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Baby sleep training methods

Don’t Want Your Baby to Cry It Out? There’s Another Way

By Kim West , LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady®
August 03, 2018
3 min read

When it comes to sleep training your baby, many parents get stuck between a rock and a hard place. If letting your baby cry it out doesn’t sit well, it doesn’t have to mean that you are left with toughing it out until hopefully the baby finally sleeps. The good news is, there are sleep training methods that will teach babies and young children to sleep on their own without leaving your baby to cry it out alone.

What's in this article:

What Is the Right Age for Sleep Training? How Do I Prepare Myself to Sleep Train my Baby? Pre-Flight Checklist How Do I Select a Sleep Training Method? Not Sure Which Method to Pick? Related Articles:

What Is the Right Age for Sleep Training?

Sleep training is usually recommended for babies six months and older. Before their half-year mark, most babies lack the neurological development to self-soothe, and their sleep is still fragmented. All babies are different, so get the green light from your pediatrician before embarking on sleep training.

How Do I Prepare Myself to Sleep Train my Baby?

Once the baby is ready, make sure you are. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. You’ll need to make sure you’re ready to make a plan and stick to it. You should see progress in a few days, but the entire process might take two to three weeks. Jump starting on a weekend or time off from work is a great way to make sure you’ll be able to follow through.

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Pre-Flight Checklist

  • Get the green light from your pediatrician. Rule out underlying conditions and get a night weaning plan approved if necessary.
  • Keep a log. Look for a pattern to your child’s sleep. This will help determine an appropriate bedtime, typical nap times and lengths.
  • Early bedtime. Bedtime is the easiest time to learn to put yourself to sleep. Finding your baby’s ideal bedtime where they are not overtired and wired or too drowsy will be essential for successful sleep training regardless of the method you choose. In fact, a bedtime of 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. is often ideal.
  • Calming bedtime routine. A bath, story, song, and a hug; is a typical bedtime routine. Consistent soothing routines help babies feel comfortable.
  • Sleep environment. Using room-darkening shades and white noise can help a baby’s internal clock understand that it’s time for sleep.
  • Start well-rested. Daytime naps are important. A tired, frustrated baby will have a harder time self-soothing.
  • Everyone on the same page. Make sure all your caregivers are ready too. Partners and babysitters will all need a quick debrief on the plan before you start.
  • Choose a good start date. Set aside about three weeks where there won’t be any disruptions like travel, guests, or holidays. Wait for illnesses or teething to subside before trying to modify their sleep routines.

How Do I Select a Sleep Training Method?

Consider your child’s temperament, your values, and your limits. How much crying can you handle? If the answer is, “not much," then some methods will not fit your family. You may already know about these:

  • Cry-it-out. In its literal form, this means closing the door for twelve hours, never to look back — also known as “extinction.” “Graduated extinction” involves timed checks, returning to the baby’s room in gradually longer intervals. These methods can work quickly for some families. While one baby may learn to sleep in three or four nights, others may continue to cry. If that’s the case, it becomes difficult for caregivers to stay consistent. As with any method, if you don’t see any improvement within 3-5 nights please stop and talk to your pediatrician.
  • Gentle Sleep Coaching. This method focuses on teaching your child to fall asleep with help from you. Beginning near the crib, you verbally and physically reassure your child while she learns to self-sooth. You’ll gradually move farther from the crib to the door and into the hall as the days progress. The result of a gentle method is that there is less crying, and you are staying with your child to offer reassurance that you slowly decrease over time. Many parents find this easier to stay consistent with.

The key to all of these approaches is putting the baby to bed calm, but awake, so they are aware of their surroundings and picking the method you can follow through with consistently.

Not Sure Which Method to Pick?

Give the gentle approach a try. You should see some change in about a week. If that doesn’t work, you can always try another method. If you are consistent and follow through, your family will eventually be sleeping soundly all night long.

By Kim West , LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady®
Kim West Kim West , LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady®

Kim West is a mother of two wonderful daughters and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for 25 years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past twenty years she has helped tens of thousands of tired parents all over the world get a good night’s sleep without letting their children cry it out alone.

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