Parents Swear by the Chair Method for Sleep Training—but Does It Work?

Patience and a comfy seat are key

chair method sleep training: baby sleeping on back in crib
jordi magrans/Getty Images

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 what if you can’t stomach letting your baby cry it out? You might be a candidate for the chair method, a sleep training approach that’s more gentle than others. Here’s everything you need to know, plus one new mom’s experience with her baby.

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What Is the Chair Method?

Also known as the Sleep Lady Shuffle, the chair method is a gradual sleep training approach (you’ll want to block out at least 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 You Sleep Train With the Chair Method?

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 or reassure 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.

A two-week plan might 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.

Who Should Try the Chair Method for Sleep Training?

The chair method works best for babies who find the proximity of a parent soothing during sleep training (or those who have room-shared 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 or can’t bear the thought of leaving their baby to cry.) 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.

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 the Chair Method?

Most experts recommend waiting to start any sleep training until your infant is at least four to six months old. But to set yourself up for success while you wait, pediatricians like Dr. Harvey Karp say that you can begin implementing a consistent bedtime routine around eight weeks.

So, Does the Chair Method Actually Work? A New Mom Puts It to the Test.

PureWow Senior Food Editor and new mom Katherine Gillen recently tried the chair method while sleep training her 5-month-old. Here’s how it went:

“My baby was a pretty good sleeper…that is, until the dreaded four month regression hit. We tried the Ferber method (a controlled cry-it-out approach) for a few nights, but I found it too hard to listen to her scream alone in the dark from another room. So at five months on the dot, I started using the chair method to sleep train her.

Every night at the same time, I would begin my daughter’s bedtime routine: boob, bath, book, bed. I’d place her in the crib awake with her pacifier, turn the white noise on and lights off, then plop my butt into a chair. I didn’t pick her up if she cried, but I would verbally reassure her (lots of “it’s OK” and “you’re safe”) if she was really distraught—which she was. Each night, I moved my chair a few inches away from the crib; I did this for three weeks.

Because I took meticulous notes on my phone, I can say with confidence that there were plenty of ups and downs. On night eight, there were zero wakes-ups! But on night 14, there were three (my notes indicate, “extremely bad. cried from 10:30 to 12:15”) and on the final night, there were five. After that, I stopped staying in the room—she seemed like she no longer wanted me there and actually cried less once I left.

In the end, yes, I do think the chair method works. At seven months, my baby can now fall asleep independently and stay asleep until the morning. Even so, it wasn’t a linear progression. For weeks, we dealt with middle-of-the-night wake-ups, and there was a point in the process where I truly believed she’d cry herself to sleep until adulthood. There are still nights when she cries or wakes up a few times. My key takeaway? Even with sleep training, truly perfect sleep doesn’t exist. Your baby will constantly go through changes that cause sleep disruption—you just have to ride the wave. But having a good foundation (for us, it was a consistent bedtime routine and the ability to fall asleep independently, which the chair method gave us) will set you up for better nights overall.”

The 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 to three weeks. Our advice? Pick a comfortable chair and bring your phone. Sleep tight.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...