Sleep Training 101: A Guide for Parents

Are you tired of sleepless nights and constant wake-ups? Sleep training may be the solution for you and your little one. Sleep training is the process of teaching a child to fall asleep and stay asleep without parental intervention. It can also help with night wakings and establish good sleep habits early on. But before you start, it’s important to understand the different sleep training methods available and which one may work best for your family.

Understanding Sleep Training Methods

There are various sleep training methods available, but they all fall under one of three core categories: “let cry”, “maybe cry”, and “no cry” methods.

1. “Let Cry” Methods

These methods allow for tears and are intended to break sleep associations, such as needing to be rocked or nursed to sleep. Some of the most well-known methods in this category include:

The “Extinction” or “Cry it Out” (CIO) method

The “Extinction” or “Cry it Out” (CIO) method. Created by Dr. Weissbluth, this method involves putting the child to bed and allowing them to cry until they fall asleep without any help or comfort from their parents. As long as the baby is in a safe sleep environment and has a full tummy, parents should not return to the room until morning.

The “Check and Console” method

The “Check and Console” method. With this method, parents let the baby cry for a set amount of time (such as 5 minutes) before returning to reassure the child that they are still there for him. Variations of this method include the Ferber method, where the time between check-ins gradually increases each night.

2. “Maybe Cry” Methods

These methods allow for some tears but also include ways for parents to comfort their child. Some examples include:

Pick up, put down

The “Pick up, put down” method, also known as the Tracy Hogg method, is a sleep training technique that is designed to be more manageable for parents. It involves following the child’s normal bedtime routine and then placing them in their crib while they are still drowsy but awake. Parents wait a few minutes before checking on the child if they cry. If the child is still upset, parents comfort them and then return them to their crib. This process is repeated until the child falls asleep. This method can take a lot of time and patience as it requires the parents to be consistent in their approach and to not give in to the child’s cries too quickly. It is an effective method for some families but may not work for all children.

The Chair method

The Chair method allows parents to be present while their child falls asleep, which can be comforting for both the child and the parent. The method involves gradually moving the chair further away from the crib over time, until the parent is completely out of the room. Parents can comfort the child if he or she starts crying by rubbing their back or picking them up for a short period of time before placing them back in the crib. However, this method may not be suitable for parents who find it difficult to resist picking up the child every time they cry. It’s important to keep in mind that every child is different and what works for one family may not work for another.

3. “No Cry” Methods

As a parent, nothing is more exhausting than a baby who won’t sleep through the night. But there’s hope – there are several no cry methods of sleep training that can help teach your baby to sleep independently without the use of crying it out.

Here are some of the most popular no cry sleep training methods:

The Fading Method

The Fading Method, developed by Elizabeth Pantley, is a gentle, step-by-step approach to sleep training that is tailored to the individual needs of the child. This method is based on the principles of attachment parenting and emphasizes responsiveness to the baby’s needs.

Here’s how the Fading Method works:

1. Gradual Approach:

Pantley’s plan recommends a gradual approach that includes an analysis and assessment of the baby’s sleep patterns during the day and at night, as well as specific sleep solutions tailored to different parenting styles. This includes factors such as how the child is fed (breast or bottle), where they sleep (co-sleeping, in a crib next to the parents, in their own room), and if they use a comfort object (e.g. a toy or a blanket).

2. Sleep Associations:

The Fading Method also takes into account the sleep associations that the baby may use to fall asleep. This can include rocking, nursing, or singing a lullaby. Parents are encouraged to gradually reduce the amount of time spent with their baby at bedtime, helping them learn to fall asleep independently.

3. Logs and Records:

Parents are asked to keep a log of their child’s nighttime wakings, feeds, day naps, sleep durations, and awake times. This information can be used to identify patterns and make adjustments to the sleep plan as needed.

4. Responding to Crying:

According to Pantley, parents should respond to babies’ cries right away. This helps the baby feel secure and comforted, and it also helps parents to understand their baby’s needs better.

5. Tailored to the Child:

The Fading Method is based on a step-by-step plan that is tailored to the sleep patterns of every child. This approach takes into account the unique needs of each baby and helps parents to find solutions that work for them.

It’s important to note that the Fading Method may not be the right fit for all families, but it is a gentle, responsive approach that can be helpful for those who share the philosophy of attachment parenting. With patience, consistency, and a tailored approach, the Fading Method can help teach your baby to sleep through the night without tears.

The “excuse me drill”

The “excuse me drill” is a gentle sleep training method for anxious children aged 3 and up. Created by Dr. Brett Kuhn, a sleep behaviorist at the University of Nebraska, it involves a parent saying “excuse me, I need to step out for a minute” and returning frequently at first, complimenting the child on staying in bed and being brave. Over a few nights, the parent will check on the child less frequently, eventually allowing the child to fall asleep on their own with the reassurance of parental attention nearby. This method can be combined with bedtime fading for older, more anxious children.

Professor James J. McKenna

Professor James J. McKenna suggests that parents should not try to sleep train their children but instead pay attention to their children’s cues and allow them to wake up frequently during the night to feed. He is a strong supporter of co-sleeping and encourages bed-sharing and other forms of co-sleeping, such as placing the baby in a bassinet or crib next to the parent’s bed. However, he also advocates for following standard safety measures for SIDS, such as removing blankets and stuffed animals from the infant’s sleeping area.

William Sears

Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician and child development expert, advocates for a child-centered approach to sleep training. He suggests that parents should be patient and not use a one-size-fits-all method to train their children. Instead, he encourages co-sleeping, rocking and nursing the baby to sleep, and other forms of physical closeness to help the baby form positive sleep associations and develop healthy sleep habits. He emphasizes the importance of being responsive to the baby’s needs and not forcing them to sleep when they are not ready.


There are many different approaches to baby sleep training, and what works for one family may not work for another. It’s important to remember that every baby is unique and has different sleep needs. It’s also important to keep in mind that as your baby grows and develops, his sleep needs will change. It’s essential to consult with a pediatrician, sleep consultant or a child sleep consultant if you are confused about which method is best for your baby. Ultimately, the most important thing is to find a method that works for your family and that feels comfortable and manageable for you.

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