By Cara Birnbaum and Nicole Harris
Want your baby to sleep through the night? Learn about five popular sleep training methods, and get some helpful advice from real-life parents.
Early parenthood is plagued by sleep deprivation and around-the-clock newborn care. This phase doesn’t last forever though, and babies can usually snooze through the night by 6 months of age. The key is finding a sleep training method that works for your family and practicing it consistently. Keep reading to learn about five different ways to sleep train, with tips from other parents who’ve been through it too.
5 Popular Sleep Training Methods
The best sleep training method for your family depends on personal preference, so do your research before choosing one. Here are five of the most popular options.
Fading Method: With the fading sleep training method, parents rely on soothing techniques to help their baby fall asleep. These include feeding, rocking, snuggling, reading books, or singing lullabies. As your baby grows, they’ll naturally become less needy, letting you slowly “fade out” of the nighttime routine. Fading is considered a gentle sleep training method.
Pick-Up/Put-Down Method: This is a no-cry sleep training method. Simply pick up your baby whenever they cry, and put them back down after soothing. Repeat these steps until the little one falls asleep.
Chair Method: To start this sleep training method, Mom or Dad sits on a chair near the crib until Baby falls asleep. They don’t use soothing techniques to calm crying or fussiness. Each night, they move the chair further away, and eventually they leave the room altogether.
Ferber Method: Parents respond to their baby’s cries at set time intervals, which gradually increase each night. Eventually, the baby will learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently through “Ferberization.”
Sleep Training Tips from Real Parents
No matter which sleep training method you choose, receiving advice from other parents may make the process easier. Here, real-life moms and dads share their best tips for sleep training babies, from bedtime routines and special blankets to soothing music and nighttime nursing.
Don’t adjust the volume in your house. Never let the house be dead quiet at bedtime. Babies should learn to sleep through a little noise—don’t blast Metallica, but don’t tiptoe around either. And if you’re tempted to run to them whenever they cry, invest in a baby monitor with a camera so you can see if they are in distress, but let them whine or cry it out for a little. –Chemere
Put your baby down awake, but drowsy. Our baby is 10 months old and we start her bedtime routine at 8 p.m. We brush her teeth, give her a bath, and then she plays, plays, plays. After that, it’s lavender bedtime lotion and a bottle. But the key is putting her down drowsy but awake, and she usually sleeps all night without a peep. -April
Plan your day around a good night’s rest. It’s true what they say—”sleep begets sleep.” Give your little one ample time to nap during the day, and try to spend some waking hours outdoors (even if it means bundling up). Fresh air worked wonders for us! -Elizabeth
Nix unscheduled naps. A friend of mine found that her son’s cat naps in the car ruined any chance of getting him to take a proper nap, so she would keep a spray bottle filled with water and lightly spritz him whenever she caught him nodding off. (She did this at stop lights, or any other time when the car was not moving, of course.) A little quirky, but it worked! -Katherine
Increase sleep slowly. The book On Becoming Baby Wise helped me get my newborn daughter on a routine. For every three hours around the clock, you feed for 15-20 minutes, play for 30-40 minutes, and sleep for 2 hours. At 3 or 4 months old, you begin to let them sleep longer and longer at the 8 or 9 p.m. feeding. Babies love routine, so the more disciplined the parent is about feeding, play, and sleeping the better the baby’s sleep habits will be. -Dayna
Take shifts with your partner. My older son just did not sleep—I wish I’d relaxed and accepted that sooner. I also wish that we’d listened to my mom when she told us we needed to divide and conquer by taking shifts to be “on call” instead of trading off whole nights, which left us exhausted and unable to function. -Madeleine
Create a routine early. My son is only 6 weeks old, and he naps so irregularly. But even at this young age, I’ve been able to implement a basic routine. I start with a bottle of formula at bedtime, and he falls asleep in my arms. Then I put him in his crib, turn his vibrating pad on the lowest setting, and wind his mobile. This usually puts him to sleep on the first try. Next up: tackling his middle-of-the-night wakings! -Samantha
Keep twins together. We had twin girls and one of them slept pretty well on her own, while the other did not. Swaddling helped, but she missed being in the same space as her sister. Once we moved them into the same crib—our nurse’s recommendation—they both slept better. –Pam Fenzl
Swaddle the baby. I wrapped up my kiddo tightly in “the miracle blanket” every night until she was about 4 months old. She slept great and is still a great sleeper at 3-and-half years! -Amy
Let your baby fuss. We tried everything we could think of and our baby still woke every two hours until 8 months. After one week of letting her cry it out, we were all sleeping better—my toddler now sleeps 13 hours at a stretch. We felt horrible doing it, but in the end it was best for us all. -Cat
Comfort from afar. After running through our evening routine—playtime, supper, bath, toothbrushing, book, prayers—I put my child down for bed and sat beside him, not touching or talking to him. Then, over the next couple of weeks, I moved my chair progressively further from the crib until I was finally sitting outside a closed door. -Ledlow
Give your baby space. We kept our daughter’s cradle in our bedroom for the first 5 months so I could keep an eye on her and nurse her easily. But moving her into her own room was the key to changing her sleep habits for the better and decreasing those nighttime feedings. I wasn’t as quick to respond to her, and she didn’t try quite as hard to get us up. While it took some time for her to get comfortable being in her own space, she started to sleep longer. As time progressed, all of us were happier for it. -Caren
Improve air quality. Keep the sheets and air fresh. If the air quality in the home is bad or the bedding is dusty or dirty, that could affect the baby’s breathing and make it harder to put her to sleep and keep her sleep. -Chemere
Send out bedtime signals. We play the same lullaby CD every night and put it on before he gets into bed, so he knows it’s that time. If he cries, we hold him until he calms. Then we place him in the crib and sit in the room—without touching him—until he falls asleep. -Pam Schwartz
Keep it consistent. It’s all about routine and schedule. Keep the same bedtime every night, regardless of what you have going on. You have to make sacrifices and realize these little ones thrive on routine, consistency, and schedules. -Alicia
Do what works best for you. Pick a method that you’re comfortable with. No matter how perfect the “experts” claim a method to be, if you are not comfortable with it, it won’t work. -Darcy
Know when your baby needs extra attention. There are some nights when your baby is so out-of-sorts and overtired, no trick or method will save you. On those nights, rock her until she is in a deep sleep (I’m talking completely limp, no twitching). This might take half an hour. Don’t rush it or you’ll “botch the handoff,” i.e., your ostensibly sleeping baby will shriek upon contact with the crib mattress, a cycle that could go on for hours. -Elizabeth
Be patient. Sleep training may be frustrating or take more time than you would like, but enjoy the process—your little baby will be walking, talking, and graduating from kindergarten before you can turn around. You’ll be glad you took the time to appreciate the little things along the way. -Pam Fenz