Few phrases strike as much fear into the heart of a new parent as “sleep training.” And sure, you could listen to your cousin wax lyrical about her made-up 18-step method that totally works or scroll through various mommy forums at 2 a.m. But here’s a better idea: Check out our no-nonsense guide to the most common sleep training methods, including the chair method—more on that one below.
What is it? Also known as the Sleep Lady Shuffle, the chair method is a gradual sleep training approach (you’ll want to block out two weeks in your schedule to do it) that allows parents to stay in the room until their baby falls asleep. The only thing you’ll need? A chair (and a lot of patience).
How do I do it? Put your baby down while she’s still awake, but drowsy. Sit in a chair next to the crib until she’s asleep. Some proponents say that it’s OK to shush from the chair while others recommend doing nothing at all (not even making eye contact)—either way, you’ll want to minimize interaction. Every few days, slowly move the chair closer to the door until eventually, you’re completely out of the room.
But like, tell me exactly how to do it. Your two-week plan will look something like this: Days one to three, sit on the chair next to the crib. Days four to six, move the chair halfway to the door. Days seven to nine, sit just inside of the doorway. Days 10 to 12, move the chair outside of the room but still within view. Days 13 to 14, stay in the hallway or in another room and congratulate yourself on (hopefully) having a sleep-trained baby.
What if my baby wakes up? Sorry, like most other sleep training methods, there will likely be some crying involved. If your baby wakes up, sit back down on the chair and wait until she falls asleep. Repeat as necessary. (If your infant is in serious distress, then, of course, you can pick her up to make sure that there’s nothing wrong—but this means you’ll have to start from scratch the next night.)
How old does my baby need to be to try it? Most experts recommend waiting to start sleep training until your infant is at least four months old.
Does it work? So, here’s the thing. The chair method works best for babies who find the proximity of a parent soothing during sleep training or those who have co-slept previously. This little by little approach allows these babies to be calmed by a parental presence while learning how to fall asleep on their own. (It’s also great for parents who want a more hands-on sleep training method.) For other children, however, having mom or dad nearby but not really responding to them may actually be confusing or even stimulating—cue the waterworks.
Bottom line: The chair method is a gentle sleep training approach that may work well for some but might prove challenging for others. If you’re interested in trying it out, make sure you commit to the full two weeks (and that you invest in a comfortable chair). Sleep tight.