You had your baby. You are over the fourth trimester (the 1st 3 months after birth). Now what? Well, a recent survey found that only 10% of parents got an average of 7 hours of sleep after having a baby (1). That number is insanely low. Of course, this number only represents their survey sample and is not generalizable, but still a very low number even for their sample population.
So I have a question for you.
Are you getting at least 7-9 hours of consolidated sleep every night as recommended by The Sleep Foundation (2)?
If not, then are you ready to take the next step towards sleep?
If yes, then keep reading.
Here are 4 sleep training methods that I practice with my clients on a regular basis. Which method you use depends on 3 things:
If your child has any dependent sleep associations such as being rocked, fed, held, and/or bounced to sleep.
Your tolerance to your baby crying and if it is triggered more if you are inside the room or outside the room.
If your baby does better when alone, compared with you being present.
Once you figure this out then you can use the appropriate sleep training method to get your baby sleeping longer stretches for naps and nights. Remember, to implement the method you use for nighttime first before using it during naps. You want them to get used to the method during bedtime first since their melatonin levels and sleep pressure are higher, so they are more likely to fall asleep independently with the sleep training method at bedtime compared to nap time.
FADING OF SLEEP ASSOCIATIONS:
This is a great method to use for babies with dependent sleep associations. If done correctly, it can take less than 2 weeks to drop all associations. You want to use this method along with one of the ones mentioned below.
HOW DOES THIS WORK: If they tend to be fed to sleep and it takes them 15 minutes of feeding before they fall asleep, then decrease the 15 minutes to 10 minutes and rock them for the remainder before placing them down. Continue this for 2 days before decreasing the 10 minutes to 5 minutes of feeding and 10 minutes of rocking. Continue this process until you drop the feeding to sleep association. Do the same thing with the rocking to sleep association. Rock for 10 minutes and then just hold them for another 5 minutes before placing them down in their sleep space. REPEAT till you can place them down awake. This is a very slow and gentle process and it does take consistency and patience.
PICK-UP / PUT-DOWN:
This method is a gentle sleep training method that heavily involves the parent until the child is calm enough to fall asleep on their own. This works well for parents that want to be more present and involved in providing extra support and comfort, but this can also backfire if your child gets too stimulated and thinks of it like a game if you pick them up too much. So really use it cautiously.
How does this work?: You place your baby down awake or after you are done with the fading method. Then if your baby starts crying, you pick them up for a few seconds to calm them down and then place them back. You basically repeat the process until your baby calms down enough to self-soothe to sleep.
This is the classic Ferber method also referred to as “controlled crying”. With the Check and Console method, the parent is still very much involved in the process and frequently helps soothe their baby to sleep. This method is great for babies with or without sleep associations.
How does this work? : You place your baby down in their sleep space, soothe them for a few minutes, and then leave the room. If your baby starts to cry at a level you are uncomfortable with, then start a timer. The timer can be for however long you like it to be. I usually start my clients at 3 minutes. You go into the room and soothe your child every time the timer goes off. You basically repeat this process till your baby is sleeping. The first few days may seem like this is going to go on forever, but I promise you that it gets better. The time you spend doing this gets lower each day.
CHAIR/ STAY IN THE ROOM:
This is another classic method that is kind of a combination of the PICK-UP/PUT-DOWN and CHECK-&-CONSOLE methods. It is also a great method to use for older toddlers and preschoolers. Instead of leaving the room, you stay in the room after placing your child in their sleep space.
How does this work?: You start out by staying by their sleep space and soothing them. After a few days, move a few feet away from their sleep space and continue this until you eventually get outside the room. This is a slow process and it will take more of your patience and power to implement this method. You can provide comfort as needed.
Do you want a more customized approach? I provide a customized sleep plan to my clients where I educate them to take on the sleep training for themselves with methods that may work for their child. My approach is very parent-led so we use methods that you are comfortable with that will work for your child. I also customize each method to meet the needs of your child as needed.
If you want to know which sleep method is right for your baby and family, take this quiz.
Unnati Patel, MPH is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and founder of Nested to Rested Sleep Consulting, LLC. Unnati educates, empowers, and supports exhausted families to help them get the sleep they deserve and need to thrive by using a customized holistic and evidence-based sleep approach. Follow her @nestedtorestedsleep on Instagram for more baby sleep tips.
Download Unnati's free newborn sleep guide: https://www.nestedtorestedsleep.com/freesleepguide