Gentle sleep & why we aren’t sleep training our daughter

Other people’s sleep obsession and advice around sleep started as soon as we had our daughter.

How does she sleep?

You’re going to sleep train with her, right?

How much is she sleeping at night?

She’s sleeping through the night, isn’t she?

You need to start sleep training with her to get her into a routine.

You’ll have to sleep train eventually, everyone does.

Babies’ sleep, or rather lack of it, is something parents and broader society are fixated on with.

Parents of young babies aside, sleep is something most adults have a reasonably good amount of control over. For example, we can be aware of – and often change – the noise levels in our sleep environments, when we go to sleep, how long we sleep for, and the light levels in our sleep environment.

The sleep fascination is perhaps unsurprising. We know that not sleeping has dramatic impacts on health, happiness and cognition. I could quote you silly on the research which describes the impacts of not sleeping. Or you could ask any new parent, and they will give you a concise version. Stop sleeping for long enough, and you begin to feel quite drunk.

Attempting to control sleep in parents and babies therefore feels logical to most people. It didn’t lfeel logical to us. This post talks about how we are managing sleep with our daughter.

Sleep and our daughter

Our daughter was two weeks old the first time someone suggested that we sleep train her.

I know it sounds cruel, but… what would happen if you just left her to shout?’

It did sound cruel. I told the person so. The person’s suggestions and comments continued every week, right through to to the current day.

Fast forward, our daughter is six months old and hasn’t slept through the night yet. That’s a little over 185 nights of poor quality and broken sleep for us. Conventional wisdom seems to be that she should be able to sleep by herself for twelve hours at a time, and that the route to achieving this is sleep training.

Gentle sleep or sleep training?

What are we doing to ‘address’ our daughter’s sleep and waking in the night? Nothing.

We’re taking the instinctive and gentle sleep route, used by parents for millennia, and described by many people including Lyndsey Hookway. This is the right approach for us, for our family, right now. We aren’t sleep training with our daughter because we believe that it is normal and natural for our daughter to wake at night. We believe our daughter will sleep for longer at a time when she is developmentally ready to. And leaving her to shout by herself just doesn’t sit right with us.

We believe our daughter is most likely to learn to sleep for longer if she is supported and feels safe and happy. We try to think about why she might be waking in the first place, and try to address that. This might be that she is:

  • Feeding hungry
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Needing a cuddle
  • Being cold
  • Being hot
  • Being bored
  • Waking up and being unable to get back to sleep
  • Needing a nappy change

These are pretty much all reasons that both my husband and I wake in the night, too.

Often, this looks like me picking her up when she wakes, comforting and soothing her as much as I can, and feeding her back to sleep. We rinse and repeat this cycle as many times as she needs it to happen. Some nights, we go through this cycle once or twice. And other nights, it might be 10-12 times.

  • Can soothing, comforting, and supporting our daughter to get back to sleep be exhausting and sometimes frustrating? Yes.
  • Do I feel lonely and tired in the quiet hours of the morning? Yes.
  • Do we have any plans to stop soothing, comforting, and supporting her to get back to sleep? No.
  • How long do we plan to soothe, comfort and support our daughter to get back to sleep ? As long as she needs it.

Naps and day sleeps

In the day, our daughter sleeps when she is ready to. Just like an adult’s fatigue levels, our daughter’s fatigue levels can vary depending on her sleep the night before, and what she’s been up to whilst awake.

Our daughter contact naps during the day.

Our daughter’s naps often fall into reasonably predictable windows, 2-3 times per day, but do not always. They last between 15m and 3 hours.

Sometimes our daughter naps in her carrier, and sometimes she naps on me, after a feed.

I’d love to hear about you, in the comments or on @wholemealmum or #wholemealmum.

Does your baby sleep? Did you sleep train with your baby?


Mother of a baby girl, born in July 2021. Finding my way with it all. Recipes, parenting, and walking.

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  1. Karren says:

    There are milion sleep training methods, but most of them are based on Cry It Out. It’s like do whatever you need to get through this time. But to support your little one’s sleep and development – know that are NOT creating bad habits. Don’t fight the biological norm – feed, hold and rock your little one for sleep and for comfort. HLW method by Susan Urban from parental-lovecom/baby-sleep-training is all about comfort.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Karren! Did you use this method yourself? Have a great day! xx

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