My newborn closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. I took a deep breath, feeling my muscles relax a little. There was nothing better than settling in with a sleeping baby.
Then my 2-year-old headed for the little potty we kept in our living room for him.
I tensed back up. If I didn’t empty the potty immediately, he’d try to dump it himself. If he dumped it himself, I’d end up with pee all over the floor.
Wake my newborn? Or have pee on the floor?
I know some moms are happy holding their babies 24/7. But with mine, I saw the need at around 3-4 months to get them sleeping on their own.
But that isn’t always easy. Fortunately, I’ve put together this simple no cry sleep method that requires no crying, ever.
Imagine following a simple routine, then laying your baby down. He falls asleep without a fuss. Every time. Sleep is easy for both of you. That’s what this method can achieve.
A Simple No Cry Sleep Method to Help Your Baby Sleep Better
The Best Time to Start
This method works best when your baby is around 3 or 4 months old. Why? Baby sleep changes around this time. And babies become more aware of their surroundings.
Look for signs of the ability to self-soothe. And changes in sleep patterns to know your baby is ready.
Signs to look for:
- Sleep is disrupted easily by sounds & movements
- Sometimes wakes and settles back to sleep
- Falls asleep when you lay him down drowsy
- Sucks thumb or settles to sleep with a pacifier
Any of these are all signs that your baby is ready for this method.
Step 1 – Implement a Routine
Decide on a few events that you want to make a bedtime routine for your baby. This should take no longer than 30 minutes–from the start of the routine to sleep.
You will follow this routine every time you put your baby down for a nap or bed. Choose easy events that you won’t get tired of duplicating. You may be doing this up to 5 times a day.
Sample Nap Routine
- Take to sleep space
- Put on sleep sack*
- Read a book
- Turn on sound machine
- Lights off
- Rock to sleep (or bounce)
Eventually, you will add on: lay down and a goodnight phrase. But for now, work on creating a routine that works for you and your baby.
Bedtime will look a little different, because you may add a bath and feed before bed. In this case, follow the same routine after the bath and add the feeding before rocking.
Sample Bed Routine
- Take to sleep space
- Put on sleep sack
- Read a book
- Turn on sound machine
- Lights off
- Rock to sleep (or bounce)
A Note on Feeding
I suggest following a feed-wake-sleep schedule. This is outlined in the book, On Becoming Babywise. This means you will feed your baby when he wakes, not before putting him down for a nap.
A feed-wake-sleep schedule helps assure your baby takes a full feeding, assists in organizing feedings, and keeps your baby from waking 10 minutes after you lay him down to spit up.
Pick up the book or read: Why an Eat/Wake/Sleep Cycle Works to Get Baby Sleeping for more on the reasoning behind this method.
You can still implement this method if you decide not to follow a feed-wake-sleep schedule.
Step 2 – Choosing a Nap
Once your routine is established, you will start working on laying your baby down drowsy for one nap.
Which nap does your baby fall asleep easiest for? Normally, this is the first nap of the day. But choose the nap that your baby loves. And start laying him down drowsy instead of fully asleep.
Once your baby is still and calm. Ideally, once his eyelids are heavy (the more drowsy he is, the more likely it is to work). Gently lay him down.
You can keep your hand on him for a few seconds or minutes if that helps. Wait until he seems asleep before leaving.
Once he’s used to this procedure (after a few days), you can add the goodnight phrase. I gently kiss my son’s forehead and whisper, “I love you. Night Night.” Then I lay him down, hold my hand on him for a few seconds and leave him to sleep.
You can make your phrase whatever you like. This helps signal to your baby that it’s time for him to go to sleep.
Step 3 – Adding More
Once your baby is successfully going to sleep on his own for your chosen nap, it’s time to add more.
Personally, I like to add bedtime at this point. Laying your baby down at the beginning of the night is one of the most helpful things for your baby’s sleep–it helps your baby get longer stretches of sleep, establishes good bedtime habits, and helps with gentle night weaning.
But you can choose to add another nap if you prefer.
Follow the same procedure and lay your baby down drowsy, whispering his “goodnight phrase.”
Step 4 – Full Implementation
Now it’s time to tackle them all.
Adding the rest of the naps (or bedtime) should be easy at this point. Add them in one at a time. Only adding once your baby is doing well with what you’ve implemented.
With that said, if your baby is particularly resistant to one nap, you may choose an alternative means of sleep for this nap. Often resistant naps are naps your baby is outgrowing anyway. They won’t be a problem for long.
