Gentle or “no-cry” sleep training methods Part III: Some pros and cons

In Part I and Part II of this series, we discussed some of the more gentle approaches to sleep training; those that attempt to minimize or altogether avoid any crying of distress. There have been some great comments about the parts that did and didn't work for various readers. With this last post about this set of techniques, I just wanted to pull together a summary of some of the advantages and possible disadvantages of these methods; most of them have been mentioned by other readers as well, with some great examples to boot.

So, starting with some of the pros: First and foremost, many parents report experiencing less emotional distress, and less guilt in particular, when implementing these methods as compared to the extinction methods. Parents feel like they're being sensitive to their baby's needs and protecting them from undue stress and turmoil. Second, for parents with a great deal of patience and support, these methods do prove to be effective. For some kids, these gentle methods are just as effective as the more cut-and-dry CIO or Ferberizing. Third, the more gentle methods may be more likely to be consistently implemented since they cause less distress for the whole family. This is hugely important because, as we've discussed several times before, consistency may be one of the most important factors responsible for successful sleep training.

But of course there are some limitations or cons to these approaches as well: First, almost all the sleep experts agree that these methods require a lot more time, commitment and patience on the part of the parent than the more “quick fixes” of extinction or gradual extinction. As a result, severely sleep-deprived parents may give up sooner than it actually takes to get the promised results. Second, these methods often require a great deal of the mother’s own loving attention and time; resources that the mother is usually sorely lacking by the time she has decided to sleep-train her child. The father, although encouraged to participate in some of these approaches, is still regarded as more of a support figure.  Finally, a great number of parents report that many of these methods end up encouraging more dependence on the parent during bedtime and naps, rather than discouraging that dependence. Because there is a lot more demand for the parent to actually be present during sleep transitions, albeit less so over days and weeks, some children begin to feel more frustrated, rather than less, at their mother’s unwillingness to soothe them in a consistent manner.

As with all the methods we've discussed, a whole lot will depend on the emotional resources of the parents and the temperament of the child. And last thoughts or considerations that you'd like to add to this list before we move on?

BTW, I know I said that I'd let you in on the plans for the blog last week and I never got to it. In part, it's because I'm talking to some folks that will be able to let me know what will be possible and impossible for me to manage on this site in terms of some capacities I'd like to build onto the blog (mostly to do with adding chat functions, video presentations, discussion forums and the like). Before I start sharing all my high hopes, I want to make sure I can deliver, so stay tuned!

One thought on “Gentle or “no-cry” sleep training methods Part III: Some pros and cons

  1. I just wanted to comment on your point about mother/father split contribution to sleep training.
    I can say first hand that this was one of the most difficult aspects of our sleep training experience and seems to be the most common (in speaking with other parents in my social network). Mum’s the word. Gosh.
    I have to say, there is hope.
    In our experience, all it took was baby steps, to get our daughter used to Daddy coming to get her in the wee hours. Little by little, every night, his time soothing her increased, while I just removed myself.
    It was almost like weaning her from me. If you want to look at it that way.
    Now, about 6 months later, Dad soothes her just fine. One wake at a time…
    Baby steps. Baby steps.

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