as a behavior. So that’s making us ignore what’s biologically normal. And then, this is the big piece that I wanna talk about today, is sleep training then ignores red flags, right? So if, I don’t know, we’ll call her Susie. If Susie has a baby, I just made up that name.

If Suzy has a six month old who is waking every hour all night long, maybe she’s nursing to sleep, maybe baby’s in her room with her in a crib, we’ll say, but baby’s waking up every hour, she goes to a sleep trainer. The sleep trainer is going to probably, again, I mean, I can’t speak for all sleep trainers, but this is based off of my experience with past clients. This is kind of how the conversation would go with a sleep trainer. well.

they’re waking hourly because you nurse them to sleep or they’re waking hourly because they’re in your room with you. So you need to put them in another room. So you need to stop nursing to sleep and you need to stop having them in your room. And then we’re going to have to do some crying because right now they know that every time they cry, you’ll come. So we need to teach them the all important skill. Again, I’m doing my air quotes here, the all important skill of self -soothing, right? So,

Brittni (11:39.534)
They’re telling you all of these things and what they’re missing is nursing to sleep as a biological norm. Babies prefer sleeping within sensory range of a caregiver that leans into their need for attachment with us, right? It actually promotes better sleep because they wake up, smell us, hear us, see us. If they’re in bed with us, taste us, if they kind of roll over and start nursing, all of those things are actually conducive to better sleep.

So they’re ignoring the biological norm, but the big piece that is missed there is this baby is waking hourly. Okay? So now we’re gonna flip the script and Susie’s coming to me with the same baby, same issues. I’m looking through her intake form. I see that she’s nursing to sleep. Great, that’s working for her. I see that they want a room share for 12 months. Great. And then I see those hourly wakings. And my brain goes, what’s going on here?

What deeper issue is going on that’s causing this baby to wake up hourly? Or, okay, let’s look at a different example. We have a baby who is fighting sleep all the time, right? The sleep trainer will probably tell them, well, they need to learn how to fall asleep independently. So you just need to leave them in the crib drowsy, but awake and let them cry themselves to sleep. If I have a client who’s coming to me and sleep is a constant fight, I’m talking about naps, bedtime,

And I know these clients because they come to me and as soon as we start talking about sleep, tears come up and mom, big feelings come up because that’s how stressful sleep is. That’s how big of a fight sleep is. These are all ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, red flags to me or signs that we need to be looking into what the red flags are. And that is the most dangerous thing about sleep training is it’s putting a bandaid,

over a much bigger issue, right? It’s forgetting or not forgetting, it’s ignoring the biological norm, but that also really frequent waking is not the sign of a bad habit. It’s not the sign of a child who doesn’t know how to self -soothe. Really frequent waking or big sleep issues are a sign that something is going on that we need to dive deeper into.

Brittni (14:07.982)
so that we can resolve them and then make sleep better. And this whole podcast episode, even though it’s like something I’ve always had in my head, it came right now because I don’t know if I’ve shared this on the podcast, I’ve shared it on my Instagram, but I’m kind of doing like a whole deep dive into Lila’s health and my health right now. We’re both seeing functional doctors, different doctors. Hers is obviously a pediatric functional doctor.

But one of the things that really spurred me to go to this functional doctor is for the last maybe 18 months, Lila will have these, and I’ll call them episodes for lack of a better term. She’ll have these episodes where she’ll wake up in the middle of the night and she’ll start crying that her feet are hot, her feet are hot. And some nights it’s a quick, like I can rub magnesium lotion on them and she goes right back to sleep.

Sometimes it’s been like she’s waking up every hour after that and I’m having to give her a foot massage. And in my work and sleep, I know that that’s something is going on. And my first inclination when this started 18 months ago was I need to put her on an iron supplement. She needs more iron because again, in my work with families, very frequent waking or extreme restlessness is a sign to me that we need to be looking into ferritin levels, which is iron stores. So.

