Baby Sleep Training Methods
A defining moment for any caretaker or parent raising a child is that period during which it’s hard to get any consistent sleep. Because your baby is constantly waking you, your nights become full of continually getting up and having to check on them to make sure everything is fine.
For many people, this is typically a defining moment in a stressful way. While you can spend a lot of one-on-one time with your child, it can also be very inconvenient and overbearing, especially when you are trying to get enough sleep and stay on top of all of your responsibilities.
This reason is why many people resort to sleep training methods to use with their children. Sleep training methods are mostly anything that can show your baby good sleep habits, encouraging them to maintain healthy patterns as opposed to waking up intermittently throughout the night and day.
As you can imagine, there are many different approaches to sleep training that each method will assert that it is the best one available. These approaches couldn’t be further from the truth—there are a wide variety of different ways possible, making sleep training a very nuanced activity to do.
Babies need a lot of sleep; newborns snooze up to 20 hours a day, while a 6-month-old baby will sleep anywhere between 14 to 17 hours a day. Babies will begin to sleep through the night around month two, but it can take some babies longer.
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Consider trying these lesser-known baby sleep training methods:
1. The Chair
You start sleep training with this method by sitting in a chair next to your baby’s bed.
This happens after you’ve put them down. You will stay there until they’ve fallen asleep.
You then move the chair closer and closer to the door over time. Eventually, you’ll have moved the chair out of the room altogether.
This method requires dedication, as you’ll have to stay in the same place as your baby until they’re asleep every night. Parents are usually able to stop sleep training with this method after about two weeks.
This one is for those who have babies that continually wake up multiple times throughout the night.
Again, all you have to do is put a chair next to the baby’s crib, sitting in it quietly until they fall asleep. When they fall asleep, get up and leave the room, but when they wake up again, come back in and sit down once again.
Continually doing the chair method every night until you’re no longer in the room will help your baby sleep.
2. The Pick-Up and Put Down Method
Similar to the Ferber method, you put your baby to bed while they’re still awake and check on them a few times.
However, unlike the Ferber method, you can pick your baby up, comfort them, hold them for a few more minutes before finally putting them back down again.
Over time, your child will become sleepy and end up going to sleep on their own.
3. Interval Training Sleep Method
If you are a person who prefers to structure and compartmentalize, this might be the easiest method for you to employ. Interval training involves you coming in and checking in on your baby at regular intervals throughout the night.
Check back every few minutes until they fall asleep. Continue doing it for nights on end, eventually decreasing the number of intervals at which you check in until they don’t need you to be there anymore.
An interval training schedule might look like the following:
- 5-minute intervals
- 10-minute intervals
- 15-minute intervals
- 20-minute intervals
Interval sleep training is one of the most tried and accurate sleep training methods. The reason is because of how regular you’re able to keep it.
It’s important to note that sometimes sleep training isn’t a linear progression. Those who employ this method might have to decrease the intervals again due to the baby not responding so well.
This reaction is normal. It is easy to adjust to this method of sleep training!
Regardless of what method you choose, you must understand that sleep training is a different experience for every parent. You’re bound to hear about a baby who was able to sleep through the night on day one, but that doesn’t mean they can sleep on their own.
So, the question is, how long does interval sleep training take? Most medical experts estimate that most forms of sleep training at least a week to implement.
Sticking to this method is what can ultimately make it work.
4. The Fading Technique
If your baby spends a lot of time moving around in bed before finally falling asleep, this sleep training method is for you.
This method is helpful for gradually moving your baby’s bedtime earlier. To do this method, simply put them to bed at the time you usually do for a few nights. Once you’ve done that for four or five nights, move the interval to 15 minutes earlier and do that for a few days.
Continue to bring their bedtime earlier by 15-minute intervals until you’re satisfied with the results!
Fading is one of the more effective sleep training methods due to how direct and easy it is to use. However, it takes commitment. To make this method work correctly, you need to be incredibly precise about the time at which you put your child to bed. If you don’t put them to bed at the same time each night, you will ruin the effectiveness of this method.
This tactic involves the parent sitting by the child’s crib and offering reassurance every five minutes or so. You gradually move the chair further from the crib each night until your baby can sleep without you present.
This approach is suitable for an anxious parent who doesn’t want just to leave their baby alone right away, and for those whose babies have a difficult time falling asleep independently.
Fading is a no crying sleep training method.
For parents concerned about any sleep training that leaves an infant crying on his own for any period, fading may be a better option. Fade it out, as opposed to crying it out, means helping a baby learn to sleep on his own without doing all the work for him. If you rock the baby to sleep, you can still do that, but rock her for a shorter period and place her in the crib drowsy, not asleep.
Parents who practice fading don’t have to drop nighttime feedings or ignore infant cries. The point is to help a child figure out how to go to sleep independently and go back to sleep after night wakings, but not to take away all the help she’s used to all at once. It’s a gentle option that will likely take longer, but it may be less stressful for all involved.
5. Routine Fading
This method is slightly different than the previous fading technique. Instead of making your baby’s bedtime slowly earlier and earlier, you do one of the ways you currently do to make your baby fall asleep.
For example, many parents experiencing baby sleep problems end up having to rock the baby to sleep. For the routine fading method, you should continue doing this. However, slightly lower the amount that you rock them each night.
