Sleep Training Methods – The Pros & Cons Of Each Method
Before we dive into the different infant sleep training methods, let’s start off with explaining what sleep training is and how it will positively improve your baby’s sleep.
In a nutshell, it’s helping your baby learn to fall asleep independently without the support of any sleep associations, such as feeding or rocking for example. This involves your baby or toddler going into their cot or bed fully awake and falling asleep themselves.
The first night in sleep training is always the most difficult; hearing your baby cry because you’re changing how they sleep isn’t easy. But your baby’s sleep can and will get better if you continue with the good sleep habits.
If a child falls asleep independently of any sleep crutch, they are more likely to settle back to sleep from the numerous stirs/wakes they will have during the night (night wakings are normal as it happens after each sleep cycle, with baby sleep cycles lasting approximately 45 minutes for children; this is also the same for us adults, though adult sleep cycles are longer at around 90-120 minutes).
The end goal for all parents is for their infant to sleep through the night, and if a child can self-soothe, this is a more likely outcome. That is the intention of sleep training.
THE KEY WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR CHILD’S SLEEP
Being a parent is the most magical thing in the world – those cuddles, those moments of love and humour, the “firsts” of everything such as crawling, walking, when they say Mama or Dada. However, let’s also be honest, parenting can be the toughest thing at times too.
The constant worrying of our children – are they eating enough? Are they developing quickly enough? Are they sleeping enough? On the last point, throw in some family sleep deprivation if they aren’t sleeping well and the job of parenting becomes just that little bit tougher. So how do you get your baby or toddler sleeping better?
There are a number ways to improve baby sleep, and this is probably what makes it so difficult for parents to get it right – too much information, too many potential reasons and the challenge of which solution to take. However, let me list what we at The Daddy Sleep Consultant explore when we work with a family to improve their baby or toddler’s sleep:
Daytime Routine: are they sleeping enough in the day? Is the gap between naps too short or too long (aka “wake windows”)? Are they sleeping too close to bedtime? Click here to get access to our free sleep routines for the different age groups.
Bedtime Routine: is the bedtime routine right? Is it consistent enough? Is the baby feeding enough before bed? Is the toddler winding down sufficiently during the bedtime routine?
Sleep Environment: is the setup of the room optimal? Is the room blackout enough? Is there a need for white noise, or is this actually the barrier to sleep? An optimal sleep environment is absolutely critical to baby sleep.
Nutrition: whilst we are not nutrition experts, we do have an understanding of which foods may not be optimal ahead of bedtime, or if the baby is feeding sufficiently during the day to sustain them at night.
Sleep Associations: is the infant using something to support them to sleep and back to sleep each time, e.g. breastfeeding, a bottle, a dummy, being rocked or patted?
And if sleep associations are one of those areas impacting your child’s sleep, we will look at a gentle sleep training method to help them learn to self-soothe independently rather than be reliant on this association to sleep.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT SLEEP TRAINING METHODS?
Now that you know what baby sleep training is intended to do, how do you do actually implement sleep training for your child?
There are a number of infant sleep training methods; some are based on an extinction method (where there is no parental presence) and some are based on a graduated extinction method where parental presence exists. Below is a list of the most common sleep training techniques:
After completing the bedtime routine, parents leave their baby or toddler to settle themselves to sleep. The parents don’t respond to their child’s cries whenever they are awake – even in the middle of the night – leaving them to settle to sleep and back to sleep on their own, irrespective of how long it takes or how upset they are. This is an extinction sleep training method.
Like Cry It Out except that parents respond at set time intervals when their baby cries, which gradually increase after each interval until they fall asleep on their own. These time intervals also increase night on night with the goal for the baby to learn to self-soothe with less and less support over the course of around 5-7 nights. This is also extinction method and is often referred to as “controlled crying”.
This is an attempt at a ‘no-cry’ training method as the parent will pick up their baby from the crib as soon as the baby’s crying. Once the baby is settled, they will put them back into the crib. If they cry again, the baby should be picked up and soothed again. This is then repeated until the baby falls asleep on their own and is able to stay asleep.
