What is gentle sleep training?

Gentle Sleep Training

If your little one is facing sleep struggles, you may be looking for a sleep training method to address them. If you want to know more about gentle sleep training, you’ve come to the right place.

You’ve probably heard of the cry-it-out method. After a soothing bedtime routine, you place your baby or child in their sleep space and leave. If they protest, cry, stand, sit- you name it, you leave them in there on their own and don’t return until morning. Although this method works for many families, there are also many parents who are more sensitive to crying and don’t feel comfortable leaving their child to cry unattended.

If you’ve spent any amount of time researching different sleep methods, you’ve probably seen that there are A LOT of them. It can be overwhelming, especially for exhausted parents, to try to go through endless approaches to baby sleep. The good news is, there’s really only three approaches to sleep training that each different method will fall under.

Gentle Sleep Training

It can be helpful to have an understanding of each type of method before going into greater detail for any one of them. Extinction, or cry-it-out, is leaving your child at bedtime and not returning until morning. The parent does not respond to anything the child does. There are no variations of this method.

Most of the sleep training methods out there are variations of gradual extinction, or timed checks. The main variables in this method are how often the parent visits the child after bedtime, what the parent does when they are with the child, and how long they stay.

Parental fading is staying with the child after bedtime until they fall asleep and returning to do so with every night waking. It sounds like a lot, and it is! This method is best for parents who are looking for gentle sleep training and don’t feel comfortable leaving their child alone to cry it out. While the child fall asleep, the parent may respond in a variety of ways. The parent’s goal is to support the child as they learn how to fall asleep on their own.

As a highly tear sensitive parent myself, any method that fell under extinction or gradual extinction didn’t sit well with me. Finally, I came across the Sleep Lady Shuffle – which is a variation of parental fading – and even though I knew it would be a highly involved process, I felt good about committing to it. My husband and I worked with a sleep consultant to ensure the process would be as gentle as possible for our little girl and embarked on the two week program. Read more about the Sleep Lady Shuffle here.

Gentle Sleep Training

The first night was still rough. My twelve month daughter had slept in my bed in my arms every night of her life, and didn’t even know how to lie down in her crib by herself. But my husband spend hours sitting in the rocking chair we had pushed up right beside her crib, stroking her through the bars, patting her back, talking to her and shushing her.

A few nights later, she slept through the entire night without waking even once for the first time in her life. After two weeks, we would do her bedtime routine, lay her in her crib, and leave. She would fuss for about ten seconds, roll over, and talk herself to sleep within ten minutes.

It was worth it to me to use parental fading because although my daughter still had to face the inevitable struggle involved in learning a new skill, we were at her side every step of the way. Over the course of the two week sleep training program, we gradually moved farther and farther away from the crib as her sleep skills increased. By the time we were out of the room, she knew how to sleep independently and didn’t need us to comfort her anymore.

If you are looking for a gentle sleep training method, parental fading might be right for you. If you feel that no amount of fussing is acceptable, it might be best to look instead into contacting a sleep consultant to see if there are any simple changes you can make to the sleep routine, schedule, or environment that may improve your child’s sleep. Sometimes sleep issues resolve on their own too, given enough time. However you feel about sleep training, and whatever sleep issue your child is facing, remember that you don’t have to face it alone! If you have any questions or would even like to schedule a free brief chat, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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