You should be very precise about this. Decrease the time you rock them in noticeable, but small intervals. For instance, if you typically rock them for 5 minutes, try lowering it by 1 minute every few days.
If you have to rock your baby to sleep for 20 minutes, try removing 4 minutes every few days. Regardless of how long you do it for, make sure to incrementally diminish the amount that you rock them until they don’t need it anymore.
6. Faded Bedtime
Sleep training operates on the theory that children will go to sleep more readily when using a routine of predictable and quiet bedtime rituals.
Through proper sleep training, infants begin to associate a bedtime routine with the feeling of drowsiness. This gentle approach to a faded bedtime starts with noting your baby’s current sleeping patterns. Parents should monitor what time their baby goes to sleep naturally and work to establish a routine that leads up to this time every night. This routine should include about 20 minutes of fun and calming activities that comfort your baby until it’s time to go to sleep.
Since the baby is already used to falling asleep at this particular time, you’re less likely to experience any trouble. As your baby grows accustomed to this routine, start setting the bedtime earlier every couple of days. As this is a shift in what your baby’s natural bedtime is, you may experience some resistance, and this can be an instance of when to let a baby cry out.
7. Distanced Comfort Sleep Method
As one of the more intensive sleep training methods, this one involves being in the same room as the baby that is having trouble falling asleep, only picking them up for pats on the back every once in a while.
By doing this, you provide them with a distanced sense of comfort. This emotion allows them to feel calmer without needing physical reinforcement. Getting your baby used to a more abstract idea of support also opens the door to merely tucking them in and leaving the room. When achieved, it’ll make sleeping so much easier.
When do you get up and comfort them? Typically when they start fussing. The reason is to ensure that you are still there when they get nervous, making them less likely to continue to fuss later on into the night. The only potential downside to this method is that you might have to be in the room for a while on a nightly basis to get the desired effects, making this one of the more intensive methods.
8. The Weissbluth Method
There’s a bit more to this sleep training method than the other two. It involves setting up a sleep routine for your baby. For example, you may give your baby a warm bath followed by storytime and a lullaby. Once the baby falls asleep, close the door and do not enter until morning.
If you choose to try this method when your baby around four months old, know that it may not be so easy at first. You may have to deal with a lot of crying. However, it will gradually fade as your baby becomes more accustomed to the routine.
Again, it all depends on your baby’s needs and whether they’ve stopped nursing during the night.
9. No-Tears Sleep Training Method
This sleep training method is just like it sounds: no tears. Your baby won’t cry itself to sleep using this method. Created by Elizabeth Pantley, the no-tears method involves you subtly changing your baby’s sleep habits.
For example, if your child always needs to be rocked back and forth, you will rock them less and less until your baby can sleep without the need for it.
Parents whose child does not do well with the cry-it-out method can try the no-tears approach. In this case, you soothe your baby to sleep as much as possible and comfort them upon crying.
You should use the same words every time you prepare your baby for sleep, so they begin to associate it with bedtime. For example, you can say, “Shh, it’s time for bed,” or “It’s time to go to sleep.”
This technique is meant to slowly but surely ease your baby out of their go-to-sleep strategy (with no tears!)
Set the atmosphere.
You should also set the right atmosphere by ensuring your baby’s nursery is comfortable, dark, and cool. Avoid placing any distracting items in or around their crib. They should fall asleep in a calm, quiet environment that makes it easy for them to doze off.
Your baby will gradually begin to grow tired and sleep at the same time every day. You will find it easier to put them down for a nap and tuck them in for the night as time goes on. They will eventually sleep through the night without any trouble.
When starting sleep training, parents are encouraged to develop a gentle routine that promotes bonding. The goal is to help address sleep problems.
You don’t necessarily stop sleep training at any particular point with methods like this, as you would continue to offer your baby what they needed until they are “weaned” from your help at bedtime for as long it takes.
10. The Combination Method
This method can help with nighttime awakening. The goal is to get your baby used to you being nearby, but hands-off. That way, your baby can self-soothe back to sleep without a fuss.
A combination approach to sleep training is often the right solution. You don’t abruptly decide your child needs to sleep on her own without you. However, you also don’t continue to respond to her every request. Instead, they gradually disengage from the bedtime process.
Next, you may start by staying with your baby, besides the crib, patting her back as she goes to sleep. As she becomes comfortable with this routine, you can just sit with her.
Gradually move across the room. Finally, leave her tired but awake in her crib.
11. Wake-to-Sleep Method
If you have a baby that is waking up periodically throughout the night, you may find it fitting to start sleep training with this technique. To keep track of your baby’s sleep schedules, start a journal.
This method involves anticipating when your baby will be waking up and preemptively rousing them about half an hour before then. Once you’ve done this, you leave the baby alone to soothe themselves back to sleep.
This approach works because it resets the sleep cycle and lengthens the amount of time between wakings. You should stop sleep training with this method after three nights if it hasn’t worked. Don’t replace the old habit.
12. Soothe-to-Sleep Method
The Soothing-to-Sleep method involves gradually encouraging your baby to sleep through the night.
It’s simple: respond to your baby when he/she cries.
While less traumatic for many parents than the Cry-It-Out Method, this approach allows your baby to continue waking and calling for you throughout the night. Doing so can create bad habits for some babies.