Can Sleep Training Affect Parent-Child Attachment?

May 26, 2023

Sleep is a crucial aspect of a child's overall well-being, and parents often find themselves faced with the challenge of helping their little ones establish healthy sleep habits.

However, concerns about the impact of sleep training on attachment and bonding can leave parents feeling hesitant and unsure about taking the leap.

In this comprehensive blog, I aim to debunk the myth that sleep training harms attachment and provide evidence-based insights to reassure parents about the benefits of gentle sleep training techniques.

By understanding the science behind attachment and sleep training, parents can confidently embrace sleep training as a means to nurture their child's healthy sleep habits.

Understanding Attachment and Sleep Training

To address the concerns surrounding sleep training and attachment, it's important to first understand the concept of attachment. Attachment theory highlights the significance of a secure emotional bond between infants and their primary caregivers, built over countless loving interactions.

Sleep training, when approached with sensitivity and responsiveness, does not disrupt this attachment. Instead, it can contribute positively to a child's emotional well-being by establishing healthy sleep habits and promoting restful nights for both the child and the parent.

During sleep training, responsive settling techniques, such as gentle touch, soothing words, and reassurance, play a vital role in nurturing attachment. By demonstrating availability and sensitivity as caregivers, parents communicate to their child that they are there to provide comfort even as they learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.

Loving interactions and responsive caregiving outside of sleep training periods continue to strengthen the parent-child bond.

This is my philosophy about tears and attachment, 

We can support our children through the tears, without rescuing them

Debunking the Myth: Short-Term Crying vs. Long-Term Attachment

The mommy blogs and parenting books often mix up sleep training with "cry it out," says Jodi Mindell, a psychologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

One common misconception is that sleep training involves leaving a child to cry alone for prolonged periods, which may harm attachment. In reality, sleep training techniques can be implemented with parental presence and intermittent soothing. 

Yes, there will be tears for sure as when making changes to your child's sleep habits, they will resist and protest in the only way they know how - by crying. But does not mean you need to leave your child alone to cry-it-out by themselves. 

In my opinion,

Gentle sleep training is 'bout being your child's coach, not crutch

Strengthening Attachment Through Sleep Training

Real-life experiences from parents who have gone through sleep training can provide valuable insights about the inverse of what most parents fear - that sleep training can STRENGTHEN attachment not weaken.

All parents I have worked with report that their bond with their child actually strengthened as a result of sleep training. By ensuring that both the child and the parent get the quality sleep they need, there is an increase in patience, attentiveness, and enjoyment during awake times. This enhanced daytime interaction further nurtures the attachment and deepens the parent-child bond.

I myself experienced this after sleep training my 6 month old daughter. Before sleep training, I used to be in a perpetual "Mombie" state. I did not feel like myself all day long as I wasn't sleeping all night long. I didn't have time to spend quality time with my daughter as I was sleeping during the day as my mother could take over my daughter's care then.

After sleep training, all of us were waking up so refreshed after a full night's sleep. My daughter started waking only once around 3 am for a quick feed and went right back to sleep. My husband and I alternated to take care of these wakings which means both of us were getting 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every other night. That was LIFE CHANGING. We started going for early morning family trips to the park, spending more time singing and cuddling during her awake windows, going out and exploring together. I finally became the mum I knew I could be, which made me love my baby so much more! 

Research and Evidence on The Impact of Sleep Training on Attachment:

If anecdotal evidence doesn't convince, there are scientific studies, such as a review of 52 studies on sleep training conducted by Mindell and colleagues (2016), that 94% report that behavioral interventions such a camping out and gradual checkins were effective in improving sleep. 

A 5-year long randomised controlled trial (gold standard in scientific research) by Harriet Hiscock examines the long-term effects of behavioral infant sleep interventions and finds no evidence of harm while showing sustained benefits in sleep, maternal mental health, and child behavior at the five-year follow-up.

These studies highlight that the overall quality of care provided by parents throughout a child's development is what truly matters for attachment. Sleep training, when implemented with love and respect for the child's individual needs, can be a positive experience for both the child and the parent.


In conclusion, sleep training, when conducted with sensitivity, responsiveness, and a focus on the child's well-being, does not harm attachment or bonding. Rather, it contributes to the establishment of healthy sleep habits, benefiting both the child and the parent.

Remember, a secure attachment is built over thousands of loving interactions throughout a child's lifetime, and sleep training can be apart of this journey toward a well-rested and thriving family.

With the proper implementation of gentle and responsive sleep training techniques, parents can foster a loving and secure attachment while promoting healthy sleep habits for their little ones.

Sleep training is an opportunity for parents to provide the best care for their child's sleep needs, leading to improved overall well-being and a happier family dynamic.