Baby sleep training: The bedtime baby routine methods explained

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  • Getting your baby to sleep is one of the biggest challenges a parent faces.

    You can read all the baby sleep information out there, but every child is different so with baby sleep training one baby routine approach may work for someone else but not for you.

    One thing you can try is a baby sleep training method. Some are controversial and some might not work for you and your baby, but take a look and see if any sound like they’d suit your situation.

    Baby sleep training: Bedtime baby routine methods explained

    The rapid return method: Babies

    You can start this baby sleep training method when your baby is 10-12 weeks old if you think it could work for you.

    Grandma and baby expert, Dr Miriam Stoppard, tried the three-day rapid return method on her three-month-old granddaughter, to encourage her to fall asleep in her cot.

    She said: ‘When your baby cries, wait one minute and then go in to see them. Rub or pat their back, but don’t speak. When they’ve stopped crying, leave the room. When the baby cries again, wait a minute and then go back in and do the same thing.’

    Dr Stoppard says she had to go in 28 times the first night, but after two nights this was down to five times.

    The rapid return method: Toddlers

    baby sleep training

    Credit: Getty

    This is a ‘tough love’ approach for toddlers but works well when there are chronic sleep problems, especially when these involve aggression or tantrums. It’s the night-time equivalent to ‘time out’, and you need to be really, really strong and clear about what’s going to happen. It’s hard to implement, but it’s worth it. You can start using the gradual withdrawal method if that’s easier.

    The rapid return technique means you tuck your toddler into their bed, turn out the light, say good night and leave the room. If they get out of bed, take them back gently and straight away, without speaking and without losing your temper (which is very difficult when it’s the 20th time that night). Repeat this process promptly and assertively as often as needed, until she eventually falls asleep.

    It can be exhausting, so wherever possible, try to enrol the help of your partner and swap shifts, but make sure you’re in complete agreement about what to do, so as to avoid sending confused messages to your little one.

    You have to be willing to persevere, not just give in when the going gets tough, and remember, the results could be worth a few nights’ misery!

    The controlled crying method

    The controlled crying method involves leaving your baby to cry it out for progressively longer periods of time until they learn that you’re not going to pick them up and settle themselves to sleep. Don’t get us wrong – this is hard work, and may not be right for all mums.

    The EASY baby routine

    baby sleep training

    Credit: Getty

    When we say EASY we don’t mean it’s necessarily simple! It stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, You-time – these are the fundamental steps for the EASY baby routine.

    The gradual withdrawal baby sleep solution

    If you can’t stand leaving your baby to cry, don’t worry, it’s still possible to teach them how to fall asleep in their cot with an alternative method called gradual withdrawal. This is a really effective technique for getting your older baby or child to settle herself to sleep. It’s especially useful for toddlers who aren’t used to sleeping in their own bed, or who need to be physically close to get to sleep.

    You’ll need to be prepared to follow this routine for a few weeks as the trick is to ‘gradually’ stop soothing them and eventually leave their room without them realising, but some mums see results in just a few days.

    Start with your normal bedtime routine then put your baby down in their cot ‘awake’ as soon as they start to feel sleepy. Tell them it’s time to sleep and sit with them quietly until they do. Say good night, but then stay in the room. This doesn’t mean you continue to talk, touch or play with them, you just provide a comforting presence. Don’t even make eye contact. If they’re still up and seem upset after an hour, give them a cuddle or feed, then start the process again. Each night move your chair slightly further away from their cot until you make it outside their room.

    Some mums like to take in their favourite book or listen to music on their iPod to help them get through the first few long nights, but you’ll be able to catch up on your sleep once your baby masters it.

    As the days continue, gradually move further away from your child, until you’re able to move away from the bed and right out of the room altogether.

    Have you tried any of the above, or any other, baby sleep training methods? Tell us over on our Facebook page!