Guide to Serene Nights: Embracing the Gentle Sleep Training Method for Peaceful Sleep
Discover Success in Gentle Sleep Training: Embrace the 5 Key Principles for Effective Results.
Updated June 2022
When it comes to sleep training and guiding your baby to self-settle, the search for 'no cry sleep training' is common. However, I advocate for the use of gentle sleep training methods, acknowledging that crying is a form of communication rather than something to prevent. When changing sleep associations, frustration may arise in your baby, leading to cries. Recognizing that tired babies cry naturally, I discourage panic parenting and attempting to silence this communication.
Take a deep breath.
Listen to what your baby is communicating.
In our process of teaching them to self-settle or reduce dependency, let's respond with gentle sleep training methods. Learn how to navigate these moments while staying consistent and understanding your baby's needs.
I've worked with thousands of parents who have chosen the gentle sleep training approach, and being able to listen and respond is paramount to success.
This ability to stay calm, listen, respond, be respectful all while being consistent is what I now call the 5 principals of gentle sleep training.
Parents who are successful with gentle sleep training have chosen this option not only because they don't like hearing their baby cry, but they have evaluated their babies temperament and realise it suits their baby also.
Sleep training without shutting the door and walking away is very possible, and teaching self settling with lots of hands on interactions and support is what we call gentle sleep training. Providing emotional and physical support while teaching self settling. This is gentle sleep training.
Being riddled with guilt and anxiety, and doing everything in your power to silence every whimper is not gentle sleep training and won't change the way your baby sleeps, or how long they sleep for.
Working out just how gentle you need to be in your approach to suit your baby is one of the big chats we as consultants have with out clients.
Our clients often have strong beliefs about what is right and wrong, but not about why a particular approach is best for their baby based on how their baby responds.
I spoke to a mum last night who said she had previously sat in the room while her son fell asleep, but now he was screaming the entire time.
I suggested, if she was not aiding the situation, it might be time to leave the room for a bit.... He fell asleep quickly without her there.
The snag? Mum felt it was wrong to leave him while he was crying.
The reality? Mum being there made him cry more!
I've been in this situation, trying to force my round baby into a square hole, she didn't have the temperament for controlled crying, I needed to learn about gentle approaches and consider my baby as her own person.
Lucky for you, I've since helped thousands of parents work with a gentle approach, have hosted hundreds of gentle sleep seminars, and even written a sleep program exclusively for gentle parents.
Our gentle approach has transformed the lives of thousands of parents who needed a little helping hand.
Check out the 5 principals all these parents follow to be successful.
You need to have respect for your baby’s physiological need for sleep, allowing your baby to get over tired constantly will make this process more difficult.
There needs to be respect between the parents, and both parents need to be on board with the gentle sleep training and be supportive of this decision to sleep train.
We also need to respect for your baby’s need for space.
Your baby might be rolling and crawling around the cot, this is fine.... Give them space to figure out this whole sleep thing.
Think about what you are communicating to your child?
“I know you are tired and upset, I love you and respect your need for sleep, I am here for you and I will be patient and calm while you learn to go to sleep.”
How will you communicate this message?
Verbally with shushing or quiet singing, and non-verbally with consistent behaviour and responses, and by remaining calm, consistent and patient.
What is your baby communicating to you?
“I am tired mum and I am confused as to why you won’t nurse or hold me to sleep any more?”
Your baby doesn't hate you they're not panicked or distressed, you're right there, and are using lots of touch and voice and nursing to settle and soothe them.
This is the most important part of sleep training.
Without consistency we confuse our children and extend the time it takes to sleep train from 2-3 weeks to 5-6 weeks.
Inconsistent reinforcement such as trying to settle for 40 minutes and then feeding to sleep is the kind of behaviour which makes children cry longer and harder the next time you attempt a nap.
So remember you can cancel a nap or take a break, but don’t inconsistently reinforce the pattern we are trying to change.
The most consistent approach is actually the gentlest of all.
Gentle sleep training or no cry sleep training really is a good 2 week+ process.
You need to be committed to the process and have the energy and resources available now to successfully see this through. Short term patience is also needed.
You must be prepared to sit by your baby for the 40-60 minutes it might take them to fall asleep.
Imagine the emotional turmoil your child is going through as you move them to their own room and teach them to self-settle.
You need to ensure that you provide security through calmness throughout this process.
Be the anchor or the rock in this time, don’t be part of the turmoil.
Children are very good at sensing anxiety, frustration and sadness, these emotions at bed time will not help your baby to settle quickly and can really hinder your success.
Be confident in your approach and remain calm, knowing that you have made this decision for yourself and your family, and it is the right decision, now is the right time, and you know what you are doing. (Fake it for a few days if need be!).
All our sleep programs contain gentle options!
The decision to sleep train
Often parents who have followed attachment parenting philosophies struggle with the idea of sleep training, and feel their decision is selfish or wrong, and that they will damage their baby.
You can be confident with gentle sleep training there is no time when your baby is crying and distressed for long periods, there is no opportunity for an attachment rupture as you never leave your baby’s side while they are upset.
You are being supportive and responsive both emotionally and physically and your baby’s cries are just communication, not distress.
Your baby is telling you they are tired and unhappy and confused as to why anything is changing, but they are not fearful or abandoned or panicked. You are right there with them.
If you are struggling with your decision to sleep train, I am positive that it wasn’t a decision you came to lightly, and even Dr Sears the pioneer of the attachment parenting philosophy recognizes in his books that for some families bed sharing and room sharing doesn’t work and this is ok.
He also discusses various forms of CIO such as cry it out in arms (done with dad) and how to change a baby’s sleep associations over time.
Dr Sears, James Mckenna and Elizabeth Pantley, all agree that children and families need sleep, it’s not a want or a luxury it’s a biological necessity, they all agree that if your situation is no longer working for your family you need to change it.
No one expects you to go through years and years of sleep deprivation or for you to be unhappy as a mother or wife due to your sleeping situation.
You are NOT selfish to want or need more sleep for yourself or your family.
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.