So you want to help your little one to become a better sleeper, but you have concerns about crying. Well, it’s completely understandable because you’re a loving parent and you don’t like seeing your child cry. None of us do, after all nature has wired us that way for a reason.
We are supposed to respond to the cries of our young to protect them, to make sure they’re okay, to see to their needs, so it is completely normal and understandable to feel that way. And let’s just clear up the association with crying and sleep training, because this is where we actually often get in our own way, just through unhelpful thoughts and ideas that don’t actually mean anything.
So let’s look at this crying thing. Why parents often fear the crying is often because they are either worried about little one crying and that waking another sibling, or they’re worried about the little one crying and that disturbing or concerning the neighbours, or they’re worried about the little one crying and just becoming really distressed and they don’t want to upset their child.
And for a lot of us, and I get this myself, the sound of the baby crying, it causes your stress levels to go up, and you instinctively just want to make it stop.
I get it. I really, really do. But let me ask you this, you’re here because you want a better way. You’re here because the current way that you’re helping your little one get to sleep either isn’t working, or isn’t sustainable, for whatever reason you need a better way, and I’m quite curious as to whether or not you’ve actually got a no crying way to do it right now.
Because most of the time when parents seek help with getting their little one to sleep, they’re already enduring tons of crying, this one’s already crying even though they’re doing all the things they think might help them go to sleep, so there’s crying anyway.
And actually that’s going to go on for longer, it’s going to disturb siblings and neighbours and create your stress levels to go up for weeks and weeks, if not months.
But if you approach this the right way and you get things on a better path, then actually that crying is going to reduce rapidly and maybe even disappear. We are all about helping little ones to settle happily to sleep, not crying.
That said, babies cry, and we have to acknowledge that. There’d be something wrong with your child if they didn’t cry. But what do those cries mean? It means they need feeding, or changing, or they’re frustrated, or they want to cuddle. It is something usually pretty straightforward that you can respond to.
When people say, I can’t sleep train because of the crying, yes you can. First of all, there might not even be that much crying. I mean, just imagine you’re giving your child a new way to successfully go to sleep. I mean, that’s going to help them to stop crying pretty quickly.
They’re only crying cause they’re frustrated. Maybe they’re crying because what you’re doing is actually agitating them. Maybe they’re crying because they’re uncomfortable. Maybe they’re crying because they just want to go to sleep and all your efforts to help them is just stimulating them and keeping them awake longer.
We need to find the right way to reduce that crying for the long term and to help them sleep soundly.
Will there be no crying? Probably not, that’s pretty much an unrealistic dream and anyone who says they have a no cry plan is selling you an impossible dream because they’re supposed to cry. I’d be more worried if they didn’t. So yes, there’ll probably be crying, but only crying that says this is different, or this is new, or why aren’t we doing it this way anymore?
For instance, perhaps you’ve been jigging your little one to sleep in your arms and they’ve got too big and it’s not working anyway, or you’ve got another one now and you need to be able to put them down, well you start the process and you work on putting them down and then they cry. They’re only crying because they don’t like it because it’s new and it’s different. That’s it.
But as soon as they understand that, oh, but it’s also safe, it’s also comfy, you’re also right there for them, it’s not so scary after all, and then they adjust to the change. In the same way that we don’t just give in to every cry our children have throughout parenthood, we don’t just give in to whatever we usually falsely believe that they want when we’re helping them learn to sleep.
I love to tell this story, and I’ll try to tell it to you really quickly, about my own little one when she was too young to really understand, but old enough. We were at a restaurant, we were sat outside one day, and the few days before we’d been in the situation and mommy had a glass of water when she wanted mommy’s drink, and she said, “Mommy’s drink,” and I said, “Okay, you can have some of mommy’s drink,” and she had a little bit of my water.
A few days later in a similar set up, my mommy’s drink was a glass of wine, and she’s like, “Mommy’s drink,” and I’m like, “Yes, you’re not having any of that.” Obviously I’m not going to let her have wine. No amount meltdown or she could have thrown herself on the floor and had the biggest tantrum but that would not make me go, “Okay, if it makes you happy, I’ll give in. Here, have the wine.” I’m not going to do that. What parent would?
So in the same way, we don’t just give in to every little want or whim that our children have. We don’t, because we know it’s not right for them. So she had to get over it. She didn’t understand why, why was she allowed mommy’s drink the other day and now she’s not?
That’s really unfair. In her mind, you just said I could, and now saying I couldn’t, where’s the consistency, mommy? It’s really difficult for them to understand our reasons and our rationale about things. In the same way that your little one can’t be expected to be told. “No, you can’t sleep in my bed, no, no, no, no, no.” And then at 5:00 AM you go, “Oh come on then, fine, just sleep in my bed.” How confusing is that?
So we have to have rules and boundaries, we have to stick to our guns. And when you change the way your little one settles to sleep, when you change it from, Oh, well we’ve been rocking to sleep, or we’ve been feeding to sleep, or we’ve been doing this thing or that thing, and it’s no longer serving us and it’s no longer helping our child.
We need a new way for the long term, that change is going to be met with a certain amount of resistance, confusion, frustration, irritation, which usually comes out with a cry. What do we do? We reassure, we respond, we help them, and we guide them down a better path. We don’t ignore it, but we also don’t just give into it. We help them, and we show them a better way.
So will there be crying involved with sleep training? Most likely. Will we handle it in a healthy, responsive way? Absolutely.
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