When this started 18 months ago, I got her on the iron supplement. I had been supplementing and I would say it got better for a while. And then maybe in the last six months, it really got bad to the point where one night we live with my parents. If you don’t know that one night, Lila woke up at like 10 o ‘clock at night and my mom came up because Lila was like screaming, crying. Like my mom was like, is everything okay? Like freaking out. And that was a sign to me like, okay.

Obviously something deeper is going on here. I need to be digging deeper. I need to get her into a functional doctor. We need to be looking into what’s going on. So we did all of the functional blood work and I was not surprised, except I was actually a little bit surprised that it was still low because I had been supplementing for a very long time, but her ferritin levels,

Brittni (16:28.526)
Ideally, especially for sleep, we want ferritin at 50 or above. Her ferritin level was at 31, which I’m actually surprised I thought it would be lower. I work with clients, sometimes ferritin’s like nine or 13, and that is a really big sign to me that we need to get iron and ferritin up. So in discovering that, we now are going to have her on a heavier dose of iron, which I don’t love because it’s hard on the stomach, but…

we need to start working on this to resolve this. And as I was like, we were going through this, I thought about how glad I am that I have my background in sleep and that I didn’t just see these hot feet as like, I don’t know, manipulation, right? Like, because when it first started happening, even though I have my certification, I was like, I’m gonna Google this. And like one of the first things that came up was literally,

they called themselves a doctor, but it was like your child is manipulating you if they’re complaining of like hot feet at night. How random, right? Like she’s not manipulating me. She’s waking up in pain. And so if, I don’t know, if I didn’t have my background and I went to a traditional sleep trainer, they would tell me something like, you just need to leave her in her room. And this key fundamental thing would have been missed in her health. And I see it time and time again.

especially with my zero to 12 month clients where maybe they did work with a sleep trainer and they tried the sleep training and then their child continued to wake hourly. And that is an issue, right? If this hourly waking is happening or the fighting sleep is happening, leaving a child to cry is not going to resolve whatever is going on underneath the surface. And actually what we’re teaching our child is you could be in danger, you could have a need, but I’m not.

at night so you don’t so don’t cry out for me and so we’re missing something big that’s disrupting sleep and so in that first year of life some of the big ones I see are low ferritin, airway issues whether that be enlarged adenoids, whether it be a tongue tie that’s causing the tongue to kind of flop back and obstruct the airway, high palate, food sensitivities are another big one.

Brittni (18:49.198)
All of these things, I actually had a client who, when we first started working together, there were some hourly wakes, and then they actually got worse. So we resolved, we got a lot of, we got tongue tie released, we got body work done, and we were in a good place with sleep. And then about, I don’t know, eight months later, the hourly wakes started coming again. And so we chatted again, we talked, and I was like, it sounds to me like something is going on with the airway. I think we need to dig deeper here.

They had already gotten the tongue tie released. So it was like, let’s go, let’s send you to the ENT. They go to the ENT. They had to do like a full scope. And when baby was laying, he wasn’t a baby anymore, toddler. When toddler was laying down, I can’t remember the size, but I think that they said the airway was like the size of a pea. Like that’s all the air that was getting into that child. And if they would have gone to a traditional sleeve trainer, this would have been missed.

And that’s what’s so scary is we are, not we, I do not wanna group myself with them, sleep trainers are selling this lie and then telling them that it’s, now their marketing is gentle if they’re doing pick up, put down or Ferber, but they’re ignoring the fact that if something big like that is going on with sleep, leaving a child to cry is not going to solve it. It’s going to put a bandaid on a.

gaping wound and it’s going to ignore something that we really need to resolve, right? And I think that that’s, that’s, I don’t think, I know that that’s totally irresponsible, right? Like we need to understand what’s biologically normal, okay? It’s biologically normal for babies to wake about every two to three hours. I know I probably sound like a broken record when I say that, but that is normal. What, but then we need to know what is not normal.

