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Marietta M. Paxson M.S., AMFT

marietta@littledreamers.us

(435) 770-8312

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Sleep Training Methods and How to Choose the Right One for You

February 21, 2018

Sleep training doesn’t always mean you are “Crying It Out.” There are multiple sleep training methods and multiple variations within each method. The key is to find the right sleep training method for you and your baby. Below I will identify the most common methods for sleep training, when I like to use them, how long it takes to see results with each method, and the pros and cons of each method. But make sure you read to the end of the article, because I am also sharing my secret tools that I use with all my sleep clients to pair them up with the perfect sleep training method in order for them to be successful at sleep training!

 

The Chair Method (Or No-Cry Sleep Solution)

 

How does it work?

 

In the chair method the parent is essentially camping out in a chair in the bedroom with their child until the child falls asleep independently. The level of involvement from the parent varies, but generally, the less involvement from the parent the quicker the child will understand that it is time to sleep. Parents could possible soothe the child by talking, patting, or even picking the child up. As the child adjust to the new routine, parents will gradually decrease their response or interaction with the child. Then, about every 3 days, the parent will gradually move “the chair” closer and closer to the door, and eventually out of the room.

 

Who is this best for?

 

While many sleep consultants advertise a No-Cry Sleep Solution they are actually implementing this method. There is often lots of crying using this method (especially from younger babies), but because it is hands on and the parent is with the child every step of the way, many parents choose this method to help ease their own anxiety about leaving their baby to fall asleep independently.

I find the success of this method varies greatly from child to child. Many babies struggle to understand why the parent is there but unwilling to give them what they want and end up crying more from this approach than others. However, for a toddler, who has been co-sleeping or falling asleep with sleep aides, I find this method is often a perfect fit. Toddlers are old enough to understand limits and expectations, and while they may not like the new plan, this slow approach gives them the support they need to adjust every step of the way.

 

How long does it take?

 

The more gentle the method the longer it can take. This method is very slow. Parents are only making one small change every 3-ish days. Because of this, 100% completion can take weeks or possibly months depending on how co-dependent the child was before and how quickly the child adjusts to each change. Nighttime sleep always improves first, and then naps will improve gradually over time.

 

 

Pick Up/Put Down Method

 

How does it work?

 

After your bedtime routine, you will put your baby in the crib wide awake and leave the room. Once you leave the room and while you wait for your baby to fall asleep you can conduct checks. These checks can happen at certain timed intervals or when the crying and resistance reaches a certain intensity. A check will consist of 1-2 minutes of consoling and then laying the child back down wide awake and leaving again.

 

Who is this best for?

 

This method is much more direct than the chair method and yet offers many opportunities for parent involvement. This may be a good fit if you suffer from high anxiety when your baby cries. This method works best with babies younger than 6 months. Older babies and especially toddlers often receive too much stimulation from this approach and will get more wound up after a check which can cause delayed sleep extending the process out even further. 

 

How long does it take?

 

This method can take 1-2 weeks to see nighttime sleep improve depending on the age of the baby and the frequency of checks by the parent. The farther the checks are spaced out the sooner you will see results. I have seen some families take longer than a month to see results because the frequency of checks does not allow enough time for the child to learn to self-soothe. Naps will take longer to iron out.

Check and Console

 

How does it work?

 

Much like the previous method, you will lay your baby down awake after your bedtime routine and leave the room. Once out of the room you will conduct checks based on a specified length of time. Checks consist of verbally reassuring your baby and possible patting him but not picking him up. Checks gradually lengthen in time throughout the night and each day. It is best to use a timer and restart your timer anytime your baby shows signs of self-soothing (or de-escalating the intensity of cries).

 

Who is this best for?

 

This would work well on a baby who needs a more direct approach or where exhaustion has reached an all-time high and results need to happen faster than the previous two approaches, but the parents still want to feel involved and soothe their anxiety by checking on their baby. Checks still have the potential to rile a baby or toddler up as opposed to calm and soothe. For this reason, some families choose to only conduct a certain number of checks (1-3) and then eliminate any further checks.

 

How long does it take?

 

The farther apart you space your checks the quicker your child will fall asleep. Depending on the circumstances, you should begin to see nighttime results in 5-7 days. However, if checks are conducted too frequently it can takes weeks to see nighttime sleep improve. Again, nap times will take longer to iron out.

 

 

No Check Method

 

How does it work?

