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Baby Sleep Advice: 4 Bulletproof Ways to Dodge Unwelcome Baby Sleep Advice

Receiving baby sleep advice can be very helpful but it can become overwhelming. This can happen especially when it is unsolicited. If you’re travelling this holiday with your baby or toddler, you already know there won’t be a shortage of advice.

The question is how do you deal with them?

Baby Sleep Advice - A woman holding her baby

A friend of mine once confided in me that the number one most challenging part of becoming a mom was the unwelcome advice that she received. Shockingly, this outranked bi-hourly nursing of the baby through the night, coming to terms with loss of independence and the loneliness of staying indoors with a new baby during the winter months. 

Are you being “told” to sleep train? Wean? How to feed? Or anything else that just doesn’t fit with who you want to be as a parent? The first and simplest way to dodge unwelcome advice when you just want to doge it is to say thanks but no thanks to the advice. Instead, thank yourself for having the confidence and courage to trust your own present judgement to go on *your* own way.

If saying thanks but no thanks just isn’t practical, keep reading to learn 4 ways to deal with those well-meaning, advice giving family and friends.

If the advice giver is also a care-giver, consider letting them try their own thing, let them…and get the heck out of home.

This is so obvious once you try it out. If you feel anxiety running high when you see your mother in law rocking the baby in a different position than you’re used to – get out of the house.  Guess what? Without the bounds of safety – there is no BEST way to do anything and little chance that time spent with a relative will undo any of the practices you’ve put in place. Thinking this rarely helps anxiety levels decrease. So the best thing to do is leave home – use this as a break for you. As a bonus the adult in charge will grow their parenting prowess.

You can also decide on what is not negotiable for you, and what is. Make sure the non negotiable items are specific and concrete (and easy to remember and follow) then trust that your trusted caregiver will follow those. Let them do their own thing when it comes to everything else. There truly is no ONE way to get to the same goal.

Acknowledge advice-related emotional baggage.

Often advice you receive is hard won experience. Sometimes it even comes with its own emotional baggage. My friend shared that having been told by her mom that her milk supply was not sufficient for her baby and that her baby was starving really cut her deep (despite objective indicators that this simply was not true). Later when this same baby nursed past the age of 2 her mom confided that “perhaps” her milk had stopped at the 4 month mark because she had supplemented with formula herself and that maybe if she had done it my friend’s way that wouldn’t have happened. Her sadness made it hard to enjoy a potentially juicy “told you so” moment.

Despite this early cessation of nursing having occurred more than 30 years ago the regret felt fresh and strong. My friend found herself consoling her mom, knowing that she did the best she could with the information that she had at the time. Advice, especially insistent advice often has emotion attached to it. Consider if you can see how a person’s own experience is impacting the delivery of their advice and this might help to reduce your own anxiety.

Agree to disagree.

This one is easily said but hard to do. I usually try some form of “I see that you are looking for me to do ______ and your concern is ____ . I am trying out ____ to accomplish the same thing. Let’s agree to disagree. “ An example of sleep related advice my friend received from a well meaning grandparent and doctor was that she was picking up the baby too quickly when he started crying. Her grandma argued that he would get spoiled by all the rocking and shushing. If you’ve read some of my other articles you’d know that is absolutely far from the truth. 

In using the formula above I would encourage my friend to say“I see that you are looking for me to avoid picking up the baby when he is crying and it is time to sleep and your concern is that he will then need to be picked up all the time and won’t learn to put himself to sleep. I am also trying to accomplish having my baby learn to sleep. I have done my own reading that suggests an alternate approach which says picking up the baby is good for him and his sleep. Let’s agree to disagree.“ Hearing back that they have been heard is sometimes enough to stop the feedback in its tracks, all the while making the advice-giver feel heard, valued and respected.

Be Honest about how you are feeling

When you say ____ it makes me feel _____

What I would like you to do instead is…

Sometimes the advice giving just doesn’t stop. In these cases I find it helpful to directly address how said comments are impacting you. It is likely that on hearing your strong negative emotional impact, after having tried all other techniques the advice-giver will back off. You can further guide them by simply and concretely stating what you would like them to do instead.

Bonus Tip: Determine whose advice you should take anyway

Are you finding that you are receiving lots of sleep advice about how YOU should put YOUR baby down for sweet dreams?

Here is whose advise you SHOULD take when it comes to your own way of putting your baby to sleep: in short, nobody’s. Not even your partner’s. Your partner must figure out *their* way & hopefully be supportive of your way. Yes, totally okay to do it differently. The exception is of course unless you’ve hired someone specifically to advise you on sleep AND find them supportive and helpful. It’s NOT enough to have hired them. Please fire them if they don’t make you feel confident in your own judgement or ever tell you to ignore your intuition.


Make the following assessment using the following questions:

Does the person giving me sleep advice:

  • Have a baby?
  • Willing to step in to put down my baby?
  • How many times have they successfully got my baby to sleep in baby’s life? In the past month? In the past week? Today?
  • How much time have they spent getting to know my baby’s sleep patterns and cues?
  • How much time have they spent with my baby in general?
  • How much do they know about baby sleep? Heck, lets take it easy – what do they know about sleep in general?
  • Did I ask them for sleep advice? (this one is my personal favorite!)

Things to remember for when you doubt your own judgement or decisions

  • There is no one who knows your baby better than… YOU!
  • You are with your baby more than anyone and therefore you know what they need, when they need it (really, its not even a fair competition)
  • You have mom intuition that no one else has. This is your special super power. You are in charge of communicating your baby’s needs to others and getting them met the way that feels right and good and authentic to you.

Do what works for you and your baby, change what doesn’t. When it comes to other caregivers – be clear on your non-negotiable but otherwise let them do their own thing, too. When it comes to advice by people who do not care for your baby, take what you find helpful, leave what you don’t. You don’t owe anyone an explanation other than yourself, your baby and your parenting partner.

More Resources

If you’re travelling this holiday with your baby or toddler, the information in Travelling With Toddlers and Navigating Sleep will help you prepare and have a smooth holiday.

Have you ever considered what your philosophy around sleep is?

If you’re still asking these questions: do I want to sleep train my baby? What really is my parenting philosophy? Is what I’m doing right now in line with my values? I have a fun QUIZ you can take that will help you figure these out. The quiz is based on sleep and parenting philosophy. Once you’re done, you will receive a FREE sleep education checklist in your email. This checklist is filled with resources that are aligned with your sleep philosophy.

Would you like to know what a normal infant and toddler sleep should look like? In this free QUICK GUIDE, you will find that and a lot more information that will help you get amazing sleep.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

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Have you taken our sleep philosophy quiz?

Not sure how to approach sleep with your family? With the help of this short buzzfeed style quiz you can find out your sleep philosophy.

Once you're done--we'll email you a sleep education checklist to help you dig into your unique approach to sleep.