How to Sleep Train Your Baby
Moms, doesn’t a few hours of extra sleep sound like heaven? Never fear, sleep training is here! Between 4 to 6 months, your baby may be ready for sleep training. At around this age, your little one has not had much time to get accustomed to nursing or rocking to sleep. Additionally, at this stage, most have started to develop a regular sleep-wake cycle and are ready to learn the skill of falling asleep on their own. While all babies are different and there are a variety of methods, consistency is key.
Most parents are hesitant to sleep train because of the misconception that the process must involve letting your baby “cry it out”. But that is not necessarily the case as there are options of sleep training that involve little to no tears. Just remember that whatever method you choose, raising a healthy sleeper starts with a consistent bedtime routine. Whether it’s reading a book, singing a lullaby, taking a bath or feeding your baby, doing the same thing every evening before bed builds the foundation for independent sleeping. Experts also say that having a stable bedtime between 6 to 7:30pm is crucial in helping your baby stay asleep longer. Most strategies will take a week or longer to take effect and sticking them out is important to their success.
Here’s a review of some of the most popular sleep training methods:
- Cry-It-Out or Extinction: After your bedtime routine, place your baby in their crib awake and leave the room even if they cry. The goal is to teach them to soothe themselves by not interfering so that when they inevitably wake up in the middle of the night, they can fall back asleep on their own. This technique does involve a bit of crying for the first few nights but tends to be less crying overall since training is completed faster for most.
- Ferber Method: Similar to Cry-It-Out, following your bedtime routine, put your baby in their crib awake and leave the room. But this process allows parents to check in on their little ones at intervals. The objective is to reassure your baby every so often that you are nearby. It is recommended you not pick them up or engage much with them but rather calm them with your voice and a loving pat for 2 to 3 minutes at most. Over time, gradually increase the time between each “check” until they are able to sleep throughout the night on their own.
- Chair Method: In this technique, after your normal bedtime routine, lay your child down awake and sit in a chair near the crib and remain there until they fall asleep. Generally, you are not supposed to give your child any attention during this process. Your presence in the room is to only reassure them that they are not alone. Each night, move the chair further and further away from the crib until you are right outside the door. It important not to delay chair movement so your baby learns that whether they like it or not, the chair will be moving away.
- Pick-Up-Put-Down Method: Similar to the Ferber Method, after your bedtime routine, you place your baby in the crib awake and if your baby cries, checking in on them from time to time is permitted. However, unlike Ferber, you can also pick them up and comfort them until they become calm and drowsy and then put them back in the crib. You repeat this cycle until your baby is finally asleep. The goal here is to help calm your crying baby but to ultimately, let them fall asleep on their own.
- Fading Method: This gentle process is ideal for families who want to minimize crying as much as possible. With Fading, you continue to help your baby fall asleep while gradually easing out of their familiar sleep strategy. For example, if you normally rock your baby to sleep, you would rock less and less each night until they fall asleep without any rocking.
Regardless of what sleep training method you choose, remember to have a solid bedtime routine in place and get your baby’s daytime naps and feedings on track. Stay committed and believe a good night’s sleep for you and your baby is just on the horizon.