Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Is sleep training too controversial for you? That's ok, gentle methods are just as successful, but first, before you embark on this journey I would like you to consider five important elements of no cry sleep training, and why no cry may not be working for you?
Using gentle methods to sleep train your baby is a great option for parents who just can’t stand to hear their little one cry, fair enough, no one likes to hear their baby cry but before you kick “controversial methods” to the curb here are a few things to consider.
In order for no cry sleep training methods to work, we need five elements in place:
Respect is the first and most important element when doing any sort of sleep training. Respect means, respecting your child’s biological need to sleep, when a child sleeps, their appetite is regulated, their emotions are balanced, and cells grow and repair. The brain restores itself; sleep boosts the immune system and memories are strengthened and moved from short term to long term.
Respect your child’s right to move about while they are trying to fall asleep, too often parents want to restrict their child’s movements as they believe this will help the process. Some parents even go to great lengths to restrain their children, but this is unsafe and unnecessary. Children like to roll around and move about while they get comfy. Children don’t respond well when you try adjusting their position every few minutes, so let them be, so they can freely move about while they learn to master their new skill.
Respect how your child wants to go to sleep, not all children like hands-on settling and struggle to sleep with their parents around, while other children love the presence of their parents and easily sleep with them in the room, this coincides with the temperament of the child but I’ll leave that for another blog.
Besides respecting your baby’s need to sleep you need to be able to respect your partner's parenting style too. If you are in a relationship you will want to discuss your ideas of sleep training with your partner and see if your parenting styles match. If you do not agree on the way to go about sleep training, then try to come to a conclusion. It is very important that both partners agree before you start, as this will just make your sleep training journey that much easier.
Crying is a form of communication and for young babies, this is the only way they can communicate with their parents, however, parents need to understand why their child is crying. Crying during sleep training is not due to distress but rather a frustration with the process of learning to fall asleep on their own.
Let’s think of it this way… You cook every single meal in your household and you never let your child help you, you also never teach your child your skills. Now there comes a day where your child is old enough and you ask them to cook the family dinner, you explain you will only watch them do it but will not help them. Of course, there is going to be a lot of frustration while they figure out how to navigate their way through the kitchen, it’s going to take a long time and mistakes will happen but after the third or fourth time of cooking by themselves, they slowly start to master some skills until eventually they no longer need you and are able to do it all on their own. The same goes with sleep, assuming you have been putting your child to sleep while rocking/feeding/bouncing and now you embark on sleep training, and all of a sudden you want your child to learn this new skill on their own, naturally frustration will be inevitable and there will be resistance on their part but this is ok and always to be expected, but this is where communication is key.
It is important to listen to your child while they communicate with you, what are they saying? For older children, you could easily ask them but for younger babies, you will really need to listen to their cry and try understanding what they are saying. Determine whether they are trying to tell you that they are hot, cold, hungry, tired, frustrated, angry, or confused. While your child communicates with you, have a look at your own communication to your baby, what is your tone of voice saying? Are you annoyed, angry, upset? Babies easily pick up on their parent’s communication, so being impatient and frustrated is not an effective way of communicating when trying to use a no-cry method.
Your ability to remain calm will be a parent’s biggest indication of whether they can follow through with this process or not. With any sleep training, a parent needs to remain as calm as possible, this is especially true when using no cry methods. If it is not in the parent’s nature to remain calm, then the parent needs to reconsider their method. Babies need time and practice to master this new skill of self-settling, unfortunately, this doesn’t just happen, so a parent needs to remain calm throughout the process.
As a parent, you will be your child’s rock while they go through this storm of emotions as they learn to sleep. If the parent is displaying a storm of emotions themselves, it will reflect on the child and the sleep training process will not work.
So, in order for this to be successful parents need to understand their own limits, and how far they are able to be pushed before it all becomes too much.