Sleep Training 101: The “How-To” for Different Sleep Training Methods
Sleep training seems to have a negative connotation, but what we are actually doing is teaching our children how to fall asleep unassisted and maintain healthy sleep habits. Baby and toddler sleep training can involve changing a routine, or changing expectations around sleep. There are many ways to sleep train and not all of those methods require long periods of crying.
There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all to sleep training. I use many different sleep training methods because there are different factors to consider. The number one reason baby and toddler sleep training doesn’t go as planned is because the parents are not 100% consistent. Obviously if your child is sick, has a poopy diaper, or is in trouble, all bets are off and the child’s needs should be taken care of. Just because you’ve decided to sleep train doesn’t mean you have to give up night feedings either.
Here is the “how-to” for 5 different sleep training methods:
1. Extinction or Cry-It-Out
After your bedtime routine, you place your child down drowsy but awake, and leave the room. Don’t go back into the room until it’s time for a night feeding, its morning time, or naptime is over. This method usually works in the shortest amount of time.
2. Graduated Extinction, or Timed Checks
After your bedtime routine, place your child down drowsy but awake, and leave the room. If your child is crying, wait a pre-determined amount of time before going back in the room. When you go back in the room, reassure them and soothe them from the side of the crib, but do not pick them up. Stay in the room for about 10 seconds, then leave again. Increase the interval by a few minutes before re-entering the room.
3. Fading of Parental Presence
After your bedtime routine, you place your child down drowsy but awake, and leave the room. If your child is crying, go back in the room, sit in a chair next to the crib and remain sitting there until your child falls asleep. While sitting in a chair, you are allowed to reassure your child with your words, but not pick them up. Every few nights move the chair towards the door, eventually ending up outside the room. This method can take a few weeks.
4. Pick Up Put Down
After your bedtime routine, you place your child down drowsy but awake, and leave the room. If your child begins to cry after being placed down drowsy, go back into the room and try to calm them from crib side or pick them up and calm them. Once calm, place your child down again and leave the room. If your child begins to cry, repeat. After multiple, consistent attempts, your child will learn to fall asleep in their crib rather than in your arms.
5. Do Nothing
If whatever you are currently doing is working for your family and everyone is getting the sleep they need, there is no reason to change anything. If things aren’t working, and the quality of care is suffering, perhaps it’s time to make a change and use one of the methods described above.