Selecting Your Responsive Approach

Despite a lot of names and terms out there, there really are only four main categories to sleep training.

Harshest end of the scale = Cry It Out: Saying goodnight and leaving your baby until morning.

Softest end of the scale = Attachment Parenting: Often co-sleeping long term and feeding to sleep, rocking to sleep, doing whatever it takes to keep baby from crying.

Responsive and 'kind' sleep training sits in the middle and can be divided into two sections:

  1. Staying with your baby until he falls asleep but working on weaning him off the need to have you there through a step by step process.
  2. Soothing your baby and responding to his cries but giving him some space in between responses by not staying in the room which might be stimulating him.

The Sleep Nanny® only advocates responsive sleep training which means we stay away from any signs of fear or distress and these are how they work if you follow our system:

1. The Four Step Fade Out

Step 1: Place a chair/stool/cushion (something to sit on, next to your baby’s cot and after your 'goodnight ritual' you put your baby down and sit on your seat beside the cot.

You must be very boring and not engaging at all. Just sit with head dropped, eyes part closed and try to relax. You need to be bland!

You can use shh-ing sounds or whisper soft keywords such as, sleepy-time, night-night or lie down.

You can offer reassuring touch like patting or stroking but do this intermittently so as not to ‘pat to sleep’ and reduce how much touch you offer every night.

If she is very upset and you feel the need to pick her up, pick her up to clam her and then place her back down, awake. If she calms immediately, you will know she just wanted picking up.

If putting her back down makes her more irritated and confused, it can be kinder to not pick up at all and just continue to soothe her with her remaining in the cot or crib.

Stay until your baby is fast asleep. If she wakes in the night, go in and repeat until she is back asleep.

Step 2: After doing this for 3 nights, move your seat away from the cot halfway between the cot and the furthest away you could be in the room (still in view). Continue the process from here but you will need to reduce the touch even further.

Step 3: After three nights in position two, move your seat to position three which will be as far away as you can be in the room but still in view. Continue the same techniques from here.

Step 4: Finally, after saying goodnight, you leave the room and sit outside of the room with the door ajar. Just use shh-ing to let him know you are close by.

For night wakings, respond in the same way and go to your current sitting position (where you were at bedtime that night).

2. Regulated Responding

Complete the bedtime routine and then leave the room. Check the exact time and then do not go back in until your decided time has passed. This can be anything from 5-15 minutes. There is something magical about 10 minutes - It seems to be an ideal length of time for many little ones in training.

When you do go into the room to respond and reassure your child, be brief, 20-30 seconds is plenty and be boring so it is not an exciting occurrence for your child.

Offer soothing and reassurance and then leave the room again for the allotted time period. Hopefully he will have calmed but continue the process even if he hasn’t.

Do not battle with lying a standing toddler back down. Just whisper lie down and pat the mattress. He will lie down eventually.

Continue checking back in with these regulated responses for as long as it takes for your child to settle to sleep.

You are responding to your child and you are not leaving him to cry for prolonged periods of time so this approach is not harmful and is far from ‘Cry It Out’.

This approach is often necessary for little ones who are too stimulated by having someone stay in the room with them.

For night wakings, respond with the same process for as long as it takes. Consistency is key. There can be no 'one offs' especially with this approach, so only take this route if you are confident you can see it through.