If you are reading this, chances are you are somewhat interested in learning about sleep training and the methods behind it. Before we get started let’s take a minute to discuss how the methods are broke down; gradual, intermediate, and extinction.
Before you start sleep training, it is important to understand the process and adjust your expectations. If you are after a “no tears” method, chances are sleep training isn’t for you. Yes, some of these methods are considered “gentle” but that doesn’t guarantee that your baby is not going to cry out of frustration due to the chances you are implementing.
When I am choosing a method for a family, I choose this method based on a series of questions asked within my sleep assessment. A huge part of choosing the method is the parent’s comfort with hearing crying, and the levels of exhaustion that parents may be at. Many families think that the gradual methods of sleep training sound nice, but without realizing that the gradual methods can take 2 weeks to yield progress, requires patience and consistency, so if a mother is on edge from complete exhaustion, a gradual method likely isn’t a great fit.
Many choose gradual methods in hopes that there will be less tears shed, the problem I personally find with this is, due to the length of time the gradual or “gentle” methods take to yield results, when you add up those tears over say, 2 weeks, compared to 1-5 days that the intermediate methods take, you sometimes end up with MORE tears while using gradual methods.
To be honest; I rarely recommend gradual methods. When I do recommend them, it is with parents who feels confident that they can remain calm,
relaxed and consistent for 2 straight weeks. These parents need to follow instructions 100% which can be hard when you are within the room with your child, and sometimes parents fall back on old habits since they are within reach of their upset child. As scary as intermediate methods sound to some families, they are a majority of the time, the best choice for everyone.
Shush/Pat: Generally used for babies 4 months and younger. This is a great method to introduce when trying to get baby to sleep in a bassinet/crib independently. Unfortunately, using this method beyond 3 months can sometimes be too overstimulating for baby, while others are ok until approximately 4-5 months.
How to: Put baby in bed awake and comfort using a shush/pat at crib side, stepping away as baby calms. Repeated until baby is asleep.
Pick Up/Put Down (PUPD): This method is typically used in combination with shush/pat and follows the same guidelines in terms of age. I have personally had a few families successful with PUPD as late as 6 months, but beyond that seems to be overstimulating.
How to: Put baby in bed awake, leaving the room after. Returning to the room and comforting using shush/pat crib side when needed. Picking up as a last resort. Once baby is calm in your arms you start the process over again. This is repeated until baby is asleep in their crib independently.
Sleep Lady Shuffle/Chair Method: This is my favourite gradual method and is great after 14 months. This method has a high success rate for children struggling with separation anxiety.
How to: A chair is placed beside your child’s bed and moved every 2-3 days until outside of the room.
Quick Checks: My personal favourite in terms of methods. I have had success within 1 night of using this method. Recommended after the age of 16 weeks.
How to: Baby is put to bed awake and parent leaves the room. Parents choose a period of time to wait between checking on baby. Once time is up, you perform a “check” where you reassure your baby you are there, but it is sleep time. Repeated until baby is asleep.
CIO: The method that gives sleep training a bad name and receive the largest amount of negative feedback. Even though this method receives many negative thoughts from parents, it is sometimes the only method left for defeated parents, or for children who have severe sleep troubles. This should not be used until at least 16 weeks of age.
How to: Put baby to bed awake and leave room.
I personally do not teach clients the Extinction/CIO methods in an effort to separate my business from the negative feedback that is gets. There is absolutely no judgement from myself in terms of people who choose to use this method, as it has been proven to not cause your baby any harm.
Whichever method you choose to use for sleep training, it is important to be committed and consistent with your method. Sticking with one method for at least 3-4 days before deciding it isn’t working.
All sleep training methods should always be approved by your child’s doctor or healthcare professional.
If you are currently attempting to sleep train and need assistance, I would love to chat!