Should we sleep train?
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
Can we sleep train without leaving our baby crying?
These are common questions…..
Nobody enjoys hearing a baby cry, and parents have a pre-programmed urge to help, to fix ‘it’… whatever ‘it’ is that is causing their baby’s distress. This is mother nature’s way of making sure our babies needs are attended to, but of course the difficult bit is figuring out exactly what the problem is.
And because we have to second guess the cause of the crying, we can often inadvertently sabotage our babies ability to develop their own self regulating skills.
This does not mean that we leave babies crying at night so that they work things out for themselves… That would not be tending to their needs, and its an old fashioned, view of sleep training.
Because we as parents are half asleep, and hyper sensitive to sleeping siblings and partners, our tolerance for crying at night is significantly less than it would be for a tantrum over a toy in the daytime. That’s natural. However, our sensitivity can lead us to misunderstand the cries as our baby telling us they NEED something. We think its food, a rock, a cuddle, a trip into mum’s bed. When in fact, baby may just be saying ‘I want to go back to sleep and I don’t know how to do it’.
What ‘fixes’ or stops the crying isn’t necessarily what your baby actually wanted or needed in the first place. We are often left guessing and we instinctively feed a crying baby to make it stop, or rock a crying baby who won’t take a feed.
However, the problems can creep in when do these soothing things when they were not actually being asked for. The feeding, rocking, pacing are lovely comforting things so in the early days they do indeed lull baby back to sleep, but in effect, the parent is putting baby to sleep, rather than letting baby work out how to go sleep, so baby is not learning the critical skill of self-settling.
It’s the equivalent of doing a child’s homework for them…they are not learning anything.
If our little one does not know how to self-settle, then there will come a time when all the feeding/rocking/pacing etc won’t work any more because they were all lovely distractions whilst he was awake, BUT, the problem is, he is still awake, and still tired, and still really only wanting to go back to sleep. But he still does not know how to do it.
He needs you to help him learn. Does that mean you have to let him cry rather than soothe him? NO it absolutely does NOT. And the whole idea behind customized sleep training plans is that we tailor the plan to suit the needs of baby and you. If your baby had always had you to put him to sleep, then we will keep you in the process whilst gently teaching him how to start doing it by himself.
Then he takes on more and more of the settling until he can do it all by himself.
So, back to our original question, can you sleep train a baby without leaving him to cry it out….. YES you absolutely can.
Babies will wake up crying at night… it is how we respond that is critical. Its easy to know when babies need feeding in the day, we can see their faces and read their cues, we know when we need to change a dirty nappy, but somehow its easy to get flustered in the middle of the night and do something/anything to stop the crying even if it may not have been the thing that baby was asking for.
Knowing why your baby is crying and responding appropriately, in line with his developmental stage and individual personality and temperament is the first step.