5 Different Sleep Training Methods for Babies
Have you reached the point where you and your baby are ready to figure out this whole sleep thing and get them sleeping longer stretches and eventually sleeping through the night? Have you wondered how and where to start and what the heck sleep training even is?! Let me fill you in! Sleep training or sleep coaching is teaching your baby the skills they need to fall asleep independently and put themselves back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. You can start sleep training your baby at around 4 months or 16 weeks old.
Sleep training is extremely beneficial to both your baby and you. If you’ve spent the majority of your baby’s life so far feeling sleep deprived and like you’ll never sleep a solid night again, it may be time to consider sleep training. There are several different methods you can use to sleep train your baby. I’ve listed some information about each of the main methods so you can review them and decide which method is right for you.
5 Different Sleep Training Methods for Babies
1. Timed Checks (Also known as the Ferber method, check and console, interval method or graduated extinction)
There are several slight variations of the timed check in method but the basic idea remains the same in all. You follow the bedtime routine, put your baby down in their crib awake and then check in on them at predetermined intervals. Keep the interactions brief, without picking them up or feeding them. Give them a brief pat and say a small phrase such as “mommy loves you, it’s sleepy time now” and leave the room. The intervals typically get slightly longer each time, until you reach 15 or so minutes. You continue checking on them until they fall asleep. For each wakeup, you follow the same process. Your baby will learn within a few days how to initiate sleep independently without the need for you to come in to their room and check on them.
2. Cry It Out/CIO (also known as extinction)
The cry it out method tends to be the most controversial method of sleep training. Depending on your baby’s age and where they are at developmentally the extinction method may not be right for you or it may be what works best. Just as you would do in the timed check in method, you do your bedtime routine, put your baby in their crib, say goodnight and leave the room. They may protest and let you know they aren’t happy but with this method you don’t reenter their room.
The only exception here is if your baby still needs a middle-of-the-night feeding, if so, feed your baby when they wake and put them back in their crib for the rest of the night. Parents are often nervous or hesitant to try this method, but are often shocked at how quickly it works. There will be some crying for the first night or even few nights, but your baby will get the hang of it pretty quickly and begin crying less and less each night.
3. Chair Method
The chair method is a gradual sleep training method but can often be harder than the first two methods above because it requires very strong discipline. The difference with this method is you follow your bedtime routine, put your baby in their crib, but instead of leaving the room, you sit in a chair next to their crib. It can be hard on parents because you’re in the room with your baby watching them cry and they don’t understand why you won’t just pick them up and provide comfort. One real positive of this method is that you are in the room with them and offer them comforting words. Each night you will move the chair further and further back until you’re at the bedroom door and eventually out of the room.
4. Shush / Pat to Sleep
This method works great for younger babies who need the comfort of their parents close by. With this method, you lay your baby down in their crib after you do their bedtime routine and shush and pat their back or bum while they fall asleep. You’re teaching them to fall asleep without being held or rocked but are still offering some comfort to let them know you’re there.
5. Fading Method
With the bedtime fading method of sleep training, continue getting your baby to sleep however you have been (whether that is rocking or feeding to sleep) and each night do this for less and less amount of time until theoretically you don’t have to do it at all. While this is a very gentle method of sleep training, it can be very difficult on the parents because it often feels like there is no end in sight. It can also feel a bit impossible because you’re still not teaching your baby to fall asleep on their own. This leads to middle-of-the-night wakeups where you have to intervene because your baby doesn’t know how to fall back asleep on their own.
Whichever method you choose to sleep train your baby, be sure to stick with it for at least a week. Don’t switch around between methods as this can confuse your baby and you won’t end up making any progress at all. If you are struggling with deciding which method to choose or what to do next, I am happy to help! We can set up a custom sleep plan or just have a 30-minute phone call where we can troubleshoot your baby’s sleep.