Which Sleep Training Method is Right for You?

There is no “right” or “wrong” method for sleep training; if there were, everyone would universally agree and that method would work for every family, but of course we know that’s not the case. Instead, the “right” method for you and your family depends on your parenting style and what you’re comfortable with, along with the temperament of your child and what she seems to need.

Remember a few keys when it comes to sleep training:

  1. Make sure you’re implementing age-appropriate timing. All the training in the world is likely to backfire if it’s not done with proper timing.

  2. If you haven’t already, introduce consistent naptime and bedtime routines.

  3. Many experts recommend waiting until 4-6 months to sleep train babies. However, I do not make that recommendation. I believe you can start working on good sleep habits from day 1, but I may cap crying more before 4 months old than I would after 4 months old. Trust your gut, and only do what you’re comfortable with.

Below you will find five methods that I commonly talk about, along with a bonus method meant especially for toddlers (3+ years). The information is meant to help you figure out which method sounds like the best fit for your family, and then you can click the link to the full blog post for more information. The methods are presented from most gentle to most direct, with the toddler method at the end.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the sleep training options? Check out this post to figure out which one is the best fit for YOUR family.

Easing Overview

This training method is about very slowly easing your child into learning the skill of falling asleep independently. It involves a lot of hands-on parental presence to ensure that Baby never feels abandoned. Click for the full post.

THIS METHOD IS GOOD FOR:

  • Children who heavily rely on a parent to fall asleep

  • Parents who who want as little crying as possible

  • Parents who are willing to spend a lot of time sleep training

  • Parents who want to be extremely hands-on throughout the training process

THIS METHOD IS NOT GOOD FOR:

  • Children who are stimulated by parental presence during sleep training (with the child either trying to play/interact with parents or screaming louder to demand attention, or perhaps even the child who screams louder as if to say, "I don't want you in here when I'm trying to sleep!")

  • Parents who are unwilling to be very consistent over several weeks, possibly even months


Chair Method Overview

The chair method involves sitting in a chair next to your child as she falls asleep. Every few days, you move the chair a bit further away from her so that she begins to learn 1) to fall asleep with less interaction with you, and 2) that even when you disappear from sight, you're still close by, so she can rest easy. Click for the full post.

THIS METHOD IS GOOD FOR:

  • Children who are calmed by parental presence during sleep training

  • Children who may be dealing with fears (of the dark, of monsters, of being alone, etc.)

  • Children who have co-slept (either in the same room or same bed) with their parents

  • Parents who want to be quite hands-on throughout the training process

  • Parents who are very committed to consistency

THIS METHOD IS NOT GOOD FOR:

  • Children who are stimulated by parental presence during sleep training (with the child either trying to play/interact with parents or screaming louder to demand attention, or perhaps even the child who screams louder as if to say, "I don't want you in here when I'm trying to sleep!")

  • Parents who are unwilling to dedicate their presence to sleep training (possibly involving hours at bedtime and throughout the night) for at least two weeks


Checks with a Script Overview

This method involves very brief checks at very short intervals so that Baby learns to trust that Mom and Dad are never far away, allowing Baby to access her own self-soothing capabilities. Click for the full post.

This method is good for:

  • Children suspected to have any separation anxiety issues

  • Parents who want to feel like they’re doing something to help soothe their child

  • Parents who are committed to consistency

This method is not good for:

  • Parents who are unwilling to be consistent with frequent checks

  • Parents who can’t refrain from touching and interacting with their crying baby

Timed Checks Overview

Using timed checks involves laying your baby down when it's time to sleep, leaving the room to allow her the opportunity to figure out how to fall asleep on her own, and returning at timed intervals to briefly reassure her if she's crying. Click for the full post.

THIS METHOD IS GOOD FOR:

  • Children who are calmed by parental presence during sleep training

  • Possibly for children who have co-slept (either in the same room or same bed) with their parents

  • Parents who want to feel like they're doing something to help soothe their child

  • Parents who do not own a video monitor

  • Parents who are committed to consistency

THIS METHOD IS NOT GOOD FOR:

  • Children who are stimulated by parental presence during sleep training (if your child cries louder during and/or after your checks, then checks probably aren't a good fit)

  • Parents who are unwilling to keep a close eye on the clock or set timers

  • Parents who are unwilling to endure some crying


Extinction Overview

This training method is about giving your child the opportunity to fall asleep completely on her own, with no parental presence or interference. Click for the full post.

THIS METHOD IS GOOD FOR:

  • Children who are stimulated by parental presence during sleep training

  • Parents who can endure some crying

  • Parents who own a video monitor

  • Parents who want the quickest results

THIS METHOD IS NOT GOOD FOR:

  • Children who have a fear of separation

  • Children who have co-slept (in the same bed or same room) for a long time

  • Parents who are unwilling to endure some crying


*Silent Return and Sleep Rules Overview

This training method is about setting up your expectations surrounding sleep and then enforcing those expectations. It involves teaching sleep rules to your toddler and then ignoring any attention-seeking behavior that occurs during sleeping times. Click for the full post.


As I said in the beginning, there’s no perfect method, and here’s why: we want something easy, and easy just may not exist for your family. Some kids go through sleep training with minimal crying using a more direct method, but many kids don’t. This translates to kids crying more than parents are comfortable with (with a more direct method) and/or parents who have to spend more time and energy sleep training than they’d like to (with a gentler method).

So what do you do? You pick the method that you can be consistent with.

If your child is stimulated by parental presence but you know you can’t handle full extinction, then don’t choose extinction. If you start extinction and then cave to the crying, you’ll undo any work you’ve tried to do, and Baby will have therefore cried for no reason. So in that case, maybe you pick timed checks because it’s the most you can handle (good for you), and it’s the least parental involvement possible (good for Baby) that still has some parental involvement (good for you). But remember that both parts of the equation are important — your needs and your child’s needs. So try to weigh both sides, but ultimately choose what you can be consistent with. You can always move down the ladder toward more direct methods, but trying a gentler method after a more direct method sends a confusing message to Baby — she’ll think she’s in control and can get more of what she wants if she just cries enough. This is not a message we want to send!

It would be nice if there were a perfect answer, but since there’s not, you’ll just have to do the best you can to satisfy needs on both sides of the equation. Remember that good sleep is important for the whole family, and let that be your motivator when things get tough. You can do this! <3