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.
My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.