The 6 Most Common Sleep Training Methods, Demystified
Pick your path to snoozetown
There comes a time in every new(ish) parent’s life when the need to get some shut-eye trumps all else. That’s when you know you’re ready to sleep train. And whether you’re considering crying-it-out or a Japanese-inspired co-sleeping situation, there is an effective way to help you and your baby get your z's. You simply need to pick a plan and stick to it. Here, the six most effective methods, boiled down to their essentials.
Cry It Out: Drs. Weissbluth and Ferber wrote the book(s) on this method. While potentially painful for parents, plenty of pediatricians support it—once the baby is old enough. First, implement a loving, soothing, consistent bedtime routine, then put the baby down drowsy but awake. Next (and here’s the part that’s not for everyone), leave him alone to cry for gradually increasing periods of time—but certainly not hysterically or indefinitely. The effect: He learns to self-soothe, stat.
Fading Out: This one—aka “gradual extinction”—means you soothe (i.e., pat and shush) the baby to sleep in her crib for, say, three nights without picking her up. (Stay strong: It can take up to 90 minutes for a baby to fall asleep this way, experts say.) Then, for the next three nights, shush from a chair next to her crib. The next three nights? Shush from her doorway until she’s asleep. Then shush from behind the closed door, and repeat as necessary for the (hopefully by now infrequent) night wakings.
Checking In: As always, keep the baby’s bedtime Groundhog Day consistent (deviation is the devil). When she wakes, wait five minutes. If she’s still crying, go to her, comfort her in her crib (no eye contact, no talking—a simple pat and “shhhh” will do) for a moment or two, then quietly walk out. Wait ten minutes, then repeat the check-in (again, just for a minute or two). Still crying? Wait 15 minutes, then repeat the check-in. If she continues to cry, check in every 15 minutes until she is back to sleep.
The No Tears Method: Once again, a loving, consistent, early bedtime is key, but this method works under the assumption that you go and soothe every time she wakes. In other words, each time she cries, walk in, repeat the exact same go-to-sleep mantra (try “shhhhh” or “it’s sleepy time”) and wait with her until she calms down. One caveat: Use this approach only for true awakenings (bursting in for every minor whimper could disrupt her self-soothing process).
The 5 S Method: Developed for newborns by pediatrician Harvey Karp (author of The Happiest Baby on the Block), the idea here is to provide all of the comforts of the womb: Sucking, Swaddling, Swinging, Shushing and comforting on the Side/Stomach. Then, once your babe falls asleep in your arms, gently wake him before putting him down in his crib so he understands the sensation of putting himself to sleep.
The Whatever-It-Takes Method: Some parents find crying it out leads to nuclear tantrums, or, worse, the dreaded throwing up in the crib. For some families, any kind of sleep training is a nonstarter as it wakes siblings. Some employ a patchwork of methods or simply don’t mind getting up a few times a night to feed and comfort. Others fall asleep solo and then happily co-sleep from 3 to 6 a.m. As long as it works for your family, that’s about as perfect as parenting gets.