When my friends tell me about “sleep training”, there is somehow this brutal judgement that comes with it: they let their babies cry it out. It’s something I haven’t been able to come to terms with because I cannot bear to hear baby Noah crying his lungs out while I watch him self-soothe through the baby monitor.
But here’s the thing. Sleep training does not mean that you are mean and selfish. It just means that you want your baby to get the best sleep he can and to establish healthy sleep habits. And yes, it also means you want enough sleep to function.
To be honest, I haven’t had a good 6 hour stretch of sleep until recently because I wake up whenever baby Noah wants to feed as I let him latch on directly. I understand that new born babies need that kind of feeding frequency, so I’ve roughed it out for 2.5 months now. However, I know that it’s not possible for this to go on for another 6 or 8.
I do not want to be doomed to a life of exhaustion so I’ve recently tried a hand at this “No Cry Sleep Training” method that seems have works for Noah. He’s been sleeping 6-7 hours stretches for a week now and no, I’ve not left him to cry it out by himself in his nursery.
First, let me debunk the myth that Sleep Training is Evil.
Before we even get into the “how” of sleep training, let’s take a look at the “what” and “why”.
What is sleep training?
The word “train” is defined to “teach a particular skill or behaviour” and this is what we do as parents. We teach our children how and when to sleep. It would be fantastic if babies were born knowing this, but no, they do not.
Sleep is very important for physical growth and mental development.
Adults need sleep too. Functioning as exhausted zombies cannot go on forever. We all know that parenthood is hard and tiring. But being tired and chronically exhausted are two separate issues. We all function with better rest. How are we supposed to take proper care of our newborns on two hours of broken sleep a night for consecutive months straight?
It can be very unsafe.
So let me get straight to this “No tears sleep training solution” that I’ve found for myself.
I am pro sleep training but not pro cry-it-out sleep training. If my baby needs me in the middle of the night I go to him, no matter what. I am pro sleep teaching, which means I need to do all I can to encourage good sleep habits without tears. Here is how:
1. Create a good sleep environment
Your baby needs a good, safe and conducive environment to sleep in. It does not mean having the prettiest or most photogenic nursery in the world.
For Noah, a dark room, his crib, and a swaddle do the trick. I’ve used all these to help him make positive sleep associations. Some fellow moms share that they use pacifiers too. I do not use them on Noah. But hey, you decide on what sleep props work best for your baby and what you’d like to use long term.
A good environment will help them to realise that it is time to sleep and not play. It will help them fall asleep and stay asleep.
2. Have a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Consistency is key here. It teaches the child that they’re making the transition from day to night. It helps them to know that sleep is expected and that they can finally relax and don’t have to be hyper-aware of the world around them for a while.
A core bedtime routine can be developed from when the baby is a newborn and I believe will grow with the child. I have 4 main parts to my bedtime routine with Noah. Click here to read more.
3. Keep a Consistent Wake Up Time Daily
This is as important as having a consistent bed time. This will help them to fall into a natural pattern in their days if they start the same time every day.
This is personally challenging for me because on some days, I want to catch that extra hour of sleep in the morning if Noah is asleep, but I shouldn’t. I try to align my own schedule and goals with him so that we both create a good early morning routine.
His wake up time is the first feeding of the day and following that, his play time in his play gym. That is when I make my breakfast, and spend a good hour on emails before his next feed.
4. Wake Your Baby To Eat During the Day
Most parents think it’s cruel to wake a sleeping baby. But I’ve learnt with Noah, that newborns actually have one long chunk of sleep during a 24 hour period and you definitely do not want that long chunk to be in the day. It is tempting to let him sleep in the day so you can focus on chores or work, but it pays to wake him up after short naps.
Feed him often enough so he gets all the calories he needs in the day and will reduce the chances of him waking up for milk at night.
5. Dream Feed Your Baby
So after the lights are out and your baby is asleep (for Noah, it is usually around 10PM), I like to feed him once more at around (12MN). Dream feeding is when you don’t fully wake your baby up and try to keep everything as peaceful, quiet and sleep-inducing as possible.
What this does is that it gently resets the sleep cycle so you get that long stretch of sleep right as you’re going to bed. It also makes sure your baby is nice and full, helping him to stretch his sleep longer.
I strongly believe that crying does not have to be a part of the process of sleep training. Most experts recommend sleep training from 4 months of age but I think good habits can be formed from birth.
If your baby is hungry, feed the baby. Slowly ease into this and good sleep habits can be built even with nighttime feedings at the start. This method could take longer than others, but it has worked for me. Remember, consistency and attention to sleep will make it possible.