Sometimes I hear from parents who have tried Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution and have not been able to get it to work. This article will discuss possible reasons why sometimes it doesn’t work for a variety of families.
First, let me say that Pantley’s book The No Cry Sleep Solution has a lot of good information in it in terms of how babies sleep and the most common sleep problems. As with most books about sleep, it is over 200 pages and has a lot of common sense information in it that you likely have already tried. As I strive to save you as much time as possible (new parents rarely have time to read multiple 200+ page books), I tend to try to extract the most useful information from a variety of sources in order for you to create your own personal sleep plan without reading 10 full-length books, millions of pages on the internet, etc. Today, I talk about one important piece that is missing from Pantley’s book and that is about your baby’s temperament and personality and why that leads to her methods not necessarily working for your baby.
Pantley does talk about one of the most common sleep associations which is “sucking to sleep” by either breastfeeding, pacifier, or bottle. I would say the majority of parents I work with on a daily basis have one of these issues. The remaining parents need to rock, pat, sway, bounce, or walk their baby to sleep. Some people have to do a combination: bounce on a ball while feeding with one leg up, for example. Pantley mostly focuses on the sucking to sleep association and, specifically, breastfeeding for the most part, as she is a big proponent of Attachment Parenting and co-sleeping.
In a nutshell, Pantley’s “Gentle Removal Plan” is to give your baby the pacifier, bottle or breast, but continually remove it until your baby finally falls asleep without it in his mouth. On the surface, this is good advice and for some babies, it will work…eventually. Let’s consider why it won’t work for some babies or take so long that you wonder whether your baby simply outgrew it.
Have you ever tried to break a long-term habit? Let’s face it, your baby may only be 6 months old, but if she’s been breastfeeding to sleep her whole life, this is a long-term habit. My mom has repeatedly tried to quit smoking. She just hasn’t been able to quit, unfortunately. Similarly, I’ve had friends who try to lose weight and they might lose some and then gain it back. I’m sure many of us can relate to breaking habits in one way or another.
One big thing about habits is that you can try to moderate yourself. You can try to smoke just one cigarette a day, for example, or allow yourself to eat one piece of cake a week, but what tends to spin us back into bad habits is that one leads to many. It isn’t that you are weak. It isn’t that you don’t want to change. Habits are hard to break and if you allow yourself one, you are giving yourself permission to say that it’s okay to “do” it. Therefore, it’s hard not to continue to do it. If something is not good for you and moderating yourself hasn’t worked, you have to tell yourself it’s never good for you and not allow yourself to have it even once. It’s in our nature to want more. That’s why some diet plans tell you to throw away all of your sweets, for example.
Wait, does this mean you should never give your baby a pacifier or breastfeed him?
No! I am not saying that at all. In fact, it makes me sad when moms wean from breastfeeding only to find their baby still won’t sleep well. But, I am saying, that when it comes to your baby’s sleep, you can’t “tease” your baby and give him the very thing you want him to stop waking ten times a night for. You can’t give it to him ten times at bedtime and expect him to “get” it that he doesn’t need it to sleep anymore. Granted, adaptable babies will often make quick changes that way, but this is where your baby’s temperament or personality come into play.
Some babies simply do not respond to Pantley’s method, because the only thing you are truly teaching him is that he does need to suck to relax and fall asleep. You are only delaying your baby’s sleep. Instead, you want to teach him how to relax AND sleep without the pacifier, breastfeeding, bottle, rocking, etc. You want to replace his sleep association with something else, not reinforce he still needs it. Going back to quitting smoking. My father, on the other hand, did quit smoking many years ago, but he replaced one habit for another. He now chews sugar free gum almost EVERY time he gets in the car, when he used to smoke. This has been over 10 years or more! (Side note: I am honored that what finally sparked my father to quit smoking is a paper I wrote when I was in High School. Who knew? :)). When someone is trying to change their chips-before-bed habit, they might try replacing carrot sticks (since they are crunchy, too). The idea is not to deprive yourself or your baby from a habit, the idea is to replace it with something more in line with your long-term goal.
Does this mean not to try Pantley’s No-Cry method?
No, it means it’s just the first step and you still need to keep moving forward. While Pantley believes in “No Cry”, I tend to lean towards “Limited Crying” and believe that when you attempt to stick to no tears whatsoever, you will generally have little success unless your baby is so adaptable that she only needed you to stop helping her so much in the first place. Sometimes, crying during sleep training is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean you have to do cry it out, either. I really hope people stop making it so one or the other. If you view sleep coaching as a continuum with no-cry on one end and full blown cry-it-out at the other end, your goal is to find the method that fits with your baby’s temperament on that continuum, not force your baby to be something he’s not. Embrace his uniqueness and you will have more success than you’ve dreamed of.
For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a personalized sleep plan you can feel good about!