Baby sleep is one of the many controversial baby topics. Moms often feel judged or shamed if: their baby isn’t sleeping through the night by x-months-old, baby is still sleeping in mom and dad’s room, baby slept in the crib from night one, they sleep train, they don’t sleep train, the method they chose to sleep train, baby sleeps with a pacifier, baby is nursed to sleep, etc. There is no right answer or method in which to handle your baby’s sleep. A lot of the resources and experts contradict each other. So, the best thing to do is learn a lot, pay attention, and figure out what works best for YOU and YOUR BABY.
Contrary to some beliefs, you do not HAVE to sleep train your child. You may have a a good sleeper who doesn’t need help, or your baby may have sleep patterns that work for your family and don’t need tweaking. We did zero sleep training for our first two babies. We just got into the habit early of putting them to bed drowsy, but awake. This way they learned how to fall asleep on their own (without nursing, rocking, etc.). However, with our third baby this did not work. She needed to be taught how to self-soothe and put herself to sleep. So we resorted to sleep training to teach her this skill.
Every expert offers their own unique advice and sometimes that advice contradicts each other. Figure out what method, or lack of method, resonates most with you and your family. Here are just a handful of books, websites and sleep experts that have great information and have helped many moms.
Sleep Training Methods
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to baby sleep and if/how you sleep train. Do what works for your family! Regardless of what you do, it’s usually very helpful for a baby to have a predictable bedtime routine and a sleep environment that encourages sleep (dark, safe, quiet with some white noise). Before starting any type of sleep training, be sure to run it by your pediatrician. If you do decide to do any sort of sleep training, the main key is consistency. The best sleep training method is the one you can continue to follow. Don’t pick a method that you do not believe you have the proper support to consistently implement. There is a whole range of sleep training methods and strategies with multiple variations. “No cry” or minimal crying methods incorporate strategies to gradually fade parent comfort and assistance. This takes more time and patience because it is a more gentle approach. Middle of the road methods gradually remove parental presence, but always leave baby to fall asleep on their own. Full-extinction methods leave baby to fall asleep on their own immediately with zero (or minimal) parental involvement, and likely a lot more crying. This family of methods is best if your baby is more stimulated by your presence. The crying can be difficult for many parents, but it likely results in less crying overall since these methods tend to work much faster.
Minimal Cry and “No-Cry”
• No-Cry Sleep Solution ∙∙∙ Elizabeth Pantley creates a sleep training method that removes parental comfort so slowly that the baby does not notice. Eventually, in theory, the baby will no longer need the parent to fall asleep.
• Secrets of the Baby Whisperer ∙∙∙ Tracy Hogg begins with a strict routine so your baby will eventually naturally know when it is time for sleep. If baby cries when put down for sleep, this is where you use the Pick Up/Put Down method. If baby cries, you pick him up, practice provided techniques until calm, and put him down awake again. This continues every time the baby cries.
• The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight ∙∙∙ Kim West’s method is also known as “The Sleep Lady Shuffle”. It is a gentle method that allows parents to provide support when needed. It is similar to the other commonly known “Chair Method”.This one involves tears, but you don’t leave the baby in the room alone. Your presence is meant to reassure them, but you slowly move your chair further away night after night.
• The Happy Sleeper ∙∙∙ This book teaches you the “sleep wave” method.
• The Sleep Sense Program ∙∙∙ This book offers a couple different methods. You can choose one that allows you to stay in the room, or leave and have frequent check-ins when needed.
• Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems ∙∙∙ Commonly known as “The Ferber Method”, this is the book by Richard Ferber’s.
• The Sleepeasy Solution ∙∙∙ This method allows for frequent interval check-ins without picking up the baby while slowly decreasing night feedings.
Full Extinction (Cry it Out)
• Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child ∙∙∙ A very popular sleep book byDaniel Weissbluth. The author, a pediatrician, provides his rules for establishing positive sleep habits based on your child’s natural sleep cycles. Once you’ve created the ideal sleep environment and sleep associations, his method encourages full extinction/cry-it-out as the most effective way to sleep train.
Instead of focusing on sleeping training, these methods focus on training your baby to eat and/or sleep on a specific schedule. The end goal is longer stretches of sleep. Run this by your pediatrician before trying to stretch out the time between feedings. If you are exclusively breastfeeding and have a goal to continue breastfeeding exclusively, talk with a lactation consultant.
• Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old ∙∙∙ I have several friends who have successful used this method to get their baby to sleep 12 hours straight, by 12 weeks old. The problem is, some pediatricians discourage this method. At that age, many babies NEED to eat during the night. Lactation consultants don’t recommend it either, as going 12 hours without nursing that early in an infant’s life is not beneficial to the breastfeeding relationship or breastmilk supply.
• Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep ∙∙∙ If you like a schedule, this method helps you get into a schedule for baby’s feedings, sleep and wake times.
• The Core Night ∙∙∙
Other Popular Sleep Books
• Sweet Sleep ∙∙∙ This book is wonderful for the breastfeeding mom. The authors give you sleep strategies that will help protect your breastmilk supply and your breastfeeding relationship.
• The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer ∙∙∙ Dr. Harvey Karp’s method for soothing a baby has been coined “the 5 S’s” and is very popular with parents. Dr. Karp used “the 5 S’s” when he created the SNOO Smart Sleeper, the (expensive) baby bassinet of my dreams!
• The Baby Sleep Book ∙∙∙