Gentle Sleep Training - What Does It Mean?

As a baby sleep consultant, a question I am asked often is ‘Will I have to leave my baby to cry?’ This question usually goes hand in hand with the term ‘sleep training’ and the perception of what takes place when undertaking the task of improving your little one’s sleep.

The first image that may come to mind for a lot of people is that of a little baby lying in a cot being left to cry. Or a toddler standing in the cot thrashing at the cot bars staring at the door and screaming out for mum or dad in the hope they will come.

While these thoughts and images are certainly accurate for how sleep training used to be, and still is for some, it only represents one process of sleep training and certainly does not represent a requirement that must be met in order to undertake the process of teaching your little one independent sleep. There is no one way and no right or wrong, but there is more than one way.

Supporting and cuddling your baby whilst sleep training

Sleep training can actually also mean no crying. Sleep training can also mean some crying but you being there to support your little one the entire time. Sleep training can mean that you still pick your little one up and comfort them if they are upset.

All of these do not involve your little one being left alone to cry and figure it out on their own. These softer strategies will still help lead you to an outcome you are after when it comes to the process of sleep training and your little one learning the skills of independent sleep. This is what is referred to as ‘gentle’ sleep training and my preferred type of practice.

Whilst the traditional meaning of sleep training was to leave a baby alone to learn how to sleep, as a Baby Sleep Consultant I definitely know it doesn't have to be this way. The process of sleep training really needs to be redefined to include being present and supporting your baby to learn how to sleep. This can be achieved in many ways and really can be achieved in a way that is comfortable and feels right for you and your little one.

Does this mean that it will be easy. Unfortunately not always, but it does mean you will be able to support your baby. Does gentle sleep training meaning your baby won’t cry at all? Not necessarily. BUT it does mean you are there to offer emotional support, emotional and physical comfort and be present with them the entire time they are learning the skills of independent sleep. Your baby does not have to be left alone when developing the art of sleep.

If we look at the traditional words associated with the term ‘sleep training’ and choose to also include the words ‘assisting’, ‘teaching’, ‘guiding’, ‘supporting’ and ‘gentle’ to the thought of helping your little one with their sleep, it may help to show their is a different way that can be used instead of the 'traditional' methods and this can help change the way you feel about proceeding down the ‘sleep training’ path.

Nicole xx

Silent Night Baby Sleep Consultant

Helping your family achieve sleep harmony

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