How to Avoid the Stress of Sleep Training

If there’s one thing that many parents dread doing, it’s having to deal with the stress of sleep training.

Sleep training is such an ambiguous term – what exactly is “sleep training” anyway?  It’s basically any method you use to help your child learn to go to sleep on their own (note that I wrote “on their own” and not “alone”).  It’s most often associated with babies, but the reality is – the stress of sleep training never truly ends…

You start by sleep training a newborn, and then you have to do it again after that baby starts teething.  Then you move your toddler out of a crib and have to help them sleep in a big kid bed.  Perhaps you move and have to teach your child to sleep in a new bedroom.  Or you go on vacation, and when you get back, your child has forgotten how to sleep on their own and you have to start all over again!

Sleep training is not a one-time thing you need to teach your child.  Unlike teaching them how to write their name or ride a bike – sleep training is something you will have to do over and over again, in several different ways and for several different reasons.  So there’s no point in trying to avoid it.

There are, however, ways and reasons to avoid the stress of sleep training.  The number one reason being the effect it has on a mother’s mental health.

How to Avoid the Stress of Sleep Training

*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.  **Furthermore, I am not a sleep training or medical expert and nothing in this post should be taken as professional advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


To Sleep Train… Or Not To Sleep Train?

That is the question but there actually isn’t one right answer.  Many parents sleep train without even realizing that’s what they’re doing. (Hint: simply following a bedtime routine is sleep training!) Sleep is a natural part of life, and sleep training means helping baby to do that.  The obvious goal of sleep training is to have baby sleep through the night. But sometimes, the stress of sleep training is just too much to consider doing.

Pros of Sleep Training:
  • Reduces the negative effects of sleep deprivation (for both mom and baby)
  • Creates a predictable routine
  • Helps baby adjust to life outside of the womb
  • Develops good sleep habits early
  • Encourages independence
Cons of Sleep Training:
  • It’s hard to get right
  • Requires a lot of patience and persistence
  • Increases mom’s stress level
  • Limits the amount of time mom and baby spend together
  • Is difficult to do while room/bed sharing
Sleep Training vs. No Sleep Training
  • Sleep training can cause stress and anxiety, but so can sleep deprivation.
  • A strict routine can make mom feel depressed and imprisoned but no routine at all can be overwhelming.
  • Having baby sleep in their own bed can be good for a mom who needs space but sleeping with baby can create a stronger bond.
Sleep Training Part 2: 6 Months +
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Reduce The Anxiety

Just the idea of sleep training is enough to cause anxiety for moms.  Many moms worry about how to do it properly and fear the thought of their babies crying for hours on end.  There’s really no way to know in advance how a baby will handle sleep training.  You will also find a lot of conflicting information and advice about sleep training.  Reading about how excessive crying can cause brain damage will definitely cause a high level of stress for a mom who is considering sleep training their baby.

One of the best ways to avoid the stress of sleep training is to change your perspective on it.  Having a positive attitude towards sleep training will help you to be more successful and reduce stress on yourself and baby.

6 Ways to Make Sleep Training a Positive Experience
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Concentrate on the five senses. Make it a point to incorporate a calming activity for each of the senses into the bedtime routine.  It’s a great way to send signals to the brain that it’s time to go to sleep.  Calming each of the senses will help baby to relax, which will make sleep training so much easier.  It will also help to reduce mom’s anxiety and stress level, making her feel more confident at bedtime.

How to Avoid the Stress of Sleep Training
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If the idea of sleep training is causing a lot of anxiety, then it might be a good idea to speak to an online therapist before beginning.  They can help you to change your thought process and will be available for you to speak to if you feel overly stressed once you’ve started.  Having a plan in place to handle your stress is a great way to manage any mental health problems that might arise.

Another way to eliminate the stress of sleep training is to make sure that you are using the right method.  Taking advice from other parents is a guaranteed way to use the wrong method.  All babies are different and using tricks and tips that worked wonders for your friend’s baby, or even for one of your previous children, doesn’t mean it will work this time.  Using a method that isn’t the right fit for your child will surely end in failure, which can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.

Find the Right Sleep Training Method

When I use the term sleep training, the brain automatically creates an image of a screaming baby in their crib and a sobbing mother on the other side of the door.

