“Sleep Assistance” is any thoughtfully and consistently implemented series of actions that results in a change in your baby’s sleep. Typically parents prefer this change to include achieving more consolidated sleep by exchanging a parent-led sleep association for a baby-led sleep association. Parent-led sleep associations (such as nursing, rocking, bouncing, and holding, to name a few) are wonderful and natural ways to put your baby to sleep. They can also sometimes lead to trouble when your child expects that same soothing at each sleep cycle wake-up during the night.
Some parents choose a sleep intervention that helps them reach their goal very quickly, and other parents prefer gradual changes. Some parents are comfortable leaving their child’s room, and others prefer to be with their child at all times.
What are the methods for Sleep Assistance?
Why Sleep Assistance?
First of all, why is it so important to offer sleep assistance to your baby? One reason is that long-term studies have shown that children who never learn how to fall asleep independently are at increased risk of continuing sleep problems as they grow up. And the older a child gets, the longer the process usually takes. Early prevention is usually much easier than late intervention!
Three Main Methods
There are three main methods of sleep coaching (appropriate for 6 months and up) and it’s important to think about your choices so you can pick the method you feel most comfortable with. Consistency is the #1 key to success when it comes to sleep coaching. In other words, for getting your child to learn to sleep independently, sticking to your plan is what really counts.
On one end of the spectrum is extinction, otherwise known as cry-it-out. This is where you put your child in their bed awake and you leave and you don’t go in all night. According to an article in The New York Times, “Despite 23 studies showing it’s remarkable effectiveness, most parents find the technique too emotionally grueling.” Some books in this category are Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Babywise.
In the middle of the spectrum would be graduated extinction. This is also known as controlled crying or timed checks. In this method, parents go into the child’s room to reassure them in timed intervals. There is no magic number on when to go in and check on your child. Go by the sound of your child’s cries and do what feels comfortable to you. The most popular book in this category is Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. The Sleepeasy Solution is another example.
The Fading Method
The most gentle method is called fading. This is basically a gradual removal of the parent from the child. Some books in this category are Sleep Tight, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, and the No Cry Sleep Solution.
What about crying?
There probably will be crying. No matter how gentle your approach is, your little one is going to let you know when they don’t like that you’re changing how you have always done things.
“People who say they sleep like babies, probably don’t have them.” ~Lee M. Burke
So that’s it! Those are the only ways to sleep train your child. Your only other choice is to do nothing. Whatever you decide, do what works for your family!