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How to sleep train your baby without a big struggle

Sleep at any point during parenthood is precious. Whether it be yours or your babies, no one does well with little sleep. Our bodies need rest so our cells can repair and renew themselves. Our brains require it so they can slow down and decompress at the end of the day. Let’s not forget our sanity and overall well-being require it so that as humans, we can have solidarity for a small percentage of our days.

It’s for all the reasons and many more that babies must be trained to sleep. While baby sleep training tips are varied, sleep training is simply the act of training your infant to get to sleep and return to sleep in the night should they wake up. This is sometimes also referred to as self-soothing. While there are many methods to achieve the task of a self-soothing or sleep-trained baby, we thought we’d merge some of the best options on how to sleep train your baby.

Sleep training versus night weaning

Sleep training and night weaning are two different elements to a complete and uninterrupted night of sleep. A night weaned baby who is not sleep trained will continue to wake up during what was their regular night feeding schedule and will not have the capability to fall back asleep. On the other hand, a sleep-trained baby will never experience a full night’s rest if they are not fed through the night to ensure they receive adequate nutrition.  

Understanding the difference is especially important for parents because a sleep-trained child that is still feeding at night won’t sleep through the night until they have completely weaned. Having a clear picture of your expectations surrounding sleep training is key because it’s only one part of a two-step process.  

Infant boy sleeping on bed

Sleep training methods

Starting at the age of about 4 to 6 months, parents are often looking for steadier, and more sleep-filled nights. Babies earlier in age than this often do not have the brain development needed to sleep train properly. While it may seem like an innovative idea to start early, following advice and directions from experts such as sleep specialists or your child’s pediatrician are especially important.

There are several diverse ways parents can test to find the technique that works the best for their child and family. This will vary based on your own personal convictions and choices, and while some sleep training methods may work for some, others will try something different. We are bringing you these methods in an effort to keep parents informed, while also giving them the opportunity to freely choose which would work better for them. What works for some won’t work for others.

Chair method – The chair method starts parents out in a chair right next to their baby’s crib, until their baby has fallen asleep. During this time, parents do not use soothing or calming methods during periods of fussiness. As each night goes by, parents begin to move the chair further away from the crib, until they have completely removed the chair from the room.

Cry it out method – This method can sometimes be controversial for some moms and dads. It is often extremely difficult for parents to hear their children crying out for them from their beds. For this method to work, parents must not pick up their children from their cribs to comfort or soothe them at night. This allows the child to self-soothe and fall back asleep on their own without needing a parent to intervene.

Nodding or Fading method – When using this technique, moms or dads take their children to their rooms when they appear sleepy or sleep but are still awake. Parents can soothe their children in their cribs, sing to them or read stories, all while the child is falling asleep in their bed. Because they are conscious of being in their own rooms when falling asleep, babies that wake in the night are aware of their surroundings. This makes them less likely to become frightened and cry out from confusion.

Pickup/Put down method – Moms and dads who use the pick up/put down method are engaging in the act of holding their child when they cry, soothing them until comforted, and then placing them back into their crib and walking out of the room. When using this method, parents are not playing games or trying to liven their children. It’s simply the act of picking them up, soothing them quickly back to sleep – or at least until comforted – and placing them back into their cribs.

Some parents may wonder if it’s possible to combine these methods – or even others not previously mentioned – together into a customized approach designed specifically for your child. To answer that, we look to one of Cleveland Clinic’s clinical pediatricians, Dr. Noah Schwartz. “Oftentimes, sleep training techniques overlap, and parents combine methods, which is perfectly fine,” says Dr. Schwartz. “It’s all about finding what works best for you as a parent and how your infant responds.”

Sleep, being the precious commodity that it is for new parents, can come at a cost. With the implementation of sleep training in your baby’s night routine, we hope our methods and tips help to send many more parents into dreamland much faster!

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