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? You’re over the sleepless nights- you want to get them to sleep in longer stretches, and eventually sleep 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. It allows them to 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. There are many sleep training methods for babies that you can choose from, so you can decide what works best for your family.
Sleep training is extremely beneficial to both your baby and you. It introduces healthy sleep habits and teaches self-soothing skills. If you’ve spent the majority of your baby’s life so far feeling sleep-deprived, it may be time to consider sleep training. There are several different sleep training methods for babies that you can choose from. I’ve listed some information about each of the main methods so you can review them and decide which method is right for you. Check out my other blog posts to learn more about the benefits of sleep training and general sleep tips!
5 Different Sleep Training Methods for Babies
1. Ferber Method Of Sleep
There are several slight variations of this timed check-in method, but the basic idea remains the same in all. For the Ferber method of sleep training, 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 after waking without the need for you to come into their room and check on them. It may seem daunting to leave your child to learn how to self-soothe, but this is a very important skill that you’re teaching them that will benefit them for life.
2. Cry It Out Method or Extinction Method for Sleep Training
The cry-it-out method tends to be one of the most controversial sleep training methods for babies. Depending on your baby’s age and where they are 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 up 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 a 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. It’s one of the more challenging sleep training methods for babies because of the discipline it requires. The difference with this method is you follow your bedtime routine and 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. If keeping your baby in your crib isn’t working for them, you can pick them up and shush/pat them while holding them and then place them in their crib when they are calm. This method does take consistency, but it’s a great gentle method to use with babies 12-16 weeks old.
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’s one of the more difficult sleep training methods for babies 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.
Benefits Of Baby Sleeping On Tummy Or Chest
Although you can use different sleep training methods for babies to help them sleep on their own, this does NOT mean you can’t let them sleep on you from time to time! There are many benefits of skin-to-skin naps- they help your baby feel more connected to you, and if you’re breastfeeding, it can help increase supply. Make sure to enjoy the cuddles with your baby before they get too big and start to refuse contact napping!
There are so many sleep training methods for babies to choose from. Whichever method you go for, be sure to stick with it for at least a week. Don’t switch around between methods- this is a common sleep training mistake that can cause sleep problems, confuse your baby, and end up making no progress at all. Check out my blog for TONS of free sleep solutions to put sleepless nights in the past. Sleep training is not just limited to babies- it can be life-changing for toddlers as well. If you’re overtired and struggling with sleep deprivation, I’m happy to help! We can set up a custom sleep plan or just have a 30-minute phone call where we can troubleshoot your little one’s sleep habits. Parenting shouldn’t mean that you’re doomed to be tired for the next 18 years- you deserve good sleep!