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Baby sleep training seems to a hot topic amongst mothers. Some swear by sleep training while others might have a different opinion and choose other options.
It important to remember to always follow your instinct as a mother and do what you feel is best. But if you are looking for a way to sleep train your baby that is gentle and helpful, keep reading 🙂
There seems to be soooo many different baby sleep training methods out there that it can be overwhelming, and exhausting trying to research and find the one that best fits you and your baby.
I remember being in that exact same position where I was COMPLETELY and UTTERLY sleep-deprived and searching for any solution to make my baby sleep at night.
I remember reading all different kinds of theories and methods.
Some were strict while others were more relaxed.
To be honest I really just wanted to find a gentle solution that would keep my baby happy while providing both of us with some much-needed sleep.
Remember a lot of the things I am sharing are from my own personal experiences, successes, and opinions.
You can take little, all or none of it.
Don’t ever feel like you have to fit into a specific motherhood “mold” you weren’t designed to or don’t feel good about. Follow your own instincts and gut and create your own method that is the best for you and your baby.
- What does it mean to sleep train your baby?
- Does sleep training mean “crying it out”?
- How can I sleep train my baby in a gentle, but effective way?
- 4 Simple steps to sleep train your baby
What does it mean to sleep train your baby?
Baby sleep training is pretty much what it sounds like. It is training your baby to develop good sleeping habits and skills.
Sleep training usually consists of teaching your baby how to fall asleep independently and sleep for long stretches.
Independent sleep does take some practice.
Most babies aren’t born with the ability to just know how to fall back asleep on their own if they wake in the night.
I mean, think about it. They spent 9 months inside of you with constant nourishment. They had everything they needed right there. So arriving in this big new world calls for lots of new experiences and learning opportunities.
Just like when your sweet little baby grows bigger and learns how to write or ride a bike, those are skills that need to be taught and practiced.
Now with that being said, whichever route you decide to take to get there is completely up to you.
BUT there is one thing I can promise you!
That is having a baby, toddler and child that has stellar sleep skills will be one of those areas in motherhood you will be forever grateful for.
Does sleep training mean “crying it out”?
The answer to this is 100% NO!!
I think a lot of mothers become super wary when they hear baby sleep training because they think that means letting them cry for hours and hours until they finally fall asleep.
Along with setting them in their crib and not checking on them while they “cry it out”.
Sure, crying it out can be a method of sleep training that some decide to try but that DOES NOT mean you have to!
Sleep training doesn’t have to consist of lots of crying and leaving your baby alone while they “figure it out”.
Sleep training your baby can be the complete opposite of any CIO or Ferber method. As long as you can implement a few techniques and training aspects you can tailor it to you and your baby in a way that will fit your needs.
Baby sleep training can be a gradual process if that is what you feel more comfortable. To be honest you can go at any pace that you like and is working for your baby.
Obviously the slower you go the slower you will see results BUT as long as you stay consistent that is all that matters.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming your baby is NEVER goes to let out a cry or a few tears.
That is because crying is the only way your baby knows how to communicate. So with that being said, it is inevitable that they will cry a little bit. With that being said, sleep training doesn’t have to involve you the mass of tears you may hear others claim.
There were times I let my baby cry a little, but I decided on a time limit that I felt comfortable with and I would also frequently check on him while offering comfort and some coaching.
How can I sleep train my baby in a gentle, but effective way?
There is totally a way to sleep train your baby in a gentle but effective way. There are also a ton of resources out there to help guide you along this path.
The Secrets of a Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg has some great tips and tricks for really learning and understanding your baby’s language. Tracy also offers many great insights and real-life applications.
Also, the No-Cry Solution: Gentle Ways to Help your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley is another great choice read for finding that gentle approach to teach your baby some great sleep skills.
The Sleep Sense Program by Dana Obleman was a HUGE help for me, along with these other suggestions but I love how the Sleep Sense program had so many resources, video coaching, and step by step instructions. She also has a completely FREE sleep assessment for your baby to help direct you on the right path.
Now I’m not saying if you choose to read either of these book suggestions or purchase a baby sleep training course you have to do everything 100% by the book.
Because let’s be real for a minute, every mother’s child is different.
Every baby has a different personality. So while something might work and be super effective for one baby, that may not be the same story for another baby.
As long as you can understand a few key elements to sleep training your baby, (that all three of these people talk about) you can always take your own spin on things if needed, desired or the current recommendation isn’t working out so well.
Here are the 4 main elements to successfully sleep training your baby in the most gentle, tear-free way.
