8 Sleep Training Methods for Parents to Consider to Help Their Children Sleep Better
One of the ways many families choose to help their child become a better sleeper is by deciding to sleep train.
There’s also an idea out there in the parenting world that sleep training is simply leaving your baby to infamously “cry it out” and that is something most parents just don’t feel good about.
But there’s more than one way to teach your baby to sleep.
At The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness, we teach our consultants to use a holistic approach to help families with their sleep issues. We look at many different facets of the baby’s life: their age, development, family scheduling, cultural differences, sleep environment, temperament and personality, routines, and developmentally appropriate strategies that can be used for sleep - both behavioral and not.
Today we’re going to go through ALL the different types of sleep training methods that are out there, and some that your consultant may recommend for your baby if you choose this route.
No-cry or, more appropriately, low-cry methods, are just that - methods that attempt to curb the amount of crying there is involved with the process.
These methods are extremely hands-on and are appropriate for younger babies.
The idea is to minimize the amount of crying at one time.
This method is to be used after the bedtime or nap time routine is complete. The parent lays the baby down in their bassinet or crib awake (depending on the age, drowsy is okay too…this is something you may experiment with). If or when the baby fusses or begins to cry, the parent picks up the baby to soothe them, and then lays them down, awake, again in the crib or bassinet.
The parent repeats picking up the baby and putting them back down until they fall asleep in the crib or bassinet.
Sleep Prop Fading/Replacement Methods
To use this method, you must first identify what your baby’s most prominent sleep prop is - maybe you rock them to sleep every night and for every nap.
To use this method, you first must decide if you’re going to fade out the rocking or replace it with something else.
If you’re going to fade it out, you do just that - over time do less and less rocking. In this case, it makes sense to replace rocking with just holding. The holding, without the rocking movement, replaces the rocking to sleep. Now your baby is being held to sleep.
Using this method provides an alternative way for your baby to fall asleep, however, they are still dependent on you for this method. Many parents who transition from bed-sharing utilize this method because it can be a layering technique used in both the bed and the crib, giving the baby some familiarity with falling asleep in both places.
While the baby is calm, awake, and laying on their side, the parent shushes loudly and simultaneously pats the baby’s bottom or lower back. The shushing and patting are supposed to mimic the whooshing of the blood flowing in the womb and the mother’s heart beating. Doing these two actions simultaneously distracts the baby from crying. When the baby is asleep, make sure you roll them back on their back.
Shush-pat can also be used while the parent is standing and holding the baby, and then the baby can be transitioned to their mattress in time.
In-the-room interventions allow for the parent to be fully present at the beginning of the sleep training process. Over time, the parent is gradually removed from the room. Parents can go as fast or as slow with these processes as they wish.
Camping Out/Chair Method
This method can be used with a child in a crib or in a bed. After the parent says goodnight to the child, they sit in a chair or “camp out” on the floor next to the bed until the child falls asleep. Every few nights the parent moves further and further away from the child and towards the door. Eventually, they are in the doorway and out of the room.
In-Room Intervals Method
After you say goodnight to your child, you go sit somewhere in the room. Then, if needed, at a predetermined interval of time, you tend to them, offering comfort and support for a minute or two. Then you go back to your chair. This time, you increase the interval by one minute. Then you offer another check with comfort and support. Repeat until the child is asleep.
Check and Console Interventions
Check and console methods are directed by time - time when the parent is out of the room and goes back in to “check” on the child. These types of methods are best for children who may just need a little more personal space to fall asleep, have some independence with sleep already, for older kids, or for parents who want a quicker method.
Ferber/Quick Checks/Check & Console Methods
For the Ferber Method, you’ll start with, say, five minutes. After laying your baby down and saying a key phrase, you leave the room for five minutes. In five minutes, if the baby isn’t yet asleep, you’ll go in and offer a check. You’ll repeat your key phrase and leave the room. Then, you’ll wait 6 minutes before you offer another check. Each time you need, you’ll increase your wait time by a minute before doing another check. Continue increasing intervals by a minute and doing checks until the baby falls asleep.
With other check and console methods, you might just pick a standard amount of time you and your partner are comfortable with, say 12 minutes, and do checks every 12 minutes. You can keep the 12-minute interval, or you can increase the time between checks, but never decrease them.
Sleep Wave Method
This method is a shorter interval - every 5 minutes - where the parent will go in and repeat a script to the child until the crying and fussing stop. Scripts can be something like, “Goodnight, it’s time for sleep. I love you! I’ll see you when you wake up!” You must be happy, positive, and upbeat as you’re saying it. And you just repeat it over and over until the child is calm. Then you leave and wait five more minutes. If you have to go in again, you repeat the same script until the child is quiet and calm again. Then you leave for another five minutes. Continue this until the baby falls asleep.
The child learns to fall asleep with nothing but their own tools.
Phew! That was a lot!
So, as you can see, there are a TON of options for parents out there to help their children learn to sleep in a much more independent way that isn’t “cry-it-out”.
But what about “cry-it-out?” or the Extinction Method?
This, essentially, is where the adult completes the bedtime routine, lays the child down, says goodnight, and leaves the room. The child is left on their own until they fall asleep. The parent does not return for any checks.
It is a valid choice for sleep training and it does work. But for so many parents it feels extreme. Parents don’t like to hear their child cry, and often “give in” (for lack of a better word!), which from a behavioral perspective has just reinforced all the crying that occurred, making it more difficult to move forward with any type of sleep training in the future.
We train our consultants to use this method sparingly and only if it’s a parent-led decision for these, and a few other reasons.
Now that you know everything you need to know about all the types of sleep training methods out there, what do you think?? You can see why sleep consultants are so needed!
As a parent, you may be thinking,
How do I know which method is right for my child?
What if one doesn’t work…can I switch?
How do you layer these methods together?
That’s exactly what we train our sleep consultants to do when working with families! Check out our graduate directory here if you’re interested in working with any of them and have the experience of working with a professional trained to support you in a holistic and supportive manner when it comes to your child’s sleep!
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