When you have a #baby, friends and family (and sometimes perfect strangers) can’t resist doling out advice. From feeding schedules to swaddling, tummy time to infant massage, everyone has an opinion about the best way to keep your little cherub happy and healthy.
That holds true for baby’s bedtime too, so you’ve no doubt heard plenty of theories about how to reach one of the most eagerly anticipated milestones of parenting: Getting your baby to #sleep through the night.
But with so many opinions out there, which system is best? Here are five of the most popular ones.
Also known as “cry it out,” this method (as the name implies) is usually the most tearful. You simply put your baby to bed drowsy and don’t check in again, even if she cries. The concept is that rushing to console your baby only encourages her to cry longer the next night, prolonging her wakefulness. The goal is to quickly teach her to soothe herself to sleep.
Check and Console
This “interval” method also aims to teach babies self soothing, but with fewer tears. Put your baby to bed while he’s still awake and then leave the room, allowing him to cry for five minutes before going back to briefly console and reassure (but generally not pick up) your child, gradually increasing the amount of time between check-ins every night.
With this approach, you put your child in his crib but comfort him immediately whenever he starts to cry. It’s a more gradual process, also known as the “pick-up-put-down” method for obvious reasons. Keep a close eye on your child’s reaction, though; some babies get increasingly overstimulated (and more awake) with repeated parental contact.
Focused on minimizing tears, this method instructs you to continue your normal routine of ushering your child to dreamland, but reduce your efforts slightly each night (rocking for fewer minutes, singing fewer lullabies, etc) until you’re not helping her fall asleep at all, or simply keeping your baby up late and gradually moving bedtime earlier. This tends to take quite a bit of time—and patience.
This approach might not minimize tears, but it does allow you to stay near your child. Following your usual bedtime routine, you place your baby in the crib and sit nearby, not interacting with or consoling her at all, just reassuring her with your presence. Each night you move your chair closer to the door until you’re not in the room at all.
The subject of #sleep training can controversial, with strong supporters of each method often believing other strategies range from ineffective to downright damaging. So which method is best for encouraging healthy sleep habits?
As with most aspects of parenting, using your instincts is usually best. Take into account your child’s personality, current stage of development (phases like teething or separation anxiety can complicate sleep training), your family situation (for example, if older kids are trying to sleep down the hall, crying it out might not be practical), and your own needs. Feel free to combine elements of different ideas that appeal to you, creating your very own personalized approach. Research shows that many methods have high success rates, as long as you stick with them at least a week.
So take heart, tired parents! Ultimately, whichever solution you’re able to use consistently that works with your family’s unique needs is the right one for you.