Sleep training doesn’t have to involve a lot of tears. There’s another, gentler way for improving your child’s sleep. It’s called gentle sleep training, and it can solve your parental struggles.
You and your baby have been sleeping in the same bed.
In the beginning, it was an enjoyable experience to sleep side to side with your loved one. The little person lying next to you is your son that you helped bring into this world.
You gave him life.
But lately, he’s been waking up 5 to 6 times a night and has been sleeping very restlessly. Getting him back to sleep sometimes lasts longer than a 3-hour movie.
You and your partner, sleep-deprived from all the constant night wakings, want to find a gentle way to teach him how to sleep independently.
What do you do?
You start practicing good sleep hygiene with the help of gentle sleep training techniques.
What is gentle sleep training?
Babies are fantastic. They smell nice, they’re cuddly, and they’re super adorable.
But babies who have difficulties sleeping can be challenging.
Gentle sleep training is a technique that aims to help parents deal with challenging babies who fuss and cry at night.
In essence, gentle sleep training tries to help struggling parents solve their child’s sleep problems.
It involves gradually teaching your baby how to sleep independently. There are periods of comforting and periods of distancing.
Gentle sleep training techniques generally focus on two things: creating a consistent bedtime routine and teaching your child how to fall asleep on his own at bedtime.
Whether you choose the gentle cry-it-out method or the pick-up-put-down method, that will depend on your parental style and your child’s needs.
Does gentle sleep training involve crying?
Gentle sleep training doesn’t have to involve crying. The more slowly you go with sleep training, the less likely it is that your baby will resist and cry.
The key is to focus on introducing one change at a time.
So first, you establish a consistent bedtime routine. Then, you adjust your baby’s bedtime, if needed.
If those first two steps work well, then you start working towards teaching your baby how to fall asleep on this own.
Keep in mind that this approach takes a long time as all the changes are introduced very slowly. Think of it like this: you’re trading time for fewer tears.
After all, the core of the gentle sleep training technique is to move so slowly that your child has time to adapt to each change in his sleep routine.
Generally, expect to see significant results at least after three or four weeks of training.
Remaining dedicated and patient is crucial.
Tips for how to do gentle sleep training successfully
Establish a peaceful bedtime routine
A peaceful bedtime routine has a number of benefits for you and your child. It can help your baby relax and calm down before being put down to sleep.
What’s more, it’s an amazing opportunity for you to create strong bonds with your child.
Setting up a healthy routine is an essential first step in the gentle sleep training approach.
In fact, it can help babies fall asleep faster. One research has shown that a consistent bedtime routine helps children fall asleep quicker at bedtime and wake less often at night. It has also shown to improve maternal mood.
Dim the lights, bath him, read a book, or play a lullaby. All of these steps would stimulate sleep and would make a difference in how quickly your baby will fall asleep.
Although it can be time-consuming, it will save you hours of frustration and energy in the long run.
Put down your baby to sleep at an age-appropriate bedtime
According to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, the time your baby goes to sleep makes a difference. All people, including babies, have a built-in inner clock and our circadian rhythms can help us sleep if we go to bed at the appropriate time.
Note that newborns do not yet have an internal biological clock or circadian rhythm. Their internal biological clocks don’t fully develop until around 3-4 months of age. Once your baby develops his circadian rhythm, he will begin to have a regular sleep-wake cycle.
So, when should your loved one go to sleep? Here are some general guidelines by age:
- Newborn: 10-11 pm
- 2-3-month-old: 8-10 pm
- 4-6-month-old: 7-8:30 pm
- 7-8-month-old: 6:30-8:30 pm
- 9 months to 2 years old: 6:30-8 pm
Gradually distance yourself from your child
The third step involves slowly distancing yourself and decreasing your involvement when he becomes cranky or wakes up throughout the night.
Let’s say that your baby is used to falling asleep by being fed.
Now you want to teach him how to fall asleep on his own.
First, you’d decrease your feeding time by 1-2 minutes each night. You place him in his bed when he becomes drowsy but not asleep.
Tip: Babies love sleeping on their stomachs. But until they develop neck control, they should be sleeping on their back.
There are some sleep training mistakes to avoid such as letting your baby fall asleep outside of his crib or not letting him sleep during the day.
After several days, you decrease your feeding time for 2-3 minutes each night. Again, you place him in his crib when he’s drowsy.
And so on and so on until he’d no longer need to be fed to fall asleep and will learn to fall asleep in his crib.
Teaching your baby how to sleep independently without lots of tears is possible. The trick is to go slowly.
Simply focus on introducing one change at a time and give your baby enough time to adapt.
First, establish a peaceful bedtime routine and then start putting him down at an appropriate age bedtime. The last step is to slowly distance yourself.
And before you know it, nighttime will no longer be a time of tears and anger. It’ll be a time of blissful sleep and exciting dreams.