Wondering which sleep training method to use for your child? Find out why we recommend the extinction sleep training method despite the controversy behind it.
Sleep is essential for babies' growth and development. Newborn babies do not have a specific sleep pattern. Their circadian rhythm is only starting to take shape.
Sleep is not a skill that comes naturally. The baby does not know how to sleep. As a parent, you are there to teach and train them. You need to soothe them and comfort them when you want them to sleep until they learn to do it themselves. That is the essence of sleep training.
Sleep training is teaching your baby how to sleep and when to sleep. The target is to ensure they learn to sleep without your help. They grasp how to soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night.
We are going to dig deep into a particular method of sleep training known as extinction sleep training. We will seek how it works and if it is an effective method.
Experts recommend that sleeping routines and naps should start right from the first day. The baby is never too young to learn healthy sleep habits. However, they advocate formal sleep training should begin when the child is 4-6 months old.
At ages between 0-6 weeks, you do not need to worry so much about sleep routines. At ages 2-3 months, the baby is old enough to start learning bedtime routines. You are only allowed to begin formal training when they are 4-6 months old.
Sleep Training Methods
At ages 4-6 months old, the baby is old enough to get the usual 8 hours of sleep. The only problem is that they associate sleep with the comforting you give them.
Different sleep training methods require a varying amount of participation from the parent. Some of the methods used in sleep training include the following.
Extinction/ Cry it out sleep training method
It involves the parent going through a bedtime routine, kissing the baby goodnight, and leaving the baby to soothe himself to sleep. The method is referred to as cry it out method because the parent ignores the cries of the baby. The baby cries until he/ she gets tired and falls asleep.
This method of sleep training may seem harsh in the short term. However, it has proven effective. Its result helps both the parents and the children.
The Ferber Method
It is more gentle than the extinction method. It is also called graduated extinction. The parent gradually increases the time the baby cries until they learn how to soothe themselves to sleep.
Similar to the extinction sleep training, the parent does a bedtime routine, cuddles the baby, and then puts them to sleep. In the beginning, the parent responds to the cries of the baby.
The parent pats the baby on the back to offer reassurance until the baby stops crying. They then gradually reduce the response to the baby crying until the baby can self-soothe.
The fading method involves gradually decreasing your presence from the child's crib. The parent offers little comfort as they distance themselves away from the baby.
It involves putting the baby to sleep when she seems tired. If she cries, you can take her out of the crib for a set amount of time. You can gradually move the sleeping time to fifteen minutes earlier until you reach the desired time. This method helps in modifying the baby's circadian wake-sleep rhythm.
The chair method involves sitting in a chair next to where the baby is sleeping. Watch the baby fall asleep without picking them up. Gradually increase the distance of the chair from the baby's bed. This method is more effective for older babies.
Pick up, Put Down Shush-Pat
This method allows the parent to stay in the room without helping the child to sleep. The parent can pat the baby when he or she starts crying. If the crying escalates, the parent can pick up the baby, soothe them, and put her down before she falls asleep.
This method can be successful. However, picking up the baby and putting them down will stimulate them. It may make it harder for them to fall asleep.
Extinction Sleep Training
The idea behind the extinction method is to reduce the crying behavior of the child by not responding to it. It is the most controversial method of sleep training. Parents cannot stand the thought of leaving their child the whole night even when they cry.
The goal of this method is to let your baby cry until she wears herself out to sleep. You can choose to start the extinction of sleep training when the baby is ready. Start when the baby is 4-6 months old.
How the Extinction Method Works
The truth is that there is no single method of training that can work for all the babies. The results may vary from one baby to another. However, there are things you can do to make it efficient.
For a start, you need to find out how much sleep time your baby needs and use it to predict your sleep expectation. Newborn babies from the ages of 0-3 months need 14-17 hours of sleep. Infants from the ages of 4-11 months need 12-15 hours of sleep.
You need to make sure the baby is active throughout the day. Ensure the baby is having just enough naps during the day. It will make it easier for them to sleep at night.
In addition to that, you need to develop a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine will help to reinforce the baby's circadian rhythm. A consistent bedtime routine helps the baby to know it is time to sleep. It is a quality time to bond with the baby and give her comfort before she falls asleep.
A bedtime routine could involve books, lullabies, a bath, cuddles, and parting words. Try to keep it consistent, create the right environment, and make any necessary adjustments.
Observe the baby's cues for sleep
At the beginning of the sleep training, the circadian rhythm has not taken root. Therefore, you need to observe when the baby is tired. The cues can involve rubbing her eyes, yawning, sucking the thumb at a particular time every night.
Being able to predict when your baby needs to sleep will make the extinction sleep training method successful.
Put her in her crib
Putting the baby down on the crib will help create a routine. She will associate the crib with sleep time. You can use the crib for both naps and sleep time. It is safer to place her in a crib than on a chair or a bed.
You should put the baby to sleep on her back. Ensure the crib is clear of pillows, toys, or stuffed animals.
Do not respond to the baby's cries
This method of sleep requires that you let your baby cry herself to sleep. The first few nights may be rough though you will start seeing the results in the long run.
However, you need to check on them after definite intervals to make sure they are safe. A baby monitor can help you keep track of the baby without going to her room. Seek medical advice in case the baby vomits several times during the extinction sleep training method.
Is the extinction method effective?
In the first nights of training, the baby may cry for 45 minutes to an hour before falling asleep. The cries will gradually decrease. After a week of sleep training, the crying finally ends. The baby will also be able to self-soothe. It also happens when they wake up in the middle of the night.
Is the extinction method harmful?
A study was done by pediatrics to check if this method of sleep training has traumatic or psychological effects on the baby.
The study showed that the method had no stress response and it did not affect the parent-child relationship. In the study, the cortisol hormone was tested negative in saliva. Cortisol is a stress hormone. It examined the babies to check any emotional, stress, or attachment issues after one year.
The study showed that this method has better results than any other sleep training method. It is significant to check if the baby has any medical conditions. If they do, you can do variations of the extinction method.
Sleep training helps a child know how and when to wake up. Sleep training results vary from one child to another.
Before choosing the extinction method, make sure you consult a pediatrician. You need medical advice because the extinction sleep training method involves leaving the baby to cry until she wears herself out and finally falls asleep.
There have been controversies around this method of training. However, studies have shown that it is safe and has no traumatic or psychological effect on the baby. The baby and parent attachment are not also affected.
This method of sleep training is effective. It is hard in the starting point though the long-term results are satisfying.
When the baby falls asleep, parents also need to have good sleep, there are some sleep-related tips for you: