What if Sleep Training goes badly? Do you have to stick it out regardless? When working on sleep habits or making any changes your child's sleep or routines, you may find that they protest and cry. There are some strategies that can help you and your child through the challenges and figure out what to do.
There are many different sleep coaching strategies from gentle shaping and creative strategies to supportive fading techniques, and all the way to cry-it-out. As Gentle Sleep Coaches we use a variety of techniques that are supportive and responsive, including creative strategies and behavioural fading methods. We tailor the sleep plan and method to each individual family's goal and values and to the child's temperament. We do this with the goal of creating a strategy that is as gentle and supportive as possible and likely to get results in a time frame that works for you. No we don't do cry it out, as most families come to us looking for something gentler. Our gentlest strategy is in our book "Loved to Sleep" which is available on Amazon.
What will you do if your baby cries?
No matter what method you use, you may find that your child cries longer or harder than you are comfortable with. Offering a constant consistent response to your child as part of your coaching process can help them learn faster and regulate. Staying with your child and supporting them can also keep your child's stress levels in the tollerable range and help you avoid toxic stress. This is why the methods that we suggest involve staying and offering support to the child at least initially.
It's true that some children will cry for a very short time and be wonderful sleepers ever after, and some will accept the new plan with little to no crying or fussing. However, most children will let you know that they are not happy about the new plan. If you do get crying with coaching, it's important that you see patterns of self-soothing develop and you see improvements quickly. Our "Loved to Sleep" method keeps crying to a minimum but can take a lot longer to see results.
If your child is crying longer or harder than you are comfortable with. Here is a flow chart with strategies to help you manage without creating unwanted associations or having to worry about intermittent reinforcement. These strategies are adapted from Kim West's book "Good Night Sleep Tight" where the Sleep Lady Shuffle is discussed but it can be used with any sleep training or sleep coaching strategy. If it doesn't work out the first night, it doesn't mean you will never sleep again. You just may need a new strategy or to make some tweaks to get the sleep results you desire.
If you use any of these backup strategies, please leave a comment and let us know how it goes. If you need help deciding what to do, contact a Gentle Sleep Coach for guidance.