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Baby sleep training methods

Getting your baby to sleep can be one of the most frustrating and exhausting tasks of parenthood. Most mums and dads look forward to the night they can lay their baby down and get some uninterrupted sleep for themselves.

If you need more advice about a baby's sleep problems and getting them into a routine, speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor.

Some parents also try baby sleep training. Below are some of the most popular sleep training methods.

The Ferber sleep method

One of the best-known, and discussed, baby sleep training techniques is the Ferber sleep method, Dr. Richard Ferber is director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital Boston.

On day one, using the Ferber sleep method, put your baby to bed while she is still awake but tired and ready to sleep. Then leave her room. She will probably not fall asleep on her own and will cry. Wait five minutes, and then re-enter your baby's room. Try to console your baby, but do not pick her up or stay for more than a short time - about 2 or 3 minutes.

The second time the baby cries, wait a little longer - 10 minutes - before re-entering the room to console her. Again, do not pick her up or stay more than a short time.

The third time the baby cries, wait 15 minutes before going into the room and offering the basic comfort used the first two times.

Repeat the process as long as needed on the first night, waiting 15 minutes between intervals. Eventually, the baby will fall asleep on her own during one of those time periods. If she wakes up during the night after falling asleep, begin the schedule again, starting with the minimum wait time for that day and working up to the maximum wait time.

On the second night, use the same procedure but start at 10 minutes for the first time interval. Then progress to 15 and then 20 minutes. For every night after, extend the intervals by five minutes. In time, the baby will learn to fall asleep on her own.

Parents wishing to try the Ferber sleep method should be well-rested before they start sleep training. That's because in the early days especially, they will be spending a lot of time over the course of the night listening for their baby's cries, checking their watches, and entering and exiting their baby's room. Dr Ferber would say that most babies are sleeping through the night or only waking once by 3 months old and then definitely sleeping through the night by 5 months.

It's easy to become frustrated getting your baby to sleep, particularly if progress isn't immediate. But avoid picking your baby up or, if she is used to sleeping in her own room, taking her to your room because that will undo any progress made up to that point.

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