Updated: Jul 28
When it comes to the topic of sleep training there’s usually two sides of the fence. There are a lot of parents who decide from the get-go that they do not agree with sleep training and that it is a path they will never venture down. On the other side, there are parents who feel the need, for whatever reason, to take steps towards changing their little one’s sleep and decide that sleep training may be an option.
This article is not intended to convince parents who have decided not to sleep train that it is something that they should do. I respect everyone’s opinion and am not about to tell anyone how to raise their children.
For the parents who are currently struggling with any aspect of their child’s sleep and want to make a change, hopefully, by reading this, it will help shed some light on what exactly sleep training is, and bring you a little comfort knowing that you don’t need to leave your baby alone to cry themselves to sleep.
When parents come to me asking for help and advice around their baby’s sleep, the majority of the time they are concerned that the process will involve them needing to use some sort of CIO method. In most cases this is not necessary and gentle sleep training methods are very successful.
So, what is gentle sleep training?
Sleep training or sleep coaching is the process of teaching your baby how to fall asleep and re-settle between sleep cycles independently by removing sleep associations. The word “gentle” is very subjective and will mean different things to different families which is why it is important for sleep consultants to get to know the family when discussing sleep training methods. In general, most families consider gentle sleep training techniques as those which involve minimal crying and allow mum or dad to remain present in the room with the child.
There are many gentle sleep training methods and most of them can be customised to meet your expectations around how gentle you would like the approach to be. The most important thing to remember when sleep training, no matter what method you choose, is that you need to be consistent and patient. The more gradual the approach, the more patience you will need to stay consistent in order to see results.
Here are 4 tips on how to make the process of sleep training a little less stressful.
1. Respect for All Involved
You have probably made the decision to sleep train as you realise your child is not getting the sleep they need in their current situation. So, the first step is to respect your child’s physiological need for sleep. You will need to make sure you are prepared to spend a few goods weeks focusing on the needs of your child which may mean putting your plans on hold and spending a lot of time at home.
You also need to respect their temperament and acknowledge the fact that they may not respond as you expect to the method that you choose. You may need to put your feelings aside and do what is best for your child. Some children need to be given some space to move around the cot and constant touching and parent intervention can frustrate them further.
There also needs to be respect between you and your partner. You both need to be on the same page to be able to support each other and your baby through the process.
2. Set Them Up for Success
A lot of the hard work can be eased by making a few changes to your daily routine. Before starting any sleep training, make sure your baby is set up for success.
Ensure their sleep environment is conducive to sleep. Safe, dark room, white noise, no distractions, comfortable temperature etc.
See here for tips on setting up the perfect sleep environment.
By getting your little one in a routine which prevents them from becoming under or over tired, you will be able to avoid unnecessary resistance come sleep time. This won’t prevent the battle all together as your baby will still be frustrated with the changes, however, you will be reassured knowing that your baby is being put down to sleep at the optimal time and are being given the best opportunity to learn how to settle on their own.
(Not sure where to start when it comes to routine? - Purchase my Feed and Sleep Routine Guide which provides age appropriate routines from 3 weeks through to 3 years).
Feeding and Nutrition
A hungry baby won’t sleep well. Make sure your baby is feeding well. If they are eating solids, the timing and types of food they eat can have a big impact on the quality and quantity of their sleep.
Find out more about how feeding and nutrition can impact on sleep here.
It’s always best to check with your GP or paediatrician before starting any sleep training if you have any concerns about your little one’s health. This could include concerns around allergies or intolerances, mouth breathing or snoring, or ear infections etc
3. Have Realistic Expectations
Have a clear goal in mind and be prepared for this to be hard work. You are likely to be changing some very strong associations during this process. Your baby will be frustrated that you are making changes and they will let you know about it. Even gentle sleep training methods will involve some crying. However, you will be there with them to provide comfort and support. If you decide on a very gentle approach to avoid any crying, then be prepared for this to be a long process (possibly months) of slowly weaning them off their current sleep association.
4. Patience and Consistency
As mentioned earlier, patience and consistency will be the difference between seeing results sooner or drawing out the process. If you stall the process or start falling back into old habits your baby will become confused and will start to protest more which can feel like a real setback. So, stay calm, keep your goal in mind and keep moving forward.
If you would like to discuss any of your concerns around sleep training your little one, contact me now and I will be happy to discuss how I can help you put a plan in place for you and your baby.
Sleep training can be tough and exhausting, so let me help, guide and support you so you feel confident throughout the process.