Sleep training a baby is probably one of the most crucial yet challenging steps for a new parent. It is necessary to train your baby to self-soothe as it ensures uninterrupted sleep for the baby and you. Some babies are natural self-soothers, and you need not put much effort into sleep training them. However, some babies are dependent and need assistance falling back to sleep.
You could sleep train your baby employing various techniques. Some techniques involve excessive crying, such as the cry-it-out method, and others are gentle, such as the no-cry sleep training method, also known as the no-tears training method.
Although the ultimate goal of all sleep training methods is to make your baby sleep independently, the no-cry sleep training approach is slightly different. Read on as we tell you all you need to know about it.
What Is The No-Cry/ No-Tears Sleep Training Method?
Although the name indicates no-tears, this sleep training method does not promise tear-free sleep training. However, it is much more gentle and subtle on the baby and involves less crying and fussing than the cry-it-out method.
The method has several variants. The need to develop these gentle techniques arose as some parents believed that the cry-it-out-method might be harsh on the baby. They considered that it could lead to negative sleep association and harm the bond between the parent and the child (1).
In the no-cry sleep training methods, the parents would rock, cuddle, and soothe the baby as soon as they start crying while encouraging them to fall back to sleep on their own. These methods do not let the baby cry excessively to make them fall back to sleep independently.
Opponents of these methods contend that these methods require more time and effort to show results, as the baby is left to self-soothe for a shorter duration before the parents intervene. Besides, some babies may become overly dependent on their parents and may not learn to self-soothe independently.
So, which method is better? The cry-it-out method or the no-cry method? There is no definite answer, as each baby is different. The decision to go with any method depends on the parents of a baby as they are the best at understanding the baby’s behavior. Knowing the pros and cons of the no-cry method might help you make the best decision for your baby.
Pros And Cons Of The No-Cry Sleep Training Method
Although this method is much gentle than the cry-it-out method, it has its pros and cons.
- It is gentle on the baby and the parent.
- It helps create a positive and happy bedtime image for the baby.
- It ensures more bonding time with the baby.
- There is less crying and fussing.
- You might have to put in more effort and time.
- The baby might become over-dependent.
- It might take more time for the baby to learn to self-soothe.
- It might interrupt your sleep.
If you have decided to go with the no-tears training method, it needs meticulous planning to show results. Read on to learn about the variants of the no-cry sleep training method.
No-Cry Sleep Training Methods
These methods follow the basic principle of sleep training the child as gently as possible.
1. The fading method
The fading method revolves around the principle that a baby will go to sleep when they are sleepy. It involves reading the baby’s sleep cues and adjusting the sleep schedule to find the optimum bedtime for your baby.
It is also a method in which you need to gradually decrease your presence in your baby’s room when they are drifting to sleep. You can try this method when your baby is four to six months and is ready to self-soothe.
2. The chair method
You can teach your child to self-soothe by putting them in the crib or bassinet. Sit in a chair beside them, and gently pat them or sing to them to make them aware of your presence. Gradually decrease the distance between your chair and the door each night, and finally, you are out of the room.
3. The co-sleeping method
Co-sleeping is a sleep training method in which the baby is put to sleep in their own crib, but the crib is placed in your room. Sharing a bed with your baby is also a form of co-sleeping, but it is not recommended.
In this method, you may have to soothe them whenever they wake up in the middle of the night. This may not be an effective method to sleep train your baby, as you might often wake up to check on the baby or soothe them.
4. The pick-up and put-down method
As the name suggests, this method involves lifting the baby when they are fussy and then putting them down in the crib when they are calm.
In this sleep training method, you put the baby to sleep in the crib when they are about to fall asleep. If they wake up and cry, you go into the room, lift them, soothe them, and then put them in the crib again when they are calm. This needs to be repeated many times until they learn to fall asleep on their own.
No matter which of the methods you adopt, your baby would resist it initially. If your baby continues to cry and does not calm down, it is ok to give in and pick them up. You can start afresh the next day.