Hourly waking is not normal. Really restless sleep. Like if you have a child who’s tossing and turning all night long or kicking their legs or flailing their arms or they need to like wake up every 30 minutes to relatch. If you have a little one who’s dealing with split nights in the middle of the night for a long extended period of time, like over a month. If you have a little one who…

Brittni (21:11.982)
will go to sleep but then wakes up frantically like an hour later and has a really hard time going down. If you have a little one who’s fighting sleep, like none of those, and I mean really fighting sleep, I’m not talking about like their teething and their fighting sleep or maybe they need a little bit longer of a wake window. I’m talking about like, and you’ll know if this is the case in your home where like sleep feels like such a struggle. Like every time you go into a nap or you go into bedtime, you’re like how big of a fight is it going to be today?

None of those things are normal and none of them are going to be solved by sleep training because they are a sign of a bigger issue. And that is what we really need to be focusing on when we’re looking at like why we shouldn’t be recommending sleep training because we’re missing a fundamental piece of this sleep puzzle. We want to make sure that baby’s healthy. We want to make sure that there’s no underlying issues going on.

so that sleep can gradually get better, right? So that we can get to those two to three hour stretches and then three to four hour stretches and then four to five and then six plus, right? Like gradually getting there. So if you have a little one who is hourly waking, who is fighting sleep, who is extremely restless, if things are feeling extremely hard, I want to assure you, if you’re kind of like, I don’t wanna sleep train, but is this my only option? No.

that’s a sign that there’s something deeper that we need to be looking into that would be totally missed and ignored with sleep training. And let me also say this, some very spirited children, like my child, the crying will not stop. So you will go on night and night after night and your child is so strong willed knowing that something is wrong, that they need your help, they’ll keep crying out. So then we have,

something that we’re doing that’s causing us a lot of stress, it’s causing our baby a lot of stress, and we’re still not even touching the surface of what’s going on underneath. And like I said, this whole thing with Lila and her ferretin was really like a big eye -opener for me, even though I know all of this, right? But I just was thinking about it since it hit so close to home of like, I’m so glad I was there to advocate for her because I can’t imagine in a family where…

Brittni (23:34.158)
Maybe they do reach out to someone and they’re like, nope, they’re manipulating you or just don’t go into their room. How sad that that child has a parent who’s been told this and really all that child needs as a parent to advocate for them and see what’s going on as a sign that something deeper is going on. And just like before I did my sleep certification, I’ve shared this in my episode on Lila’s sleep journey, but Lila woke hourly the first year of her life.

Little did I know then, until I did my sleep certification, that she had a tongue tie and a dairy sensitivity. That poor girl was tight from her tongue tie. Breastfeeding was a mess for both of us. She was swallowing a ton of air. She was uncomfortable because I was eating dairy. Then when she started solids, I was offering her cottage cheese and yogurt. She was so uncomfortable. And…

I wish I knew then what I know now because I would have had the tools to get her more comfortable much earlier on. But what I’m so glad that I didn’t do was sleep train because I would have put her through a lot of trauma. I would have put myself through a lot of trauma and at the end of the day she would have still been uncomfortable. And if she would have stopped crying, if she would have taken to sleep training and just stopped crying, she would have still been waking at night. So her sleep quality wouldn’t have been good.

Maybe I would be sleeping better, but she wouldn’t be. And I think we really need to think about that when we’re looking into sleep and looking at things that are really unsustainable. Are they unsustainable because something deeper is going on and we need to look deeper? Are they unsustainable because simply what we’re doing is not working? Either way, we can resolve the issue and still not sleep train. So.

If your little one is having any of these big red flags, or if you’re just at a place where things are not feeling sustainable, I want to remind you, you do not have to sleep train. I am here, right, to support you, to help you. I have my toddler course. I have my zero to 12 month course. I have one -on -one openings. Let’s work together to get you to a place where sleep is sustainable.

Brittni (25:53.23)
and address those red flags that are going on so that we can get your child sleeping better and get your child more comfortable.

If you have any questions, as always, feel free to shoot me a DM, shoot me an email. Let’s chat about things if things are feeling really hard. I’m wishing you a beautiful day.

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