Typically, when your baby is about six-months-old, their circadian rhythms stabilize and they start to wake up less and less during the night. This is a great time to work on sleep-training, or trying to get them to learn to fall asleep on their own and stay asleep during the night. There are a variety of commonly used methods, however, one that worked for your friend or coworker may not work for your baby.
The most common are:
Pick-up-put-down: this is a gentle technique that is exactly what it sounds like. When a baby is fussy and it’s time to go to sleep, pick them up and comfort them until they’re calm and drowsy, but not yet asleep. Put them back in their crib to sleep, and repeat until they’re finally asleep. This requires a lot of patience, and not every baby will like this method. For some, it’s overstimulating and can make them fussier, rather than coax them to sleep.
Fading sleep: this method consists of helping your baby fall asleep by rocking or feeding, but shortening the amount of time you rock/feed each night, which allows your baby to do more to get themselves to fall asleep. This also requires a lot of patience, but this works very well for families who want to minimize crying.
Chair method: This method doesn’t involve picking up your baby at all. Begin with your normal bedtime routine and put a chair very close to the crib while your baby falls asleep. The goal is to reassure baby that you’re nearby, but you don’t help them calm down or give them any attention after you’ve put them to bed. Each night, you move your chair farther and farther away until you’re right outside the door and no longer need the chair at all. This method can be very difficult on parents and baby, but for some, it can work well.
Ferberizing (check and console): This technique allows you to check the baby at timed intervals while allowing them to learn to console themselves. Your goal is to reassure baby that you’re nearby while reassuring yourself that they’re ok. When you check on baby, don’t pick them up, simply tell them that they’re ok and pat or rub their back for two-three minutes before leaving. Over time, increase the amount of time between checks. Start with 10 minutes between checks and increase by five minutes each night. This method helps baby learn to fall back asleep in the same environment they wake up in each night.
Cry it out (sleep extinction): This is the most commonly known method. The idea is you do your normal bedtime routine and put the baby to bed, but do not check on them again, instead of letting them fall asleep on their own. This can be hard for parents to not console their child when they’re crying, but the idea is that if you go in after a certain amount of time, your child will expect you to do that every night.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” method of sleep training. You may find a hybrid of these methods works best for you, or something that’s not listed here at all. If you need help finding a way to sleep train your baby, or talking through some of the ideas listed here, talk to your pediatrician. They can offer some helpful suggestions about what to try and what might work for you and your baby.