Unfortunately for new parents, babies don’t come out of the womb knowing how to be good sleepers.
You have to teach them.
So, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that your baby is relying 100% on you to help them sleep, at this point.
But, fear not, sleep-deprived, mama! It is possible to teach your baby to sleep without all the tears, anxiety and stress.
The solution? No cry sleep training.
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When should you start sleep training?
To be successful at sleep training your baby, they need to be mature enough to self soothe. This typically happens between ages 4 to 6 months. This is also a great stage to begin sleep training as most babies are capable of going much longer between feedings at this point, as well.
What is no cry sleep training? And is it possible to sleep train without crying
No two babies are alike. What works for one baby might not work for your baby and vice versa. Simply put, no cry or gentle sleep training is teaching your baby how to sleep on their own with as little tears as possible.
Keep in mind, some babies–babies that have a more easy going personality, will take to the no cry method with ease. Other babies, might not work too well with a gentle sleep training method. With a less easy going baby, you’ll work to minimize crying, but realize that your baby might shed some tears.
It’s completely possible to sleep train your baby without tears by making small, incremental changes over time, that will help teach your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep, without your assistance.
No cry sleep training vs. cry it out sleep training
No cry sleep training, which is sometimes referred to as gentle sleep training, is characterized by teaching your baby to fall asleep with as little tears as possible. It’s generally carried out over a longer period of time (I’ll cover step-by-step details below), and is in direct contrast to cry it out sleep training, which is a much less gradual approach.
In a nutshell, cry it out sleep training advises parents to put baby to bed and allow them to cry for set periods of time before going in and offering support. Typically, the amount of time you allow baby to cry increases as the night progresses.
For example, using the Ferber method, (a popular cry it out method) on day one, you’ll put your baby to bed and go in to check on her after 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and then at 10 minute intervals until your baby finally falls asleep.
Research has shown that this method does not lead to separation anxiety, and does not cause harm to your baby. At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with the sleep training method you choose.
If cry it out sounds like something you aren’t interested in trying, give gentle sleep training a go. Here are 10 of the best tips for tears-free sleep training approach.
7 steps to carrying out a gentle, no cry sleep training solution
1. Make sure your baby is getting adequate sleep throughout the day and night
Most babies are ready to begin learning how to sleep without your assistance by the time they reach 4 months of age.
At that time, your newborn will likely be sleeping a total of 14-16 hours in a 24 hour period. So if your baby takes a total of 3 naps lasting roughly 1 hour each, your baby will probably need to sleep 11-13 hours at night.
2. Choose an appropriate bedtime
As babies grow out of their fourth trimester, most parents struggle with the right time to put baby down for the night. Your baby’s bedtime will vary, as what may work for other babies might not work for yours, and vice versa. But, generally, most babies aged four months and up should be going down for the night between 7 and 8 p.m.
3. Adjust nap schedules
Too much sleeping during the day or a late nap can completely ruin night sleep. As a general rule, make sure that your baby is waking up from his last nap between 4 or 5 pm. For example, If you’d like to put baby down by 7, baby should be up from the last nap by 4.
4. Establish a sleep routine
This is how baby will begin to understand that it’s time to sleep. Warm bath, nurse/bottle, pajamas, read books, read to baby, white noise. It’s best to put some time in between feeding your baby and putting your baby down for the night, as you want to work towards your baby disassociating feedings with sleep. The reason being, when your baby wakes in the middle of the night, they’ll have a hard time falling back asleep without a feeding.
5. Introduce a lovey
The whole point of sleep training is to teach baby to sleep on her own. To make that transition more bearable, one of the easiest things you can do is to introduce a lovey to your baby so that they may use it to help self-soothe.
Some babies instantly bond with loveys, while others will need some help. Here are some tips to help your baby grow attached to a lovey:
- Cloak the lovey with your scent. Wearing it in your bra for a day tends to do the trick!
- Introduce the lovey during playtime and at nap times first. You want them to be familiar with the lovey by the time bedtime rolls around.
6. Choose from 1 of 2 no cry sleep training techniques
Like all no tears sleep training techniques, the fading method will require patience and consistency, but is very effective if you keep at it.
