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Sleep Training: Which...

Sleep Training: Which Methods to Choose?

If you’re reading this, you are probably in the throes of sleepless nights with your infant. Maybe there are bags under your eyes and dark circles. You’re probably yawning and wondering why you have the only baby in the universe, it seems, who refuses to sleep. Take heart, there’s help.

Perhaps you’ve thought about “sleep training” but have felt unsure about which method to choose. If so, the following guide will help you take the guesswork out of choosing the right sleep plan for you and your baby.

The Sleepeasy Solution
In a nutshell: This approach, developed by Jill Spivack and Jennifer Waldburger, pediatric sleep experts who own the popular Los Angeles-based sleep consultancy Sleepy Planet (which has loads of Hollywood clients - yes, celeb babies cry too!), was developed with an efficient yet compassionate approach in mind. In short, you might hear some crying, but you’re going to discover how to phase your baby into learning how to sleep.

The Sleepeasy Solution, both the book and DVD, walk parents through the sometimes-wretched process of starting a sleep-training program for their baby. Spivack and Waldburger’s compassion and understanding for parents’ raw emotions come through the pages and across the TV screen. They walk new parents through how to deal with those emotions, helping them build a bullet-proof sleep plan for their babies. Overall, the program offers a great middle ground between a “no cry” and a “cry it out” system, and it’s ideal for parents who are not interested in either extreme.

Pros:

  • Jill and Jennifer speak in ways that real parents can understand. For example, when they say that babies need their “sleep nutrition,” you’ll feel encouraged to continue with the program (instead of giving into heart-tugging cries).
  • You’ll receive lots of handholding and reassurance. Their compassionate approach soothes babies—and parents too!
  • And, more than just nighttime sleep, this program gives you age-specific tips on frequency and length of naps - another hot-button topic for new parents. You’ll be flipping back to these pages frequently as your baby grows.

 Cons:

  • Like any sleep program, you’re going to hear some crying. This method isn’t cry-proof (though few are), so prepare yourself for some tears, even if they’re only temporary.
  • This method advocates for frequent “check-ins” on your infant while she is crying, so for the first few nights that the baby is adjusting to things, expect fragmented sleep (though this should only be temporary).
  • The authors aren’t pediatricians or scientists, so you won’t learn a great deal about the science behind infant sleep.

What the experts say: “We pride ourselves on having created the ‘least-cry’ sleep program,” says Spivack. “We are also happy to offer exhausted parents who are too tired to read the option of watching a forty-five-minute DVD to get the answers they’re searching for. In essence, the DVD is the next best thing to having sleep consultants right in your living room, guiding you through the process and holding your hand every step of the way.”

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
(Weissbluth method)
In a nutshell: Considered the infant sleep bible by many parents, this information-packed book was written by the renowned pediatrician and childhood sleep expert Dr. Marc Weissbluth. Parents will learn about the deep-rooted causes of their babies’ sleep problems and find research-based approaches on how to correct them.

Pros:

  • You’ll learn how to start sleep-training your baby as soon as you bring her home from the hospital.
  • The book’s findings are based on actual research studies.


Cons:

  • While the author doesn’t believe excessive crying is necessary to sleep train, it is part of the method. So, parents should be prepared for some tears as they implement new “sleep rules.”
  • While some may enjoy the long explanations about the science behind infant sleep, others might feel that it’s long and unnecessary.

What the experts say: “You can’t fight circadian rhythms,” says author Dr. Weissbluth, professor in clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. So, learn the principles in this book and embrace them! “Children who are out of phase behave as if they have chronic jet lag syndrome,” he continues. And for those that say crying it out is cruel? “Sleep deprivation is cruel, too,” Weissbluth counters, underscoring the fact that infants with sleep problems are chronically sleep deprived.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution
In a nutshell: For parents looking for a gentler approach to sleep training, Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution may be it. Pantley’s approach avoids agonizing nights of crying in favor of more subtle ways of teaching your baby good sleep habits. Parents who favor co-sleeping and subscribe to the “attachment parenting” movement will most likely feel at home with this approach.

Pros:

  • This gentle approach will appeal to parents who absolutely can’t stand the thought of hearing their baby cry.
  • Pantley’s plan works for babies as well as toddlers and those who are bottle and breastfed. She gives specific instructions for each unique situation.
  • Her approach is endorsed by the renowned family physician Dr. William Sears.


Cons:

  • While Pantley’s method was proven successful by sixty “test mommies” in her book, the process was a slow one, as in ten to sixty days before progress was made.
  • Because this sleep training is gradual, it means you’re not going to get that full night’s sleep you’ve been dreaming about, at least for a little while.
  • Instead of the baby doing the work (crying it out), you’re going to be doing the work. Expect to put in the middle-of-the-night hours you need to make this solution a success for your baby. And until she gets it, expect a lot of yawning during the day.

What the experts say: Beloved pediatrician Dr. Sears wholeheartedly believes in Pantley’s method. In the forward of her book, which he wrote, he says “I’ve found a book that I can hand to weary parents with confidence that they can learn to help their baby sleep through the night, without the baby crying it out.”

The Ferber Method
In a nutshell: Dr. Richard Ferber, a well-known pediatrician and director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston, published the book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems in 1985. Immediately, he became the leading voice, albeit a somewhat controversial one, on infant sleep.

At the heart of his system is the belief that infants should learn to self-soothe, a process that he suggests parents start between the ages of 4 and 6 months. In short, parents are encouraged to follow a consistent bedtime routine and then put their baby to bed awake, leaving him to fuss or cry for sometimes long periods of time, broken up by check-ins.

Pros:

  • The Ferber Method has been praised by many for its efficient approach to sleep training. Most babies begin to respond, in some way, after the first night and many more fall in line a few days later.
  • In his book, Dr. Ferber shares his clinical expertise about infant sleep and helps parents understand how their actions create sleep problems for their babies.
  • Since its 1985 publishing, the book has been updated with new thinking on co-sleeping, naps, and lesser-known childhood sleep conditions.

Cons:

  • Despite this streamlined approach to sleep training, some parents won’t be able to stomach the crying necessary for a successful outcome.
  • Some children vomit as a result of prolonged crying. In the book, Dr. Ferber says this shouldn’t deter you from training your child. (Note: In an instance where a baby vomits from crying so hard, he says to go in the room, clean the child up, and continue the process of sleep training). Some parents might bristle at this approach.
  • Other sleep experts have commented that Dr. Ferber isn’t a proponent of white noise machines, even though it has been proven in studies to reduce infant fussiness.

What the experts say: “I was skeptical of Ferber’s technique when he first came out with it in 1985,” says Carl Johnson, a professor of psychology at Central Michigan University who specializes in infant and childhood sleep research. “But after years of research, I became a convert. Some parents say it’s terrible to let their baby cry, but as a parent your job is to protect and help your children, and a little crying is okay.”

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