Sleep training tends to either strike fear or inspire hope in the hearts of Mamas. Sleep training can feel overwhelming. Heck even the trying to decide whether you want to sleep train or not can feel overwhelming. In order to take away some of that overwhelm I am going to break down the 5 most common sleep training methods for you today!
By explaining these sleep training methods I hope to give you some peace of mind when you are making the decision about whether you want to sleep train or not!
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First off… What is sleep training?
Sleep training is exactly what is sounds like… training your baby to sleep. In a nutshell you are teaching your baby how to sleep on their own and giving them the tools they need to do it! When put like that it’s pretty simple! But, just like everything with parenting, sleep training comes with a lot of judgement, raised eyebrows, and opinions. Oh. so. many. opinions.
Sleep training is going to look a little different for every family. That’s just a fact. What will work for one baby and family won’t necessarily work for another baby or family. The fact is, you just need to decide what you are going to do and go for it!
The next biggest question, When should you start?
Most doctors suggest not “sleep training” until your baby is at least 4 months old. I think that makes sense.
But, I think it’s important to mention that just because you aren’t sleep training doesn’t mean you can’t start doing things earlier (as early as the first day they come home from the hospital) to support your baby’s sleep!
A few things you can do right from the start include,
- having your baby nap in a well-lit room so they get their days and nights straight
- have a bedtime routine
- not rocking your baby to sleep
- putting them down to sleep while they are drowsy but awake
Beyond those tips, you should discuss with your doctor when it is time for you to start actual sleep training.
Sleep training method #1: Cry it Out
Cry it out is one of the most controversial sleep training methods. Some mamas absolutely swear by it, other mamas swear that if you do it your child will be psychologically damaged forever. I don’t know about the second part. I feel like there are way more things that could damage your child psychologically. But that’s a rant for another day.
So what is cry it out?
It’s pretty simple, first you set up a consistent, calm, happy, bedtime routine. That you follow EVERY night. Consistent, remember?
When you put your baby down drowsy but awake.
Next, you leave the room. If they cry, they cry.
How long they cry depends on which method you are following.
One cry it out method was created by Dr. Weissbluth author of Healthy Sleep Happy Child.
(Whether you choose to do the cry it out method or not, this is hands down the best baby sleep book there is. He has tons of amazing tips on helping your child establish healthy sleep habits before you even get to the cry it out method. I followed his advice to the T and never even really had to do cry it out. My daughter basically just sleep trained herself.)
Dr. Weissbluth recommends extinction to help baby learn to soothe. With the Weissbluth method, you wouldn’t go back into your baby’s room unless there is an emergency.
The pro? Babies are sleep trained usually within a few days because they immediately have to learn to self soothe. The con? Lot’s of tears for the first 3 days.
Another Cry it out Method was created by Dr. Richard Ferber author of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.
Dr. Ferber believes in the importance of sleep associations. Sleep associations are the consistent conditions that you use when putting a baby to sleep ie bath, books, bottle, bed. A child learns to associate those things with going to bed so that eventually babies learn to put themselves to sleep.
To do the Ferber Method follow these steps
Create a regular bedtime routine-My favorite is bath, books, breast/bottle, bed
Put the baby to sleep in their own room
Check on them regularly but increase the intervals if baby is crying ie check after 3 minutes, 5 minutes 10 minutes etc. When checking on the baby don’t pick them up just shush and pat gently.
The Pros? This is a great option if you don’t want to think about what to do about sleep training. Ferber is extremely specific with his instructions. This can be GREAT for overtired parents. Plus, sometimes I just want to be told how to do something. I don’t want to think, I just want to do. Anyone feel me on that?
Another huge pro? The Ferber method works in a week or less and babies were eventually able to fall asleep around 13 minutes faster than non sleep trained babies AND woke up less in the night.
The cons? There are some critics that say that letting a baby cry without immediately comforting them can be emotionally scarring. But so far, no science supports that.
Sleep Training Method: The Pick Up/ Put Down (No Tears Method)
I’m going to be honest, I would have no patience for this method. It’s basically what it sounds like… when your baby cries you pick them up, sooth them (using her special shush-pat technique) then put him down the second he stops crying.
If he starts crying again then pick him up again.
Repeat until baby is asleep.
The pros? This is a super gentle approach that allows you to comfort your baby when they cry.
The cons? Super time consuming and demanding on your body as you bend over and pick your baby up over and over again. Grab The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg here!
Sleep Training Method: Gentle Sleep Training (No Tears Method)
Dr. Sears–No Cry Method
This sleep training method is exactly what it sounds like, GENTLE! Popularized by Dr. Sears, author of the Baby Sleep Book, this sleep method has you move slowly and gradually towards sleep training. He believes that it takes a long time to get your baby to sleep through the night and that you should focus on developing a deep bond with your child with plenty of nursing and snuggle time. He also believes you should respond to every cry. This is a great sleep training method of attachment parents.
The pros? You get to respond to every cry your little one makes. There is also tons of snuggling!
The cons? This sleep training can take a REALLY. LONG. TIME. Not super ideal for a tired Mama.
No Cry Method–Elizabeth Pantley
She has a 10 step plan on how to create your sleep solution plan.
Step 1: Do a safety Check
Step 2: Learn Basic Sleep Facts
Step 3: Create Your Sleep Logs
Step 4: Review and Choose Sleep Solutions
Step 5: Create a Personal Sleep Plan
Step 6: Follow your plan for 10 days
Step 7: DO a 10-day log
Step 8: Analyze your success and revise plan as necessary
Step 9: Follow Plan for 10 additional days
Step 10: Continue analyzing your success and revising as necessary every 10 days
If this sounds like a lot… that’s because it is! However, this is a great sleep training method for babies that are having a really hard time sleeping. It’s also great for parents who really like to research and document everything! Eneagram Type 5? I’m looking at you!
Pros? You make a customizable plan based on your child’s needs. This is a very hands on approach?
Cons? This can be extremely time consuming for parents.
So which sleep training method should you do?
I think as with everything motherhood, choose what feels right for your family! Or if you are like me you can combine methods to create the perfect sleep training method for your baby!
Some final sleep training tips
Never try to sleep train when on vacation
Don’t try to sleep train when baby is sick
Listen to your mama instincts
Looking for something to read next? Checkout my Baby Milestones Series! I go over what to expect with developmental milestones, sleep, breastfeeding, and even how to play with your baby at each stage to encourage brain development and growth. My guides are backed by my own experience along with academic research!
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