What Are the Different Sleep Training Methods?

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Without a doubt, sleep training is one of the toughest parts of parenting. Sleep is necessary, for everyone, and babies do so little of it! When you have a baby who has trouble falling asleep or doesn’t sleep through the night, it can take a major toll on your physical and mental well-being. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Sometimes, all it takes is a little help to get your babe sleeping soundly. You may have heard of sleep training, or be familiar with a few of the methods. But finding the one that works for your family is key. What are the different sleep training methods for babies? Here’s what you need to know.

Not every method is going to work for every family. Finding the right one for you and your baby is the first step. But what are the different sleep training methods?

Every parent does at least some form of sleep training, whether they realize it or not. But using a more structured system may be helpful when your baby isn’t falling sleep on their own, or wakes several times during the night. The five most common sleep training methods are: Fading (FIO), Pick-Up/Put-Down, The Chair Method, Ferber (or Graduated Extinction), and Cry It Out (CIO, or Extinction).

PREVIOUSLY: When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?

Each method is unique, and not all methods will work for all babies. Some methods, like Fading and Pick-Up/Put-Down, are very gentle and aim to minimize the amount of crying that happens (for both babies and parents!). These methods can be used for babies as young as 6-8 weeks old. Both methods require quite a bit of patience, as you’ll be going in and out of your baby’s room several times over the course of the training. But again, they’re very gentle, and if you stick to it, very effective!

Some sleep training methods are more controversial, like Ferber and Cry It Out.

The “cry” methods of sleep training divide a lot of parents. There are those who swear by them, and those who would never try them. They are certainly not for the faint of heart. The Ferber method is the more gentle of cry methods, allowing parents to enter the room in intervals to comfort their child (but not pick up and rock or soothe). Cry It Out is exactly that: placing your baby down in their crib and leaving the room, not returning until morning.

PREVIOUSLY: 5 Reasons Your Kids Can’t or Won’t Go to Sleep, and How to Deal With It

While the gentler, no-cry sleep training methods can be started when your baby is as young as 6 weeks old, experts recommend waiting until your child is much older to attempt an extinction method. No younger than 6 months of age, but preferably even older, between 8-10 months old. And it’s important to wait until your child has dropped nightly feedings before attempting ANY sleep training method.

What are the different sleep training methods? There are quite a few to choose from, depending on your goals. No matter which method you choose, make sure it’s one you can live with!

(Image: iStock / LightFieldStudios)