4 months old
Sleep Training Techniques
There is probably an entire section in your bookstore dedicated to sleep-training techniques, but there are two main approaches: “cry it out” and “no tears.” One is proven to be quicker, yet more emotionally trying for parents; the other is a more gentle approach but can take a lot longer.
Cry It Out
The phrase “cry it out” is the most well known sleep-training tactic but is often grossly misunderstood. Those that follow this method aren’t leaving their babies to cry alone in a dark room until he or she passes out in a pool of vomit. Instead, the idea is that babies can cry for short, calculated intervals before mommy or daddy checks in to reassure them that everything is okay.
- The most famous “cry it out” approach (although he would never use that phrase) is from Pediatrician Richard Ferber, author of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems – so much so that “crying it out,” in general, is known as “Ferberizing” your baby.
- The method involves putting your baby in bed when he or she is drowsy yet not fully asleep, and then checking back in at scheduled intervals with progressively longer stretches of time in between each check-in.
- It’s not uncommon for the first night or two to take up to an hour, but most experts promise that the majority of babies fall asleep without a peep after three or four nights. For some it might take up to a week, but the process has an extremely high success rate.
- The most important part of this approach is to be consistent. Picking up and rocking your baby every now and then will only confuse him or her, which is completely counterproductive to your training.
- The way you respond should feel predictable and regular to your baby – you come in over and over at exact intervals to let her know you’re there, she’s not alone, but that you’re not going to pick her up. You can be calm and reassuring without lifting your baby up and rocking or feeding. You’re trying to instill confidence that you are with her, but that you believe she can do this part on her own.
- There’s no doubt that this method of sleep training is absolute torture for the parents helplessly listening to their little baby’s cries. It’s best to have a partner, friend or family member around for support and distraction.
- If you’re on the fence about abandoning your efforts, give it a solid two weeks before throwing in the towel, only because all of your efforts (and your baby’s tears) will have been a waste.
- While it might be excruciating to endure, the ultimate goal is more restful sleep for everyone involved – so keep that in mind.
- Also realize that there will ultimately be circumstances that set back your efforts, like teething, illness, traveling, moving and developmental milestones like rolling, sitting and crawling. You very well might have to start over one day.
- While all experts that fall under the “cry it out” umbrella allow a certain amount of crying, various books take slightly different, 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, Happy Child; and Jodi Mindell’s Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
- Skeptics accuse this method of being cruel, unnatural and betraying of your baby’s budding trust, but there isn’t a single expert that encourages long bouts of crying without any kind of parental comfort. In fact, if done consistently, this is one of the fastest-working approaches without any substantial evidence that it could be damaging.
- Not comfortable with this logic? Don’t ever do something that clashes with your parental instincts.
The other school of sleep-training thought is much more gradual and lengthy, allowing a more peaceful bedtime experience. Supporters of the “no tears” approach (most notably Dr. Sears, the attachment parenting guru) believe that allowing your baby to cry can be damaging to a developing sense of trust and cause a negative association to bedtime. Yet “cry it out” experts claim that coddling a baby in a “no tears” approach is further instilling dependency, hindering self-soothing sleep. Again, choose whichever method sounds the most logical – there most likely isn’t a right or wrong answer. Both techniques can be successful as long as the parent is fully on board and your baby responds well to that type of learning.
- The “no tears” philosophy generally centers on patience, comfort and attentiveness, although the specific approaches differ.
- One of the most famous supporters of the “no tears” approach, Dr. Sears, encourages parents to do anything that creates a positive association around sleep – even nursing and rocking. His theory is that a positive experience will lead to a healthy sleeper, although it will take much longer for a baby to learn to eventually go to sleep without those sleep aids.
- If you’re looking for a more structured yet gentle approach to sleep training, Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution has a step-by-step outline customizable to your baby. A middle ground between the two extremes in thought, she agrees with Ferber that babies should be put to sleep awake but drowsy (after feeding and/or rocking), but sides with Dr. Sears on immediately responding to a baby’s cries. Although it takes longer than Ferberizing, many parents feel more comfortable with the process.