Sleep training has come a long way, and that is no longer the norm.  Training does not have to be synonymous with crying. Since crying is baby’s primary way of communicating – sleep training is about learning to understand their cries, as opposed to ignoring them.

Sleep training methods can range from gentle to more extreme and which one to use will depend on the personalities of each baby and mom.  It’s important to use a method and level of intensity that you’re comfortable with.

How to Sleep Train a Newborn
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Some common sleep training methods include (but are not limited to):
  • Fading Method (Intensity Level: Low)

This is a very calm and gradual method of sleep training.  Baby can be rocked or nursed to sleep or whatever else they’re used to.  Slowly, over a few days or even weeks, the length of time they are rocked or nursed is reduced.  Eventually, baby becomes less dependent on it.

  • Chair Method (Intensity Level: Low)

This is another calm method of sleep training that involves keeping a chair beside baby’s crib and staying in the room until they fall asleep, but without holding, rocking or talking to them.  Each night, the chair is moved further away from baby’s crib, until it no longer needs to be in the room at all.

  • Pick Up, Put Down Method (Intensity Level: Low)

This method is one where the parent is not in the room with the baby.  It involves putting baby into the crib, soothing them and then leaving the room.  If baby cries, then you would go into the room, pick them up and soothe them, and then put them back down again and walk out.  This would continue on and on as many times as needed until baby is asleep for the night.

  • Controlled Crying Method (Intensity Level: Moderate)

Sometimes crying is unavoidable when it comes to sleep training.  The controlled crying method includes putting baby to sleep in their crib while they are drowsy and then checking on them at regular intervals if they start to cry.  In this more intense method, the intervals between checks start around 2 minutes and then 5 and then 10 and gradually get longer and longer.

  • Cry it Out/Extinction/Ferber Method (Intensity Level: High)

This is a very intense method of sleep training, but the claims are that it is the “quickest” way to sleep train a baby.  This method involves putting baby in their crib while they are drowsy and then leaving the room but NOT returning to check on them for any reason.  Parents often watch or listen on a baby monitor to make sure everything is alright.  It sounds cruel and harsh, and is often a last resort.

If you’re unsure of which method to use, then you could consider getting a personalized sleep consultation from sites like The Baby Sleep Site.  After answering an interview about your routine, habits and family life, a professional will provide you with a plan based on your specific answers.  This is something I have personally done, and would definitely recommend for avoiding the stress of sleep training.  You can read about my experience here.

The Baby Sleep Site Review
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The Danger of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is the norm among parents of young kids and there’s almost no avoiding it.  The quest for more sleep is a main reason why parents choose to start sleep training.  But despite being a parental rite of passage, sleep deprivation is known for causing all kinds of mental and physical health challenges.

Common effects of sleep deprivation
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Lowered metabolism and energy levels
  • Headaches and vision problems
  • Weakened immune system
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Excessive sleep deprivation can also cause fits of rage, depression, anxiety, compulsive behavior, intrusive thoughts and even hallucinations.  It’s been linked to bigger health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.  For a mother in the postpartum period, sleep deprivation can exacerbate symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety.  It makes it harder to deal with all the physical and emotional changes happening in her body.

For more information about sleep deprivation, here is a comprehensive guide by Yoo Health.

Postpartum Anxiety Insomnia: 15 Ways to Get Better Sleep
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Putting off sleep training or avoiding doing it isn’t a great way to avoid the stress.  Eventually, some type of bedtime routine will need to be established and so the earlier good sleep habits can be taught, the easier it will be.  Another worry about delayed sleep training is the concern for mom’s mental health.  Sleep deprivation can cause all kinds of mental and physical problems, especially for a postpartum mom, who’s hormones are in a delicate state.  Allowing mom and baby to get a good night’s rest is the best plan and it all begins with avoiding the stress of sleep training.

How to Avoid the Stress of Sleep Training How to Avoid the Stress of Sleep Training How to Avoid the Stress of Sleep Training

6 Ways to Make Sleep Training a Positive Experience

Are you dreading the thought of sleep training?  With all of the horror stories floating around out there, it’s hard not to…

Sleep training isn’t easy.  As a parent, it’s one of the first opportunities to teach a child how to do something on their own so it’s a task riddled with pressure and questions and self-doubt.