The Fading Method
A gentle sleep training method, parents rely on soothing techniques to help their child fall asleep. These include cuddling, feeding, rocking, patting or singing with the aim that the child will start to reduce their need for the parent over time, becoming more independent around sleep and you can start ‘fading out’ those soothing techniques. This is one of the graduated extinction sleep training methods.
Sleep Training Chair Method
With this gentle method, the parent or caregiver will sit on a chair near the child’s cot or bed until they fall asleep. No comfort is provided other than the reassurance that their loved one is close to them. Each night, the parent or caregiver would move the chair further and further away until they eventually leave the room letting the child settle to sleep on their own. This is another of the graduated extinction sleep training methods.
PROS & CONS OF EACH SLEEP TRAINING METHOD
Each method definitely has its pros and cons, which will often determine which approach a family wishes to take. Here is a list of them:
CRY IT OUT METHOD
Can see significant improvements in your child’s settling and sleep in just a few days.
Can lead to independent sleep very quickly.
Most babies will cry for a very long time and hearing your baby cry from another room is upsetting.
It’s not gentle as you leave your baby upset to do all of the settling on their own.
The perception is that it’s harmful to your baby – albeit there isn’t enough evidence to verify this completely – so it can mean lots of emotions and guilt for parents.
It’s less successful for older babies and toddlers who are much more ‘wise’ to what is happening. They are also more prone to making themselves sick during the crying.
They may just get used to crying before every bedtime and nap time.
Can see significant improvements in your child’s settling and sleep in just a few days.
Some babies are less agitated by their parent hovering over their cot and respond better to them not being in the room.
Can teach independence for your baby from an early age.
Less extreme than the Crying It Out method
Most babies will cry for a very long time and hearing your baby cry from another room is upsetting.The intervals become much longer quite quickly.
It’s not very gentle as you are leaving your baby on their own for most of the time.
Very emotional for parents.
It’s less successful for older babies and toddlers who are much more wise to what is happening. They are also more prone to making themselves sick during the crying.
THE PICK-UP/PUT-DOWN METHOD
Very little crying involved as baby is picked up as soon as they cry.
More gentle approach.
The approach can be confusing for babies and for parents.
It can take a long time to implement and can be exhausting for both parent and child.
Babies learn that if they cry, they will be picked up so there’s less incentive for them to try and self-soothe.
Difficult to implement for toddlers who are bigger and heavier!
THE FADING METHOD
Very gentle approach where you are always soothing your child.
It’s usually less of a change from what a parent is already doing.
Less crying than other methods.
More flexible and adaptable.
This can take a very long time to implement and requires a lot of patience.
There is less structure and no set instructions on how to implement.
Often, a parent is just switching one sleep association to another, e.g. switching from the baby needing breastfed to get to sleep, to needing to be rocked to sleep.
The child may not become as independent over time as the approach is intended.
Can be difficult to implement if you have other children to tend to.
SLEEP TRAINING CHAIR METHOD
You never leave your child until they are ready for settling to sleep independently.
With the chair method you can step in much more easily if your baby cries and you are worried about them.
A more structured method with clear instructions.
Not as gentle as others as no comfort is provided to the child.
Can take longer than the Cry It Out or Ferber Method.
The child may become agitated that their parent is in the room but not helping them when they are frustrated or upset.
Can be difficult to implement if you have other children to tend to.
HOW DOES THE FERBER SLEEP TRAINING METHOD WORK?
The most commonly used baby sleep training technique for parents doing it DIY is the Ferber Method. Above we’ve listed the pros and cons of this sleep training technique, but below we will show you how it works on a day by day basis using the chart. The Ferber sleep method itself is fairly straightforward to follow but here’s how it works in a little more detail:
To start, you would do your baby’s normal bedtime routine, making it as soothing as possible. Once the routine is finished, you would place your baby in their cot and leave the room.
When your baby cries after you left, you remain out of the room for a timed interval before returning to them. When in the room, you would provide a brief level of comfort without picking up, before leaving again for a longer timed interval.
You would then repeat these timed intervals – which get progressively longer – out of the room until your baby eventually falls asleep on their own.
