top of page

How to Choose the Best Sleep Training Method For Your Child and Family

All right, you’re tired.

Your baby or toddler is tired.

And you’ve made the decision that sleep training is the right answer for your family at this point in time.

If there is anything you take away from this blog post, it’s that there is no right or wrong technique or method for sleep training, only the one that is correct for your baby and your family.

To start, I’d like to list the four main sleep training methods - some of which you may have heard of, and maybe others you haven’t:

  • Extinction Method

  • Controlled Crying/Leave and Check

  • Stay in the Room/Chair Method

  • No-Cry Methods

These are the four main categories, and, of course, there are things you can do that may blend one or more methods together or make tweaks to a method or your strategy. These are some of the things I coach my clients through as we’re working together.

Now, considering there are quite a few options, how are you supposed to know which one is best for your child? This will depend on a few things…

Consideration #1 - How old is my child? What is developmentally appropriate or not at this moment?

You should always take into consideration your child’s age and development first and foremost. For example, I would never recommend you do the Extinction method with a newborn baby or a baby who you would still like to offer night feeds.

A Stay in the Room/Chair Method might be a better fit for some children based on their social and emotional development…more on that specifically below.

And what about the whole crying thing?? Is crying appropriate? Crying is a normal - and appropriate - part of all sleep training techniques and methods for a child beyond the newborn stage, and even with the “no cry” techniques, there will be some crying or protest.

Babies, like all people, will have feelings about change, and that’s okay! I would actually be concerned if your child didn’t have feelings about making changes with their sleep habits.

I also know that no one likes to hear a baby crying, especially the parent. We set your child up for success in other areas of their sleep habits in order to minimize the crying, but it is still normal and expected.

Consideration #2 - Is my child currently experiencing separation anxiety?

Throughout the first few years of life, your child will experiences bouts of separation anxiety. You can expect this to ebb and flow every 6 months or so the first few years of life.

If your child IS currently experiencing some separation anxiety, a method like Controlled Crying/Leave and Check may actually make their feelings - and their response - a little stronger. You going in and out of their room may actually make them MORE upset. You might want to consider a Stay in the Room/Chair Method instead.

Consideration #3 - How do I feel about being in the room with my child during the process of sleep training?

This is important. If it’s triggering to you to hear your child crying (and if it is, this is also normal.), you might not want to be in the room with them as you go through this process.

Here’s the thing - the method you choose to use for sleep training your baby should work with time and consistency (and maybe a few other nuances like scheduling, tweaking bedtimes, etc.), regardless of whether or not you are in the room. And, multiple studies have shown that parental presence - or not - is not a factor in this short blip of time where you are lovingly help your child learn the skill of sleep.

If you’re at all concerned about your child’s attachment during this process, I invite you to read further - The Truth About Attachment and Sleep Training.

The most important thing is that you choose a method YOU - the parent(s) - can be 100% consistent with. And, if being in the room with your child seems to be too daunting or overwhelming, it’s not the best method for you.

Consideration #4 - How quickly would I like this process to go?

You can expect a different time frame with each of the methods and techniques listed in this post.

When we think of releasing the responsibility of sleep from you and moving it to your child, you can imagine that the more “hands on” you are, the longer it’s going to take…as with anything you teach your child!

The sooner you let go and let them figure things out, the faster they will learn.

So, in order from the quickest to the longest time frame, we have: the Extinction Method (a few days to a week), Controlled Crying/Leave and Check (about 2 weeks, depending on the child’s age), Stay in the Room/Chair Method (2-6 weeks, depending on the child’s age), and No-Cry Methods (months).

If you’ve got a trip coming up and you want to have a good little sleeper, you might want to consider a faster method.

If you’ve got a newborn and want to give some opportunities to practice independent sleep, you might try a more gradual approach like a No-Cry Method.

If there is anything you take away from this blog post, it’s that there is no right or wrong technique or method for sleep training, only the one that is correct for your baby and your family.

Got questions? Let me know!

While you’re here, check out the other articles posted on our blog - we’ve got everything covered when it comes to infant and toddler sleep!


bottom of page