Sleep training is also known as “sleep scheduling”. This is the application of techniques to establish and manage your baby’s sleep habits. There are many suggested methods of baby sleep training and, through the years, have been subject to continuous debate whether one is better than the other. Each method is usually distinguished based on how involved the parents are in the sleep process.
The two most popular methods of sleep scheduling are the Ferber method (Cry-It-Out Method) and the Sears Method (No-Tears Method). Before deciding any sleep training for your child, there are a number of factors to be examined and considered.
Important Considerations before Deciding on a Sleep Training Method
Your child must be somewhere between three to six months of age. Experts say that babies within this age range have often developed regular sleeping habits and are ready for sleep training. Do not try to impose sleep training on infants below this age since they require regular feeding, usually every few hours, so it is healthy that they should wake at every few hours.
Make sure your child has not developed a conditioned fear of being left-alone to avoid a traumatic experience that would affect his development. Also seek medical affirmation that your baby is free from any health problems that cause sleep interference.
Understand the sleep training approaches and how they are properly applied. Decide on which approach you are most comfortable with and you feel is most fitting to your child’s temperament and personality. Be consistent on your chosen approach until you think the sleep training method does not work for your baby and it’s time to move on to other alternatives.
The Ferber Method or the “Cry-It-Out” Method
The Ferber Method was developed by Dr. Richard Ferber, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at the Children’s Hospital in Boston.
This method advocates that it is okay to leave your baby to cry for prescribed periods of time so he will learn to soothe himself to sleep. This does not involve leaving your child to cry endlessly. You have to check on him at certain intervals.
How to Effectively Apply the Ferber Method
Decide on a week and the particular early evening hour to start sleep training your baby. Suggested hours are around 7 to 8 in the evening. It is found that the earlier you put your baby to sleep, the longer he or she will sleep during the night. The following steps will guide you in the proper application of the Ferber method of sleep training:
- For the first night, put your baby to bed while he or she is still awake after a relaxing bedtime routine, and then leave the room.
- If he starts crying, let him be for about five minutes then comfort him for a short period without picking him up, rocking or feeding him. Then leave the room again.
- This time, wait for ten minutes before returning to comfort your baby.
- The third time you leave the room, wait for fifteen minutes before checking back on him.
- Repeat this process, waiting at fifteen-minute intervals throughout the night, until your baby falls asleep.
- For the second night, begin with a ten-minute interval, increasing it to fifteen minutes and then stay on a twenty-minute interval all night.
- For the third night, begin with a fifteen-minute interval. Repeat this process until baby adapts to the sleeping habit.
The Sears Method or the “No Tears” Method
This method was developed by Dr. William Sears, the assistant professor of pediatrics at USC. This promotes a gentler approach to sleep training that involves creating a “sleep-inducing” environment that encourages the baby to go to sleep and stay asleep.
To effectively implement the Sears method, you need not only establish a relaxing bedtime routine but also a daytime routine that will consequently help your baby sleep easier when bedtime comes.
Keeping your baby active and busy all day and taking regular daytime naps will help your baby sleep better at night. Though babies are different, the recommended nap times, in general, are mid-morning, mid-afternoon and early evening.
This method recommends sleep training activities that include sleeping in the same room with baby (if sleeping on the same bed, follow all safety measures), carrying and cuddling baby often, putting baby to bed only when he or she is already in a deep sleep (usually when limbs are limp and palms are open), and if baby cries and awakens, comfort, rock and nurse baby.
What Sleep Training Method is Best for my Baby?
No evidence suggests that one is better than the other. Remember that every baby is different and the effectiveness of these methods may depend on your baby’s personality, the general environment of the household and how comfortable and resolved the parents are in implementing sleep training. As always, do what works best for you and your baby.
Freelance Contributor: Hazel Zanoria