All of us are looking for ways to help our babies sleep with as little crying as possible. No crying would be ideal and surprisingly (when I look back at our long and difficult journey), the first few nights I actually helped my challenging sleeper of a son learn to fall asleep with virtually NO tears. It took TWO LONG HOURS for TWO LONG NIGHTS, but by the third night, he did it in just 20 minutes and then on the 4th night with no tears into his crib (we were trying to stop co-sleeping because it wasn’t working for us). It was a test of my patience when I knew nursing him to sleep would have made him fall asleep in less than two minutes. It was frustrating for both of us, but I was able to keep him from crying by using many of my mommy “tools” and doing anything but nursing him (I had already nursed him for a feeding before we started, so he was not hungry) but not until he was all the way asleep.
Learning about sleep associations was the single most important thing that helped me start getting better sleep for my son (which was and still is very important for his happiness and behavior) and therefore for the rest of the family. It seems so obvious now, but back then I surely did not “get it” why he would wake up the minute I put him down. Didn’t he “need” to nurse to fall asleep because of the sucking reflexes of a baby being so strong that I read so much about and because he never used a pacifier? Once I understood that nursing to sleep and rocking to sleep became the things he thought he needed to fall asleep and the thing he needed to be recreated all night, the next step was to figure out a way to help him learn to do that without feeling like I was taking away an emotional attachment that nursing was and feeling like I was damaging him, without replacing the nursing or rocking with something else I’d have to recreate and with no tears, if possible.
Keeping your eye on the long-term goal is the #1 key to successfully helping your baby from no crying to sleep. It will always be easier right this minute to go ahead and nurse, give her a bottle, give her the pacifier, rock her to sleep, bounce on a ball, put her in a car seat on the dryer, put her in the car and drive around, walk her around, dance and sing than to take the time to teach her a new skill. Just like it’s easier to feed your baby than to let her learn to feed herself or put on your toddler’s shoes rather than let him try by himself, it will be easier to do it for them. But, for long-term progress and to let her learn how to do something herself, you have to let her try and you have to avoid doing it for her. Take it as slow as you want, but it is a learning process that you need to get out of the way of for it to work. Sure, you can wait to see when she might learn it on her own, after all, no one goes to college not knowing how to put on their shoes, but is a month, six months, 16 months, 2 1/2 years, or 4 years of sleep deprivation worth it to wait?
Who knew when you were pregnant that you’d have to TEACH your baby to sleep? Teach your baby to read or teach your baby sign language but teach them to sleep? Such a foreign concept, but it’s true. To teach a baby how to sleep without much YOU need to recreate all day and night is a challenge and depending on the baby’s temperament and tendency to “fight sleep” or not will be the deciding factor on how difficult it is to teach your baby. Some don’t have much learning to do while others will struggle on and off for so long that you don’t know even know when you’re done teaching them.
Unfortunately, my no cry sleep results were short-lived in our house and we struggled a lot around sleep, but it has made me so happy that the things I’ve learned since then has helped me help other parents with no cry sleep methods. I’ve helped a mom stop sleeping in a glider with her 8 month old baby and a 16 month old transition to the crib, just to name two, with no cry sleep methods. Those were a couple of really tough cases, too!
Cry it out is certainly not easy and certainly not the first thing we try as parents, but it makes me wonder if I had someone like ME when I was in need of sleep support whether I would have avoided our tears or not. I never regret it, I know it did not change my baby’s personality, and I guess we will never know, but I’m fortunate to be able to use my knowledge in my quest to help others.
No cry sleep methods are not for the faint of heart if you have a challenging sleeper and they take more time, but with a strong support system, they are possible to put into practice.