You would do this at bedtime, for all night wakings, for all naps and over the next number of nights until your baby begins to fall asleep independently without needing any return visits.
You can find here how this approach works in more detail.
WHAT IS GENTLE SLEEP TRAINING?
At The Daddy Sleep Consultant, we care about the baby and the parents and follow a gentle sleep coaching ethos. We would never do crying it out or the Ferber method, or any other sleep training methods with our own children, so would never do it with anyone else’s.
In addition, this approach may help a baby learn the art of falling asleep, but it doesn’t look at other reasons which might be causing sleep issues in the first place, often leading to new sleep problems further down the line.
That’s why we believe in taking a holistic view of a child’s sleep. This includes the sleep environment, the daytime routine, the night time routine and much more.
By working with us when you are ready to start sleep training, we can promise you that you would always be with your child until they are ready for independent sleep. This means that your baby is never being left to cry themselves to sleep, instead receiving lots of reassurance and physical comfort from you.
Because of the gentle and gradual approach to helping your baby learn to fall asleep, the changes are much more long-lasting. You will find that falling asleep becomes much faster and easier for your infant, and eventually without them requiring your support.
They will be able to put themselves back to sleep more often during night wake ups, waking only if they need something, such as a feed, and they will sleep better in the day.
The end goal would then be for them to sleep through the night and for you all to get a good night’s sleep.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO GENTLE SLEEP TRAINING?
There are significant long-term benefits to gently sleep train your baby:
You whole family will sleep better
It helps children to fall asleep on their own without help from adults longer-term, a skill they will take all the way into adulthood
Increased energy and appetite
Better mood when awake – generally happier
Improved cognitive and physical development, most of which happens when babies are sleeping at night.
WHEN CAN YOU START SLEEP TRAINING BABIES?
When to start sleep training is very much a parental decision with many families choosing to sleep train at different ages. Deciding at which age you do this can help you select which method you wish to use to sleep train as there are definitely more age appropriate methods.
For example, the Cry It Out and Ferber method are more successful in our view if you wish to sleep train under 8-9 months, before a baby’s separation anxiety really develops.
The Daddy Sleep Consultant provides baby sleep coaching plans from 5 months all the way up to toddlers of 4 years old.
WHICH SLEEP TRAINING METHOD SHOULD YOU USE?
The best method for your family depends on personal preference, your baby’s character and possibly external factors too. It might be that you try one but then switch to a different method once you learn more about how your child responds to the training.
However, I would recommend you always try a sleep training approach for at least 3-5 nights before you make a change – it can take this amount of time for you to start seeing the change in your baby.
And remember, just because one method doesn’t suit you or your child, doesn’t mean that another method will not work to improve your child’s sleep habits.
WHAT IS THE BEST SLEEP TRAINING METHOD?
There are several sleep training methods but the best is obviously The Daddy Sleep Consultant’s sleep training method! 🙂
The reason we believe in our sleep training approach so much is because it’s a combination of gentle methods; it’s all about them successfully falling asleep independently over time, creating healthy sleep habits for them and you as a parent. It’s not about you having to put your baby in their crib, leave the room and expect your baby to fall asleep on their own without any support.
Sometimes this cry it out CIO method, or controlled crying as it’s known, can work, especially for younger babies and that’s why many sleep consultants use those sleep training approaches. But we just believe there are better, more gentle approaches to help babies sleep better.
Our Google Reviews are unmatched by any other sleep consultants globally and we are expects are helping your child sleep, stay asleep and finally get some restful deep sleep, day and night.
THE SLEEP TRAINING METHODS WE USE AT THE DADDY SLEEP CONSULTANT®
At The Daddy Sleep Consultant® we are experts at sleep training babies without ever using the Cry It Out or The Ferber Method as we do not believe in letting your child cry themselves to sleep on their own.
Our method is very much based on the gentle approach to infant sleep training, where comfort and adult presence is provided at all times until your little one is ready for independent sleep, usually around two weeks into the sleep training programme. This is then tailored to each family depending on the family’s views, the child’s character and our observations from the 2-4 days of routine logs that we request from parents ahead of doing the 1:1 sleep packages.
