What are my sleep training options?
There are many different ways to teach healthy sleep habits to your child. Which technique should you try? That depends on what you feel comfortable with and which sleep strategy you think your child will respond well to.
While researchers continue to debate the merits of various sleep training options, consistency appears to be more important than method. A review of 52 sleep studies using various methods, published in the journal Sleep, found almost all the techniques effective if applied consistently. Choose a sleep training method you can live with and follow through on it and chances are, it'll work for you.
Most sleep training methods follow one of these basic approaches:
The "cry-it out" approach
These sleep training methods say it's okay to leave your child to cry, if necessary, although they don't advocate letting a baby cry endlessly. Typically these methods suggest putting your baby to bed when he's still awake and allowing short periods of crying punctuated by comforting (but not picking up) your child.
The most well known "cry it out" technique is the one developed by pediatrician Richard Ferber
, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital Boston. Ferber says that in order to fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night, babies have to learn to soothe themselves. Ferber believes that teaching a baby to soothe himself may involve leaving him alone to cry for prescribed periods of time.
The "no tears" approach
Sleep training methods in this category encourage a more gradual approach, with the parent offering comfort right away when their child cries. Pediatrician William Sears, author of The Baby Sleep Book, is probably the most well known proponent. Parent educator Elizabeth Pantley outlines a step-by-step no-tears approach in her book The No-Cry Sleep Solution.
Some experts fall somewhere between these two methods in their recommendations. Perhaps the most well known of these is pediatrician Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. His method suggests a very specific routine involving "the five S's": swaddling, the side or stomach position (for calming your baby, not for sleeping), shushing, swinging, and sucking.
Wednesday: What the experts say
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