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It’s a common misunderstanding that you must sleep train your little one. Over time, sleep training has become a very heated debate on whether or not you should try it and which method is best. Sleep training is absolutely not necessary if you and your family are happy and healthy with your current sleep schedule and routine. Some parents are fine with waking up a couple times a night and their baby is happy and pleasant throughout the day. But other parents find that their baby needs more support and direction with sleep. Whether sleep training is right for you and your little or not, there are techniques and skills that are valuable to any parent and baby to learn within sleep training methods.
There are many methods to support your little one on the journey to self soothing and sleep. While they can vary vastly, no one method is perfect for everyone. For best success with long term results, you can follow American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines by beginning the process of sleep training and night weaning after 6 months of age. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start practicing the art of self soothing and implementing some of the techniques for your chosen sleep method.
Every parent and family is different, so as you learn about each sleep training method, decide which one works best for your lifestyle. Don’t forget: you have the right to change your mind if you find it doesn’t quite fit the way you imagined.
This sleep training method is popular for many of the most common sleep books at your local bookstore. This method can be blamed for giving sleep training its bad reputation, not because the method is harmful to your little one, but because it goes against every parenting urge you may have to help your baby when you hear them cry.
Why? You place your baby in their crib and walk out of the room leaving them to extinguish themselves to sleep, which is usually by crying. This method has been introduced to babies that have never practiced the skill of self soothing, which can make it much more difficult for your little one. The process can feel very traumatic to parents that have not yet introduced the skill of self soothing to their infant and is just emotionally draining, but the positive aspect is that it only takes a few nights before your baby has mastered the skill. Although not for the faint of heart, it can be a very effective method for desperate and sleep deprived parents. If you have practiced the skill of self soothing, this process can be quick and almost without tears. Just remember that your baby may struggle with milestone disruptions, teething and illness, so you may find that you will have to do the process more than once. This method can be a great tool for parents who both work and can’t support a long game version of sleep training.
The Modified Cry It Out sleep training method has been recognized as the most popular method for sleep training as it claims that it is nearly tear-free. Controlled crying methods ask that you put the child down into the crib and then you do physical checks to comfort them at 5, 10 and 15 minute intervals. However, you’re doing those check-ins because your little one is crying so this method can take a bit longer than extinction, or cry it out.
Parents lean toward this over cry it out, because they get to have interaction with their baby and the method only takes a few nights to master for most babies. But it can be challenging to be consistent as parents struggle to follow timed check-ins and even find that some babies become more frustrated seeing their parents come in and leave repetitively. This sleep training method can be a great tool for parents who both work and can’t support a long game version of sleep training, but would like to be able to support their baby more throughout the process.
This method is for the parent that is in it for the long haul! They want to support their baby through every step of the process and are not concerned about how long it may take as long as they can avoid crying and frustrations as much as possible. For this sleep training method, the parent sits or lays next to the crib and helps their baby fall asleep with physical support and words of encouragement. This method is also not for the faint of heart as you are committing to staying with them for minutes to hours each night and during each wake-up until they fall asleep. This process can last from weeks to even months before you see any long term results. But if you have practiced self soothing techniques prior to beginning the late night party method, you will find that you may not be needed for more than a week or two.
The sleep and wake strategy actually asks you to nurse or feed your baby or rock them to sleep, then waking them slightly before going into the crib. You can choose which option you like to put your baby to sleep prior to waking them before laying them down. This sleep training method is an easier transition for parents since most have been laying their baby down asleep starting at birth. But it can be a gamble when you wake your baby prior to laying them down. Sometimes they will just go right back to sleep and other times they will cry immediately knowing you’re about to leave them to sleep. This method can involve less crying and more physical interaction as you rock or bounce or feed them to sleep, but it also involves the longest commitment and can be disruptive to your little one’s sleep cycles. This is for parents that don’t mind being very involved in supporting their little one falling asleep and have the ability to be consistent for weeks and even months as their baby slowly learns the skill of self soothing.
While there are positives and negatives to each method, the reality is that none of the methods have any long term negative effects on your little one and none of them are considered to be more healthy than others. Every parent has different needs and lifestyles, but every baby does as well. Some parents find that one method might work beautifully for their first child but is a complete disaster for their second. So allow yourself to decide which one works best for your situation, and reserve your right to adjust or change methods at any time when it no longer suits your and your baby’s needs. You’ve got this.