We’re all willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that our babies are properly nourished, obviously, but as anyone who’s been through this glorious journey of motherhood will tell you, kids are shrewd. They’re unimaginably clever. They will find ways to get what they want and they will repeat them relentlessly.

Which is not their fault, obviously. They’re just working off of instinct. They know what they like, and at a young age, they like Mum. A lot.

I’m talking all Mum, all the time. You are to your baby what Pinterest is to middle age homeowners. Too much is never enough.

And given the fact that they really only have one method of communicating, if Mum’s not around and they don’t think that’s cool, they fire up the lungs and they cry.

However, obviously they don’t only cry because they want Mum. They cry because they’re uncomfortable, or because they’ve got a dirty diaper, or because they’re too hot or too cold, and they cry because they’re hungry.

So when they wake up in the middle of the night and they start crying, it’s tough to determine whether it’s because they need to eat or because they just want to see Mum back in the room.

I’m not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t respond to your baby’s crying. You know your baby better than anyone and I imagine you can tell when something needs to be addressed based on the decibel level, intensity, pitch, and duration. But having said that, if your baby is waking up seven or eight times a night and insisting that you come in and rock her back to sleep, that can have a serious impact on everybody’s sleep, including hers.

A lot of babies have developed a dependency on nursing, rocking, sucking, and so on, in order to get to sleep, and it’s not something they can overcome in 15 or 20 minutes. Solving that issue takes some real work and a firm commitment from you, but we can talk about sleep training in a minute here.

First things first, here are a few things to consider when you’re trying to determine this oh-so- prevalent parental riddle.

IS BABY UNDER SIX MONTHS OLD?

Up until about the six month mark or when babies reach the weight of around 7kg, babies often need at least one nighttime feed. Their tummies are small, they haven’t started solid food yet, and formula and breast milk digest fairly quickly, so there’s a good chance they’re going to get a case of the munchies during the night.

This isn’t the case for all babies, obviously. Some infants sleep through the night without a feed from a very early age and then pig out during the day, but generally speaking, you can expect to be summoned for a nighttime feed up until baby’s hit about six months.

IS BABY EATING ENOUGH DURING THE DAY?

Once a baby drops his night feeds, the good news here is that baby’s body will typically adjust over a night or two to start taking in those additional calories during the daytime once they’re no longer getting them at night.

Just a quick but SUPER IMPORTANT reminder... Before you attempt to make any changes to your baby’s feeding schedule, talk to your paediatrician. Nighttime sleep is awesome but calories are essential. If your little one is underweight or not growing as fast as they should be, it might not be a good time to wean out night feedings, so again, chat with your doctor.

IS BABY FALLING ASLEEP QUICKLY WHEN YOU FEED THEM?

I’m sure you know this scenario. Baby starts crying 45 minutes after you put her down, you go in and offer a feed which she eagerly accepts, she takes about three quarters of an ounce, then promptly passes out in the middle of things.

If this is happening frequently, it’s a good sign that your little one’s feeding for comfort instead of hunger. Babies who are genuinely hungry will usually eat until they’re full, whereas those who are feeding for comfort tend to drift off pretty quickly once they’ve gotten what they’re looking for.

DOES BABY SLEEP FOR A GOOD STRETCH AFTER FEEDING?

If baby does take a full feed at night, she should be able to sleep for around 3-4 hours afterwards. An average sleep cycle for babies around the 6 month mark is somewhere in the 45minute - 1

hour range, so if they’re waking up around that long after they eat, it’s likely that they’re dependent on the sucking and soothing actions of your feeding routine to get to sleep.

WILL THEY GO BACK TO SLEEP WITHOUT A FEED?

So if your baby really is hungry, they usually won’t go back to sleep very easily until they’ve been fed. If they nod off after five or ten minutes of crying, that’s a pretty reliable sign that they were just looking for some help getting back to sleep and not actually in need of a feed.

DOES BABY FALL ASLEEP INDEPENDENTLY?

Here lies the linchpin. The cornerstone of the whole equation, this right here. Can your baby fall asleep on their own?

If you can put your baby down in her crib while she’s still awake, leave the room, and have baby fall asleep without any help from you, without a pacifier, or any other kind of outside assistance, then those nighttime cries are far more likely to mean that she genuinely needs a hand with something when she wakes up crying at night. Determining whether your baby’s hungry at night is obviously a complicated situation. Calories are vital but so is sleep, so we typically end up paralyzed trying to balance the importance of the two.

