SLEEP TRAINING METHODS
Before you choose your sleep training method you must establish a few things.
What style of parent are you?
Identifying this is the first step to sleep training your baby successfully and there is no wrong answer to this question.
Parenting is a unique experience for everyone, and if you are lucky enough to have more than one child, you will know that it can vary for every baby you have.
Identifying your parenting style will allow you to identify the methods of baby sleep training that are going to work for you and your baby. Once you know what kind of parenting style fits with your lifestyle and baby’s personality, you can jettison all the information that doesn’t fit. Be aware that your parenting style may change as your family grows and your needs change. How you parent as a parent of one child may differ notably from how you parent as parent of three. There is nothing wrong with this, and you are not diminishing the quality of your parenting by changing your style as it’s needed, but you do need to identify your style to effectively sleep rain your baby. Choosing information that is based around your parenting style is key to sleep training success.
The next step is identifying whether or not YOU as the parent are ready to sleep train your baby.
If your baby is over five months old and has no underlying medical conditions that prohibit sleep training, your baby is ready.
But are you?
This can be harder to establish than you might think.
When I sit down and talk with parents about their baby and sleep issues, one of the things that comes up most frequently is that one (or both) of the parents is not quite ready for the ‘tiny baby’ phase to be over. There can be many reasons for this, it might be their last baby and they want to hang on to that baby phase just a little bit longer, or there may be underling feelings of guilt because one or both parents are at work during the day and they don’t want to be absent at night too. Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand that these are perfectly normal and legitimate feelings and you are allowed to experience parenthood the way you want to. If you want to sleep train your baby, you need to make sure that you as the parent are ready. If you are not, sleep training can a highly stressful, and lengthy process, often resulting in failure.
CONTROLLED CRYING / FERBERIZING
This is a variation of the cry it out method popularized by Doctor Richard Ferber, director for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital Boston.
“Ferberizing” as it has been coined, is a sleep training method that involves leaving your baby alone to cry for incrementally increasing periods of time.
The basic premise is this:
Put your baby down in their crib whilst they are still awake, but drowsy. Whisper good night, and quietly leave the room.
If your baby cries, wait 3 minutes before going in to comfort. When you do go in to comfort, do so for no longer than a minute or two, with soft verbal sounds, perhaps a pat or two on the back, but avoid picking your child up. Leave the room, even if your baby is not asleep and starts cry again. Wait five minutes before going in again and repeat the same comforting techniques. Leave after no longer than 2 minutes of comforting. Repeat this process gradually increasing the time between comfort check-ins until your baby is asleep. Over the next few days your baby should require fewer comforting sessions and will cry for shorter periods of time, until they can be put down to sleep with no crying at all.
For younger babies, this can be one of the faster methods, usually over and done with within a few days- a week at most.
Babies learn to settle on their own so if they wake or stir for any reason in the night, they can readjust themselves and settle down again without the need for anyone to go into their room.
The ability to self soothe has been linked to more socially secure behaviours later in childhood.
For older babies, depending on their personality type, this method can make them very angry, each time they are left making them more and more irate, until they are worked up into such a state it feels like they will never go to sleep.
Very stubborn babies and toddlers are harder to train in this method. It can be done and usually within a week also, but be warned. There will be a lot of crying. If you are sleep training this way, make sure you have some time off. You will get very little sleep and trying to commute to a job, let alone actually perform that job can be extremely difficult, and in some cases dangerous (if you happen to be driving).
PICK- UP, PUT- DOWN
This is another variation of cry-it-out. It is generally considered a more gentle method of sleep training as the parent responds immediately as the baby starts to cry.
The basic premise is as follows:
Put your baby down in their cot while they are drowsy, but still awake. Whisper good night and leave the room. If your baby starts to cry, immediately go back in and soothe your baby. if you can do this by patting or rubbing their back, so much the better, but if need be pick them up and soothe them until they are calm, but not asleep. Put them back down and leave the room. Repeat the process as many time as is needed until your baby is asleep. Over time your baby will need less soothing until they no longer need any at all.
This method can be a great alternative for parents who do not like to hear their baby cry without doing something about it immediately. It can be quite a quick method of sleep training if you can be patient enough to keep doing it after the 15th or 20th time you have to go back in and soothe.
You will need to be very patient. I have trained some babies in this method who have taken 54 pick up/ soothing periods before falling asleep! (the following night needed only 3 or 4, so don’t let these numbers scare you off, it definitely works!)
Some babies do not have the personality to allow for success of this method. The constant picking up and putting down can be over stimulating. If you persist in this method you may find that your baby gets too worked up, and may become almost impossible to calm down. If you find it takes longer each time for your baby to settle, or they are not settling at all, this is not the right method for your baby.
You may find that the first few nights of sleep training in this method you will get very little or no sleep. This is because you will need to be constantly available to soothe your baby and it can take many soothing periods to get your baby to sleep.
This is a very gentle method of sleep training involving minimal crying. However, depending on the temperament of your baby, it can be a lengthy process- sometimes taking months. The premise is quite simple, the parent remains with the baby each night essentially doing the ‘work’ of putting the baby to sleep. Gradually, the amount of time you as the parent spend doing the rocking/ swaying/walking/patting/rubbing, is incrementally reduced. The idea being that your baby starts to do more of the work until they can put themselves to sleep unaided. The younger you start this method the easier it will be.
Because you can start this method of training when your baby is very young – in theory from birth- by the time your baby is ready to sleep through the night, they can have already learned how to put themselves to sleep, the only remaining thing to be done is to drop the middle of the night feed. If you start helping your baby to form these sleep habits from birth, sleep training can be very straight forward and involve minimal to no crying. If you find it unbearable to hear your baby cry, this method can be a great alternative.
The personality of your baby can affect this method enormously. It can take months to train a stubborn baby this way, so you will need to be very patient.
Older children can also take a longer time to sleep train using this method.
If you are exhausted or extremely sleep deprived, you may find this method challenging as you will need to be present every time your child wakes, and as mentioned before, the sleep training can take months.
There is some evidence to suggest that babies can relapse into needing parental help falling asleep when they are around two years old.
THE CHAIR METHOD
This is a variation of the fade away method, and can be very effective for older babies and toddlers.
The idea is that parents put their child down in the cot/bed while drowsy but still awake. The parent the sits in a chair beside the cot/bed until the baby falls asleep- verbally soothing as needed. Each night the chair is moved further away from the cot/bed until it is by the door, and finally outside the door.
The theory behind this method is that your child is visually reassured by their parent’s presence, allowing them to fall asleep reassured that they are safe, and not alone. It can be a relatively calm and tear free process, which is great if you are not a fan of cry-it-out options.
Some children wake startled and confused if they have gone to sleep with a parent in the room and wake to find themselves alone. Again, it will depend on the personality of your baby, and also the amount of time you spend with your child during the day. Children who have a consistent day time routine involving lots of face time with the parent who is performing the Chair routine, generally cope better.
This can be a longer method of sleep training- sometimes taking a month or more, depending on how consistent you are and the age of your baby/toddler.
Because this method can take longer than others, you will need to dedicate your evenings consistently to sleep training your child until the process has been completed. This can impact relationships, and work. Please make sure you can spare the time and are prepared to put your social life on hold until your baby has been sleep trained. Success in this method is utterly dependent on consistency.
We are here to support you through your sleep training process. What ever your needs are, we can help you on the road to sleep training success.