This article will outline two sleep training methods, including what many people know as “The Ferber Method”. If you are just joining in, you may want to start from the beginning at Part 1 of my Baby Sleep Training (From No Cry to Cry) series.
You may be interested in reading about the age to do cry-it-out and how cry-it-out will not change your child’s personality.
The Ferber / Check-and-Console Method
This sleep training method entails allowing baby to cry while checking on him at intervals. The goal here is to reassure him ever so often to a) make sure baby is okay and to reassure yourself and b) reassure him you hear them and are there for them. When you go to check on baby, you are not supposed to pick him up nor engage them much, but simply reassure using your voice and a loving pat for 2-3 minutes, tops (watch the clock!). The goal is NOT to help baby to sleep! That is what he is learning to do on his own! The idea is that he falls asleep in the same “environment” in which he will awaken periodically throughout the night (we all do!). 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.
Here is an example of how night 1 might go:
- Bedtime is 6:30 pm (make sure bedtime is sufficiently early and don’t make the mistake of “tiring him out” first. This leads to more crying, not less)
- You do the bedtime routine, as usual, starting at 6pm. At 6:20 p.m. you put baby down DROWSY, BUT AWAKE
- Baby begins to cry immediately and you set the timer for 5 minutes.
- At 6:25 p.m. you go in and reassure her.
- If she is still crying, you go back in at 10 minutes and then every 15 minutes until she falls asleep.
Each night, you increase each interval by 5 minutes. If you can’t start with intervals 5, 10, and 15, start with 3, 7, and 10. It doesn’t matter as long as you increase intervals nightly and be CONSISTENT.
Cry It Out (aka CIO or Extinction)
This is basically when you follow the same rules above, only you leave baby completely alone to fall asleep. Some feel this is cruel, however, many feel this leads to less crying, overall, and not cruel since you have already implemented a bedtime routine and she knows what to expect. Again, this will depend on your philosophy as a parent and your baby’s temperament. At night, you do not put a limit to the crying because if you allow her to cry for let’s say 30 minutes and then “rescue” her, you have all but guaranteed that much crying or more next time and you also don’t want them to learn to cry for a predetermined amount of time. It is imperative that you be 100% consistent and follow through. If you don’t want to let your baby cry, that is 100% OK, just choose another method.
You can use one of these methods or a variation of your own. You can try one and then switch to another after a few days. For some babies, going in there periodically only “teases” them and they get angrier that you won’t rock them or nurse them or do whatever you’ve been doing to “help” them to sleep. I do not have hard-core facts to say how long your baby will cry, on average. All babies are different and temperament and level of strong will definitely plays a part. In my experience in helping other parents, the average seems to be around 30 minutes. Some babies cry 5 minutes and sleep the rest of the night. Others might cry over an hour and wake several times in the night. Unfortunately, there is no way to know what yours will do, but I’m sure up to this point you have a good idea about the personality of your child. Many people are pleasantly surprised by how “little” their baby cries and wonder why they didn’t try sooner. They were prepared for the long haul and she may have “only” cried 20 minutes. Of course, as you know, 20 minutes to a mother or father can be excruciating, especially at 2 a.m.
Crying methods generally take 3-4 nights to see marked improvement, however, it isn’t always a cure-all. Sure, there are some babies you read about who, after 4 nights, sleep through the night forever and ever. And, then there are those who don’t and you have to keep letting them cry it out. Well, the important thing is to consider what your alternative is. If rocking/nursing/etc. to sleep was not working, there is a reason you started down this path and thus, you may just have a challenging sleeper who requires more “work” than others.
Get Personalized Sleep Help You Can Feel Good About
Sleep training can be tough – but you don’t have to go it alone! Our consultants at The Baby Sleep Site® are standing by, ready to create a Personalized Sleep Plans® for your family that includes detailed guidance on how to sleep train. Even better, once you have your Personalized Sleep Plan®, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing it at home.
Sleep Resources That WORK
For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
Or, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant.
In part 6, the last part of this sleep training series, I share my story.