The Kind of Crying You’ll Hear During Sleep Training
Crying. It’s the first word that jumps to mind after hearing the words “Sleep Training.”
Will I have to let my baby cry?
How long is the crying?
I can’t sleep train… I can’t hear the crying.
It is a true fact of life that all forms of sleep training involve some level of crying. The degrees of crying and amount of parental intervention vary greatly from method to method, but in 99.9 percent of cases, it is not possible to teach a baby how to sleep independently without crying. It’s also unfair to expect your baby not to cry during sleep training – you’re creating big change in his life, and let’s face it: change is hard!
Having said that, it’s important to realize that not all crying is created equal. There are four different kinds of crying that take place during sleep training. Learning how to differentiate these kinds of cries will go a long way in easing your sleep training journey.
The 4 Cries
- Steady crying
- Full Blown Crying
- On and Off Crying
Fussing is the sound of your baby whining, plain and simple. It hasn’t yet developed into a real cry, and is the sound of your baby expressing her displeasure at being put down for a nap or bedtime. Whimpering, whining, fussing and moaning all fall under this category.
This is usually the first stage of crying and it often ends just there, especially after sleep training has been completed. For a baby to fall asleep, she needs to be laying comfortably in her crib for 10-15 minutes. This kind of fussing usually happens when your baby is laying in her crib before she’s tired enough to fall asleep, for the first few minutes.
At this stage in crying, you don’t want any intervention. Your baby is not crying, and he needs some time to relax and soothe himself. Intervening at this point will actually disturb that process and will hurt more than help.
This is stage 2, where the fussing morphs into a continuous, steady cry. This is the most common kind of crying you’ll hear for the first few nights of sleep training- it’s a frustrated cry, where your baby is expecting your help to fall asleep as you’ve done every night till now, and is frustrated because he wants to fall asleep but doesn’t yet know how to on his own.
The qualities that separate this from fussing are the change from a moan to a cry and the fact that the cry continues straight for a few minutes at a time, with no break in the crying.
This kind of crying starts to taper off as sleep training progresses, because as your baby learns new ways of falling asleep, he won’t feel frustrated at bedtime.
Full Blown Crying
This is the kind of crying that you’re scared of – it’s why most parents push off sleep training. This is the loud, hysterical level of crying that pulls at your heart and makes you want to rush in and rescue your baby.
When you hear this kind of crying, it’s important to check on the baby monitor that your baby is safe and ok. (Sometimes this kind of crying can result from your baby getting her arm or legs stuck in between the crib rails, so you want to make sure that’s not the case.)
Once you know your baby is safe, it’s important to stick to your plan. Helping your baby fall asleep at this point will undo the progress you’re making in teaching her to self-settle.
Does this mean you should just leave your baby to cry hysterically? NO, OF COURSE NOT!
Seriously, people. 🙄
You can definitely check in on your baby at intervals and provide gentle, hands-off reassurance.
This kind of crying almost never lasts more than a few nights, and even then, only occurs at certain intervals through the nights.
On and Off Crying
This is my favorite kind of of cry – it’s the first sign that your baby is learning to self-soothe! This type of crying sounds like this: steady crying…hysterical…fussing…steady crying…fussing…sleeping!! It’s a range of all three of the previous cries and is a true sign that your baby is moving through the process of learning to settle herself and find a way to fall asleep independently.
Crying is definitley the most feared part of sleep training. Knowing what’s going to occur will give you the strength and fortitude to make it to the other side- a solid night’s sleep!
Remember that you’re not harming your baby by sleep training, you’re teaching a vital life skill that will serve her well for the rest of her life. You wouldn’t believe how many adults I meet who have trouble sleeping now and say that it stems all the way back to their childhood, when they never learned how to sleep well on their own.
So no, you can’t avoid the crying, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s hard, undoubtedly. But all good things in life are hard. And what could be better than giving your child the life-long gift of healthy sleep?