Does the term “sleep training” conjure up images of wailing babies and agonized parents? If so, then I hope what I’m about to say next will help paint a different picture for you: sleep training does not have to involve hours of crying. Sleep training does not have to mean you listening to your baby wail because you’re not “allowed” to offer any comfort. Simply put, sleep training does not mean letting your baby cry it out.
So what does sleep training mean? Sleep training is merely the practice of helping your baby or toddler learn healthier sleep habits. And here’s the good news about that very simple definition – it does not specify HOW you teach your baby or toddler healthy sleep habits. The “how” of sleep training is up to you.
That means that if you want to use extremely gentle, low-cry or no-cry sleep training methods, you absolutely can sleep train your baby with minimal tears. And that’s good news for those of you who cannot stand the thought of extended crying!
No-Cry Sleep Training: An Overview
Now, I should include a caveat here: no-cry sleep training may not be possible for every family. While some babies and toddler with easygoing temperament may truly be able to get through the sleep training process without shedding a single tear, children who are intense and resistant to change will likely put up at least a little fuss when you try to change bedtime and nap time. That said, even if you can’t achieve true no-cry sleep training, you can certainly aim for very low-cry sleep training. 😉 And you can offer your child support and encouragement at every step in the process.
So what exactly does no-cry sleep training look like? Generally speaking, no-cry sleep training looks very similar to other methods of sleep training, with a few notable exceptions:
- With no-cry sleep training, parents often stay in the room at the start of a sleep time (like bedtime or nap time), and for a while after any night wakings. This allows mom or dad to provide plenty of comfort and support as baby works to fall back to sleep; it also helps to minimize or eliminate crying.
- No-cry sleep training tends to progress more slowly than do other types of sleep training.
- While adequate prep-work for sleep training is important for all families, regardless of the sleep training methods used, it’s especially critical for no-cry sleep training families, as adequate preparation can sometimes accomplish much of the “work” of sleep training with virtually no fussing on baby’s part!
No-Cry Sleep Training: Simple No-Cry Prep Work That Can Make a Big Difference
Speaking of adequate prep-work – let’s look at that a little more closely. When our consultants work with families, via our personalized sleep consulting program, they almost always recommend a few pre-sleep training steps. Why? Because sometimes, doing small things like adjusting bedtime or adding in one or two additional feedings can go a long way towards solving sleep challenges. This means less sleep training work for you and your child in the long-run.
Sounds pretty good, right? If you’re going to try a no-cry sleep training approach, then you will definitely want to put in plenty of prep-work before you jump into sleep training. Specifically, try the following simple techniques and strategies before you plan to start sleep training. They’ll make your work much easier:
- Strengthen the bedtime and nap time routines. Even if you already have solid routines in place, really reinforce the “routine” aspect. Make sure your routines happen the same way, and roughly at the same time, each day. In addition, if you don’t already do this, try ending your routine the same way each night; this signals the end of the routine and the start of sleep for your child.
- Make schedule changes as needed. Is bedtime too late? Gradually make it earlier. Does your child need 3 naps instead of just 2? Add that 3rd nap back into the mix. Use our age-based sample schedules, or our free schedule maker, as a model for what a good schedule should look like, and then spend a week or two working towards that.
- Tweak the number and timing of feedings. Sounds simple, but it works – sometimes, adding in a feeding or snack, or changing the timing of a feeding, is enough to solve at least some of your child’s sleep issues.
- Make your child’s room “sleepy”. Again – seems too easy, but it can really help! Get blackout blinds if your child’s room is too bright at nap time or bedtime. Start using white noise during naps and at night. Give it about two weeks for these changes to really sink in and take effect.
- Schedule a visit to your child’s healthcare provider. This is crucial if you think your child may have a medical problem that’s contributing to sleep challenges, but even if that’s not the case, it can be a good idea to visit the doc before starting sleep training. This way, you can rule out factors like illness as a cause of sleep problems.
No-cry sleep training depends heavily on simple, gentle interventions like the ones listed above. You could spend several weeks just following the steps above, and you may very well see noticeable progress in your child’s sleep!
No-Cry Sleep Training: Methods
If the prep-work steps listed above don’t solve your sleep challenges, then it’s time to start using a no-cry or low-cry sleep training method. There are two that are pretty popular and tend to work well for families who want to minimize crying as much as possible.
The Hands-On Approach
Here’s how our hands-on approach works: when your baby begins to fuss at bedtime or nap time, or in the middle of the night, you pick your baby up to offer plenty of comfort and soothing. Then, when your baby is calm (and this is key), you put your baby back in bed drowsy but awake, so that she can practice falling asleep without your help. You continue doing this until your baby falls asleep.
With fading, you gradually fade out the “work” you do to put your child to sleep. For example, if you typically rock your child to sleep, you would fade out the rocking gradually, rocking a bit less each night until you are simply holding your child in your arms, with no movement. Fading is a very gentle and no-cry approach to weaning your child off his sleep associations.
With substitution, you substitute in a different sleep association for your child’s preferred sleep association. Sounds counterintuitive, right? But trust us, it works! Let’s say, for example, that your child prefers to be nursed to sleep. Using substitution, you would substitute in a different method to put your child to sleep – like, say, rocking to sleep. That might seem odd – after all, isn’t this just teaching your child another sleep association? Well, yes – but that can work to your advantage! Once your child is falling asleep with a less-preferred sleep association (in our example, rocking), it will likely be faster and easier to gradually wean your child away from this new sleep association than it would have been to wean him away from the more preferred sleep association (in our example, nursing).
No-Cry Sleep Training Help That Works – Guaranteed!
No matter how you choose to approach your no-cry sleep training, rest assured that you CAN do it! You CAN teach your child a healthier way to sleep with minimal tears and fussing. But if you find you need help with this process, don’t worry – you’ve come to the right place! Connect with one of our expert consultants today. She’ll craft a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for your baby, walk you through every step of no-cry sleep coaching and schedule-making, and provide detailed answers to your most pressing sleep training questions.
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