By Lauri Leadley
Sleep training is the important process of helping your baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. For parents with infants, this can be a big challenge, especially when you must maintain your daytime work schedule. Fortunately, sleep is a naturally occurring state, and a lot of babies will easily adapt to bedtime. Most sleep experts recommend starting the sleep training process when your baby is between 4 and 6 months old. Here are 3 proven methods for sleep training your baby.
Preparations before getting started. Before starting to sleep train your baby, make sure you are putting them to bed at a consistent time every night. Your baby should be awake and stimulated for a while between naptime and bedtime. Create a bedtime routine which can include a feeding followed by a warm bath and a lullaby. Once your baby has adapted to a regular bedtime routine, they are ready for one of these sleep training methods.
- The cry it out / extinction method. The key to this approach is that you extinguish crying by not responding to it. Put your baby to bed and allow periods of crying followed by short periods of comforting without picking her up. You can give your baby night-time feeding if they need it. The idea behind the cry it out method is that if your baby gets used to being nursed or rocked to sleep, they won’t fall asleep on their own. This will teach your baby to self-soothe and fall asleep more easily. The traditional cry it out method has had its share of controversy and was made more gradual by Dr. Richard Ferber to solve infant sleep problems. Known as the Ferber method, this technique involves checking in on your baby to soothe at gradually increasing time intervals.
- The no tears method. This is a gentler approach that involves soothing your baby back to sleep right away when they cry. Those in favor of this method believe that bedtime is a chance to better connect with your baby by quickly responding to needs for either food or comfort. Parenting educator and author Elizabeth Pantley endorses the no tears method in her best-selling book, “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”. Your baby should be on a regular nap schedule. This nurturing, child-centered no tears approach is customized to your baby’s needs. You can develop some key words like “sshhh” or “sleepy time” spoken softly to signal your baby it’s time to sleep. With this technique, it is important to only respond when your baby wakes up crying, and not when they just make sleepy whimpering sounds.
- The chair / fading method. This is a very gradual approach that requires patience and discipline on the part of the parents. The chair method was developed as a gentler alternative to the Ferber method, and it can take a little longer to see results. You put a chair next to the crib at bedtime and sit down when you put your baby to sleep. As soon as they fall asleep, you leave the room. But if they wake up and you hear crying, go back into the room and sit in the chair. Every few nights move the chair a little further away until you are completely out of the room. The chair method works best for babies that find the proximity of a parent comforting during sleep training. The whole process from sitting next to the crib to being entirely out of the room should take about 2 weeks.
All babies are different, and it may require some trial and error to find the way to sleep train your little one. If you are unsure as to the best sleep training method for your baby, consult a sleep expert for a thorough evaluation.
The sleep specialists at Valley Sleep Center provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep problems and disorders for both adults and children of all ages. We are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Each of our facilities is dedicated to becoming the leading independent sleep diagnostic testing facility serving its local community. Feel free to contact us online at your convenience.