The “How-To” for 5 different sleep training methods
Many people hate the term “sleep training” and I have to admit, I do too. Even though it has a negative connotation, we are actually teaching our children how to fall asleep unassisted and maintain healthy sleep habits. Why is that a bad thing? Baby and toddler sleep training can involve changing a routine, or changing expectations around sleep. There are many ways to baby and toddler sleep training and not all of those methods require long periods of crying.
There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all to sleep training. I use many different sleep training methods because there are different factors to consider like the age and temperament of the child, the urgency of the parents and their comfort level. The number one reason baby and toddler sleep training doesn’t go as planned is because the parents are not 100% consistent. Parents need to be committed to the method chosen before taking on any sleep training. Obviously if your child is sick, has a poopy diaper, or is in trouble, all bets are off and the child’s needs should be taken care of.
Here is the “how-to” for 5 different sleep training methods:
1. Extinction or Cry-It-Out
After your bedtime routine, you place your child down drowsy but awake, and confidently leave the room. Don’t go back into the room until its time for a feed, its morning time, or naptime is over. This method usually works in the shortest amount of time.
2. Graduated Extinction, or Timed Checks
After your bedtime routine, you place your child down drowsy but awake, and confidently leave the room. If your child is crying, wait a pre-determined amount of time before going back in the room. When you go back in the room, reassure them and soothe them from the side of the crib, but do not pick them up. Stay in the room for about 20 seconds, then leave again. Increase the interval by a few minutes before re-entering the room.
3. Fading of Parental Presence
After your bedtime routine, you place your child down drowsy but awake, and confidently leave the room. If your child is crying, go back in the room, sit in a chair next to the crib and remain sitting there until your child falls asleep. While sitting in a chair, you are allowed to reassure your child with your words, but not pick them up. Every few nights move the chair towards the door, eventually ending up outside the room. This method can take a few weeks.
4. Pick Up Put Down
After your bedtime routine, you place your child down drowsy but awake, and confidently leave the room. If your child begins to cry after being placed down drowsy, go back into the room and try to calm them from crib side or pick them up and calm them. Once calm, place your child down again and leave the room. If your child begins to cry, repeat. After multiple, consistent attempts, your child will learn to fall asleep in their crib rather than in your arms. This method is gentle enough for infants.
5. Do Nothing
If whatever you are currently doing is working for your family and everyone is getting the sleep they need, there is no reason to change anything. If things aren’t working, and the quality of care is suffering, perhaps its time to make a change and use one of the methods described above.
I provide free child and family sleep support on my facebook page. Join me and other parents as we work towards better sleep for the whole family.