For new parents, few things can be as frustrating or confusing as figuring out how to get your little one to fall asleep at night. And the best way to turn nighttime into a dream is up for a lot of debate. These are the three biggest schools of thought when it comes to sleep training your baby:
Created by Richard Ferber, M.D., director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital Boston, this method is one of the most well-known ways to get your baby to fall asleep. He recommends starting when your baby is between three and five months old. The first night that you put your baby to bed, allow crying for five minutes, and then come in to soothe your baby without actually picking him up. Leave after a few minutes, wait 10 minutes for the crying to stop, and then go in and calm your baby down (again, no picking up). The next time, wait 15 minutes and continue waiting 15 minutes at a time before going into the room. Eventually, your baby will fall asleep. The second night you’ll do everything the same, but start with waiting 10 minutes and peak at waiting 20 minutes. The third night, wait 15 minutes during the first round and peak at waiting 25 minutes. Continue this way until your baby learns to self-soothe without you and sleep soundly.
Marc Weissbluth, M.D., a pediatrician, believes that healthy sleep habits begin immediately. The key, to the Weissbluth Method, is putting your baby down earlier than you might think and never letting your baby be awake for too long. He believes that if a child stays awake for too long (for more than 90 minutes or two hours for a newborn), she will become overtired, which stops her ability to self-soothe and fall asleep naturally. Instead, put your baby down to sleep as soon as there are signs of drowsiness (your baby is less engaged in things, less focused, less smiley, and moving slower). You can lull your baby to sleep with typical things like gentle swaying, soft singing, or a pacifier.
This method was created by Kim West, a child and family therapist, and it focuses on not letting your child cry himself or herself to sleep. It’s geared towards babies who are six months or older and uses proximity as a form of comfort. How it works: Place your baby in the crib and sit down right next to the crib to verbally comfort your baby. Do this for a few nights, and then move your chair a little further away, still soothing your baby verbally. This continues until at some point you are putting your chair outside the door. The next step is walking out the door and going to bed. The idea is that your baby will feel confident that you’re close by since the process was gradual.