But despite how difficult it might be, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

6 Ways to Make Sleep Training a Positive Experience * This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.
** Furthermore, I am not a sleep training expert, just a mother who’s been there and lived to tell the tale.


6 Ways to Make Sleep Training a Positive Experience

6 Ways to Make Sleep Training a Positive Experience

1. Make the bedroom a sanctuary

“Go to your room” is something I heard a thousand times growing up as a kid, and I’m guilty of saying it to my older children now.  But when it comes to sleep training, the bedroom should never be used as a place for punishment to avoid associating it with something negative.  Designate a different room or area for time-outs.  The bedroom should be a safe and comfortable place.

Before (and throughout) the sleep training process, spend plenty of time in the baby’s room playing or reading books and never force baby to stay in their crib or their room if they clearly don’t want to. 

The more comfortable baby is in their room, the less they will dread it at bedtime.

8 Creative Ways to Deal with Bedtime Excuses
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2. Start early

Babies are actually born with naturally good sleep habits.  They sleep when they are tired and don’t know any different.  While young babies don’t sleep for long stretches, they normally fall asleep on their own without much of a struggle.  Encourage that behavior – because the ability to fall asleep without help is the KEY to sleep training!

How to Sleep Train a Newborn
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3. Conduct trial runs at naptime

While daytime sleep should be different from nighttime sleep, naps are a good way to get a feel for what sleep training will be like.

The daytime is much less intimidating to begin sleep training.  Both parent and baby will be somewhat more well rested than at the end of the day and there’s not as much pressure to get it right since naps are much shorter sleep periods.

While there’s no need to perform an entire bedtime routine at nap time, the key things to practice will be putting baby to sleep in the same place where they’ll be sleeping at night, and putting baby down while they are drowsy but not actually asleep.

If you can successfully get baby to go down for a nap on their own, then you’ll have a lot more confidence moving onto to bedtime.

Postpartum Anxiety Insomnia: 15 Ways to Get Better Sleep
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4. Choose a realistic bedtime routine

Obviously sleep training involves some level of sacrifice, at least at first.  But that doesn’t mean you should be wearing yourself out every night with baths and massages and stories and missing out on your social life.  A bedtime routine doesn’t need to be elaborate.

Consistency is the key to a good bedtime routine so keep it simple and achievable.  It could be the simple task of changing into pajamas and reading a special book.  Or maybe there’s a lullaby you like to sing.  Even a special stuffed animal or blanket that’s reserved specifically for bedtime can do the trick.  Diffusing some calming essential oils around bedtime can also help to calm the minds of both parent and child.  Try to find one thing that soothes and calms each of the five senses.  These simple habits, when done consistently, will give your baby the signal that it’s bedtime, no matter where you are or what time it is.

Having the option to be flexible in your baby’s bedtime routine will keep you from resenting the task altogether.

Sleep Training Part 2: 6 Months +
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5. Eliminate the pressure

There is SO much pressure on parents to get sleep training just right.  A common question new parents often hear is “is the baby sleeping through the night yet?” implying that something is wrong if they aren’t.

And if that wasn’t pressure enough, there’s also so much contradictory information about sleep training.  Everyone has a method that they promise is the BEST and you always seem to be on the wrong side of the cry-it-out vs no-cry-it-out debate.

Accepting that all babies are different and sleep training is not a competition, or even a milestone, will help to take some of the pressure out of it.  Sleep training will only be successful if both parent and baby are ready, and not because another baby who’s the same age or weight (even a sibling) was ready.

Whatever method you choose to sleep train your baby should be the one that works for your baby and your family and no one else’s.

Remember that sleep training is not an all or nothing situation. It’s perfectly fine to take a break and try again another time.

How to Avoid the Stress of Sleep Training
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6. Ask for help

Sleep training is not for everyone.  Some babies have a much harder time sleeping than others and it can lead to a very unpleasant experience.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling with it.

While it’s great to have your spouse or partner around to tag team during those late nights, a friend to talk to (especially another mom who’s been there and done that) can do wonders for building up your confidence.

If the sleep deprivation is really getting to you and you’ve tried every method of sleep training without success, it could be time to call in an expert.

Read my review of The Baby Sleep Site for more information about getting a professional sleep consultation.

The Baby Sleep Site Review
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