Cry it out method. It is hard, but it is short-lived and it works. If you are against cry it out method, please do not continue. Please do explore other methods prior to committing to cry it out sleep training.
Kids who cannot be reasoned with. Older kids will require a different method. This is for a child who:
- Requires prolonged help to fall asleep (rocking, bouncing, walking etc), only to wake up after an award-worthy stealth place-in-the-crib performance.
- Wakes up multiple times at night and usually also early awakening.
All bedtime sleep training methods, including cry it out method, aim to teach your child to self soothe and sleep unassisted. This is an important life skill. Children (and adult) go through several periods of light sleep through the night. If they can self soothe, they will go right back to sleep, allowing for uninterrupted sleep. If they are unable to self soothe, they risk waking up completely during the light sleep period (and screaming for you).
Dark, quiet room. Use white noise. Use black out shades.
Make sure your child is old enough to not need night feeding and swaddling, typically after 5-6 months.
Preparation: about 2 weeks
- I follow the chart below religiously. You can choose any other reliable sleep/nap chart out there. The goal is to have a guideline to follow.
- Get rid of any sleep crutch that “disappears” during the night ie pacifier, mobile, music etc.
- Stop swaddling so baby can self-soothe. A baby usually starts growing out of the startle reflex at 5-6 months old.
- Introduce a lovey. Forced friendship. Make sure baby and lovey are stuck at the hips. The lovey provides comfort in lieu of you.
- For 1-2 weeks prior to sleep training, do whatever it takes to make sure baby has adequate nap, according to that chart you chose. A sleep deprived baby cannot be sleep trained. Also make sure last nap is not too late. You get it : follow the chart. I sacrificed my vacation time to do this and did not regret it.
- Have a short and consistent bedtime routine. Every.single.night. The usual ones are bath, dry diaper, bottle, book and bed.
Sleep training: allow a week
- Be strong. If you give in you will have to start all over. Find ways to distract yourself.
- Do the usual bedtime routine.
- Make sure baby is comfortable ie. Well fed, not thirsty, not sick, dry diaper etc. You can feed more frequently in the late afternoon or evening to make sure baby is not hungry,
- Put baby in bed comfortable but awake. Tell baby you love him/her very much. Say goodnight and leave. Do not return unless you are convinced your baby is in harms way or really need something.
- Again, be strong. The first couple of nights of cry it out are hard. Mine cried for 1h and 40 min the first night but was sleep trained in 5 days and we never looked back.
Bonus tip: You can solve most sleep issues with good nap and bedtime schedule. When in doubt, move bedtime earlier. This is of course a generalization. But sleep begets sleep, it is true.
Good luck and may you find sleep again.