Tips To Consider While Employing The No-Cry Method
Try some of these tips to ensure smooth and fuss-free sleep training for your baby.
1. Set a bedtime routine
A regular bedtime routine would help your baby adjust to the sleep patterns and wake up less in the middle of the night.
- Put your baby to bed at the same time during the day and at night.
- Give them the last night feed just before putting them to bed. You may also complement it with dream feeding.
- You can also give them a warm bath or play soothing music before putting them in the crib.
2. Soothe them inside the crib
If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, do not rush and lift them from the crib to soothe them. Instead, consider the following steps:
- Let them lie inside the crib, and speak to them in a gentle voice.
- Gently rub the baby’s back and neck.
- Do not turn on the lights.
- If the baby still doesn’t stop crying, take them in your arms, gently rock them, or cuddle with them.
Once your baby stops crying and is about to drift off, slowly put them in the crib and maintain contact by staying by the crib. You can leave the room once the baby is asleep.
3. Make the night feedings low-key
You may have to feed your baby during the night until they are ready to night wean. Make the night feedings as low-key as possible.
- Do not turn on the lights.
- Keep each session brief and quick.
- Do not make eye contact or entertain the baby.
- When the baby is fed and burped, return them to the crib and leave the room.
If this routine is maintained, the baby will get used to it and go to sleep independently.
4. Pick up the sleep cues
Your baby will give some signs of sleep readiness, such as:
- Rubbing the eyes
- Fussing or crying
- Uninterested in playing
Pick up these sleep cues and put them to sleep when they are half asleep to help them get used to their sleeping environment and fall asleep independently. Do not wait until your baby is exhausted as an overtired baby may become irritable and not fall asleep.
5. Create a pleasant bedtime environment
While trying the no-cry sleep training method, it is important to keep the baby’s surroundings comfortable and pleasant.
- Keep the room dark and quiet.
- Keep all distractions, such as toys, away from the bedroom.
- Play soothing music or pleasant sounds.
- Make sure the sheets are warm and cozy.
- Do not dress your baby in tight clothes.
6. Use soothing phrases
If you associate some phrases with your baby’s bedtime routine, they might get used to them and drift off to sleep.
- Use simple phrases such as “shhh…,” ‘it’s bedtime,” “sleepy sleepy.”
- Repeat the sounds and phrases when it is bedtime, and your baby might associate bedtime with these phrases.
7. Make the transition gentle and smooth
This is the most critical step while sleep training your baby. If your baby is dependent on you to get back to sleep, the transition might take time.
- Make the transition as gentle as possible.
- Never force your child to self-soothe.
- Allow them to practice self-soothing at their own pace
8. Distinguish your baby’s cries
The key to successful sleep training is to make your baby independent and not make them feel abandoned.
- Differentiate between crying and sleeping sounds.
- Wait for a minute outside the room to see if they drift back to sleep.
- Do not rush to lift your baby as soon as they cry.
- Try to soothe them while they are still inside the crib.
9. Take care of their changing needs
Your baby’s feeding and sleeping patterns change as they grow, so observe their growth spurts and keep in mind their changing needs.
- If your baby is fussy all of a sudden, it could be sleep regression.
- As babies grow older, they tend to sleep less.
- Adjust their bedtime as per their changing needs.
Sleep training your baby is a personal choice as each baby’s sleeping patterns are different. If you have opted for the no-cry sleep training methods, you need to have patience and be ready to put in the extra effort to teach your baby to self-soothe. Remember that this approach takes time, and it could be months before your baby self-soothe to sleep.
Also, babies who are used to co-sleeping or are dependent on their parents to fall back to sleep may find it difficult to self-soothe. Your baby would resist your efforts as much as they can — they would cry, squirm, and refuse to fall back to sleep until you soothe them. It could be frustrating as you would have sleep-deprived nights, but hang in there and keep on trying, and gradually your efforts will show results.