When I first implemented this no cry sleep method, my baby was 4 months and taking 3 full naps and 1 catnap each day. Since the catnap was a 30-45 minute nap that he was particularly resistant to, I chose to hold him during that nap. A few weeks later, he dropped the nap completely.
In a perfect world, it would be as simple as that. But what happens when it isn’t? Use the chart below to help.
|My baby will only sleep while I hold him. No matter when I lay him down, he cries.||This is common when coming off the newborn stage. Read my article on transitioning your baby from co-sleeping for a step-by-step plan for getting your baby to sleep in his own space.|
|My baby wakes and cries as soon as I lay him down drowsy.||Try to soothe your baby in his sleep space after laying him down.|
If your baby takes a pacifier, reinsert the pacifier as long as he isn’t extremely upset. If he seems to be settling, continue to do this and pat or rub his back, until he falls asleep.
Alternatively, you can lie in the bed next to your baby (if he’s in a bassinet next to your bed) and reinsert the pacifier every time he drops it.
The key is to calmly be present and supportive while he is working to soothe himself.
If this doesn’t work after 10-15 minutes, pick him up and rock him to sleep. Lay him down once he is fully asleep. Try laying him down drowsy again at his next nap.
At this early stage, think of it as introducing a new idea to your baby. Sometimes it will work and sometimes, it won’t. Just keep trying. Soon it will work more often than not. And eventually, it will work every time.
Note: If your baby is fully crying, spitting out the pacifier aggressively, and/or not showing signs of settling at all, pick him up immediately and soothe him. You don’t want to make this a negative experience for either of you.
|My baby only naps for 20-45 minutes when I lay him down.||Keep being consistent with this one nap and hold your baby for other naps, so your baby doesn’t get overtired. |
This often happens when babies are first learning to sleep on their own. Once they get used to it, the nap should begin to gradually lengthen.
Once the nap lengthens, you can continue adding more naps.
|My baby won’t get drowsy when I rock him. He seems wound up.||This is an issue with the timing of the nap. Your baby may be overtired. You can try taking him out and trying again in 15 minutes. |
Do everything you need to get him to sleep this time. And try the nap 15 minutes earlier tomorrow.
Learning your baby’s wake times (the amount of time he needs between each nap) can be tricky but helpful.
I love the Huckleberry Sleep App for help with waketimes. All you have to do is enter your baby’s data (when he naps and wakes) and it will tell you when to put him down for his next nap. It adjusts specifically to your child based on the data you input about their sleep. It is tailored specifically to your baby. You can also set it to notify you a set amount of time before the nap.
I set it for 20 minutes before my son’s nap. I can’t tell you how many times, I was going about my day, only to be surprised by a naptime that I thought was far off.
I’m convinced that using the app and following his wake times helped make putting my son down for his naps a seamless process.
Dealing With Disruptions
“I love you, Titus. Night Night,” I whispered as I laid my 11-month-old down for his morning nap, following the same routine that I’d established at 4 months.
He rolled to his side and went to sleep.
I was rushing through my routine, maximizing as much of naptime as possible, when I heard crying. Oh no, I thought, knowing what that meant. He was getting sick.
Sickness, teething, and a doctor’s appointment with shots during naptime can all disrupt your baby’s sleep. The key is that they are a temporary disruption and don’t become permanent.
That day, I went in and rocked my baby until he was asleep and laid him back down. There have been other instances where I’ve held him through an entire nap. But I can count the times this has occurred on my fingers.
The key is, I didn’t keep doing it. At the next nap, I followed the routine and laid him down drowsy.
A disruption can overhaul all of the progress you’ve made on sleep if you let it. And older babies are more habitual than younger babies. It won’t be as easy to reestablish good habits.
I know because I did this with my first baby. At any sign of discomfort, I gave in and rocked or fed him to sleep. Not just once, but until I felt the discomfort had fully passed. Eventually, these new habits overtook the old ones and sleep was full of anxiety.
Sleeping Through the Night
If you follow these steps and implement those outlined in my article on gentle night weaning, your baby should start gradually lengthening his night sleep. I suggest checking out that post for more tips that will help eliminate night waking completely.
So if you’re ready to enjoy a cup of coffee, a shower, or just don’t want pee on your floor, try this no cry sleep method to get your baby sleeping on his own. You’ll be on your way to establishing good sleep habits and reaping the benefits for years to come.
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