A succession of sleepless nights… You’re tired. Your head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton. Performing the simplest tasks is a struggle, and everyone is lashing out for no good reason. You need to get some proper sleep. Sleep training your baby sounds like the best solution, but your partner is not on the same page. What now?
Sleep training a baby is a family event that can only be successfully completed if everyone is on the same page and plan. If parenting partners aren’t both on board with a plan, then they need to communicate their concerns calmly and come up with a new sleep training plan.
Ready to learn more realistic ideas on how to communicate with your partner so that sleep training is an option? Keep reading – and let’s get into the nitty-gritty of healthy communication.
Talk to Your Spouse about the Need for Sleep Training
Becoming a parent introduces a new stage in your relationship. One or more tiny creatures require your full attention. The couple (you and your spouse or partner) needs to adopt a parental role and find a new balance. Often, one of the first big hurdles young parents face is to agree on sleeping habits.
How can you breach this parental snag successfully? Try honing your communication skills and talking your way through stalemate situations. Establishing a solid communication line is crucial for sleep training as well as parenting.
Here are some tips to start the process:
- Set the scene. Find a calm moment when you won’t get interrupted. Inform your partner in advance you want to talk. Consider asking family or a friend to keep an eye on your little one.
- Define the problem. List in an objective manner what you consider to be the problem. For instance: “Our 10-month-old baby wakes up at least 3 times a night and struggles to fall asleep. We established a nighttime routine. We weaned the baby off the bottle. The baby is not teething or sick. I am exhausted and you’re falling asleep at dinner.”
- Clearly state what you want or need. E.g. “I would like to start sleep training.”
- Own your statements. Talk from your personal perspective: “I feel…”, “I think…”. This stresses it is your point of view and not a general, irrevocable truth. It offers a better starting point to move towards a meeting of minds. Voice comments pertaining to changeable behavior or things your partner can control. Refrain from making accusations or attacking the person.
- Be factual. Bring evidence for your case (e.g. “Some of the stricter methods give results within 3-7 days”). Assert why it is important (e.g. “trying to improve baby’s sleep is an investment in our wellbeing”). Take time to update your partner on what you have researched. Which method do you favor? Explain to your partner how your preferred method works, what the underlying mechanism is, and why it is a good idea to apply it in your situation.
- Solution-focused. Initiating sleep training is a practical matter. Whereas it may feel nice if your partner just listens to your concerns, you do need to find a practical solution to the problem. What is a feasible plan that both parents can consent to? Which steps will you try? How much time are you giving this before you evaluate?
- Listen to each other. If you asked your soul mate to listen to you, grant them the same favor. Open your mind and heart so you can truly hear what they are saying.
- Sleep on it (pardon the pun). Do not demand an immediate fix. Respect the fact that your spouse hasn’t done as much thinking and reading about the topic. They need some time to catch up. Cut each other some slack. You are both tired, possibly emotional and not thinking straight. Agree to resume the conversation the following night.
- Decide together on which approach best suits your individual situation (more on that below).
- Plan it out. Formulate clear expectations. When will you start (e.g. during a long weekend, not before a big deadline at work)? Who will put the baby to bed? Who takes the first shift? Being able to formulate a joint plan creates a unified parental front that feels secure and confident in their choices. Moreover, babies pick up on the tension. If you have a plan you both believe in, then all the insecurities and negative vibes wane. This helps you and the baby to relax and everyone sleeps better.
- Patience. There is no such thing as a perfect conversation. Getting your partner on the same page is a process. Pick up the same topic several times. Also, try not to be too hard on yourself or your partner. In parenting, everything is a learning curve. You can read, research, and follow advice, yet each situation is unique. Engaging in trial and error whilst holding the wellbeing of your offspring in your hand can feel overwhelming. It can evoke indecision, insecurity, and fear of failure. Sharing these emotions and being patient helps.
Again, communicating well isn’t easy. It takes time and practice. And we all get it wrong from time to time. So be patient with yourself and those around you.
Can I Make My Partner Sleep Train the Baby?
All this communication stuff possibly sounds a bit harrowing. Wouldn’t it be easier to force that husband or wife that won’t sleep train?
No matter how tempting it sounds, no, you cannot make your partner do anything – including taking on a project as involved as sleep training. Nor would we recommend that anyone walk this path alone. A relationship is based on mutual respect. Overriding the opinion of one partner is directly opposed to that. Remember you are a team, and you are in this together.
