The idea usually hits you during the hundredth night waking when your sleep deprived brain manages miraculously to have a coherent thought – what if I just read a book or two and get this kid on the sleep train?
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. If you do read one or two of the hundreds of sleep books and blogs out there, you’ll quickly realize the advice is conflicting, confusing, and profuse. If it really were that simple, I’d be out of a job!
The good news is there are a variety of effective methods to choose from. The answer to what will work best depends on a variety of factors including your child’s temperament, your goals, your tolerance levels, and the amount of involvement you would like to have in the process.
Here are your options:
Cry it Out (CIO) aka Extinction
Advocated by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, Extinction, more popularly known as “cry it out”, is the method where you put your baby safely to sleep, close the door and let them cry until they fall asleep. Although it takes the least parental involvement, it’s not for the faint of heart, as the prolonged crying is hard for many new moms. The benefit is results happen fast, usually within days. For many moms, the benefits of having a well rested baby and family outweigh the challenge of the tough love technique.
Check and Console aka “Ferberizing”
A slightly more gradual approach with more parental involvement was popularized by Dr. Richard Ferber,in his book “Solve your Baby’s Sleep Problems”. Also called “controlled crying”, the method gradually increases the amount of time you check on your baby (5 min, 10 min, 15 min…etc) until they fall asleep. Over the course of several days your child’s crying will gradually diminish and they will learn to fall asleep on their own. This method works for parents who can tolerate some crying, but prefer to console their child during the process.
Fading aka “The Chair method”
The “Chair” method is even more gradual; it works especially well for parents who prefer not to let their baby cry all alone. Instead, you sit on a chair progressively farther and farther away from the crib over the course of days until finally the chair is out of the room and then out of your baby’s sight. Although you do not pick up your child in this method, at least you are in the same room room to console them and and sooth them to sleep.
Pick up/Put Down
This method, described by Tracy Hogg, sometimes called the Sleep Whisperer, requires intense parental participation. You pick up your baby every time she cries and then put her down as soon as she calms down.. This is repeated over and over until she falls asleep. You usually have to repeat this method for several days and nights to succeed. But the method does work well for parents who feel it is the most “gentle” way to teach their babies to sleep.
So what will you choose?
In my experience, there is no one size fits all because every child has a different temperament. Furthermore, every family has different routines and goals so what works best for one family does not work for another. What all of these methods share, however, is that they all work–if you follow their techniques consistently. If so, they all guarantee a well rested, baby and family!
Dr. Rebecca Kempton, M.D. is a certified infant and toddler sleep consultant, physician, and mother of 3 under the age of 8, based in Chicago. Using a variety of behavioral techniques, she customizes sleep solutions based on individual family goals and children’s temperaments and coaches families all over the world to a better night’s sleep. She is a staff blogger for the Huffington post on topics related to infant and toddler sleep. Dr. Kempton works with clients both nationally and globally by phone, Skype, and email and with home visits. Follow me on facebook and twitter for free sleep tips and please contact me for a free initial consult.
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