5 key principals to successful gentle sleep training
Respect: 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. There also needs to be respect for your baby’s need for space. They might be rolling and crawling around the cot, this is fine. Give them space to figure out this whole sleep thing.
Communication: 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?” They don’t hate you and are not panicked or distressed, you are right there, and are using lots of touch and voice and nursing to settle and soothe them.
Consistency: 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.
Patience: 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.
Calmness: 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!).
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. They are 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.
If you would like some assistance and support with your child’s sleep and feel gentle sleep training would be the best fit for your family, register for a FREE chat here. We will give you a call and discuss how we think we can help you achieve more sleep for your family. Our extensive knowledge and experience in this area makes us NZ’s leading gentle sleep training experts.
If you would like to book a package, you can view our sleep packages here.
“Hi Sharon! Eva is now sleeping all the way through from 6.30 to 3/4am on her own, then going down after a feed for another few hours until 6am. For the first time in over 7 months I got a 7 hour stretch of sleep all to myself over the weekend!! Day time naps are great too, with typically a 1h30 hour nap in the morning and a 2h15 nap in the afternoon, no dramas and no more 45min wakeups. So I just wanted to say a big thank you for all the advice and support, and especially for being so respectful and sensitive to my wishes for a gentle approach. It was exactly right for our needs and I feel somewhat vindicated after all the pressure I kept getting to leave her to cry it out.” – Judy and Eva
“I cannot begin to put into words how grateful I am for your help with Reagan. As a second time mum I honestly thought I knew how to do it all, how wrong I was!!! I struggled so badly with Reagan and only now wish I had contacted you at the beginning! I have had so many hours of tears and self doubt but I now know that Reagan and I both had the ability to get him to sleep well, we just needed some guidance and the confidence to do it! You have not only bought sleep back to our home but peace, balance and confidence. I feel again that I am not just getting by but loving being a mother to my two beautiful kids, which is no less than they deserve. Thank you for being accessible, affordable, patient and understanding. You have changed our lives. Especially mine and Reagan’s. thank you so so much.” – Janica
“I wanted to say from the bottom of my heart a BIG thank you for your assessment and consultation for my little bubs Jai Christopher. Up until 7 months old Jai was waking up every 2 hours for a milk feed. We saw results really from day one and now Jai mostly sleeps through the night and mostly can resettle himself. That really was just so amazing for me…getting more that 2 hours of sleep at a time! Initially I was reluctant to get professional help, worried that I would be told to do controlled crying method, which didn’t sit comfortably with me. So I was really pleased that you offered us 3 choices of which we were able to choose the one that best suited Jai and our parenting style. I also liked that you took a holistic view so were able to offer insight into why Jai was waking up. So many, many thanks! You’ve really helped me and Jai get more sleep. It was really the best thing I’ve ever spent money on. Warmest Regards” – Praveen
“Thank you so much for your help, it has been wonderful being able to have the help of someone who is open to many different parenting styles. I was beginning to feel quite down as the only places that I was able to source help from were all pro co sleeping etc, everyone seemed against CIO, gradual withdrawal worked really well for us. I am so glad I came about your page and will recommend you to other mums. We do have a little way to go but knowing we have been… able to drop night bottles and have her settled in the evening by 7:15 is such a relief! Thank you again” – Danielle, A very happy Mum, Dad and baby