Ask any mama who ascribes to attachment parenting or gentle parenting if they plan to engage in sleep training with their littles and you'll likely instantly hear, "Are you kidding? I'll NEVER let my baby cry it out!" But the reality is, for even those of us attachment parents who do not want to entertain 'Ferberizing' your baby, we've quite possibly asked if sleep training and attachment parenting can even coexist?

And the answer is...sleep training may fit with your parenting approach.

What is Baby Sleep Training?

First off, let's answer the question of what baby sleep training is. At the core, sleep training is what happens when you try to adjust your child's sleep behaviors. Plain and simple, it's where you work to shape your child's sleeping habits, and there are a number of ways you can do so.

So, in essence, most of us moms already employ some sort of sleep training when we have little ones. Whether it's working to keep them up just a bit longer so they're ready to eat a meal, or let them sleep a tad longer than they may typically so they're more rested or in a better mood when we hit the grocery store, we ARE working on their sleep cycles and schedules.

Sleep training may have gotten a bad rap through the years, and in no small part to the media's portrayal of Dr. Richard Ferber's method of 'sleep training' as described in his book, "How To Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems." Characterized as 'crying it out' or 'Ferberizing' your baby--it's often looked at as letting your baby cry and cry and cry and cry until they eventually exhaust themselves to the point that they fall asleep.

And no mama is okay with the thought of their baby crying until that point, particularly without any mama intervention, reassurance and consoling.

Truth be told, they shouldn't be. In fact, a case could be made that letting your baby cry and cry and cry until they become so exhausted they collapse is similar to (or even is) neglect. The effects of children left to cry and cry in orphanages has led to many a study about the effects of that neglect (typically due to insufficient staff and orphanage need) and the results are not good.

But, in all fairness to Dr. Ferber (who is a physician at Children's Hospital Boston and the Director for the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders--researching and studying sleep for over 30 years) he does NOT advocate for the typical 'crying it out' method of helping what he calls 'giving your child the gift of sleep'. Dr. Ferber, like Dr. Sears (who is the father of Attachment Parenting) promotes bonding with your child and giving her a solid emotional foundation that will allow her to have healthy emotional relationships in life.

Sleep Training or Sleep Coaching?

Baby sleep coaches don't like to call it 'sleep training' because they don't like to bring about those images of screaming babies and mamas crying on the other side of the door as their babies wail for them. Instead, it's helping to build solid sleep for your baby's brain development as she grows, and doing so in gentle ways that work for both mom and baby. Attachment parenting / gentle parenting allows you to create emotional supports and assurances with your baby that will allow them to develop the ability to regulate (to small degrees; they ARE babies, after all) in gentle ways.

Just like a coach would not stand by and insist a child know how to hit a ball (they'd be with them, walk through it with them, show them, stay with them until they were confident, etc.) so can a sleep coach work with sleep training for attachment parents.

Gentle Sleep training does NOT mean you need to neglect your child as you're helping them learn how to fall asleep and it certainly doesn't mean weaning from breastfeeding. In fact, sleep coaches worth their weight in salt wouldn't even consider working with babies who were at least 6-months-old or older because their stomachs are typically capable of holding more and keeping them more satisfied through their sleep cycles. That's not a steadfast age, by the way, just a general guideline. If someone tells you that your 2-month-old should be sleeping through the night?

Consider smiling and waving.

Does that mean that 2-month-olds can't sleep through the night? Of course not. But does it mean they should be coached to? Not necessarily.

Sleep Training and Crying: There is such a thing as too many tears

Sleep training does NOT mean letting your child cry for hours on end. It just doesn't. Crying is something your child does to alert you to their discomfort, and that can happen in healthy, attached children too as they fall asleep. In fact, most sleep trainers will tell you NOT to let your child cry for more than 1-3 minute spurts if you're trying to work on their sleep schedules and that's because anything more is usually a sign your child just needs more reassurance from you. Giving it to them is okay and won't derail any sleep coaching efforts, and you should never feel shame or guilt for comforting your baby--even if you're working on helping them with sleep.

Sleep Training Gives You Sleep Too

Yes, motherhood is sacrificial. It's always giving of yourself and that's a beautiful thing. But you need to practice self-care and not feel bad about wanting to help your baby be fully rested so you can be too. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to babies sleeping and the bottom line is that whatever YOU feel works for you and your family is the best sleep training program you can be in. You are mom, and you know best so you can take pride in helping give baby solid sleep as well as being her security, comfort and base at any time she needs too.