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What is Gentle Sleep Training?

So you’ve heard of sleep training, gentle or sensitive sleep training, holistic sleep training…what would do they actually mean and what is the difference?

Firstly, I have to start by saying I hate the term ‘sleep training’! I feel it has such a negative connotation and it really does align with “traditional sleep training” methods of using strict timed intervals. But for the purpose of this blog, I will use the term “training” to help distinguish between the different types.

So let’s break down the different types of sleep training/ different types of sleep consultants you may find.

Traditional Sleep Training

Traditional sleep training and traditional sleep consultants will more often than not follow quite strict awake windows and sleep needs by age and use Cry It Out (CIO) or Controlled Crying (CC) as their chosen sleep training methods for settling.

CIO is the method by which you put bub to bed and walk out until morning. You do not respond to bub at any point throughout the night, unless you are still feeding overnight and following a schedule for this. If bub cries you do not respond. They quite literally “cry it out” until they fall asleep. But what is the “it” that they’re crying out!? That is a question to ask yourself if this is a method you choose to use.

Controlled Crying often is referred to as many other things, however they all follow the same principles, you put bub to bed and walk out. If bub begins to cry you set a timer and wait for the timer to finish before responding to bub. After each response, the time you wait before responding again increases. Controlled Crying waiting times often go 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 minutes. Once you get to 10 minutes, you continue to wait 10 minutes each time AND overnight.

Gentle or Sensitive Sleep Training

Gentle or sensitive sleep training and sleep consultants are just that, more sensitive and gentle in their methods. Gentle sleep training involves responding to bub when they signal, following your baby’s lead and your parental intuition when responding not a timer. Gentle sleep training usually involves more hands-on settling methods and steps to your baby being able to self-settle, if that is your goal. Gentle sleep consultants will work with families to understand their personal values and parenting styles to find settling methods that will work for everyone. Gentle sleep consultants will often use ‘Habit Stacking’ when making changes to bub’s sleep - layering in new, sustainable habits, while phasing out the unsustainable ones. Gentle sleep consultants are also trained in traditional sleep training methods.

Holistic Sleep Training

Holistic sleep training and holistic sleep consultants take into account the child's developmental stage, sleep biology, family dynamics and relationships, the sleep environment, any stresses and strains such as illness in the child or parent, the emotional and psychological needs of the child (their temperament) and the need for rest and sleep of the parents. It is a whole picture approach - it’s not just about the actual sleep (or lack thereof). Holistic sleep consultants will often use gentle strategies alongside their whole picture approach and are trained in traditional sleep training methods if that is something you’re after, too.

When you’re looking for a sleep consultant to support your family, they’re not all the same. It’s important to find one that is the right fit for you and your family. If they offer a Free Discovery Call, this is a great opportunity to see what their sleep training style is and see if it’s what you’re after.

Here at Sound Sleep, I always use a holistic approach. Sleep is not black and white. Every baby and family is different. It is SO important to take the time to understand each client and find the options and methods that work best for everyone. Here are just some of the things I look into in my consultations:

  • Bub’s temperament

  • Parental mental health (depression and/or anxiety)

  • Parenting style

  • Sleep hygiene

  • Oral function

  • Gut health

  • Nutrition

  • Illnesses

  • Bub’s individual sleep needs (low, average or high)

Ready to get your sleep on track and support your little one to sleep success?


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