The Role of Sleep Training: Methods, Myths, and Realities for Parents

Are you struggling with getting your baby to sleep through the night? Our sleep training guide offers helpful insights into methods and myths.


Taking steps towards more peaceful nights for you and your baby

Got a little one that’s wide awake at 1:00 a.m. when all you want is for them to sleep? If you’re struggling with figuring out how to get your baby to sleep through the night, sleep training can provide the key to a rosier future.
You may have dipped your toe into the world of sleep training and become daunted at the amount of sleep training methods there are about them—as well as all the many opinions.

This article aims to demystify sleep training, offering valuable insights into the various methods and highlighting the realities. Join us on this journey to ensure your child’s development—and your well-being—are the priority.

Understanding Sleep Training

When you hear the words “sleep training,” chances are you think of teaching your baby to fall asleep alone, and stay asleep till morning. However, really sleep training has a little more to it than that—it's about taking a methodical approach to encourage babies to self-soothe, too, so that they fall back asleep if they wake up.

Sleep training starts to be possible from around 4-6 months of age, after a baby has developed a circadian rhythm that helps them sleep all the way through the night.

Despite misconceptions, sleep training doesn't involve neglect. The key is to choose a method that respects your baby's needs, your needs and your parenting style. This foundation not only promotes better sleep patterns but also fosters a harmonious family environment.

Popular Sleep Training Methods

The sleep training umbrella covers a wide spectrum of methods that will suit individuals and families according to different:

  • parenting philosophies
  • baby temperaments
  • family dynamics

Each method takes its own unique approach, and is based on a different set of guidelines and philosophies. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to sleep training—so if you’ve tried one and it’s not worked, it’s advisable to consider another method. Sometimes, a combination of two or more methods will be what’s needed.

Let’s take a more detailed look:

1. Cry-It-Out (CIO) or Extinction Method:

What to do

Put your baby in the crib fully awake and allow her to cry without intervening, encouraging her to eventually self-soothe.

How it works

Teaches your child to be independent

Suitable if…

You’re comfortable enduring short-term distress for potentially quicker results.

2. Ferber Method or Graduated Extinction:

What to do

Put your baby to sleep then check on him at progressively longer intervals, but don’t pick him up, even if he’s crying.

How it works

Offers your child reassurance without preventing him from learning to self-soothe

Suitable if…

You’re looking for a balanced approach to sleep training

3. Chair Method:

What to do

Once your baby is down, sit in a chair near her crib. Over the next few nights, move the chair a little further away until you’re out of the room.

How it works

Your baby becomes gradually less dependent on parental presence in order to fall and stay asleep.

Suitable if…

You’re looking for a withdrawal method to sleep training.

4. Fade Out or No Cry/No Tears Method:

What to do

Gradually reduce parental interventions during the bedtime routine.

How it works

Parents slowly fade out assistance, creating a calmer baby who can fall and stay asleep with reduced support.

Suitable if…

You wish to to minimize crying and use a gentle sleep training method

5. Pick Up, Put Down Method:

What to do

Soothe your baby by picking him up when he cries, then putting them down again once they are calm—but still awake.

How it works

A calm baby eventually falls asleep independently

Suitable if…

You wish to reassure your baby and  actively comfort him baby during the sleep training process

Debunking Sleep Training Myths

There are plenty of myths and misconceptions about sleep training that may end up detering parents from considering its benefits. Let's consider some of the most prevalent myths surrounding sleep training:

Myth 1: Sleep Training Means Emotionally Neglecting Your Child

The Cry-It-Out Method in particular attracts lots of controversy, as does the Ferber method, with critics arguing it’s highly distressing for babies. The jury is out on this one, but one 2020 study found that the cry it out method doesn't harm a baby's social or emotional development.

Myth 2: Sleep Training Is a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Sleep training is highly individualized. What works for one family may not be right work for another, and you may need to make adjustments according to your set-up. It’s crucial to recognise this variability in order to take a more understanding approach towards sleep training.

Myth 3: Sleep-Trained Babies Will Sleep Perfectly Every Night

Like adults, babies have good nights and bad nights (and potentially, ugly nights!). Successful sleep training improves overall sleep patterns, but your child is likely to still experience occasional night wakings as they grow and experience developmental milestones.

Myth 4: Sleep Training Involves Leaving Your Baby to Cry Indefinitely

Reality: It’s true that some methods (The Cry-It-Out Method and the Ferber Method) involve letting your baby cry for prolonged periods, but there are plenty of other methods where the key is on gentle adjustments and reassurance.

The Realities of Sleep Training for Parents

When embarking on your sleep training journey, it’s useful to remember these realities so you don’t expect fantastic results overnight:

  • Sleep training is likely to be challenging
  • Your journey towards success will not be linear, so expect lots of ups and downs
  • It will take time to sleep train your baby, and even when you’ve “succeeded”, it won’t be plain sailing every night
  • You’ll need patience, consistency, and a willingness to adapt

Written by

Georgia Austin

Professionally trained copywriter, editor, and content marketing strategist with over 7 years of experience—working with brands like Nike, Siemens, Toshiba, Tommy Hilfiger, Culture Trip, and Klook.

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