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  • Michelle Goudy

Sleep Training and Attachment

One of the concerns many parents have surrounding sleep training, is how it will affect the bond with their child. Will their child feel abandoned? Will it cause attachment issues? Will their child hate them in the morning? These are common worries, but I'm here to tell you that sleep training has been shown to have no negative affect on the bond between parent and child.


Let's start by understanding what secure attachment is. According to Alan Sroufe, a developmental psychologist at the Institute for Child Development at the University of

Minnesota, secure attachment has three functions. It provides a sense of safety and security, regulates emotions and offers a secure base from which to explore. Secure attachment should not be confused with attachment parenting philosophy which promotes eight principle concepts including breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing. To be clear, you can establish secure attachment in your child without practicing attachment parenting and attachment parenting doesn't guarantee a secure attachment. For example, you can breastfeed in a cold, mechanical way that prohibits a secure attachment and you can formula feed in attentive and responsive way. There is no "bag of tricks" for attachment. According to Sroufe, a secure attachment forms when the caregiver is involved, attentive, sensitive and responsive.


So how can you be involved, attentive, sensitive and responsive while sleep training? I found this except from Melinda Wenner Moyer published in numerous newspapers:

"But attachment isn't extremely fragile, nor is there a formula parents need to follow to ensure if develops. "Don't get me wrong: I think nursing is great for lots of reasons, co-sleeping is fine and carrying a baby in a sling is great, but you can do all of those things and not be a sensitive parent," says Alan Sroufe...And no you won't threaten a secure attachment with your baby if you let her cry at night a few times, either: Sroufe let his own daughter cry it out for a few days when she was about 8 months old. (It worked.) "Did I think she would be traumatized by this? No. This business of being sensitive and responsive - it's about being sensitive and responsive the vast majority of the time."

I would also argue that sleep training can strengthen the secure attachment between parent and child. If parents are getting the rest they need, it allows them to be more sensitive and responsive to their child. One recommendation I make in every sleep plan is this: fill your child's cup during the day. Spend quality time with them-snuggle, play, laugh-strengthen your bond. It will help ease the transition as you begin sleep training.


So rest assured, if you decide sleep training is best for your family, your child will still love you in the morning and the secure attachment you are developing with your child will not be damaged.


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