Finding the best sleep training method for your baby can be overwhelming. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of each method’s pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.
There are a wide array of terms that people use when it comes to sleep training methods. Gentle, controlled crying, fading, sleep wave, camp-out, and the list goes on and on. But the truth is, there are really only five methods. Sleep trainers often add their own spin by changing small factors, but in the end, the basic principles are the same.
The five methods are Fading It Out (FIO), Pick Up/Put Down (PUPD), The Chair Method, Controlled Crying (Ferber), and Cry It Out (CIO).
The FIO method is the gentlest method and involves the caregiver replacing whatever sleep association helps the baby fall asleep with a less reinforcing sleep association until they are able to discontinue sleep associations altogether. For example, if your baby will only fall asleep if they’re nursed, you will gradually decrease the amount of time you nurse them, and then switch to rocking them instead of nursing, and so on. This method can be effective for parents who want to eliminate crying as much as possible. However, it requires patience and consistency, as it can take up to 2-3 weeks to be successful.
The is another gentler method that allows the caregiver to pick up baby when they’re crying, soothe them, and then place them back down once they’re calm. This method also can take some time (2-3 weeks) and is very physically demanding for the caregiver. Every time the child wakes, they must go back and repeat this process until the child falls asleep. On the first night, many report having to pick up their child 100-150 times or more. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind the child’s temperament before deciding on this method. Many babies can find this type of intervention overstimulating and can become more upset over time.
The Chair Method involves, you guessed it, sitting in a chair in your child’s room. Many parents prefer this method as it allows them to remain in the child’s room the entire time. With this sleep training method, you literally sit in a chair near your child’s bed until they fall asleep. The caregiver is not there to help the child fall asleep, they are there simply to reassure the child that they have not been left alone. There are variations of this technique where the caregiver does provide some physical and verbal reassurance at first while moving the chair further and further away until they are eventually no longer in the room and the child is able to fall asleep independently. This method generally takes an average of 2 weeks to be successful.
Otherwise known as the Ferber method, or graduated extinction, this method involves the caregiver leaving the room, and reentering at specific times (3 min, 5 min, etc.) to check on the child. When you check on the child, the goal is to briefly reassure them without picking them up. In general, checks should be brief (15-20 seconds) and then the caregiver should begin the process again until the child falls asleep. This method can be emotionally challenging in the beginning, but with consistency, baby’s crying should significantly decrease over the first few nights and the baby is usually able to fall asleep independently fairly quickly compared to other methods.
This method is often what people think of when they imagine sleep training. With CIO the caregiver leaves the room at bedtime and does not return until the morning. This method is very rarely suggested by sleep trainers (in my experience) and is usually a last resort. While CIO does involve a lot of crying, there isn’t any evidence to suggest it is actually harmful to your child in any way.
There is no magical formula to get your child to sleep independently. The success of any sleep training method you choose largely depends on your ability to commit to implementing a plan. It works if you work it. If you know you can’t stomach your child crying for any length of time without intervening, then controlled crying won’t work for you. If you are not down to spend a couple of weeks gradually helping your child to fall asleep without nursing, the FIO is not for you. You get the picture.
Basically, pick whatever sleep training method you know you can do, and do it! Consistently. And you will see success.
When it comes to “sleep training” there are many factors involved. The child’s sleep environment, temperament, routines, schedule, nutrition, and emotional stability, are all part of the puzzle. In many ways, these factors are even more crucial to achieving independent sleep than the actual sleep training method that you choose to follow.
If you need sleep training support, that’s what I’m here for! I work with families to determine the best sleep training method for their child, create a customized plan, and provide support throughout the process. Click here to say goodbye to your little one’s sleepless nights once and for all.
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[…] If you never had to sleep train your baby before they got sick, then you may need to implement a more formal sleep training method now. Learn more about the different types of sleep training methods here. […]