Sleep Training: What Method is Right for Your Family?
Sleep training is a way to change a child’s sleep behaviours and develop healthy sleep habits. It can involve changing a routine, or changing expectations around sleep. There are many ways to sleep train a child and not all of those methods require long periods of crying. Simple things like changing the sleep environment, the routine or the sleep schedule can help your child develop healthy sleep habits and learn how to fall asleep unassisted.
There are many ways to sleep train a child and not all of those methods require long periods of crying.
Just because you’ve decided to sleep train doesn’t mean you have to give up night feedings. I work with many families who still decide to do night feedings while teaching their child how to fall asleep unassisted.
Types of Sleep Training Methods
I use many different sleep training methods because there isn’t really a one-size-fits all and there are many factors to consider. You want to consider the age of the child, the temperament of the child, the urgency of the parents and their comfort level. The most important thing about sleep training is consistency, so parents need to be 100% committed to the method chosen. 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.
The most important thing about sleep training is consistency, so parents need to be 100% committed to the method chosen.
Here is the “how-to” for 5 different sleep training methods.
Extinction or Cry-It-Out
After your bedtime routine, you place your child down drowsy but awake, and confidently leave the room. You don’t go back into the room until its time for a feed, its morning time, or naptime is over. This method usually works in the shortest amount of time.
Graduated Extinction, or Timed Checks
After confidently leaving the room, if your child is crying you would wait a pre-determined amount of time before going back in the room. When you go back in the room, you can reassure them and soothe them from the side of the crib, but do not pick them up. Stay in the room for a maximum of 30 seconds, then confidently leave again. Increase the interval by a few minutes before re-entering the room.
Fading of Parental Presence
This method allows you to remain in the room while your child falls asleep. While sitting in a chair next to the crib, you are allowed to reassure your child with your words, but not pick them up. Every few nights move further from your child, eventually ending up outside the room. As you gradually move further from your child each night, they learn to fall asleep without you right next to them. This method can take a few weeks.
Pick Up/Put Down
If your child begins to cry after being placed down drowsy, you would 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, go back in and soothe them. After multiple, consistent attempts, your child will learn to fall asleep in their crib rather than in your arms. This method is gentle enough for infants.
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, the family isn’t getting the sleep they need and the quality of care is suffering, perhaps its time to make a change and use one of the methods described above.