baby sleep training
Blog,  New Mom

Baby sleep training methods review and solutions

Wondering which baby sleeping approach is the best?

Or maybe you’re looking for the lowest risk, safest approach to baby sleep?

Whichever method it is, after going through sleep training my baby myself, I believe it is most important to choose and modify a method that is right and most comfortable for you.

What is perfect for me may not be suitable for you. And one method of philosophy may not entirely work for one person all the time.

Hence this post will focus on my breakdown of each sleep training method and why not one method is perfect for me, but a curated and modified one.

Important: Do read all the way to the end because I’ve left a freebie for you, enjoy!


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The debates out there about baby sleep

There are two major debates regarding baby sleep.

The two opposing ideas towards baby sleep are co-sleeping vs baby sleep training.

Co-sleeping is having your baby sleep close to you (like a separate bed side basinet) or bed sharing.

While baby sleep training is to have the baby learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, oftentimes in a different room or a crib.

Both have their pros and cons and honestly, I find both have valid points to consider.

baby sleep training methods

For Co-sleeping:

  • able to cuddle and snuggle with baby to sleep
  • run the risk of SIDS if parents do not practice safe bed-sharing environment for the first year
  • baby cannot fall asleep without you

For baby sleep training:

  • baby can fall asleep without you
  • run the risk of harming baby if left to cry or unattended for an extended period of time
  • cannot cuddle or snuggle with baby while sleeping

I’m sure there are a lot more if one were to sit and list everything down. Here I’m just listing the few that are most important.

And they are the risks vs benefits.

If we look at both sleep approaches, both have valid risks. but both have their own benefits too.

Whichever method you choose, I feel it is most important to lean on what feels right and most comfortable for you.

You may read more about the general discussion of sleep training a baby or not from theguardian.

Why I chose sleep training over co-sleeping

I chose to sleep train over co-sleeping for many reasons:

  • I needed a long term solution
  • I needed a sustainable solution that would free me up to do other things
  • I am a conscious sleeper and cannot sleep well if I have to constantly wonder if I’m suffocating my baby
  • We have previously invested in an expensive soft bed that makes bed-sharing risky

Based on my situation and needs, sleep training my baby is more suitable for us.

However that said and done, even though I have chosen to sleep train, my baby, I need to make sure I approach it in a way that is safe and secure for my baby.

Even though there are confusing noise out there about sleep training being harmful to babies, I do agree that leaving anyone unattended and undergo stress for long periods of time is not good for anyone, let alone a baby.

So even though I do sleep train, my baby, I keep that in mind as I approach my baby’s sleep training.

And even though there are plenty of sleep training approaches out there, not one of them is entirely perfect.

Here are my observations on each method:

ferber baby sleep training

The sleep training methods

The Ferber / check and console / graduated extinction / progressive waiting Method

This method involves some crying and consoling of the baby.

How it works:

According to parents.com this method would put the baby down in the crib drowsy but awake and leave the room. If the baby cries, wait for a few minutes before entering to comfort the baby.

Comfort means patting or talking to the baby, not feeding, rocking or picking up the baby. After you’ve done it, leave the room.

If the baby cries, wait for a little bit longer this time to enter the room. You then repeat this process until the baby falls asleep.

Below is a 10 minute video that talks about Ferber method.

What I like about this approach:

What I like about this approach is the ability to comfort the baby and at an interval.

The problem with this approach:

However, the very thing I like has it’s limitations:

  • I noticed that each time I enter and leave the room, my baby seem to cry harder than before.
  • The suggested intervals were too short and too many
  • my actions were confusing my little girl. I find the less I enter the room, the faster she calms down and falls asleep.
  • Not picking up my baby to soothe is very restrictive to me. I understand the idea is not to have the baby to rely on being held to fall asleep. But I believe it is important to distinguish soothing a distressed baby vs. not having the baby fall asleep on you.

Hence I did not entirely prescribe to this method.

The Cry-it-out / Extinction method (CIO)

This is by far the most controversial method, as it involves the most crying and zero intervention from the parent (except monitoring from the baby camera)

And oftentimes, this method is misunderstood as the definition of baby sleep training (letting the baby cry till they fall asleep), which is not true.

Baby sleep training is not synonymous with letting the baby cry to sleep. Baby sleep training is about having your baby learn to self-soothe to sleep. And there are many ways to approach this, crying it out is just one of the methods.

