What are the popular methods for sleep training?
There are many popular methods and strategies that have been demonstrated effective in helping babies learn to sleep uninterrupted or without signaling through the night including:
The Cry It Out Method: The Cry It Out sleep training method, also known as extinction, full extinction, or CIO, is the cold-turkey approach: parents take their baby through a bedtime routine, cuddle with them and give them a kiss goodnight, and then leave the room. If the baby cries, the parent does not respond. Eventually, the baby tires themselves out from crying and goes back to sleep.
This method is well-known, and in some cases, notorious. It feels stressful, and parents worry about causing trauma to their baby. There is no evidence of long-term trauma associated with this method, but it can be difficult for new parents to hear their baby cry and not help. However, proponents say that it works, and quickly. Many parents say their baby is sleep trained within a few days with the CIO method. It’s important to know that many parents have had to repeat this process after sickness, teething and sleep regressions.
The Ferber Method: The Ferber Method is a similar sleep training method to Cry It Out, but more gradual, hence its nicknames of “graduated extinction,” “progressive waiting”, and “the interval method”.
This is the process of creating longer and longer gaps between when a baby cries and when the parent responds to the cry. For example, a parent can wait for two minutes after the baby first cries before responding, then four, and then six minutes after the next cries. These waiting periods are gradually extended over time until the baby has learned to self-settle.
This sleep training method appeals to parents who are uncomfortable with the black-and-white nature of the CIO method, but some still feel it can be traumatizing for the baby. Ferber himself has stated that this method is not right for every baby or every sleep issue. As with CIO, studies of the Ferber sleep method have found no evidence of long-term negative effects on a child’s emotions, stress, behavior, or attachment to their parents.
The Check and Console Method: This is a variation of the Ferber method, in which parents check on their baby and console them before they even start to cry.
For example, on the first few nights, parents may leave the room and enter a minute or two later to tell them they love them or to give them a soft pat. Parents keep leaving the room and checking back in, gradually increasing the intervals to about 15 minutes, until the child falls asleep.
This sleep training method can take longer — up to a week — and requires more involvement from the parents. Be attentive to how your baby responds with the Check and Console method. Checking in may excite them and make them more upset when you leave, in which case another method may be a better option.
The Fading Method: The Fading method, also known as “camping out”, encourages parents to stay in their child’s room until they fall asleep. Parents can do this by standing, or by sitting in a chair in their child’s room, a variation known as the “Chair Method”.
Parents take their child through a bedtime routine and put them in bed while the baby is still drowsy. Then, the parents stay by their side until they fall asleep. Each night, the parent gradually moves further away from their child while still remaining in their sight. For example, they may start right next to their crib, then a few feet away, then by a dresser in the room, and then by the door.
A major tenet of the Fading or Chair method is providing minimal comfort to the child, verbal or physical. If the child starts to fuss or cry, parents should simply provide soft, reassuring sounds so the baby knows they are there, but maintain their physical distance. You might guess that fading typically takes longer than the CIO or Ferber methods — up to two weeks — and you’d be right. But it does give some parents more peace of mind since they don’t feel like they’re abandoning their child.
The “No Tears” Method: This method, also known as the Gentle Sleep Training method, focuses on helping your baby learn to sleep on their own without any crying. To accomplish this, the method leans heavily on a consistent bedtime routine followed by, in one instance, a variation of the Ferber method (leaving the room entirely, but reentering any time the baby cries).
Other parents use the Fading method as a basis, with a gradual increase of physical distance between themselves and their baby at night. But, when the baby cries, they reassure them by shushing and patting them — instead of simply using verbal cues as with the Fading method.No Sleep Training: It’s normal and natural for babies to wake every 2-3 hours throughout the night during their first year of life. There are a variety of factors that could lead to a child waking at night, such as (but not limited to) hunger, medical reasons (such as sleep apnea or reflux), and the environment. As parents, our instinct is to respond every time our child signals for us. If sleep training is not for you, there are many other ways to optimize sleep for you and your child:
- Work on creating routines that make sense for you and your family’s schedule. Make sure your child is getting enough exposure to light, noise, and activity during the day.
- Schedule in naptime to allow them to get enough sleep during the day and to prevent overtiredness at night.
- Follow their cues to learn how your child tells you they are tired, whether it’s droopy eyes, yawning, or irritability to get in tune with their circadian rhythm and sleep cues.
- Learning to differentiate between a cry for discomfort versus hunger will help you best react and meet your child’s needs.
- Choose a safe sleep setup (on their backs, firm mattress, no objects in the crib) that works best for your family, such as room sharing.
- Make sure their nutritional needs are being met during the day.
- If applicable and possible, enlist your partner to assist or take shifts with night feedings.
This article has been reviewed by our team of experts.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article does not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about any health or medical condition, diagnosis, or treatment you should consult with your pediatrician or a licensed healthcare provider.