Sleep training is for evil people who hate their babies and like to hear them cry. Is that the impression you’ve gotten when you’ve tried to find help on how to get your baby to sleep? I’ve seen the judgment come out when someone posts about sleep training in mom groups online. It can be brutal! Here’s the thing. Sleep training doesn’t mean that you are mean and selfish. It just means you want your baby to get the best sleep he can. And yes, it means you might just want enough sleep to function. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of sleep training you are not doomed to a life of exhaustion. Here are 5 ways to help sleep train your baby without crying.
Sleep Training Isn’t Evil
Before we get into the how let’s take a look at the what and why. Why do we sleep train? Well, the short answer is we all like to sleep. But in reality, sleep is a life skill that babies are not born knowing. The definition of the word train is ‘to teach a person a particular skill or behavior.’ And that is what you do as a parent. You teach your child how to sleep. Sure, it would be great if it was intuitive, but for most babies, it is not. Sleep is important for physical development and mental development. The only problem is that life is super new and exciting when you are brand new! That means babies need help learning how to sleep.
Adults need sleep too. We all know when we become parents we are going to be tired. But being tired and being chronically exhausted are not the same thing. We all function better with enough rest. Pilots aren’t allowed to fly a plane if they haven’t had enough sleep. People’s lives are on the line. But we’re supposed to take care of helpless newborns on two hours of broken sleep a night for two months? Heck, we’re supposed to still drive around, work, take care of our family, and do everything while sleep deprived for months? Sure, sounds reasonable. Oh, wait, no it doesn’t. It sounds very unsafe actually. So wanting to encourage your baby to sleep so you too can rest is not selfish. It’s healthy and a part of safety for everyone a parent interacts with, especially that newborn baby.
How To Sleep Train Gently
I am pro sleep training. That doesn’t mean I am pro crying, pro cry it out, pro extinction. I am not here to argue with those methods, they just weren’t for me. If my child needs me in the middle of the night I go to them, no matter what. I am pro sleep teaching. And we did sleep train in our own way. You can encourage good sleep habits without tears.
Good Sleep Environment
Your baby needs a good sleep environment. This doesn’t mean they need the most adorable nursery in the world. They need a place to sleep that is safe and conducive to sleep. A dark room, a bassinet or crib, a sound machine, and a swaddle. Babies can fall asleep anywhere when they are a few weeks old. (It’s awesome, I wish I could do that.) But as they get older that doesn’t work as well. They need a place that screams sleep at them. Decide on what sleep props you are comfortable using. I love pacifiers, but that doesn’t mean it is a necessity. Just think through what you are willing to use long term. A good sleep environment will help your child realize this is time to sleep not play and will help them stay asleep.
Consistent Bedtime Routine
A consistent bedtime routine teaches children that they are making the transition from awake time to sleep time. And yes, babies benefit from this as well. A good routine lets them know that sleep is expected. It also helps your baby to understand that they can relax and don’t have to be hyper-aware of the world around them for a while. A core bedtime routine can be very brief and grows with your child. We use 4 main parts in the bedtime routines of our children. The fun parts can change, but having a consistent routine will help your baby learn to sleep.
Consistent Daily Wake Time
I think most of us know that having a consistent bedtime is important. But having a consistent wake time is just as important. Think about it. If you sleep in on a Sunday but still have to wake up early on Monday, it can be really hard to get to sleep on time Sunday night. (Or at least it was before you had kids.) Babies are the same way. They are more likely to fall into a natural pattern in their days if they start at the same time every day. How do you do this? Your wake time is the first feeding of the day that is followed by awake time. It is hard to stick to that time when a newborn actually sleeps in a bit, but it is worth it, in the long run, to keep that time the same.
Wake To Eat During the Day
What?! Wake a sleeping baby? Yes. 100% yes. During the day I wake my babies to eat. Newborns generally have one long chunk of sleep in a 24 hour period. I want the long chunk to be at night when I get to sleep too. So don’t let your baby’s one five-hour stretch be in the middle of the day when you are awake. More than that, if babies don’t get all the calories they need during the day they will wake up for them at night. Wake that baby up and feed him. It is hard in the moment, but it will help you out in the long-term.
Top Off the Tank Before Bed
I love the dream feed. This is when you feed your baby after they have already gone to bed at night, but before you go to bed. Generally between 9-11pm. You don’t fully wake up your baby, try to keep everything as peaceful and sleep-inducing as possible. Just wake your baby enough for them to eat. This does a few things. It gently resets the sleep cycle so you get that long sleep right as you are going to sleep. It also makes sure your baby is nice and full, also helping your baby sleep longer while you are sleeping. If my baby needs to eat every three hours, I don’t want to be trying to sleep an hour before she needs to eat again. I want to maximize my sleep by starting it as soon as my baby has eaten. So top of the tank before you go to bed.
These are five things you can do to help your baby sleep that will not cause tears. They aren’t a guarantee your child will sleep through the night by a certain age, but they certainly help to form good sleep habits. As parents, we want to teach our children good sleep hygiene. It is a skill they will need and use throughout their entire lives. And as parents, we should get to sleep a bit too in order to be our best. You can teach your child to sleep gently in order for your whole family to get the rest they need.
Looking for more help with sleep? Try these posts!
The ladies of the BFBN are tackling sleep training today!! Be sure to visit all their posts and see what they have to say!
Christine Keys: How To Avoid Spending Money On A Sleep Consultant
Chronicles of a Babywise Mom: 6 Rules For Using Cry It Out as a Baby Sleep Training Method
Mama’s Organized Chaos: 3 Things To Try Before Hiring A Sleep Consultant
Twin Mom and More: Before You Hire a Sleep Consultant, Try These 5 Tips