Sleep training can be a bit of a controversial topic. There is a ton of information online and like so many other parenting decisions how can you know you’re making the right decision for you and your child? Being informed of your options and going with your gut is my best advice. Not every sleep training method will work for every child but I will say that sleep is for everyone and everyone deserves their best chance of success.
The Basics of Sleep Training
- What is Sleep Training?
To be honest I don’t love the phrase sleep training. Your baby is not an animal, I’m going to train them to sleep. But it’s the most commonly used phrase so we will use it just for simplicity.
Sleep training involves teaching your baby to fall asleep independently and soothe themselves back to sleep if they wake up during the night. It is a gradual process that helps establish healthy sleep habits.
- When to Start Sleep Training
Pediatricians generally recommend starting sleep training when babies are around 4 to 6 months old. However, it’s essential to consider your baby’s unique needs and developmental readiness. I support families from birth in education and shaping their child’s sleep hygiene. When most people think of “sleep training” they think of sleeping through the night. Around 4 months your baby is taking 24-32 oz of milk and is an average of 10 lbs which is conducive to going longer stretches without milk. This is why most doctors recommend waiting until 4 months old.
Common Sleep Training Methods
1. Ferber Method (Cry It Out)
Pros: Often leads to quick results.
Encourages self-soothing skills.
Cons: Involves intense crying, which can be challenging for parents.
Requires consistency to be effective.
2. Chair Method (Gradual Withdrawal)
Pros: Gradual approach may be gentler for some babies.
Allows parents to comfort the baby while gradually reducing intervention.
Cons: Progress can be slower compared to other methods.
Requires patience and commitment.
3. No Tears Method (Fading)
Pros: Emphasizes a gentle and gradual approach.
Focuses on responding to the baby’s cues with empathy. Now I will say “no tears” almost never happens so don’t be alarmed if your baby cries even if the program says they will not. Babies cry, that’s how they communicate with you.
Cons: Results may take longer to manifest.
Requires consistent and patient implementation.
4. Extinction Method (Full Cry It Out)
Pros: Can lead to rapid sleep improvements.
Involves extended periods of crying.
May be emotionally challenging for parents.
I never recommend leaving a baby unattended for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
Making Informed Decisions About Sleep
Factors to Consider
- Temperament of the Baby: Each baby is unique, and their temperament plays a significant role in the effectiveness of sleep training methods.Some babies may be more spirited and protest change longer. Others may be happy and easy going and a method with more crying may be harder on everyone.
- Parental Comfort Level: Consider your own comfort level with the level of crying and intervention involved in each method. Be honest with yourself and your partner. One of the biggest reasons families come to me is to help them through the anxiety that comes with knowing your baby may cry intensely. Feeling prepared and having a plan with someone to check in with GREATLY reduces that anxiety.
- Consistency and Patience: The success of any sleep training method hinges on consistency and patience. I tell parents that they will hear me say BE CONSISTENT 150 times. Consistency is the key ingredient to success.
Understanding the various sleep training methods and their pros and cons empowers parents to make decisions that align with their parenting style and the needs of their baby. It’s crucial to approach sleep training with patience, empathy, and a willingness to adapt the chosen method based on your baby’s responses.
Remember, every baby is different, and finding the right approach may involve some trial and error. The goal is to create a sleep routine that fosters healthy sleep habits and a positive bedtime experience for both parent and baby.