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Gentle Sleep Training - Can it be done? Responsive Sleep Methods to encourage self settling.

Updated: Feb 1


There is a LOT of information out there when it coms to Sleep Training. Have you heard it is bad for your baby? That it involves leaving them to cry on their own? That you won't be responding to your baby's cues and needs?

There is a huge misconception when it comes to sleep training - as many hear this means "cry it out". (Which is not something I practice!) There are also many beliefs that "sleep training" means you are not responding to your baby, again this does not have to be the case.

I often posts/blogs around this new "anti-sleep training" movement, and giving this a bad name. Which, to some degree I do agree with when they are calling out "cry it out to extinction methods" - as these are indeed harmful practices for little ones.

But "sleep training" has many methods and values attached to it. So parents often find themselves feeling stuck. They are so sleep deprived, struggling and don't know where to seek help in fear that even experts will be advising them to leave their baby to cry which isn't in their own ethos.

The Good News? - There are lots of gentle, responsive practices to help! - This is what I do and find a responsive solution bespoke to your little one, and to help them feel rested while promoting a secure attachment - consistently.

I feel I can help shift from this movement, and educate parents into alternative methods which can mean responding to your baby, and keeping more gentle and secure attachment parenting practices in the process.

As a parent to two little ones - I have never had to nor wanted to leave me little ones to cry and figure it out. And this is no judgement on those who do - you know yourself and your child best and I completely get that it feels like there is no other option, and you've likely managed and baba is sleeping which is great.

But I do also know that it leaves many others in a hard place of what they can do to help their little ones when it comes to sleep. And as a parent, my business is built on honesty and integrity - and I wouldn't give advice to anyone for any methods I wouldn't be willing to use myself.

Sleep Training - usually happens when there are strong sleep associations that are affecting there sleep, and we work towards a way of being able to settle without that particular sleep association.

Sleep training is (in basic form) helping your baby learn to fall asleep independently without the support of any sleep associations, such as feeding, rocking, contact sleeping for example.

When there are strong sleep associations, this often breaks their sleep cycles and can mean that every time they come into light sleep and wake - they need the same thing to help them fall asleep every time.

Your little one may even have more than one sleep association - and this is still possible to achieve good sleep even with several associations that you want to break.

It might even be that you are reading this, not really wanting to break the associations but you think/know it is affecting their sleep. And that is ok too.

When we focus on these sleep associations, and they learn (because yes sleep is actually a learnt skill that even stems from rocking in the womb!) to sleep without it, in a responsive way - longer stretches will then come.

The most common - - Feeding to Sleep

- Rocking

- Contact Sleeping

- Cosleeping

Now - does sleep training mean you have to fully give up feeding and cuddles? Absolutely not! But we can gently work on these and create new sleep cues which are easier to wean from and promote a self settle where they aren't completely reliant on one thing to get them back to sleep every time they wake.

This is important to know - Often little ones get upset if there isn't a consistent rhythm. It is true when we hear that they thrive on routine, and that doesn't necessarily mean the bedtime routine in the lead up.

It may be that there are lots of things you have tried - and this brings intermittent reinforcement which then becomes confusing for them and they don't know what comes next. And that builds upset - so by finding a consistent rhythm - they then know what comes next with every settle and HELPS to promote the secure attachment. Even in Toddlers - their procrastinations are often tests of our boundaries, but also so that they feel we can be true to our word and they build the trust with us - again promoting a secure attachment and this can be done in gentle sleep training.

Jade drinking coffee
Jade Sleep Nanny

Why would someone choose to Sleep Training and encourage Self Settles? a) The baby/child is not getting the sleep they need to thrive and sleep deprived of the hours they should be getting. b) Parents are beyond sleep deprived and it is affecting many aspects in the families lives.

So what are some of the main sleep training methods out there?

- Pick Up/Put Down

This is a method where we pick up with every awakening, or in attempt to comfort and settle before placing back down in their cot/sleep space until they can gauge how to sleep without it. This is a gentle sleep training method I think is tricky for both parents and little ones. How long do you pick up for? How often do you do it? And for the little ones, you often find that frustration kicks in as they know they'll get put back down, and they'll feel frustrated if you are there and not picking them up. This is a hard cycle to break! But this can be very effective for younger babies who don't yet have strong sleep associations!

- The Moving Chair Method

This is of course where we start close to the cot, sitting on a chair or item which gradually moves further away until you are near the door. Again - this can work well for some little ones depending on their personality and temperaments. Some easy-going little ones may accept this, but more alert ones will likely be too stimulated and frustrated being able to see you and you not responding. Or more confused as to why you are there! But, I have seen this work well with many.

- Cry It Out

What this means - is crying to extinction. Where we put baby in cot, leave and there is no return. This is detrimental to their psychological development. If a little one has had strong contact associations, and suddenly goes to no one being there - this of course will cause extreme upset, for both baby and parents likely.

- Ferber

The concept of leaving is the same here, but with timed intervals. Which then increase over a few days until they are falling asleep. Babies only have a certain threshold before their instincts kick in and real upset shows, so this method can often do the same. Albeit, this can be an effective method and indeed incorporates some responsive patterns but can easily be inconsistent and again a big step if baby is going from a strong comfort association. This could work if baby is without those associations and is happy on their own, but otherwise I would not recommend.

- Settling Cot Side

This can be a great method to help reassure your little one, with closer contact and helping with new rhythms. Finding something that helps soothes them, with your presence is a great step before moving further away or out the room.

- Confidence Building

This works well for toddlers, and a strategy I use to help build confidence in their own sleep spaces. This could involve "pop ins" or my own speedy shuffle concepts to help. This i also mix with various toddler appropriate positive encouragement which works very well.

With all of these, and where strong associations are present I do recommend some microsteps in many cases, for example; can you reduce the rock to a stagnant position? Unlatch before falling asleep?

All little ones for different - so I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach. However, my methods are bespoke, effective and set up for success - and you respond to your babies cues!

With every family I work with, I look into their Personality and Temperament traits - as this counts a lot when it comes to sleep and what methods are best suited to them. This, with a set plan of how to get from where you are to where you want to be then brings great success. You just need trust, and a positive mindset towards change.

If you're keen to find an approach that aligns with you - and bespoke to your baby and family then you can take action today via the Discovery Call form or drop me an email at

I hope this eases your mind as to what is possible when it comes to responsive sleep training and methods to consider!


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