How it works:

This method like Ferber begins with putting the baby in the crib awake/drowsy, and leave the room. This is where the similarity stops.

The controversial part is where if the baby starts to cry, you do not enter the room or to attempt to console the baby at all.

The baby is to be on his/her own till they cry themselves to sleep. The parent will only enter the room for night feeds or the next morning.

What I like about this approach:

Unfortunately, there’s nothing to like about this approach, but that doesn’t mean it is not effective.

The problem with this approach:

It is very difficult for a parent to not enter and console the baby at all and it can be very stressful to hear your baby cry for long periods of time.

It is very rigid, there is no room to do anything else but to sit back and watch your baby cry (through the baby monitor).

I did not fully prescribe to this method either, but it is one of the methods I have modified for my situation.

cry it out sleep training

The chair /gradual sleep method

This method involves some crying, and little intervention from the parent.

How it works:

This method involves having the parent to sit in the room next to the crib while you put your awake but drowsy baby is in the crib.

You will wait for your baby to fall asleep. If the baby cry you do not pick them up, but you can talk to them to console your baby, reassuring them that you are in the room until they fall asleep.

Once the baby does fall asleep, you may leave the chair, however if the baby was to wake up crying, you will do the same thing again.

And each night, you will place the chair slightly further away from the crib, until one day you are outside the door and you no longer have to sit on the chair anymore.

What I like about this approach:

None. this is my least favorite method because I cannot get over the fact that I’m physically there in the room with the baby and yet cannot interact with her.

The problem with this method:

  • This is a really slow process
  • It creates confusion for the baby because now you are watching your baby cry and not do anything about it but sit on the chair
  • I can’t help but to associate this method with the still face experiment
  • Your presence may be a stimulus for your baby to stay awake

Watch video below if you’re unsure what is the still face experiment.

The pick up, put down, shush pat method

This method minimizes crying while they learn to fall asleep in the crib, not on you.

How it works:

This method’s aim is to help soothe the baby while the baby falls asleep on its own without breastfeeding or being held.

If the baby begins to fuss or cry, you may pat on the baby, shush, or apply calm pressure on their tummy to reassure them.

Your job in the room is to calm the baby, while it is the baby’s job to fall asleep.

What I like about this approach:

Everything! I like this method because I can still interact with my baby and provide some assistance when she gets fussy.

I find it is the perfect balance of providing some assistance, and baby learning to fall asleep in the crib without being held by the parent.

The problem with this approach:

  • the repetition may be tiring for the parent,
  • it is not something you can sustain for long periods of time
  • your presence may be too stimulating for the baby
  • your baby may start crying the moment you stop patting or shushing
gentle baby sleep training

Bedtime-Routine Fading

This is another method of minimized crying. It is focused on reducing the baby’s reliance on you.

The bedtime routine, in this case, refers to the actions your baby rely on you to fall asleep, (like breastfeeding, rocking, shushing or etc.), not the bedtime routine that follows before putting the baby to bed (like having dinner, drinking milk, taking a bath, reading a book, dimming the lights, turning on the sound machine, etc.)

How it works:

So basically whatever method a parent uses to make the baby fall asleep, (like rocking, singing, holding, or breastfeeding) the parent is to consciously and gradually spend less time on it each session, until the baby falls asleep without needing to rely on any of them anymore.

What I like about this method:

I like how this gradually reduces the baby’s reliance on us, not ‘cold-turkey-ing’ the baby.

It is a gentler approach rather than a sudden change of bedtime treatment.

The problem with this approach:

  • it is a very slow and long approach
  • a parent who is injured from the constant rocking (ie. carpel tunnel, sprained ankle etc.) will not be able to sustain this method
  • the baby may still cry when you place the baby in the crib
baby sleep training methods

Bedtime-hour Fading

This method may sound similar to bedtime-routine fading but is not the same. This method focuses on tuning in to the baby’s sleepy times.

How it works:

This is assuming that your baby’s natural sleepy hours is much later then your desired bedtime ie. 8pm.

So if your baby naturally doze off at 10pm, your sleep training will begin from their natural sleeping time, and each night begin the baby sleeping routine 30minutes earlier.

From there you will gradually bring forward and adjusted their bedtime to your desired bedtime which is 8pm.

The aim here is to work with their natural sleeping rhythm and adjust earlier from there rather than putting them to bed 2 hours earlier without any prior pattern.

What I like about this approach:

I like that this approach observes the baby’s sleepy hours rather than dictating what is sleep and nap time for the baby.

The problem with this approach:

  • This method will be impractical when if the baby’s natural sleepy hours are wee hours in the morning.
  • This method would be practical assuming your baby is naturally falling asleep when they are sleepy, not all baby’s are like that.
  • I can only see this method being used to adjust sleeping times, not so much learning to self-soothe, no doubt it is easier to work with a baby at their natural sleepy hours.

Below is a post where I generally reference all the 6 methods:

The problem about each method to sleep training

Each method is restrictive

I realize that I cannot fully follow 1 method for sleep training because the methods are restrictive and do not fully address every scenario.

For example:

  • I can’t purely do cry it out, I feel the method is too sudden for any baby, like doing a cold turkey on my baby
  • I like the check and console method, but my frequency in entering and leaving the room just aggravated my baby
  • I like both the shush, pat, and put down method and fading routine method, however the baby will still end up with some crying

I wanted a method that would meet the balance of being able to comfort the baby, and at the same time provide some space and time for the baby to self-soothe in a length of time and effort that is reasonable.

There’s no one perfect baby sleep method

Not one method is perfect for all babies, or parents.

Some methods may be perfect for some babies and parents, but this is not the case for everyone.

After doing baby sleep training myself, I realize there are many things to consider when deciding which method to use:

  • the babies temperament
  • the parent’s values
  • the couple’s lifestyle
  • the mother’s energy level
  • your bedroom set up or living situation

Every family is complex, hence I believe we need to approach baby sleep training organically.

baby sleep training review

The solution to the problem about the sleep training methods

Due to the methods being restrictive, and no one method is perfect for one baby (in this case that’s me), I’ve made approaching baby sleep training work for me.

And if you are in the same boat as me, here are my tips below:

Taking each method as a RESOURCE at our fingertips, not as a bible

I’ve scoured the internet and read up all the methods are available out there and how they work.

I also go into as far as what to do if that particular method does not work out, or not pan out the way we expect it to be (which is all the time).

The set of knowledge from reading up is now at my disposal if things don’t work out the way we expect it.

Why not treat each method like a bible?

That’s because it can get really hard for you to succeed if the method does not suit you or your baby.

And if you follow a method 100% that does not sit right with you, you’d get very stressed out and in turn transfer the stress to the baby or the process which will most likely reduce your success rate.

This lead to my next point.

Create your own approach from the many approaches you read

From all the approaches you read and learned up, you have now the freedom and ability to curate, modify and come up with a method that works for you.

If it means using a little bit of chair method and check and console, go ahead.

This is what I did :

  • I began my baby’s first night’s sleep training with the goal to reduce her reliance on me (routine fading method)
  • Then I have her getting used to falling asleep in the crib instead of my falling asleep while being held on my body (with pat, such and put down method)
  • If my baby start to cry after I leave the room, I will give comfort (with check and console on interval method)
  • And finally, if my baby still cries at the end even after I’ve done all the above, I’ll do extinction crying and will only intervene in the sleep training if it’s more than 15 minutes of non stop crying.

This was how I curated, modified, made up the process of sleep training my baby without sticking to one method.

sleep training a baby

Use whatever method that suited you and your baby’s temperament or needs

This I believe is most important to note.

We as parents should not underestimate our instincts and our understanding of our baby.

The 2 method that was not applicable to me are the chair method and the bedtime fading method.

I know my baby well and she gets stimulated when any parent (especially me) is in the room, and I realize my presence is contributing to her not calming down.

Hence the chair method is the worst method for me.

The bedtime fading is not applicable to me because my baby’s sleepy timing is not drastically far from her actual bedtime/naptime.

What is your needs or your baby’s temperament and which would be out of the question based on how well you know your baby?

Know your value, stance and opinion about baby sleep and curate your training from there.

And finally, as a new parent, this is probably something very early and heavy to ask of a new mom to decide.

But it is nonetheless something that will help you in the long run in dealing with more motherhood related challenge.

Having a rough idea of what you stand for and believe in will be the compass to guide you in making difficult decisions as a mom.

For me, I do not believe in the chair method due to my personal reasons and could never pull it off even if it’s the most effective method for a parent out there.

So what’s your stance in your approach to baby sleep?

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This is my two cents on baby sleep training

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