When it comes to sleep training, it is essential to stick to the same plan and principles. This is because sleep training works on behavioral conditioning. Clear messages encourage learning. Conflicting messages, on the other hand, confuse.
In addition, psychology research found that irregularly rewarding unwanted behavior establishes that behavior more firmly. For instance:
Mom tries to teach baby self-soothing. Yet, each time dad takes over, the baby is picked up immediately. From then on, the baby will expect to be picked up and will raise hell until you do so.
Therefore, deciding together and applying a joint plan is vital.
Decide Together on a Sleep Training Method
To find the best sleep training method, you can start by ruling out reasons that could prevent healthy sleeping habits. Create predictability by establishing a routine. Regulate light, sound and everything that might arouse or disrupt sleep.
From there, you’ll want to research common sleeping methods. Look into crying it out, Ferber and other behavioral methods, as well as the gentle ways based on fading and comfort of parent and child. All of these work with attachment style parenting.
Focus on what you are both comfortable with. There is not one approach that works for all. Not even in the same family. Both of you have your own character and preferences to take into account, the baby’s character (easy-going or feisty) and the specific circumstances (sensitive neighbors, restless siblings, amount of energy available, etc.).
As mentioned before, sleep training is one of the first big decisions that require a unified front. Don’t rush into it. Take your time to find a solution that fits with your new parental role and lays a proper foundation for future decisions.
Is the discussion not going as well as planned? Do not despair. Talk about it as a team willing to learn and move forward. Recognize the parts where either of you could have done better.
How to Communicate When Sleep Training Isn’t Working
If one of the parents can see the logic in a certain approach but feels strong adverse reactions while putting it in practice, talk about it. Your partner can help you.
Letting your baby cry (even for a few minutes) can feel cruel and devastating, especially as it rekindles old sores of times we did not feel held and cared for. Let your partner hold you. Remember that your baby is only acting on impulse at the moment. You are not marking him for life or making him feel unloved.
However, if any of the approaches you are trying is not working for you or for baby, discuss it with your spouse. If something is important to one party, it should be important to the other.
Use the same communication steps as listed above. Any new approach requires constant evaluation and fine-tuning.
What to Do When Your Spouse Won’t Stop Cosleeping
Having your first babies is wonderful and amazing. Yet, it can be stressful to adjust to your new responsibilities. The paternal role is dynamic and requires flexibility. It entails finding a balance between nurturing, holding, caring (healthy attachment) and allowing your baby tiny steps forward to becoming their own person.
In this process, your values and beliefs of what is normal and acceptable come to the fore. Even if you love your partner very much, your values might clash. After all, we are a product of our own history and parenting. For instance:
Mom doesn’t mind sleeping in the toddler’s bed or letting your 6-year-old share your big bed. Dad is in dire need of some couple’s alone time.
An initial intense focus on your baby is very normal. Over time, energies are reshuffled to find a new equilibrium between the baby and our soul mate. This calls for more talking and listening.
Even if you think cosleeping works fine, your partner might have a different opinion. Listen open-mindedly to their reasons. These can be practical (sleep patterns disrupted of all involved) or emotional (feeling left out, demoted to number 2, longing for some undisrupted couple’s time or intimacy). These are all valid feelings.
Talk about it until you reach a consensus. Refer back to the communication steps. If one member in the family is unhappy, it matters to all. Find what works for your family.
How to Talk to Your Spouse About Your Children’s Sleep Issues
Sleep training is not only geared towards letting infants sleep through the night. It is also very handy when your older child has nightmares, night terrors, or insists on cosleeping.
Likewise, all the above-mentioned communication steps can be applied when you want to discuss sleep training or with your partner.
Final Thoughts on Sleep Training as a Parenting Partnership
It would be really easy (and kind of nice) if you could “make” your spouse sleep train the baby. Of course, if you could make someone do something, why not skip ahead to “making” the baby sleep a solid 12 hours at a go?
However, we can’t make people do things.
We can use behavioral conditioning, patience, and love to help people adopt healthy, happy lifestyles.
So because we can’t force anyone to do something, we have to learn and use positive parenting techniques to become better people – and to teach better life skills and behaviors to our children.
It won’t be easy. It won’t be quick. But the skills you gain from going through these steps now will have huge payoffs in the long run. So go ahead and put in the work now. Learning how to communicate well is so much deeper than the basic skill we assume it is.
So go practice communicating with your spouse or partner. Then, go and practice together by sleep training your child. You’ve got this. Best of luck, friends!