We also do not encourage the stopping of night feeding unless the baby’s nutrition is sufficient or a parent wishes to stop night feeding. This can encourage parents to feel ready for sleep training rather than worrying they cannot be responsive to their baby’s nutritional needs in the middle of the night.
MY TOP SLEEP TRAINING TIPS
Many parents choose to do sleep training themselves. There are a number of factors in this: time and finances are often two.
Whilst we would always recommend following a sleep coaching plan, whether that be directly with a sleep consultant or via online sleep training programs, if you do choose to do it yourself, here are our top tips to get yourself ready for sleep training and a successful outcome:
Read up on and understand the several baby sleep training methods that exist, and choose which one is best for you and your family.
- When you get ready to begin sleep training, maintain a consistent bedtime routine throughout the sleep training program and be consistent and disciplined around your sleep training schedule.
- Always practice and follow safe sleep principles to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
- Always keep an eye on your baby’s sleep cues for when to put your baby in their cot at bedtime or for naps.
- Many parents make this mistake, but don’t be afraid to bring bedtime earlier to avoid overtiredness – overtiredness makes the sleep training process more difficult as babies will fight sleep much more in this scenario.
- Be consistent with your child’s daytime sleep schedule.
- Even when you are tired in the middle of the night, when you start sleep training you must remain consistent and committed to the changes you are making to your child’s sleep patterns.
- Whilst hearing your baby cry is awful, it’s a natural response to change and is expected over the first number of nights, whichever sleep training approach you use.
- When you have the outcome you want and your baby is successfully sleep trained, try to ensure you maintain your child’s healthy sleep habits so that they don’t regress into old and unwanted sleep patterns.
WHY USE A SLEEP CONSULTANT RATHER THAN DOING IT YOURSELF?
A sleep consultant can literally change a family’s whole life and mental and physical health. That’s not an overstatement either. When a baby isn’t sleeping, the impact to the child and to the whole family can be debilitating – the sleep deprivation, the short tempers flying around, the broken relationships because there is not time to talk and connect.
And I know this from personal experience – we used one before we setup our business and it changed our entire existence as parents in less than 2 weeks. But what do we actually do to change a family’s life so much?
Changing the patterns of a baby’s sleep is difficult; in fact it can often feel like a total minefield! There is also significant amounts of literature online which, whilst helpful in some ways, can be overwhelming and confusing. Add in some ‘friendly advice’ from neighbours, friends or family and you can end up trying a whole multitude of things without having any consistency and not knowing what works.
A good baby sleep consultant will help you have much more clarity and consistency. We will bring a single voice because we have one view rather than a range of conflicting views you will find across Google. This is also very helpful when parents are not on the same page on how to make improvements – something which is totally normal.
And whilst both parents might not fully agree with EVERYTHING a sleep consultant will advise them of, at least both parents should be listening to that single voice which is critical to making progress as children thrive off consistency.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT SLEEP CONSULTANT FOR YOU?
There are so many consultants to choose from, so here are the top things we recommend that you consider when choosing your consultant:
Have you met them in person or virtually? Did you have a good rapport in that initial meeting? It’s so important to choose a sleep consultant that you immediately feel a rapport with and feel like you can trust. They are going to make changes for you and it’s important to want to put your faith in them.
What is their approach? Do they use an extinction or gradual extinction approach? Do they follow a gentle sleep training approach?
Is it affordable? Is it the full price or are there hidden add-ons? What does the programme actually include for that price?
The 1:1 Support
What is their support model? Is there a limit on how long they provide support for? When do they provide you that support? Do they provide support same-day or is it delayed support?
What are the reviews of the consultants you have been researching? Are they generally positive? Do any of the reviews relate to your current situation?
CONTACT US – FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR SLEEP PACKAGES
We are all about helping babies sleep – and families too – and if you want to know more about our 1:1 sleep packages and how we can help you have healthy sleeping habits for your whole family, contact us today or book a FREE 15 mins initial consultation to find out more.