Research into various forms of sleep training show moderate success on the whole. Sometimes, that success does not even lead to consistently good sleep for babies. However, if you do decide to go the sleep training route, you might opt for more gentle sleep training methods.
In this article, we will look at 2 specific gentle sleep training methods: the pick-up-put down (PUPD) method, the graduated extinction method and the chair method.
First of all, let us consider what sleep training is. Put very simply, sleep training or ‘controlled crying’ is teaching your baby to fall asleep without you or without any sleep aids.
Is sleep training really necessary?
Can I avoid sleep training?
Certainly, if you are lucky enough to have a baby who does not seem to require much help falling asleep, then you will be able to very easily avoid sleep training. Sleep training is avoidable if you do not mind the stress of having little to no sleep when your baby is not a great sleeper.
Will my baby ever learn to sleep without training?
Unless putting themselves to sleep comes naturally to your baby, you might be in for a few years’ wait. Generally, sleep training is what helps babies to put themselves to sleep and to sleep for longer stretches of time.
However, sleep training is absolutely not a necessity in order for babies to sleep. They will sleep anyway. They will learn to sleep at some point if you do not intervene with ‘training’. If you are coping well with the amount of sleep your baby is currently getting, there is no need to sleep train.
At what age can babies self-soothe?
If your baby is going to be able to self soothe, this will usually start around the six month mark although even at three months old, some babies are able to achieve it.
Will my baby hate me after sleep training?
Your baby will adore you despite any sleep training techniques or programs that you try out. You may hear reports of the development of an insecure attachment due to the use of more rigorous or less gentle sleep training methods such as the cry it out method. However, not all families have the same report and if this is a worry, you can always use gentle sleep training methods instead.
Two gentle methods of sleep training
There are some different gentle forms of sleep training. Here are the two that I believe to the be the best.
1. The pick-up-put down (PUPD) method
This method can take anywhere from a week to three weeks to be effective. As usual, it all depends on your baby’s temperament and how long you are willing to keep going to achieve success.
The pick up put down method involves laying your baby down in their bed awake rather than fast asleep. You wait a little for them to settle down. If they start to cry, pick them up and comfort them for a short while before laying them back down again. If they are quiet, take it as a sign that they are working on putting themselves to sleep and exit the room to give them a chance to do this on their own. Repeat the process if they start to fuss or cry again.
2. The chair method
With this method, you do your usual bedtime routine and then lay your baby down in bed awake. You then settle down in a chair next to their bed where they can see you. You can comfort them by patting them the first few nights if they cry or start to fuss but the aim is to move your chair a little further away from the crib each night until finally, you are out of the room and out of your baby’s sight completely.
This method, also called ‘adult fading’ or the ‘camping out’ method, may not work so well for your baby if they cannot have you nearby without wanting you to hold them. If you find your baby can cope with you being nearby without picking them up, this is a great gentle sleep training method to help them learn to fall asleep on their own while knowing you are close by if they need you.
On average, this method will take two to three weeks to work.
What is the gentlest form of sleep training?
If you have a more anxious baby, the better of these two options would be the pick up put down option. This is because it gives you the opportunity to pick up your baby briefly and that physical contact might be all that your baby needs in order to be able to relax and fall asleep on their own.
Some people view camping out as simply another form of the cry it out method because the baby can see you while crying but you still cannot pick them up. This method is unlikely to feel gentle enough for a highly anxious baby however it certainly involves less crying than the cry it out method.
What methods of gentle sleep training have you tried?