Sleep Training Part 3: The Top Five Sleep Training Methods for babies & toddlers!

Parent’s need their kids to get a good night’s sleep just as much as children do, to ensure their own needs are being met, and to get some freakin’ time alone, okay?! GOD! Just go to bed!... pleasssseeeeee. BUH!

Here you’ll find some positive strategies to develop some really great sleep routines. You’ll learn how to get your child to stay in their own bed!

For children who can understand, explain to them what will happen. “If you stay in bed quietly, I will come back in 2 minutes to check if you’re okay.” Say goodnight and leave, ignoring complaints.

If your child was quiet in bed, return in 2 minutes and whisper “you’re doing really good lying in bed so quiet! I’ll be back in 5 more minutes if your stay in bed quietly.” Return and praise again. Gradually increasing the time until you return.

However, if your child does NOT stay in bed quietly, choose one of the following approaches that best suits your family.

1. For Older Babies: The Fading Sleep Training Method
This is a very gentle, no-cry (or very little cry) method of sleep coaching. With the Fading method, you continue to help your baby fall asleep (by rocking or feeding to sleep, for instance), but over time, you gradually do less and less of the ‘work’ to put your baby to sleep, and your baby does more and more. For instance, if you normally rock your baby completely to sleep, you may shorten the amount of time you rock each night, until you are rocking for only a few minutes. This method requires lots of patience on the parents’ part, but it’s great for families who want to minimize crying as much as possible.

2. The Pick-Up-Put-Down Sleep Training Method
This is another gentle technique. The PUPD method works just the way it sounds: when it’s time to sleep, and your baby is fussing in his crib or bassinet, you pick him up and comfort him until he’s calm and drowsy. Then, you put him back in his crib to sleep, repeating this cycle until your baby is finally asleep. PUPD is another method that requires lots of patience, and it won’t work for every baby; some babies find being picked up and put down so often over stimulating, and they gradually become worked up, instead of relaxed.

3. For young children/toddlers: The Gentle approach
This approach is great for young children/toddlers. It can be used for daytime naps and nighttime.

Put your toddler to bed, say goodnight and sit down in a chair, couch or bed in the same room. Don’t talk to your child and avoid eye contact. (Eye contact means engaging conversation to your child.) You can pretend to be asleep, or read a book until your child falls asleep, and then leave the room.

If they cry, gently put your hand on them, offer a keyword or a soft “shh.” Avoid eye contact. When the crying stops, go back and sit on the chair or cushion.
Repeat every time they cry and stay in the room until they are asleep. Return and repeat whenever your child wakes up during the night.

4. The Gradual Approach
This is considered a ‘cry’ method of sleep training. This technique entails allowing baby to cry while checking in at intervals. The goal here is to reassure yourself and your child that everything is okay, every so often.

When you go to check on baby, you are not supposed to pick him up nor engage him much, but simply reassure using your voice and a loving pat for 1-2 minutes, leave your child, even if they are still crying. With this method, the goal is not to help them stop crying and not to stay until they fall asleep. The knowledge of how to fall asleep unassisted at bedtime will pave the way for him/her to go back to sleep throughout the night.

Gradually extend the amount of time between checkups. Wait 2 minutes longer than last time. 5 minutes, then 7, 9, 11 minutes and so on before going to your child. You may choose to not check again if your child is beginning to be quiet.

5. The Direct approach
The most direct and quickest approach is to put your child to bed and not go back in after you have said goodnight and left them to fall asleep on their own.

As long as your child stays in bed, ignore, crying, calling out or requests. This approach often works fast. It can take as little as 2 weeks. The first few days are harder, children are most likely to cry and try harder to get you to come back before they learn how to fall asleep on their own.

Explain to your child what will happen. “If you stay in your bed all night, there will be a surprise waiting for you in the morning. If you cry, I will not answer you, even if you shout. If you come out of your room, I will take you back.” Check that your child understands and they can repeat it back to you. Say goodnight, leave and ignore any complaints.

You must be prepared to let them settle themselves. This can take minutes, or hours. If you eventually cave, and go back in, it can actually make things worse. Your child may learn to cry, or scream louder to get your attention

If you decide to use this approach, you need to be prepared. Its important to know that there is no evidence that it harms older children to leave them when they are a bit upset.

Problems during the night

Crying during the night
If your child is not in pain or sick, give very little attention to them if they cry during the night. Too much comforting can accidentally encourage crying, and can lead to more problems in the future. Use the approach that your chose above, use the same approach every time.

What to do if your child gets into bed with you;
If your child gets into your bed during the night, immediately return them to their own bed. Spend no more than 30 seconds tucking them in. If your child comes into your bed again, immediately take them back their own bed. You may need to do this gain and again, so you might get a little less sleep until you break this habit.