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Sleep Solution Primer

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Ever wondered where the phrase “sleep like a baby” came from? I am fairly certain it wasn’t a parent who coined that phrase.

Sleep training children is a notoriously arduous task. To make matters worse, a lot of sleep literature for children offers contradictory viewpoints confusing parents even more as to which methods are compassionate and effective.

In our article Strategically Searching for Sleep Solutions, we talked about some of the strategies you can use when searching for sleep solutions. This article provides insight into some of the more popular sleep training methods, that have been used by thousands of families to sleep train their children. We hope that this sleep solution primer will cut out some of the confusion and help you narrow down your search.

Sleep solutions generally fall into three camps:

1. Full- Extinction Methods: Promotes the practice of sleep training a child by letting them cry for an indefinite period of time at bedtime. This is also known as the “cold-turkey” approach.

2. Controlled Crying Methods: Suggests the use of a structured time table in which parents follow a predictable bed time routine and leave their child alone in the crib for incrementally longer periods of time.

       Note: Both of these aforementioned methods are “Cry-It-Out” (CIO) techniques

3. No-Cry Methods: Advocates soothing and calming a child to sleep, instead of letting them cry for extended periods of time.


Sleep Solutions

 

The following is a primer on five popular sleep solutions that have been extensively used to sleep train children:

Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Dr. Richard Ferber

This sleep solution, developed by Dr. Richard Ferber, is one of the most famous and controversial sleep solutions. Dr. Ferber made such a big impact on this field that his name gave birth to a verb – “Ferberize”.

Ferberization is one of the quintessential “Cry-It-Out” (CIO) sleep techniques. His sleep solution outlines a lot of ways that that can be used to help babies break negative sleep habits and learn to self soothe. His method is fairly prescriptive and clearly outlines steps that can be taken to help children sleep better.

Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Ferber does not propose just leaving children in their cribs and letting them cry endlessly. His technique employs “controlled crying” which involves setting a consistent bedtime routine, putting  the child down in the crib (when they are still awake), and then leaving the room even if the child is crying. After that, parents are meant to go back into the room over incrementally longer periods of time to soothe the child (by patting, but not by picking them up or feeding them).

Ferber says that his technique should ideally work in under a week. Many parents have used this method successfully and swear by it. However, this method has always been the center of lot of controversy as some feel that CIO techniques can permanently scar babies. To date, however, there is not much scientific research backing up, or refuting this claim.

 

The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley

This is a sleep solution, authored by Elizabeth Panteley, and is presented as an alternative to the “Cry-It-Out” methods. Please note,however, that the title of this sleep solution is a misnomer as your child will cry no matter what sleep solution you use.

This sleep solution recommends studying a child, seeing the patterns that emerge in their sleeping habits, and coming up with a customized plan to sleep train them. She also recommends a variety of soothing techniques to help children sleep better and for longer periods of time.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution, is less focused on laying out an exact process for sleep training and expounds more on a variety of techniques that can be used to sooth children to help them sleep better. This can lead to some challenges in implementation as this method is not very prescriptive and does not lay out a precise plan for sleep training.

However, this method is a good alternative for parents who don’t have the stomach for CIO methods and it has a number of tips to help children sleep through the night.

Elizabeth Pantley has also authored The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers , specifically geared towards sleep training young children (ages one through five).

 

The Sleepeasy Solution by Jill Spivak & Jennifer Waldburger

Jill Spival and Jennifer Waldburger are sleep consultants who offer parents a “middle-of-the-road” option between the “No-Cry” and “Cry-It-Out” methods. In their words, their method is a “Least Cry” approach. It is a guide for sleep training children from newborn till the age of five.

The Sleep Easy Solution, which belongs in the “controlled crying” camp, lays out a precise, implementable process to eliminate night time feedings and sleep train children to sleep through the night.It involves introducing a consistent bedtime routine, putting a wakeful child in the crib, leaving the room and checking up on them over precise, progressively increasing intervals. This method is unique in the sense that it engages both parents as opposed to just the primary caregiver.

This solution, though relatively new, has worked for a lot of parents.The authors tout that their Sleep Easy Solution helps parents create an “organized, fail-proof plan that ensures success- usually in less than five nights”.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc S. Weissbluth

This sleep solution, by Dr. Marc S. Weissbluth, essentially relies on promoting healthy sleep habits in children. There is a wealth of information, in his book, about the evolution of sleep cycles in young children and ways to promote healthy sleep practices.

His theory is that children don’t just need to sleep; they need the right kind of sleep. For example, he advises that children should not be allowed to stay awake too long in between naps or at the end of the day and recommends that babies sleep schedule be perfectly timed. His method revolves around parent observing their children carefully to pick up sleep cues and learn their natural sleep patterns so that they can easily self sooth when put down to sleep in their beds alone.

Although he talks about several sleep methods, he professes that the “total extinction” or the “cold-turkey” approach to sleep is the most effective.

Whether you agree with his techniques or not, this book is a very good read to learn about the science of children’s’ sleep.

 

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

This sleep solution essentially promotes sensible sleep for babies. It is a happy medium for parents who are straddling the fence between the “Cry-It-Out” and “No-Cry” sleep methods. The Baby Whisperer, promotes gentler sleep training methods, but with a disciplined approach. This solution does not believe in the full-extinction approach and advocates responding to a baby’s cries. However, this solution also believes in teaching babies to learn to fall asleep on their own (without any rocking, props, etc).

The steps in this solution involve, watching out for signs that a baby is sleepy, and then putting the baby down in the crib while drowsy but still awake. If a baby cries, this solution recommends that we pick them up and comfort them with a hushing sound till they stop crying and then put them down in the crib again. According to Tracy Hogg, this will teach a baby that although the parent is there to soothe them, they will put them down in the crib once they are calm. Thus this will help the baby learn how to go to sleep on their own, without the excessive crying.

Do be mindful of the fact that this solution might take a long time to implement as trying to figure out when a baby is tired is difficult. However, it is definitely a good compromise for parents who are unsure about the consequences of the “Cry-It-Out techniques”, and the efficacy of the “No-Cry” techniques.


Conclusion

There is no correct or incorrect way to sleep train your child. The best you can do is to evaluate your options and pick a sleep solution that will be a good fit for you and your child. At the end of the day you need to be comfortable with your decision and sleep training method. Listen to your instinct and let that be the guide. And always remember your end goal – being rested and having a rested child. Good luck!

 

 


Photograph credit:  Copyright   (c) <a href=’http://www.123rf.com’>123RF Stock Photos</a>

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Contributed by saimaismail

Saima is the Editor-in-Chief, and co-founder of Bright Babyhood. She is a management consultant and a Columbia University alumni. She currently spends her days managing and writing for Bright Babyhood, and brainstorming ways to convince her toddler to eat. You can find her writings at www.BrightBabyhood.com.

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