Sleep Training Methods

Helping your child find their own way to self sooth and fall asleep independently.

One of the most common questions I get asked is, what are my options when it comes to teaching my child to fall asleep without rocking, nursing, swings, bed sharing, or any other sleep crutch. There are various methods all designed to do slightly different things, but most importantly, they all allow your child to discover for themselves, what and how they do best at falling asleep independently. In the newborn stage, babies don’t yet have this ability, but as they grow and develop, we as parents have the tough job of finding the best suited approach to help them develop important new skills, such as sleeping. Just like rolling, sitting up, eating solids, or walking, we can’t do the job for them, but we can encourage their learning and give them the opportunities to learn these skills with our support.

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In-the-room support

This method, sometimes called the Chair Method, uses your presence as a way to help calm, sooth and support your child through learning to sleep independently. You would remove all sleep crutches, except for your presence in the room, and some gentle guiding words or touch, to help calm and support your child through the process. Every few nights you would move your chair further away from the bed and also begin to decrease the amount of soothing, in order to transfer that skill over to the child. This method can be great for those who have bed shared in the past or who want to be present and feel more connected with their child in the process. The drawbacks are that it’s hard to be consistent with your responses which is a huge component of making things easier on your child. It’s also tough to be within reach of your child as they’re crying, as some children find their parents presence more of a distraction.

Interval support

Interval support is a popular method, often referred to as Timed Checks or the Ferber method. Here you support your child’s learning by giving them time and space on their own to work things out, but you’re still able to be more involved by checking in at certain times. This helps children feel supported yet still allows them time to get the hang of falling asleep independently without as much distraction. Many parents start off with this method but soon find that the checks actually disrupt the child’s self-soothing process more than they help.  The nice thing about this method is that it’s flexible, so if you notice this, you can check less frequently, or not at all.

Giving them their space

Learning to fall asleep can be pretty tough to do when someone is sitting there next to you, or coming in the room every few minutes to check on you. You may start paying more attention to that person rather than focusing on trying to fall asleep! That’s why some parents prefer this method, often referred to as Wait it Out or Extinction. The difference in this type of support, occurs where you ensure that your child has all of his needs met (fed, changed, not cold/hot, etc.) and they are given their space to cry, roll, suck their thumb, whatever they need to do to figure out what suits them best when it comes to self-soothing and falling asleep on their own. It’s an amazing behavior to watch on the monitor, as you see right before your eyes, your child learn to do something so amazing and important, all on their very own.

How do I know which one is right for my child?

Consider your child’s temperament when choosing a sleep training method. How do they react to your presence? How independent are they? What is their sleep history like? What types of sleep associations do they currently have? Equally important is asking yourself which method could I be 100% consistent with? How involved would my partner be? None of these methods will work if you aren’t consistent, as teaching children in general requires consistency and a clear set of rules and boundaries. When children know what is expected of them, they are primed for a positive learning experience. Children love predictability and patterns. However, if things are constantly changing for the child, it gives them a sense of insecurity and tends to work against us. If you’re stuck or overwhelmed, it’s ok! Many parents feel that way, so enlisting the help of a sleep consultant can give you the reassurance that a custom tailored approach, one that works for your child and family situation, can mean a much smoother process.

Alison Macklin is a Child Sleep Consultant, based in Toronto, Canada. She studied Psychology and Sociology at the University of Toronto and took an interest in child development. She was certified by the Family Sleep Institute, one of the most comprehensive programs available for pediatric sleep. Alison, like many of her clients, is a mom who is very familiar with how it feels to have a child not sleeping properly, and worried about their well-being. Her passion has become helping families learn how to help their children sleep better and develop those critical skills in becoming well-rested. When working together, Alison will give guidance on how to establish healthy and safe sleep practices based on science, to get your child the rest they need. She works closely with you to develop a customized sleep solution, all while taking into consideration the unique history and temperament of your child, resulting in a plan that you can feel comfortable and confident in. Alison is there by your side, through every step of the process, giving you full support and answering all of your sleep questions. Taking the health and well-being of you and your child to heart, she is with you through any bump in the road that comes up - as they always do! She has the support of her team at Good Night Sleep Site, who have been supporting families for over 12 years, and will find solutions that will work for your family. In her spare time she loves going to the Toronto Library mom & baby events, open yoga at Shops at Don Mills, going for bike rides along the Lakeshore, and visiting the Toronto Zoo with her daughter and husband.
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