February 16, 2012 Evie 8Comment

No one ever tells you before you have a baby just how very little sleep you’re going to get. In the first few weeks after “A” was born, she woke every couple of hours to nurse, like all babies, but new love and excitement kept us going through the exhaustion. Instead of becoming a better sleeper as she got older though, she actually got worse. At some points over the course of the last year, she was waking as many as eight times in a 12-hour stretch. And when you’re sleeping in half-hour intervals—a torture technique used on terrorists, my husband likes to remind me—you’re desperate for something to change, and FAST!

At our four-month appointment, our pediatrician told us that we could begin sleep training. From there, my life has been a blur of sleepless nights, and days spent researching any and every sleep training technique known to man. I have probably read more than a dozen books on getting your baby to sleep, but there were five main techniques and titles I would recommend:

Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake up Happy, by Kim West: West’s “Sleep Lady Shuffle” technique advises you to put your baby in their crib drowsy but awake and stay by them, offering mostly verbal encouragement as they learn to go to sleep on their own. She has parents place a chair at the side of the crib for the first few nights, then gradually move the chair further and further away as the baby learns that physical proximity is not necessary to fall asleep.

The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Rest for the Whole Family, by William Sears: Sears’ “Attachment Parenting” philosophy emphasizes that sleep should be a pleasant experience in which your baby understands your availability and affection. He advises that many babies sleep best with their parents, in an arrangement called “co-sleeping.” He also offers lots of information on how babies sleep and what we can do to meet their physical and emotional needs at night.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep through the Night, by Elizabeth Pantley: Pantley’s approach guides you to slowly break your baby’s dependence on you to put them to sleep (starting with something as simple as not allowing them to fall into a deep sleep while still latched on). Her “no-cry” solution lets the baby take the lead: if the baby is not yet ready for the next step on Pantley’s road to sleep independence, Pantley says it’s okay to give in and try again later.

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems (by Teaching You How to Ask the Right Questions), by Tracy Hogg: Hogg’s “Pick-Up, Put-Down” method instructs parents to respond to their baby’s cries by picking them up long enough to calm them and then placing them back into their crib to settle back to sleep on their own. She warns that this method takes intense dedication in order to be successful, as you may have to pick up and put down your baby as many as fifty to one hundred times in a single waking before they go back to sleep.

Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, by Richard Ferber: Ferber’s controversial “cry-it-out” method is based on the logic that babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own, in their cribs, without any assistance from their parents, and this can only be accomplished by giving them the autonomy to do so. He allows for controlled crying, during which parents leave the room for specified intervals, starting with just 3 minutes and building up to as much as 30 minutes, if necessary, over several nights.

For us, none of these techniques was a panacea. Instead, we made small gains using each of these methods, to get us to where we are now: A sleeps in her crib and goes to sleep on her own. She still wakes once a night a few times a week, but we like to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come.

Evie signature

What has worked for your family? Did you find a particular book or piece of advice helpful?

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8 thoughts on “Sleep Training Techniques: I’ve Done It All!

  1. I read Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Sleep. It does encourage the cry-it-out method which did work for us, though it was hard hearing my son cry for a while. But within a few weeks, we were able to lay him down and he’d lay there and babble until he fell asleep. When he woke up in the middle of the night, he’d babble for a while until he went back to sleep. He now sleeps 12 hours at night and has been doing such since he was 10 months old (he’s now 20 months). And even better, he’ll sleep at other people’s houses too if they have a crib or pack-n-play. :)

    1. I’ve heard of Baby Wise. Is it similar to Ferber? We did have to use cry it out eventually, but it was very controlled. We started at six months, and it took two days. Now, I go in whenever he needs me, but almost always, he sleeps through. He’s 19 months. What age did you use the Baby Wise method? – Sarahlynne

      1. Please DO NOT use the Baby Wise method. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually took the unusual step of issuing an advisory against this book, as it can be damaging to babies, lead to weight loss, malnutrition and failure to thrive. The original publisher actually stopped publishing the book, and new copies are printed by a company founded by the authors, because no reputable publisher would do so.

  2. The Ferber method worked for us! After C proved that she could sleep for 8 hours one night (at 3 1/3 months) and with approval from our pediatrician, we “Ferberized” her within a matter of days. Yes, it was very hard to hear her cry out for us, but the Ferber method allows you to go in after set periods of time to check in and comfort them with pats and soothing words. I love knowing that, when she cries now, it’s for a specific reason (sick, wet, etc.) and not because she just wants Mommy in the middle of the night. But I couldn’t have done the sleep training without my husband! It really helps when you have another person to hold you back from running in to the baby! ; )
    -Dawn

  3. I read parts of Ferber’s book and Babywise, both
    of which have very loyal followings. Another one
    I took from was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby.
    Some good information in there as well. As with everything
    baby though, it’s all trial and error! And best of all,
    temporary. :)

    1. True, true. I think it all depends on the personality of the baby. For some babies, CIO doesn’t work, for some it does. I really didn’t want to do it, and we ended up having to do it for a few days; putting him to bed comfortably was taking 45 minutes! I know crying raises their stress levels and it’s not healthy for them. We have done it a handful of times. Now, if he wakes up mid night, I always go to him because I know he knows how to go back to sleep on his own, so if he wakes up it’s because he needs something. Usually, it’s just a hug. :) – Sarahlynne

  4. I have an 18-month-old who still often wakes at nights and usually has to have some crying involved to go to sleep, even after rocking and nursing. I’ve tried it all and I’m convinced that some babies just can’t be trained to go to sleep easily and stay asleep. It’s been long and exhausting, but we are making it.

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