Once you’ve decided to leap into the sleep training pond, you will be hit by a cold wave of information. There are several techniques that can be used. The route you choose entirely depends on your baby’s temperament and what you personally feel comfortable with. The journey to positive sleep associations is not linear; it isn’t a one-stop solution that once you’ve sleep trained your baby, she is going to sleep through the night till 7 am forevermore. It’s a journey with regressions – some caused by illness, some teething and others caused by growth spurts. I’ve had to re sleep train Baby A on more than one occasion; sometimes it was easy and sometimes tricky, but all worth it in the crusade of getting her a good night’s rest.
1. The Cry It Out or Extinction Method – This method involves putting your baby in its crib in a safe environment with a full stomach and letting her fall asleep without any intervention on your part. As the name suggests, it involves a fair bit of crying, but it is also the quickest way to sleep train. This works for younger kids with a willful temperament; Those who get more agitated by having their parents be present in the same room. This method does not raise the child’s stress hormones, so as heartbreaking as it is to hear your child cry in the other room, please know that it causes no long-term emotional damage to them.
2. Ferber Method or Gradual Extinction Method – This check and console method has fewer bouts of crying than the CIO method. It involves checking up on the baby after fixed intervals of time. These timed intervals increase by a few minutes every passing interval until she falls asleep. For example, if the first timed interval was a checkup after 5 minutes, the next interval will come after 7 minutes so on and so forth until the baby falls asleep. Over several nights you’ll see that the need for the comfort check-ins will gradually reduce, and your baby will have learnt how to self soothe. With Baby A, I used a modified Ferber approach, wherein the timed intervals were different from those of a traditional Ferber.
3. Chair Method – This method works great for older babies and toddlers. In it, a parent sits in a chair close to the baby’s crib until it falls asleep. Each successive night they move the chair further and further away from the crib until it’s out the door. While this may work for some families, there are chances that your baby will initially be upset when they wake up in the middle of the night and find their parent absent and the chair empty.
4. Pick up and Put down Method – This technique involves going through the regular bedtime routine putting the baby down drowsy but awake. If the baby protests, give her a few minutes to settle. Suppose she becomes inconsolable, pick her up, soothe her, and then place her down in her crib when she is calm again. The idea is to keep repeating the process until the baby is asleep. This is suited for younger babies and takes longer, requiring more patience on the parent’s part. However, this is one of the gentler sleep training methods.
Whichever method you may use, know this: for success, the two most important components are consistency and patience. If you feel your resolve is crumbling, take the help of your partner. The crying will eventually end, and it is tough to hear your baby sob but know this if you enter the room and rock your child to sleep, it sends mixed signals. The next night the baby will cry hysterically, expecting you to come in once again because you have set their expectations so. If you decide to sleep train, the best thing to do is be consistent for yourself and your little munchkin. After the rainy, sobbing spell will come the self-soothing rainbow.