Parents with a brand-new bundle of joy know that there's nothing as precious as a good night's sleep. As eight hours of uninterrupted snooze time is essentially unheard of during the first few months of your baby's life, sleep training offers a nugget of hope. Introducing babies as young as 4 months old to sleep training — aka teaching infants when and how to snooze — could be mutually beneficial for children and parents.
Lauren Wolf, a certified infant and child sleep consultant with Lolo Lullaby, advised that parents who are interested in getting their little ones on a solid sleep schedule should be sure to block out a few weeks. "I make sure that they block out two weeks of uninterrupted time to sleep train," she said. "So no travel, no dining out, no going to grandma and grandpa's. We have them be really strict for two weeks, so that we can give the child the best chance to fall into a solid schedule and start sleeping through the night."
While many parents think sleep training is limited to forms of the Cry It Out Method (CIO), there are other alternatives when it comes to sleep training. Ahead, find some of the most common methods families have used to get their babies into a solid routine.
1. The Chair Sleep Training Method
Fairly straightforward, the chair sleep training method requires parents to get their baby ready for bed and then sit in a chair next to the crib until the child falls asleep. Considered to be a gradual sleep training approach, parents are instructed to leave the room once the baby begins to snooze. When the child wakes up, a parent should return to the chair and sit with their little one — without giving them any direct attention — until the baby falls back asleep again. Every few days, the caregiver should move the chair a few inches away until they're completely out of the room. Although the chair method takes a lot of self-control on the parent's part, their infant should be sleep trained in two weeks.
2. The Wake-and-Sleep Sleep Training Method
Backed by renowned infant sleep expert Dr. Harvey Karp, the wake-and-sleep method is a gentle way to get your little one acclimated. According to Dr. Karp's website, after swaddling, burping, and feeding your child, turn on a white noise machine and let baby fall asleep in your arms. Gently put the infant in their crib and "rouse her until her eyes open" by touching their neck or tickling their toes. Make sure they open their eyes for a few moments before they drifts off to sleep again. "I know it sounds crazy, but those few seconds of drowsy waking are the first baby steps to helping your infant learn how to sleep through the night!," said Dr. Karp. And if your child fusses, it's OK to wake them up or feed them again, just be sure to keep it brief.
3. The Fading Sleep Training Method
Just like its name, the fading method has parents "fade out" practices like rocking or nursing by slowly decreasing the time you spend doing these things until your child no longer needs them to fall asleep. Considered to be one of the gentler approaches to sleep training, the fading method has been criticized for being hard to sustain. "There has to be an end in sight," Pamela Mitelman, a psychologist in Montreal who specializes in infant and child sleep, told Today's Parent. "For example, we'll meet this need for five to seven days and then we'll pull back a little bit. Whichever way the child can get to sleep independently is fine because that's the key ingredient to sleeping through the night."
4. The Ferber Sleep Training Method
The Ferber method was invented by Dr. Richard Ferber, and while it involves crying, it is often confused with the cry it out method that allows the child to cry indefinitely. Rather than allowing babies to cry until they fall asleep, the Ferber method encourages parents to let their child cry for periods of time before intervening, gradually increasing those time periods. Caregivers should start by putting their baby in their bed while drowsy, but not fully asleep, and leaving the room. If they begins to cry, Dr. Ferber suggested that parents wait three minutes to respond and gradually increase the time between checking if your baby is crying. Over the course of a week, parents should continue to gradually delay the time it takes for them to tend to the infant, going from three minutes, to five minutes, to 10 minutes, and so on.
5. The Weissbluth Sleep Training Method
The Weissbluth method is a cry it out method where parents let babies cry until they fall asleep. It amounts to parents putting baby in their crib and saying goodnight without going back into the room. Parents should consult their pediatrician before attempting the Weissbluth method, as infants should be at least 6 months old before attempting this form of the cry it out method. According to Dr. Marc Weissbluth, a major upside of his technique is that it works faster than the Ferber method because "your baby learns more quickly that you won't respond to her cries."
Understandably, this specific technique has drawn criticism over the years. "The Weissbluth method advocates that one leaves the child to cry indefinitely; imagine a slot machine that never lets you win...eventually you just cut your losses and give up," Dr. Edward Kulich, a pediatric sleep expert and author of The Best Baby Sleep Book told Education.com. "There is a well-known phenomenon called 'learned helplessness' which is common model for depression, in which individuals acquire a sense of lack of control due to repeated failures. Letting your child cry until they give up sounds a lot like this model to me."