Using the fading method, you’ll carry out the night time routine as normal and then use whatever method you typically use to help baby fall asleep. If it’s rocking, you’ll rock your baby as normal, but you’ll do it for less time over a period of several days or weeks.
For example, if it typically takes baby 30 minutes of rocking to fall asleep, you might start the first night with 25 minutes, and then 20 the next two nights, and then maybe 15 the night after that, and so on.
The idea with the fading method is that your baby will hopefully associate your rocking (or whatever sleep crutch they’re used to) with sleep, and over time, as soon as you start to rock them they will know it’s time to sleep.
Ultimately, you’ll want to rock baby just to the point of drowsiness, as you’ll eventually want to work your way up to placing baby to bed drowsy, but not asleep.
Pick up/put down
With this gentle sleep training method, you’ll perform your night time routine as normal and place baby to sleep in crib/bassinet. Note: baby should be drowsy but not fully asleep, at the point of putting them down.
As soon as baby begins fussing or crying, you’ll simply pick baby up and comfort her until she calms down. When baby is calm, you’ll put her back down again, hence the name, pick-up/put-down.
Consistency is key with this method! You’ll need to keep at this until baby is fully asleep. For many parents, especially those first few nights, this may take hours. Keep in mind, that this method may make some babies mad. If your baby seems to be more upset by you picking him up only to be put down again, this may not be the method for you.
7. Be consistent!
When it’s all said and done, No tears sleep training can be a wonderful way to teach your baby how to sleep independently. But because gentle sleep training focuses on a more gradual approach, consistency is key! Remember to do everything gradually and keep at it every night for at least 3 or 4 weeks before going back to the drawing board.
To know if you’re making any real strides, it might be wise to start a log of your baby’s sleep patterns each night as you gradually try to teach them to sleep. You might be surprised at the progress you make in just a few short weeks!
FAQ on gentle, no cry sleep training
Can I practice no tears sleep training if I’m co sleeping?
These same methods can be used while baby is sleeping next to you. If you are co sleeping but would like to move your baby to the crib, it’s best to first teach your baby how to sleep on their own (in your bed) and then transition baby to crib using the same methods outlined earlier. Don’t do everything at once!
How long do no cry sleep training methods take?
Because no cry sleep methods focus on using more gradual techniques, you can’t expect to have your baby respond in a short amount of time. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that teething, illness, or any developmental leap will likely cause baby to have a hard time with learning to self-soothe, and thus, learning how to sleep on their own.
A good rule of thumb when using the no tears sleep technique is to give it a few weeks of trying (using the methods consistently, of course) before you throw in the towel. If after a few weeks your baby isn’t responding, most experts agree it’s best to pause and revisit a few weeks later, when perhaps your baby is better suited developmentally to learn how to sleep on her own.
Should I focus on gentle sleep training for naps or night sleep first?
A baby that sleeps well at night will take better naps; consequently, a baby that naps better will sleep better at night, too! If you’re struggling to get your baby down for the night and during the day, focus on night time sleep first. Once you master night sleep, move on to naps.
What if my baby won’t fall asleep without nursing/bottle or a pacifier?
Practice the Pantley Pull Out method. Using this method, you’ll allow baby to nurse, suck on paci or bottle until they are just about ready to doze off. Right before they fall asleep you’ll take away the paci/bottle/breast and put them down in their crib.
If they start to fuss, simply reinsert paci/bottle/breast until they settle down again. You must continue this cycle until they full go to sleep on their own. This very gentle sleep training method does work, but does take time and determination on your part!
What if my baby doesn’t do well with the two tears free sleep training methods outlined above?
Consider trying the chair sleep training method. With this method, your baby is likely to shed a few tears, but it’s still considered a very gentle sleep training approach and might work well as a last resort, after you’ve tried the pick up/put down and fading method with no luck.
To execute the chair method, you’ll place a chair next to your baby’s crib. You’ll simply put your baby down for bed in their crib and then sit in the chair next to them. The idea is that you’re presence is serving as a reassuring comfort to your baby, but ideally, with the chair method, you won’t pay attention or console your baby. Each night you’ll gradually move the chair farther and farther away from the crib until you’re outside their room.
What if my baby falls asleep immediately after or during a feeding?
Start bedtime earlier! Consider starting the bedtime process at least 30 minutes earlier to see if that does the trick.