Considering sleep training? Here are some options

Quick notes:

  • Sleep training is a process which helps babies to learn to sleep through the night

  • Often, doctors suggest sleep training can start when babies are between 4 and 6 months old

  • Most sleep training methods fall into three categories

It may seem hard to believe, but your baby won’t always experience frequent night wakings. At some point, your little one really will sleep through the night, but getting them there may take a little bit of extra help.

Commonly known as sleep training, there are multiple methods for encouraging babies to transition into mostly nighttime slumber. Some of them have been used for longer than others and seem to have better results for most parents. We’ve got the details about three approaches, when to start sleep training, and what you might expect during the process.

When to start sleep training

Parents, with the advice of their doctors, are often in the best position to know what’s best for their babies when it comes to sleep training. While generally, doctors agree that a sleep training program can begin for babies who are between 4 and 6 months old, each baby and each family is different.

It can be hard to know if or when to start a sleep training program. Your doctor can help you decide what to do.

Parents may want to begin sooner, or they may want to give their little one more time to learn to sleep through the night before they begin an organized program to help that happen.

Method one: Cry it out

One of the most well known, and sometimes controversial, methods of sleep training is to allow your baby to cry for as long as it takes until they learn to soothe themselves. First popularized by Dr. Richard Ferber in 1985, this approach isn’t actually as simple as it sounds. It looks at falling asleep as a skill that a baby needs to master and when it is new to the baby, there will be some crying involved. According to Ferber and other proponents, crying is an unavoidable part of babyhood and isn’t always a bad thing. The long-term advantages of the method are a baby who has the skill to sleep through the night happily.

Method two: No tears

Families who aren’t comfortable with allowing their children to cry may want to try a very different approach, sometimes termed the “no tears” method. This approach involves developing an extremely predictable bedtime routine that includes settling in for sleep at the same time each night, as well as time for cuddling, reading, and song. Parents who use this method allow them to be drowsy before putting them down, and reassure them while they’re in their crib and are nodding off. Establishing a regular nap schedule and meal schedule will also ensure that your child settles into a routine during the day which supports their routine at night.

Unsplash

Method three: Fading

Sometimes nicknamed “camp it out” this strategy can be a good choice for parents who are looking for a middle ground between a routine-based and a self-soothing approach. This approach can work a couple of ways but both start with placing your baby in their crib while they’re still drowsy. In the first method, parents begin the night settled in a chair close to where their baby is and, over a series of nights, move the chair away. The second method involves re-entering the room in shorter, regular intervals to soothe the baby, gradually lengthening the amount of time between visits.

A deeper dive – More from the 101: