April 5, 2023
If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know that my whole journey to become a sleep consultant started with a boy who never slept. Those first few months with Liam felt so desperate, and I remember digging through countless articles on the internet looking for solutions that could help. There are articles upon articles with information about sleep training, and so many of them contradict each other. As a new parent, it can definitely feel intimidating trying to learn more about sleep training. If you’re here because you’re looking for help, feel free to get in touch! I’m always happy to chat to you about what your options are.
Before we begin, let’s talk about what sleep training is. Sleep training is the process of teaching your child to fall asleep independently. For most babies, sleep is a skill. While that may seem counterintuitive, if you have a baby that doesn’t fall asleep on their own, it’s completely normal. The goal of sleep training is to help your child fall asleep and stay asleep without the need for constant soothing and resettling. Through sleep training we can help our babies learn to self-soothe so they can get the long stretches of sleep they need to be happy and well rested.
If your baby is four months old and you are getting ready to sleep train, I highly recommend you check in on the foundations of baby sleep before you start. Often by making corrections to the environment baby sleep in or schedule, we see huge improvements in both night sleep and naps! You can read all about the foundations of baby sleep here. These foundations are:
Baby’s sleep environment is the single best tool I can give you for successfully sleep training your child. Ensuring that baby has the right number of naps and age appropriate wake windows will also give you the best chance at success.
There are several different types of sleep training methods that you can choose from. The easiest way to explain the difference in these is that they vary by level of intervention. This means that on one end of the spectrum you have versions like “Cry it Out (CIO)” that have no intervention at all, and then on the other end of the spectrum you have “Pick Up / Put Down” or “Hands on” which are close-to continuous intervention. In this context, intervention is the amount you step in and help your child to settle down as they begin to fuss (also referred to as yell or cry).
Keep in mind that the versions of sleep training that have less intervention, tend to take longer. That means that a method of sleep training like Pick Up / Put Down for example will take several weeks as opposed to some that work in two weeks or less.
Know that while there seems to be an endless number of sleep training methods, many of them are quite similar. The key difference among them is the amount of intervention or support that you offer your child while they learn to self-soothe. For some, the approach is very hands on, where as for others it is more hands off.
Oftentimes when parents are looking at sleep training methods, it is coming from a place of desperation. When I first started looking into sleep training for Liam, I certainly felt like I had no choice but to put him in the crib and let him shout. I tried that, and it was terrible. Before you start looking at methods of sleep training, know that there is one out there that will work for your family and your baby. Every family is different, and every baby is different, and so it is entirely a matter of deciding which method is right for your family.
When working with clients I like to work through what type of temperament your baby has — are they generally a little stickier or clingy to a parent or caregiver? Are they fussy? Do they adapt easily? As a family, are you generally okay with a bit more crying or fussing? Do you feel like you want to be more physically present or are you comfortable with giving space and independence? All of these factors then point along the scale in selecting a sleep training method. If you are comfortable with some fussing, and your baby is pretty adaptable then the Wave may be the right move for you. If you are comfortable with some crying and are happy to stand back, then Ferber may work best for your family. Of course, if you feel like you need an extra hand to sift through the options, please feel free to get in touch! I would love to chat to you about how best to go about sleep training your baby.
The short answer to this is always, no! If your current sleep situation is working for your family, there’s never any need to sleep train. If you feel well rested and your little one is getting enough sleep, then there’s no need to make any changes. If however, you are feeling like you need a hand, there is a solution that will work for your family and I encourage to look at your options.