 

While many use the term “Cry It Out” (CIO) to mean any type of sleep training that involves crying (spoiler alert: all of them), the true meaning of “Cry It Out” is when you lay your baby down awake after your bedtime routine and leave the room. The parent would not return until a scheduled feed or in the morning. I prefer to call this method the No Check Method. In truth many parents implement this method with minimal crying! How much crying your baby experiences will depend more on overtiredness and current sleep triggers and associations.

 

Who is this best for?

 

This method works best for parents who are exhausted and need rest quickly in order to continue functioning. Babies should be at least 16 weeks from the due date. Many families who have tried more gentle methods without success turn to this method. This method is the hardest method for parents with high anxiety to use. However, this method actually involves the least amount of overall crying and is the easiest for a baby to understand. If you are concerned about this method being too direct and any possible harm, I encourage you to read this article. I only implement safe sleep training methods.

 

How long does it take?

 

This method is the most direct method. The straightforward approach makes it the easiest method for babies or toddlers to understand. I typically see nighttime sleep improve in 1-3 days and naps following shortly thereafter.

 

 

The Secret Tool to Finding Your Perfect Match

 

When I am working with a family, I help them find the perfect sleep training method for their situation and family. Parents will often tell me, “I really don’t like to hear my baby crying.” I joke with them that no parent likes to hear their baby cry and if we used that as the determining factor to sleep train or not and which training method to use then no one would ever sleep train. Unfortunately, every method does include some tears, even those advertising a no-cry solution. Please don’t choose your sleep training method on whether or not you enjoy hearing your baby cry. Your child is learning a new skill and is bound to struggle as progression takes place. Tears are bound to happen. I use the following questions to help my clients find the perfect sleep training method for them. These questions are the secret to finding your perfect match!

 

What is your child capable of understanding at this age?

 

How consistent and patient can you be when you are completely sleep deprived in the middle of the night?

 

How much support do you have to sleep train?

 

Are you experiencing anxiety or depression?

 

Do you trust and have confidence in your child that he has the ability to fall asleep on his own?

 

Will it be confusing to your child to have you present, or enter the room, and not give him the sleep aide he wants? Will he be more upset with you there not interacting or coming and going without giving him what he wants?

 

Can your child do hard things?

 

Do you believe your child can do hard things?

 

Does your child work better independently or with help?

 

What is the temperament of your child?

 

Does checking on your child help to calm your own anxiety?

 

Is it more important for you to calm your worries and anxieties by checking on your child, even if it delays progress for your child?

 

Will checks help your child calm down or aggravate your child more when he sees you leave again?

 

 

The reason the No Checks Method gets results the fastest is because it is the easiest for the child to understand, and the easiest for the parent to consistently implement. It is important to take into account how sleep deprived you are as a parent and what support you will have while sleep training, as it is likely you will be getting even less sleep while sleep training. If you are worried about the emotional effects of a No Check Method, you can read my motherhood journey thinking No Checks wouldn’t be for me by clicking here. We all learn a lot about ourselves and many of our pre-parent expectations have to change, and that was one of them for me.

 

Many parents that I work with initially want to choose the best sleep training method for the parent. Meaning they are looking for the method that will ultimately cause them the least pain, the least worry, the least anxiety. Often, the best method for the parent is not the best method for the child. For example, many older babies and toddlers get riled up when the parent performs checks. The checks actually keep the child awake and alert and sleep at bay. The child is staying awake to see Mom or Dad come back in, and they always come back, so there is always a reason to put sleep off. Many parents choose a method with checks, not because it will actually help the child sleep, but because the parents use those checks to manage their own anxiety. I challenge you to choose the best method for your child and not for yourself.

 

 

 

The most important piece of choosing a sleep training method is being consistent. Some of the most difficult cases I see are when a child has been through every possible sleep training method, along with every possible “quick fix” to help their baby sleep better. Unfortunately, all the changes just end up confusing the baby. Once the parents come to me for help and are consistent, the baby often resists for an exceptionally long time because the child is expecting the changes to cease and things to go back to “normal” once enough time and protesting has passed.

 

Parenting experts are constantly telling us to be clear, consistent, and confident in the limits we send to our babies and toddlers. And yet for a baby who has been nursed to sleep every day of his life, do you think he understands why his mother is coming into his room and then leaving without feeding him, even when she tries to soothe him? Absolutely not! All he knows is that she is coming in and not giving him what he thought he would get, almost teasing him. Let’s put our own anxieties aside, we have the skills, tools, and support to work through them. And then let’s give our babies and toddlers the most clear, consistent, and easy sleep training method for them to understand and adjust to.

 

Do you need help choosing the right sleep training method for your family? Or perhaps you want to be able to talk out your concerns? Contact me today to schedule a consultation. Your peace of mind is worth every penny.

 

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