Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What do you do when your partner disagrees with your preferred sleep training methods? How do you make them understand that you’re not being overly strict? Have your own questions? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
My partner and I have a 10-month-old baby. We’ve got a great naptime/wake time routine going, and our son seems to respond to a routine really well. Because of teething and growth spurts, sometimes he wakes up crying after being down for an hour or more at night. We sleep-trained our older daughter by doing the “cry for a couple of minutes, go in, shh, pat, shh, pat” thing and literally after like, 2 nights, she resumed her ability to self-soothe and waking was never really an issue again. This time around, my partner is making me feel like a coldhearted psycho for wanting to do the same thing with our son. I have no idea why they suddenly feel differently about it now, but I do know our son is relying on us to get back to sleep, and while I love him dearly and love holding him and comforting him, I don’t want this to be a nightly habit. How do I get them to see sleep for the baby is for the best for everyone in the house, and that sleep training isn’t cruel?
Parenting is full of hard decisions and compromises, and this is a big one for parents of babies. Sleep training can be a divisive issue, but it really boils down to what works best for your family. Communication between you and your partner is key here, because everyone will suffer if you’re not on the same page or exhibiting consistency.
Sleep training also means a lot of different things to different families. What you’re describing here sounds more than reasonable. Babies need lots of sleep — so much brain development is happening during those unconscious hours! Longer sleep times help with their temperament (and yours, tbh), cognition, appetite, etc. Obviously a well-rested human is a happier human, no matter the age. But you know this already.
Show your partner research that supports your preference in sleep training. Chances are, if your baby isn’t ill or waking up repeatedly with siren-level wailing, it’ll be just as brief and painless as sleep training your oldest. Let him read through the data and see if he comes to a similar conclusion about your preferred method.
If he’s still resistant after you guys have an educated discussion about it, tell him he’s welcome to try his methods for a few nights without any interference from you. I did this once — I told my husband, “If you’re so sure you’ve got this down and you want to roadblock me at every turn, I’ll let you handle things for nighttime waking. It’s all yours.” I physically left the house, went to the library for an hour, and came back. It took exactly one (1) night for him to get on board with my methods, which work best for everyone in our family.
Think about how we fall sleep — we don’t just go and go and go until we collapse in a heap in the middle of the floor at 1 a.m. We get into our jammies, we get settled with a book or TV or with phone-scrolling, we relax, and we fall asleep. Why shouldn’t babies have the same kind of consistency in routine? Of course, routines aren’t for everyone and some parents genuinely do not mind staying up with their kids, bed-sharing, etc. And that’s fine! If that’s what works for them, that’s what works.
Obviously, that’s not what works for you. (It doesn’t work for me either, in case that wasn’t yet clear.) Don’t feel guilty about wanting to train. You’re still responding to your baby’s needs, but you’re also encouraging their own ability to self-soothe. What’s not okay is your partner making you feel guilty about something you’re doing out of love and necessity. Gather the facts, have a talk, let him take the reins if that’s what he needs, and see what happens from there. If his way doesn’t work, you know what to do.
Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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