No Cry Approach to Sleep Training-what does this really mean?

Well I actually don’t like using the words “training”- to me it conjures up all those early mornings at puppy school- where I froze my fingers off trying to get our puppy to sit, stand and drop.

When it comes to children, the bottom line with creating healthy sleep associations is that consistency is the ONLY factor that works, and commitment to this is paramount for change now and for long term success.  With this in mind babies establish regular sleep routines quickly and easily. As parent’s most importantly, you plan ahead, agree on your plan and apply it the same time every night and day

Every living creature needs to sleep. It is the primary activity of the brain during early development. Circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle, are regulated by light and dark and these rhythms take time to develop, resulting in the irregular sleep schedules of newborns. The rhythms begin to develop at about six weeks, and by three to six months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle.

By the age of two, most children have spent more time asleep than awake and overall, a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep. Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.

Babies spend 50 percent of their time in each of these states and the sleep cycle is about 50 minutes. At about six months of age, REM sleep comprises about 30 percent of sleep. By the time children reach preschool age, the sleep cycle is about every 90 minutes. For babies up to 1 year of age the 90 min-2 hour awake time cycle is highly pronounced, at the end of 90-2 hours  they need to go to sleep! This is NORMAL, and is the best chance of the baby falling asleep quickly and easily again. By being attuned to this will lead to more restful periods, easier settling- and day/night organisation.

So taking all of the above into consideration when implementing a new sleep arrangement will your baby cry? Then the answer is yes maybe.  I have found that the amount of crying is largely dependent on your baby’s  personality rather than the method used, largely dependent on how much touch your baby is used to when going to sleep. If you have an easy going baby she may well just have a little whinge.  If you have a very willful baby she may put up a fuss.  Even with the gentler methods there can still be some crying.  Your baby or toddler is simply saying “hey, what are you doing? we don’t do it this way, what is going on?” With this new experience they are simply letting you know they are confused and frustrated and unsure, even with you right there by their side.  Often what this all means is that you need to re adjust your expectations on the length of time it will take to guide your baby towards your goal of independent sleep. This includes any transitions-could be from bed sharing, to co-sleeping to bassinet, to cot to own room. 

As I have previously blogged there is the emotional element of crying, that many parent’s are unaware of as well, and they need to understand that some babies need to cry to release stress, tension and/or emotion, and feel safe to do so. Depending on the age of your child behaviors and previous experiences can differ and indicate what is behind any tears/emotions. Understanding how a particular method will fit a situation is more important than which method is best for no tears. Many of the methods can be done with minimal crying, IF the right steps are taken to prepare you and minimize the tears. Often no “method is necessary” if healthy sleep foundations are addressed first before implementing any behavioral method.

Slow and steady will ALWAYS win this race, to a peaceful night’s sleep and a calm, contented baby.