Training Methods: Easing

Many parents want to have a child who sleeps wonderfully, but they don't want to endure any crying. I get it; it's hard to hear those sweet babies cry! So is there a way to teach your child to fall asleep without enduring any crying? Are these "no-cry" sleep training tactics for real?!

Honestly, I do not believe there is any method at all that is a "no-cry" method. I think it's a gimmick to get you to click or buy, but in the end, there will still be at least some crying. After all, have you ever met a baby who never cried?

As I've said before, babies cry to communicate a range of emotions, from sadness to frustration to confusion. If we completely stifle ALL of Baby's cries, he is unlikely to learn the skills we're trying to teach him (not to mention how frustrated we'll get in the process as we try anything we can think of to stop the crying).

Today I'm telling you the truth about these so-called no-cry training methods. Let's call it instead a low-cry training method. It doesn't have quite the same appeal, but it's a much more accurate description!

There’s NO SUCH THING as no-cry sleep training, but this extra-gentle method is the closest you can get!

OVERVIEW

This training method is about very slowly easing your child into learning the skill of falling asleep independently. It involves a lot of hands-on parental presence to ensure that Baby never feels abandoned.

THIS METHOD IS GOOD FOR:

  • Children who heavily rely on a parent to fall asleep
  • Parents who who want as little crying as possible
  • Parents who are willing to spend a lot of time sleep training
  • Parents who want to be extremely hands-on throughout the training process

THIS METHOD IS NOT GOOD FOR:

  • Children who are stimulated by parental presence during sleep training (with the child either trying to play/interact with parents or screaming louder to demand attention, or perhaps even the child who screams louder as if to say, "I don't want you in here when I'm trying to sleep!")
  • Parents who are unwilling to be very consistent over several weeks, possibly even months

HOW IT WORKS

When it is time for bed, follow the instructions for the stage you are in. If Baby wakes in the middle of the night or the middle of a nap and begins to cry, return to your place by his crib and use soothing techniques until he returns to sleep (or until naptime is over). As soon as Baby seems to handle the current stage pretty well (minimal fussing while completing the process of falling asleep), move on to the next stage. Try not to stay in any stage for longer than a week, but ideally more like 3-5 days. On days that you move to the next stage, he may fuss more, but he will then adjust. The idea is to slowly stretch his capabilities until he's falling asleep completely on his own.

  • Stage 1: Hold/rock/nurse Baby until he is completely asleep. Shortly after you're sure he's made it to sleep, lay him down in his bed. If he wakes and starts to cry or fuss when you place him, you may pat his tummy or stroke his head, but limit how much you talk to him; instead try to just “shhh.” Do not look him in the eye as this is quite stimulating. You may touch him as much as necessary until he falls back asleep. You may even pick him up briefly (try to limit pickups to about 20 seconds, and wait at least a minute or so between pickups). 
  • Stage 2: Hold/rock/nurse Baby until he is very, very drowsy. Try to lay him down before he actually falls asleep. Follow the same guidelines from stage 1 if he starts to cry or fuss when you lay him down, trying hard not to let Baby fall completely asleep in your arms.
  • Stage 3: Hold/rock/nurse Baby until he is only slightly drowsy. Follow the same guidelines from stage 1 if he starts to cry or fuss when you lay him down, trying hard not to let Baby fall completely asleep in your arms.
  • Stage 4: Hold/rock/nurse Baby for just a moment or two at bedtime (and move nursing to the beginning of the bedtime routine). Lay him down completely awake (but appropriately tired). Follow the same guidelines from stage 1 if he starts to cry or fuss when you lay him down, trying hard not to let Baby fall completely asleep in your arms.
  • Stage 5: Continue to lay Baby down completely awake, but begin to remove your involvement from his falling asleep process. Touch and shhh him less frequently. At this point consider moving on to the chair method.

As I said above, this is NOT a no-cry training method (no such thing!). Baby may cry when you lay him down in the crib initially, and he may even cry until he makes it to sleep. However, what makes this the gentlest option is that anytime Baby cries, you are free to comfort him -- just make sure your comforting efforts don't completely undermine your training efforts, as we still want Baby to complete the final moments of falling asleep on his own.

Although this is the gentlest option, don't automatically go into it thinking that it's the easiest option. You may actually find that this method is more difficult because you have to remain right by your child, even when he is crying. He may continue to cry throughout all your soothing efforts!


Don't let another parent (or sleep consultant!) pressure you into doing any training method that doesn't feel right for you. No method is better or worse than another -- it's just a matter of which is the best fit for your needs and your child's needs. If you time things appropriately for your child (based on his age) and you remain consistent, you can see excellent results with any training method. If you need help selecting or implementing a method, don't hesitate to reach out to me.