How to Avoid Cry It Out Sleep Training
SNOO Smart Sleeper by Happiest Baby has swept the parenting world over the past year— now heralded as the answer to parents’ sleep straining struggles or even the lack of sleep for exhausted, new parents. But if you’ve not yet jumped on the SNOO train, you’ll be delighted to know there are more ways to get some of that sweet shut eye (remember what that was like?) without letting your littles wail all night via the Cry it Out method.
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When parents say they’re dreading sleep training, they’re usually talking about the classic Cry It Out method that desperate parents commonly advised to try if their 4-6 month old baby isn’t sleeping through the night.
Sleep training gives parents angst because it never feels right to ignore your baby’s cries. Your entire nervous system is tuned to hear those cries and respond with loving care. The good news is that the cry-it-out method can work—after 2-4 days of tough nights—but it can also backfire if you don’t do it correctly.
Thankfully, there are effective and gentler ways to train our little ones to be champion sleepers. By embracing these strategies, most babies sleep through the night much earlier—and with many fewer tears.
FEED FOR BETTER SLEEP
Feeding and good sleep go hand in hand. That’s because hunger is the #1 reason babies wake at night!
Of course, newborn need feedings every few hours. But, within 1-2 weeks most babies are steadily gaining weight and it is perfectly fine to start shifting more of calories to the daytime which helps them sleep longer at night. Sounds dreamy, right?
To do so, you’ll want to feed your baby every 1.5-2 hours while the sun is up. You should even wake her up from naps that stretch longer than 2 hours to offer a nosh. If you’re nursing, I find it works best to alternate breasts – around 7 minutes on each side.
That is usually a more efficient schedule than keeping babies on one breast or doing 15 minutes/side. Switching back and forth let’s babies get plenty of foremilk plus the benefit of the calorie-rich hindmilk.
Later, around 11pm, offer a dream feed (rouse your baby even if she is sleeping). The idea is to “top off the tank,” so your baby heads into the overnight hours with sufficient “fuel” for the long journey ahead!
BE THE WOMB
Our world is too big and too quiet for tiny infants, who have only known the soothing rumbling, rocking and snug embrace of the womb for the past 9 months. No wonder babies calm best when we surround them with 5 womblike sensations—Swaddling, Side/Stomach position, Shushing, Swinging, Sucking—known as the 5 S’s.
Note: The side/stomach position is best for calming babies, but the back is the only safe position for sleeping.
A wonderful way to help babies learn to be better sleepers—as early as the first weeks of life—is by using SNOO. This is a smart bassinet that nurtures babies with 3 of the 5 S’s. SNOO automatically responds to fussing with increases white noise and little jiggly motions. This is much like what experienced Grandma’s and nurses do to soothe crying.
And, SNOO help parents sleep better, too, because it is the safest baby bed ever made. in SNOO, the baby is rocked on a flat surface. That’s important because the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents that swings and rockers are not safe for sleep. Plus, SNOO’s unique swaddle secures babies on the back, keeping them is a safe and comforting womb-like cuddle… all night long.
How can a bed sleep train a baby? It’s helpful to understand some basic sleep science for it all to make sense. We all—babies and parents—rouse several times a night during the light sleep part of our sleep cycles.
The goal of sleep training is not to prevent all night wakings—that’s actually impossible. The goal is to help babies learn how to self-soothe when they inevitably wake at night.
We may enjoy sleeping in silence, but for new babies it’s weird– compared to the constant, strong, rhythms they had 24/7 before birth. So, when a baby pops awake at night, the quiet stillness makes them wake up… and cry. That’s why doctors tell parents to take fussy babies for car rides.
But in SNOO, babies waking up at night are usually lulled by the bed’s response of increased rocking and louder shushing, unless they’re hungry or uncomfortable! It’s so effective, that most SNOO babies sleep 9+ hours a night by 2-3 months!
USE THE WAKE AND SLEEP METHOD
While it’s lovely to rock your baby to sleep, doing that every night often slows a baby from learning to self-soothe. It also makes her more reliant on your help in the middle of the night.
Here’s how to prevent that pattern:
- Every evening—before the last feeding—swaddle your baby, play some rumbly white noise and enjoy lulling her to sleep in your arms.
- Then, after you slide her into bed, wake her up a little. Tickle her feet or give her shoulder a little jiggle.
- A few seconds later, she will likely close her eyes and slide back into sleep. If she starts to fuss, quickly jiggling the crib for a minute or two should get her back into slumber.
I know it sounds counterintuitive to wake a sleeping baby, but most babies fall back asleep in 10-30 seconds. This experience, repeated over and over again, helps babies begin to learn how to fall to sleep without being in their parent’s arms or at the breast.
As babies gain confidence in this new skill, parents can begin to lay their babies down fully awake. Then it’s your turn to celebrate!
Note: The biggest challenge with this approach is that it often takes until 5-6 months for babies outgrow their need for motion when they wake in the middle of the night.
Photography: Courtesy of Happiest Baby