Sleep Training Methods

This is the second of 8 posts in a multi-part series called:

Sleep Training Methods: How to Get a Baby to Sleep.

First though, a short disclaimer: these posts are specifically meant to give you a taste of several of the major philosophies associated with sleep training.  They are not meant to be used in lieu of reading about each method in more detail…the authors of these books and those who developed these theories have much more to share.  Please consider these posts simply “cliffs notes” to give you a brief overview and get you thinking about which method you’d like to adopt.

This post concerns itself with the Sears Method (also known as the “Nighttime Parenting”).

  • Developed by pediatrician William Sears
  • This method is based on parents creating a sleep environment that allows sleep to overtake the child instead of teaching the child to go to sleep on his/her own.
  • Also based on the theory that a child cannot be forced into sleep but that it must happen naturally.
  • Teaches that a child enters into sleep differently than adults do – child enters light sleep (typically lasts about 20 minutes) before going into a deep sleep, as opposed to adults who can go from being awake directly into a deep sleep.
  • If a sleeping child is put into bed too soon, the child can easily wake because he/she is only lightly sleeping so a child should not be put down until the deep sleep state is achieved.

Here are the steps to implement the Sears Sleep Training Method of getting a baby to sleep:

  1. Carry and cuddle the child often during the day making the day as peaceful as possible.
  2. Maintain a consistent nap routine and bedtime routine. Parents are encouraged to nap with the child and even to sleep at night in the same room or bed as the child.
  3. Use a calming routine before bedtime (bath, feeding, etc) while keeping the child busy until bedtime.
  4. Keep the child close and warm until asleep by holding him/her tight, feeding, and then rocking the child until falling asleep. Make sure the child has a full feeding right before bedtime so that he/she does not wake up from hunger during the night.
  5. Place child in the bed once in a deep sleep and limbs are limp (usually about 20 minutes after entering light sleep), but not before. If the child is only in the light sleep stage, he/she will awaken when put down.
  6. Once child is in bed, pat the child in a slow motion to ensure he/she does not awaken.
  7. If the child wakes during the night, soothe the child through rocking or feeding until the child falls back into the deep sleep stage and then return to his/her bed

Additional notes:

  • Let the child sleep in whatever environment is most comfortable for him/her. This may be in a crib in his/her own room, a crib in the parents’ room or in the parents’ bed.  The location where the child is most comfortable sleeping will change as the child develops so be open to various sleeping arrangements.
  • Set naptimes to coincide with the times that the parents are most tired and then be consistent in those naptimes. Parents can use naptimes to rest themselves with the child.
  • Both mother and father need to know what steps will be followed when using nighttime parenting. Make sure that the child is used to both parents following the routine so that the child understands that he/she can go to sleep with either parent at his/her side.  It is important to remember that both parents need to follow the same steps in order to not confuse the child.
  • For more information, see “Nighttime Parenting:  How to Get Your Child and Child to Sleep” by Dr. William Sears or www.askdrsears.com

You might find this free baby sleep log and baby feeding log helpful as you work on teaching your baby to sleep through the night!

Baby Sleep Log