Sleep training is a huge topic in the baby space, and for good reason: sleep is so important for babies, but every baby is different. How can new parents help their littles sleep through the night before they can do it themselves, for everyone’s sake?
Opinions vary on whether sleep training is the right approach; some swear by sleep training, some swear off of it entirely, and others still aren’t sure. While most people think of the “cry-it-out” approach, it turns out that there are a few different sleep training techniques. If you’ve never considered sleep training, it might be easier to find a method that works for you than you thought.
Sleep training methods
1. The cry-it-out method
When you put your baby to bed, let them cry for a while before going back to them. Parents usually wait a set amount of time, starting small and working up to longer periods as baby learns to self-regulate. This one is the most tricky, and also the most controversial. It feels cruel to let your baby cry like this, and it can be really difficult for parents to hear. We’re wired to respond to our babies when they cry, after all! For a lot of babies, this will get better as they learn to self-soothe, but you know your baby best. This method might not work for babies with more sensitive temperaments, or babies who prefer being in-sight of the parents even during daytime activities.
2. The gradual withdrawal method
A similar but less abrupt way to sleep train, here, parents gradually reduce time spent with baby before they go down to sleep. This method gradually gets baby used to being alone, and comfortable with self-soothing, and self-stimulating. This is sort of a middle ground method; you’re still there if baby needs you, and for a lot of people, this feels less abrupt than the no-cry way. Pulling away might still be a challenge at first, but there’s plenty of room to try different tactics until you settle into the routine.
3. The no-cry method
This is exactly what it sounds like: instead of letting baby cry it out, you’re offering support as soon as they get upset (or soon after). The trick is not to pick them up, or remove them from their crib. Babies (and humans in general) are very tactile, and touch is often a great way to comfort them. Rub their back, rub their head, rock them, sing to them, talk to them – do whatever your baby likes to comfort them while they’re in their sleep space, so they can learn that they’re safe there, and you’re still with them.
Remember, you know your family best, and you know what’s best for your baby. If sleep training isn’t right for you, that’s okay! If it is, that’s also totally fine. Struggling with sleep can be frustrating and exhausting for the whole family, so if you’re trying something that just isn’t working, be kind to yourself and baby, and don’t feel bad about putting things on pause.
Believe it or not, a baby’s mattress and sheets can have a huge impact on their sleep. So many Sleepers have told us that their little ones sleep independently on our Crib Mattress and Crib Sheets (they’re super soft, after all, plus the bamboo cover on our Crib Mattress means it’s naturally cooling and temperature regulating).
Blackout to the rescue
No matter what kind of sleep training you do (or if you sleep train at all), establishing a bedtime routine and comfortable space can do wonders for helping your baby feel sleepy, and stay calm. White noise machines, infrared lighting, and relaxing bedtime routines like songs or stories can help baby feel calm and relaxed at bedtime.
There’s one product that many parents find absolutely crucial: blackout curtains.
Think about it; you can control noise and temperature in baby’s room, but you can’t control the sun (and if you’re like most parents, you’d rather sleep past sunrise!). Humans are naturally wired to wake up and fall asleep with the patterns of the sun, and exposure to sunlight naturally wakes us up. Likewise, as the sun sets, our bodies start producing sleep hormones, which makes us tired. These hormones help regulate our sleep cycles, which is why it’s so important to wake up and go to sleep at the same time – for us and for babies. Usually, though, the sun has other ideas; up forever in the summer months, barely up at all in the winter, and shifting us all out of whack during daylight savings times.
With blackout curtains, you can control when light comes in and when it’s kept out, all year long. This will help baby sleep better, longer, without being disturbed by anything going on outside. What if baby is afraid of the dark? It happens; it’s hard to put a worked up baby down to sleep, so try a night light (especially an infrared light) to help acclimate them to the dark space better, and help them relax. This way, you’re still controlling the light coming into the room, and most importantly, it stays consistent.
If you’re worried about sounds, a white noise machine will help drown out outside noises that could startle your little one. If your blackout curtains are thermal insulated, they’ll also help block out sounds – with the added bonus of regulating the nursery’s temperature too.