4 Simple steps to sleep train your baby
- Create a good sleep environment and predictable bedtime routine
- Find out your baby’s sleep associations
- Help them develop their skill to self soothe
- Be consistent but LOVING
1. Create a good sleep environment and a predictable routine
Creating a good sleep environment and a predictable sleep routine is really crucial to allowing your baby or toddler to get restful, deep sleep.
Think about it, where is it that you usually sleep?
Probably in your bed, with the covers on and the lights off.
I’m am pretty sure you have some kind of nightly routine that leads up to climbing into bed, laying your head on your pillow and drifting off to sleep.
Well, babies need the same thing.
They need a safe, comfortable environment that helps induces sleep. And along with that, a predictable routine leading up to that event.
A few things to make sure their bedroom consists of, is a safe area for sleeping, a dark room (blackout curtains are a must) and a sound machine can be super helpful too!
Introducing a lovey or some sort of attachment item can be another great tool for sleeping. It can also help your child feel safe, happy and secure in their sleeping environment.
In terms of a bedtime routine, keeping this predictable and not too short nor too long is going to be your best bet.
My toddler’s bedtime routine has been pretty much the same since he was a baby. It usually consists of a bath, lotion, storytime, prayers, some milk and maybe a lullaby or two.
Babies thrive on consistency, so making sure you have some type of routine before bedtime can be so very helpful.
If you want some more detailed help on how to establish a good consistent bedtime routine, check out my 10 things that will help with your baby’s bedtime routine.
2. Find out your baby’s sleep association
Strong sleep associations (also known as sleep props) can be the cause of a lot of baby sleeping troubles.
As I mentioned just a moment ago about babies thriving on consistency. That also means that they can become super dependant on something to help them fall asleep.
If you are always consistently nursing, bottle feeding or rocking them to sleep, they will begin to always expect those things.
This soon will become tiresome and exhausting for you.
If you are in this boat, you probably are having to wake multiple times in the night to go and do those very things to get your baby back to sleep.
I am not recommending you never nurse, bottle-feed or rock your baby to sleep.
There are times you can or even should. Soak up those newborn moments, or if your baby isn’t feeling well, give them some extra comfort and cuddles.
What I am saying is that don’t let those things become a sleep prop that your baby only associates with falling asleep.
Strong sleep associations make it hard for your baby to understand and develop independent sleeping. For some more help on the main 4 sleep props to avoid to get your baby to sleep through the night, check this out!
If you think your baby has fallen into the category of sleep association or props, just do your best to pull back on them and start helping your baby learn how to self soothe!
However…. There is ONE sleep prop that I think is a must! And that is a lovey.
Introducing a lovey to your baby can be helpful in this whole journey of learning how to sleep well.
3. Develop their skill to self soothe
You may be wondering, “there is just NO WAY my baby will fall asleep without a car ride, bouncing on the yoga ball or nursing his way into dreamland”
Don’t worry, there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Just like we talked about trying to avoid a sleep association, the next step is teaching your little one how to self soothe.
Babies are so smart, and while you may not teach your newborn to self soothe from day 1 there are some things you can keep in mind and try to implement along the way when possible.
You don’t want to end up with your child being 5,6,7 or even 10,11, or 12 and not being able to fall asleep on their own.
Those golden sleep skills start when they are little.
Some babies like to chatter themselves to sleep, while others might rock their head back and forth or touch their hair. My toddler has a lovey and he rubs the nose on the stuffed animal.
No matter your baby’s solution, when they figure out that they actually can fall asleep without intervention from you, if they arouse in the night, they will then have no trouble falling back to sleep.
Also, self-soothing helps you know if they really do need you.
Let’s say your baby does wake up in the night and usually is a champ at going right back to sleep but this one time he persists, stirs a little and maybe lets out a cry or two, maybe he does need you to go and check.
He could have a full diaper, or he isn’t feeling well.
This has been another reason why I love that my toddler has the skill to self soothe.
4. Be consistent but LOVING
Consistency is key to the last puzzle piece.
Without it your picture simply won’t be complete. You do need to show consistency to your baby or toddler when sleep training.
Especially with toddlers, they can try to push and bend the rules a little so being consistent in regard to sleeping will be crucial.
Consistency doesn’t mean you have to be mean, cold-hearted or rude.
Consistency and love go hand in hand. Showing and expressing love to your child needs to be your number one priority.
It is important they feel the love from you and feel safe and secure. Just add some consistency to your endless motherly love and you will have the perfect equation.
Baby sleep training doesn’t have to be something you are unsure, nervous or worried about doing.
Look at it this way.
You teach your baby new things Every. Single. Day. As they learn, grow and develop you teach them new things.
Sleep is the same. Sleep does take a little coaching and training along the way but it doesn’t have to be harsh, insensitive or involve lots of tears.
You can approach sleep training your baby in any way you want and keep things gentle, calm and loving.