This tightrope is immeasurably easier to walk once you’ve taught your baby the skills they need to fall asleep on their own. Once the habit of feeding to sleep is broken, you can feel much more confident that their requests for a nighttime feed are out of necessity and not just a way of grabbing a few extra minutes with mom.

And, as always, if you’re looking for some help teaching your little one those essential sleep skills, I’ve got you covered.

As the parent of a new baby, the number of questions you’re going to find yourself asking are, to put it mildly, astronomical.

The old saying about babies not coming with instructions has cemented itself in parental lore for a good reason. Even after spending nine months doing endless research on what to expect when baby arrives, as soon as we’re sent home from the hospital with our little ones, there’s an unavoidable feeling of unpreparedness.

Every baby is different, after all, so no manual, no set of instructions, no amount of coaching from friends and family, is going to prepare you for your child in particular.

And since this is just about the biggest responsibility that a human being can have, to raise another living person, we feel an incredible obligation to get it right.

Unfortunately, we don’t get any practice swings or dress rehearsals. Your first run-through is the final performance, so to speak, which only increases our dedication to solving problems before they spring up.

And since babies basically eat, poop, cry and sleep, we’re naturally very focused on those four things.

What to feed baby, that’s often a contentious subject on its own, and we often find ourselves with a sudden fascination in poop that we didn’t realize we had.

Which leaves us with sleeping and crying, and as a baby sleep consultant, I assure you, I’ve done a lot of research on both. Because the biggest question that parents have when they start sleep training is, “Will my baby cry?”

This really isn’t the question they want the answer to, of course, because babies cry all the time. In fact, if a baby didn’t cry, it would be cause for concern. What they’re really asking when they pose this question is, “How much will my baby cry, and will I be able to provide comfort when they do?”

Why is this the major concern with new parents? Well, naturally nobody likes to hear their baby cry, but parents nowadays are able to access a wealth of misinformation that claims if you don’t respond immediately when your baby cries, you could actually be harming them.

This wasn’t always such a contentious issue. Up until Dr. William Sears came out with his Attachment Parenting theory in 1993, parents were reasonably comfortable with the idea that leaving a child to cry for a period of time when they woke in the night was safe, if maybe a little unpleasant.

But once The Baby Book was published, a generation of new parents began to cling to the idea that it was not just ineffective, but was causing brain damage. Sears cited studies to back up his claim, but those studies looked at babies who were suffering from colic and a condition known as persistent crying, both of which are a far cry from allowing a child a few minutes of crying time.

And so the argument has raged on for nearly 25 years now, with attachment parenting advocates accusing sleep training advocates of willfully neglecting their babies for their own convenience.

It’s surprising that the paediatric and scientific community haven’t done more to prove or disprove this assertion, given the magnitude of the consequences. After all, if we’re causing our babies brain damage by allowing them to cry, even for a short period, wouldn’t almost every parent in the world alter their approach to prevent it?

One reason Dr. Sears’ claims didn’t provoke an immediate and widespread investigation was because they were hugely misleading. The Yale researchers, who conducted one of the studies his research pulled from, responded to his use of their work by saying, “Our paper is not referring to routine, brief stressful experiences, but to abuse and neglect. It is a mis-citation of our work to support a non-scientifically justified idea.”

So that’s the argument against the original suggestion that started this whole movement. But its supporters will invariably ask, “Where’s your evidence to the contrary? How do you know it’s not harmful?”

Well, back in 2012, Dr. Anna Price, a post-doctoral researcher at the Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health in Melbourne, Australia, conducted an extensive study that followed a group of two hundred and twenty six children, measuring mental health, sleep, stress regulation, child-parent relationship, maternal health and parenting styles. Five years later, she followed up with the families to see the if the one third of the children whose parents had employed some method of sleep training had experienced any of the terrifying side effects that Dr. Sears had warned of.

The result… they had not.

But critics continue to try to shoot holes in the evidence. “The sample size was too small,” is a common complaint, no matter what the size of the study might be. “We need further study,” is another, assuming that further study would support their position, which, as of yet, it hasn’t.

But for those new parents who have been bombarded with misinformation and hearsay regarding the safety and efficacy of sleep training, it’s yet another assurance that you can feel confident in the fact that getting your child to sleep through the night is important, safe, and beneficial to your entire family.

Because there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, and that’s the fact that a good night’s sleep is beneficial for mother and baby alike.

So the answer is yes, sleep training is safe. Sleep itself is glorious, rejuvenating, and beneficial to you, your baby, and your entire family. Focusing on your child’s sleep habits is something you can feel good about, and a commitment that will pay off exponentially.

In short, your baby and yourself can both sleep soundly, knowing you’ve made the right choice.