Sleep Schedules and Training
Sleep Training Methods
Cry It Out
The phrase actually sounds a lot more neglectful than it actually is, and it tends to be largely misunderstood. Many parents who hear about this method (also known as “Ferberizing,” after Dr. Richard Ferber, author of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems) think of a baby crying in the dark until he or she vomits. However, this method encourages babies to cry for short, specific intervals of time, with regular check-ins from mommy or daddy to reassure them.
The basic principles:
- Put your baby in the crib while he or she is drowsy but not fully asleep.
- Check back in at calculated intervals with progressively longer stretches of time between each one. (For instance, check on your baby after 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, etc.)
- Be consistent. Picking up your baby sometimes and not others will only confuse him or her, extending the sleep training process.
- Most parents and experts claim that this method has babies falling asleep without so much as a whimper in three or four nights. However, the first night or two can consist of an hour of relentless crying – which we swear is more torturous for the parents than the baby.
While this method of sleep training always involves a certain amount of crying, various books take slightly more gentle approaches. Among the most popular (other than Ferber) include: Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivak’s The Sleepeasy Solution; Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Health Child; and Jodi Mindell’s Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
The No Tears sleep-training approach is most notably supported by baby-led-loving Dr. Sears, who claims that the Cry It Out methods can cause trust issues and negative associations with sleep. On the other side of the fence, Cry-It-Out experts believe that a No Tears approach is drawing out the process, while further instilling dependency on sleep aids. Again, both methods will work as long as both parents and/or caregivers are fully on board and remain consistent.
The basic principles:
- Patience, attentiveness and comfort.
- The goal is to create a positive association with bedtime, which will lead to a healthier sleeper in the long run. This means you should nurse and/or rock your baby to sleep, even while using sleep aids like music.
- Besides Dr. Sears, another famous No Tears approach (which provides a bit more structure than Sears) is Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution, which includes a step-by-step guide for parents. She sides with Dr. Ferber on putting babies down drowsy but still awake, yet agrees with Dr. Sears on immediately attending to your baby’s cries.
- This method will definitely take longer than a Cry It Out approach, but many parents feel more comfortable with the process.
Naps tend to be harder to train than bedtime, so here are some basic tips:
- It’s a good idea to start sleep training when you have a full week to be at home. If you have to work, hopefully you can find a caregiver who can come to your house and continue with your sleep-training methods during the day.
- If working, start the nighttime sleep training on the weekend, when you can afford a few nights of choppy sleep, and then start the naptime training immediately after.
- Put up room-darkening shades or blankets over the windows to make your baby’s room as dark as possible.
- Make sure that your baby has somewhat consistent nap times before you start training, because you’ll want him or her to be drowsy enough to fall asleep. Picking a random time when your baby might be wide awake is counterproductive.
- Follow whichever of the above sleep-training techniques you choose.
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