Chances are, when you think of “sleep training”, you think of “cry it out”. Are they the same thing?

We’d like to clarify that the definition of sleep training is teaching a baby/child to fall asleep independently, without assistance from caregivers. As shared in our previous post, children can learn new sleeping habits, and they can learn them through many different ways. This post aims to shed light on what some common different methods are. There may be many other names/authors of books describing similar methods below, but I’ve generally grouped those with common characteristics in the same row:

The above methods are ALL sleep training methods, and different children respond differently to different methods. Different families also prefer different methods. Please note that whichever sleep training method is chosen, should there be any genuine safety or hygiene concern (eg. if the child vomits or poops), parents MUST intervene calmly, quietly and quickly to address the issue. Please also understand that there is no ‘tear-free’ method of sleep training. All methods will more than likely involve some crying because crying is your baby’s way of communicating and protesting the change in habit from what they are used to. The crying, however, does not always indicate that something is necessarily wrong and does not have any long-term effects on the child’s mental health, stress regulation, psychosocial functioning or the parent-child relationship.Once your child learns the new sleeping habits, you should not expect to hear much crying. However, do understand that life happens, which means your children will go through tough days or weeks when something changes in their lives or they are sick, or many other periods which might affect their sleep. Sleep training can hence be a skill they learn and re-learn through their lives. Read this post on how to sleep train your child.

Common name of method Brief description How baby falls asleep How check-ins are done
Full extinction (i)     At sleeping time, lay baby relaxed but fully awake in a safe space for sleep (eg. in a cot baby cannot climb out of) and then leave the room/space.

(ii)    Do not return until pre-determined feeding or waking time.

Fully independently, without parental presence No check-ins until pre-determined feeding time or wake-up time.
Graduated check-ins / Ferber / Sleepeasy* (i)      At sleeping time, lay baby relaxed but fully awake in a safe space for sleep (eg. in a cot baby cannot climb out of) and then leave the room/space.

(ii)     Return at increasing intervals to reassure the baby of your presence, until baby is asleep.

(iii)   The next time baby wakes or at the next sleeping time, continue check-ins at the increased intervals.

Fully independently, without parental presence Timed check-ins are very brief, quiet and without eye contact or picking baby up.

*For Sleepeasy method, there is no fixed timings for when the check-ins must occur.

Chair Method / Lady Sleep Shuffle (i)      At sleeping time, sit next to your child, offering intermittent reassurances and touches, until your child falls asleep. Do this for the first 3 days.

(ii)    After 3 days, use the same assuring techniques but move further from the sleeping area

(iii)  Keep moving further and further away every third night (so by 3rd or 6th night probably no more reassuring touches) until you are out of sight/the room.

Initially, child falls asleep with caregiver presence, but eventually, independently. While providing caregiver presence, provision of intermittent comfort without picking baby up.
Pick Up, Put Down / Babywise / Parenting by Connection (i)      At sleeping time, lay baby relaxed but fully awake in a safe space for sleep (eg. in a cot baby cannot climb out of) and then leave the room/space.

(ii)    If baby cries, follow a “stop, wait and listen” approach. If baby continues to get worked up and the parent feels the need to intervene, return to the room and pick baby up then lay them back down. Some methods suggest laying them back down fully awake; others suggest helping child work through the feelings until child is ready to go to bed willingly (or drowsy) or falls asleep in your arms.

(iii)  Repeat this process until baby is settled down in their crib and eventually asleep.

Initially with parental presence and/or assistance. Eventually, fully independently. Provision of presence, empathy and touch for the duration of crying.

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