Sleep training methods do NOT have to include the dreaded cry it out. Phew. I just had to get it out there before I started this post. I’ll continue now. Yes, cry it out is a method of sleep training, but it is not the only one. If you look up sleep training, you will find many different definitions. In essence, it is giving your child the ability to fall and stay asleep, on their own. This can be accomplished in many different ways and I’ll go over the 5 most effective sleep training methods.
You can read more about what sleep training actually is <– here.
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Why Should You Sleep Train?
Now that we’ve gotten the what out of the way, let’s discuss for a moment why sleep training is so important. How do you feel when you don’t get a good night’s sleep? I feel terrible. I’m grumpy, I can’t focus, I have no appetite and it actually makes it harder for me to fall asleep the next night. Sound familiar?
The same thing happens when babies and children don’t get enough sleep. They’re grumpy. They can’t focus (no problem for a baby, but a big problem for school-aged children!). They have no appetite. They have an even harder time falling asleep the next night or nap. Not getting enough sleep is not good for anyone.
Now let’s be real… newborns DO need to wake up frequently throughout the night to eat. I am by no means suggesting that you should not feed your newborn because sleep is more important.
However, think of it this way: you often hear of people who work 3rd shift that have trouble adjusting once they switch to regular hours. People who typically wake up at 5:30 to get to work, still wake up at 5:30 on the weekends. Your body’s internal clock is saying “time to wake up!”
The same thing happens with babies. They start out needing to eat in the middle of the night, but they become accustomed to it and continue to wake up long after their bodies no longer need the nutrition of a middle of the night feeding. Sleep only trumps nutrition when nutrition is no longer needed.
For some more explanation of why to sleep train, check out this post –> Why I Did Sleep Training and Will Again.
Gentle Sleep Training Methods
Gentle sleep training methods involve no or little crying. They work best for younger babies. While gentle sleep training methods tend to take longer, it is easier for most parents because you don’t have to listen to your babies cry. Let’s face it… NOBODY likes to listen to their child crying. It is like a knife straight through the heart.
Read more about gentle sleep training in this post: How to Sleep Train Without Crying
The Four S’s Sleep Training
The 4 S’s is based on the book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg. The process involves: Setting the Stage, Swaddling, Sitting, and Shush-pat. Setting the stage is a solid, consistent bedtime routine that happens at the same time every day. You then swaddle your baby (even if it appears that they dislike the swaddle) and sit with them. As you sit with them, hold them in a vertical position and don’t rock or do anything at all. Once they relax but haven’t fallen asleep, place them in their crib.
The Pick-Up-Put-Down Sleep Training Method
With this sleep training method, you place your baby in their crib drowsy, but awake. If they begin to fuss, pick them up and comfort them; once they have calmed down, place them back in their crib and repeat this process until they fall asleep.
Pros of the Pick-Up-Put-Down Method
Since it is such a gentle form of sleep training, you can start at a very young age. There are also no (or very minimal) tears!
Cons of the Pick-Up-Put-Down Method
It takes a long time and requires a good deal of work from the parents. This is especially challenging if you have other children to care for and can’t spend hours picking up and putting down a baby.
The Chair Method, or Sleep Lady Shuffle Sleep Training
Place a chair next to your babies crib and sit there until your baby falls asleep. Each night, move the chair further away from the crib until the chair is out of the room and your baby falls asleep on their own. This method works best for mild-mannered babies who just need the little bit of security of having their parent in the room with them.
Pros of the Chair Method
This is a good choice for parents who don’t want to leave their baby to cry. You can also start at a fairly young age because it is so gentle. It is also flexible, as you can choose the option of comforting your baby…. just remember to stay consistent with whatever you choose!
Cons of the Chair Method
It can be confusing to your baby that you’re in the room with them, but not comforting them. It might actually make them more upset. This is why it’s so important to research all sleep training methods and choose one that you think is the best fit for your family and baby!
It also will take a long time and is greatly dependent on your baby’s personality. This never would have worked with my babies because they all cried even louder when I was in the room with them.
Sleep Training Methods That Involve Crying
Sleep training methods where you allow your child to cry for a bit tend to work faster. I know there is the concern that letting your baby cry can cause all sorts of issues. However, these concerns have been disputed. It is totally OK if using a sleep training method that involves crying is something you aren’t comfortable with. Just know that there is a way that it can be done properly when your baby is ready.
Ferber/Controlled Crying Sleep Training Method
The Ferber or controlled crying method is found in the book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber. If you follow the Ferber Method, you allow your baby to cry for a few minutes and gradually extend the amount of time. You can start at 3 minutes, and check on your baby after 3 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, etc. On the 2nd day, start with a 5-minute interval, then 10, then 15.
Pros of the Ferber Method
The Ferber Method is fairly flexible. You can vary the amount of time you wait before going in, and how you greet your baby. Just remember to stay consistent with whatever you choose! We used a variation of this method with our firstborn. When we went in we actually picked him up and comforted him because he became much more upset when he saw us and we didn’t pick him up.
Cons of the Ferber Method
Some babies will actually become more riled up when you go in to check on them. They may start crying more fervently when they had, in fact, started to calm down. If this is your baby, then you might want to consider longer intervals, or full on cry it out (if they are old enough).
Read more about the Ferber Method here!
Extinction or Cry It Out (CIO) Sleep Training Method
I know there are many people who can’t possibly fathom leaving their baby to cry. As a mom who did the extinction method, I can tell you that I have zero regrets. My baby went from being fussy and tired during the day to happy and well-rested. He went from fussing every time we laid him down in his crib to smiling, cooing, and falling asleep peacefully.
The extinction method is when you leave your baby to cry until they fall asleep. It’s as heart-wrenching as it sounds, but it works so fast. If you choose this method of sleep-training you must be absolutely certain that your baby can go overnight without a feeding.
Pros of the Extinction Method
It works the fastest out of every sleep training method. Even though your baby cries for the longest period of time, it is possibly fewer tears overall because it’s over so quickly. It typically takes 1-3 days for it to work, and for us, it took 1 day. While it was one dreadful, awful day, it was over so fast I was left thinking “why didn’t I try this earlier?”
Cons of the Extinction Method
It is painful to listen to your baby cry for so long. Some parents have a hard time staying consistent with the full CIO method.
Before you start sleep training, make sure you are prepared. Here is a great post with tips for sleep training, regardless of the method you choose.
Whatever you choose, stay consistent, but troubleshoot as needed. Please reach out with any questions… happy sleeping!
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