Is it possible to teach your child to sleep independently without “crying it out”? Are there cry it out alternatives that really work?
First of all, let me just say that “sleep training” often means “cry it out” and “cry it out” often means putting your baby to sleep, closing the door and letting them cry until they fall asleep. Neither of these two things has to be true, and they are not true for us, The Peaceful Sleeper. The term “sleep training” has a lot of negative connotations, which is why I think the term “sleep learning” makes more sense. We are helping our children learn the super important skill of learning to sleep independently.
And you can teach your baby independent sleep skills using a “cry it out” approach that is responsive, fosters attachment and is tuned in to YOUR baby- their zone of proximal development, and their individual learning style.
That being said, it is 100% possible to teach your baby independent sleep skills, without letting them “cry it out”.
Want to know how? Read on, my friend!
What exactly is “sleep learning” and why is it important?
As we touched on above, “sleep learning” is simply teaching your baby the skill of independent sleep. In order to teach our children any skill, we must first meet them where they are at. With sleep learning, we work within their zone of proximal development, and gradually release the supports and interventions we provide, at a pace that promotes independence and fosters attachment.
We know that every baby and every family is different, which is why there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to sleep learning. The Peaceful Sleeper “method” offers many different approaches to teaching this skill, AND teaches you how to tailor every approach to best fit YOUR baby.
Independent sleep skills are SO important for our children. Sleep promotes physical, social, intellectual and emotional development. Children need restorative sleep in order to thrive. And teaching your child independent sleep skills is a lifelong gift that you can give them. Independent sleepers are just better sleepers. Both short term and long term.
You can take them on vacation, push bedtime, and have their schedule thrown off for a few days, knowing that they WILL bounce back. You also have the peace of mind of knowing that regressions are just a blip in their overall great sleep patterns. And it is so much easier to tell if your little one is sick or in pain, because you know that something is off, since their sleep is usually great.
Cry it out alternatives to teaching independent sleep skills
Now that you know how important teaching your little one independent sleep skills is, let’s talk about how to do it.
There are many different approaches to teaching sleep skills, however what’s most important is that you use an approach that works for you and your baby.
If you are looking for an approach that is a cry it out alternative, you’re in the right place. Approaches that don’t involve crying it out are often more gradual. Meaning that you should expect results in 6 weeks to 6 months. If this doesn’t work for you, that’s completely understandable. Using a different approach that involves tuning into your baby as you create time and space for your baby to figure it out, often results in learning the skill a lot faster.
A more gradual approach, as a cry it out alternative, means that you are physically with your baby as you teach them the skill of independent sleep. It is realistic to expect that your baby will still protest, as babies protest change. However, that doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong or that it is “bad”. Crying is how babies communicate, and it is healthy to allow them to express their feelings and emotions.
Here are some cry it out alternatives that you can find on the internet:
- Pick up Put Down method
- The Chair method
The Peaceful Sleeper approach to gradually teaching your baby independent sleep skills, without leaving them alone while they are crying, is a science-based, proven approach. Here is what it looks like:
Step 1: Predictable Schedule
Getting your baby on a predictable schedule by following age appropriate wake windows and tuning into your baby’s sleepy cues. Sleep begets sleep, and an overtired baby is much harder to get to sleep.
Step 2: Sleep initiation
For bedtime and naps, slowly start to remove the amount of intervention you are using to get your baby to sleep. If they are protesting or crying, you are staying with them and soothing them back to sleep. Aim to give the least amount of intervention needed.
Step 3: Night Wakings
Once your baby is initiating sleep independently, you can use the same gradual release of interventions approach to night wakings. This does NOT mean you have to drop night feedings. Not only can there be night wakings that are not feeding related, but you can drop night feedings if/when you are ready. For reference, most babies are ready to go a full night without feeding by 9 months.
In my 4-24 month course, I walk you through exactly how to execute these steps, and how to troubleshoot the most common “bumps” in the process.
Our main goal is to tune into your baby and respond to what they need. Every baby will require different levels of scaling back intervention as they learn the skill of independent sleep.
If you are noticing that this approach isn’t working for your baby, then feel free to make adjustments. Learning sleep skills is not a “set in stone” process. It’s ok to change gears as you tune in and respond to your baby. Every baby is different, and some babies learn better with more space to figure it out on their own. I want to empower you to be the expert on your baby!
Recap on alternatives to cry it out
Every baby can get better sleep. And good sleep changes everything! It is essential for your child’s development and for the well-being and mental health of everyone in your family.
Getting great sleep doesn’t have to be overwhelming or elusive, and it does not require the cry it out method. We can help! We have worked with thousands of babies all over the world and have dealt with the trickiest of babies. The key is to be consistent yet responsive, and have a tool box of strategies to try as we learn what works for YOUR baby.
You can check out all of our consultation options here. We would LOVE to help you and your family get the sleep you need and deserve!