There’s lots of discussion of what is the best way to help babies learn to sleep through the night. Use the ‘cry it out’ method, or use the ‘no cry’ method?
Sleep researchers have compared these methods, and here’s what they concluded:
1) The strongest support is for ‘Unmodified Extinction’ and ‘Preventive Parental Education.’
2) Research also supports the use of ‘Graduated Extinction,’ ‘Bedtime fading / positive routines,’ and ‘Scheduled awakenings’
3) Most children respond well to these behavioral techniques, and there is an improvement in the child’s daytime behavior, and parent’s wellbeing.
Here are those techniques briefly defined:
Unmodified Extinction: Parents put the child to bed at bedtime, and leave the child to sleep until the morning. Parents only monitor the child for safety and illness.
Preventive Parent Education: Parent ed aimed at preventing the development of sleep problems, and includes these behavioral interventions.
Graduated Extinction: Parents put child to bed at bedtime, and briefly check on the child on a pre-determined schedule.
Bedtime fading / positive routines: Parents establish an enjoyable bedtime routine, and put the child to bed when they usually fall asleep. Then the bedtime is gradually moved earlier once the child is able to fall asleep easily.
Scheduled awakenings: Parents first track when their child usually wakes up, then wake the child before that time, doing the same back to sleep routine as when the child wakes on his own.
Choose which method fits with your parenting values and your child, then stick with it and be consistent. In most studies only a few weeks were needed to help infants sleep through more of the night, and for parents to feel better.
Dr. Darley will be speaking on this topic for PEPS in Mukilteo, Wa. on June 1st. Please join us!