When you want to teach your child to sleep independently, the Weissbluth sleep training method is one option. Prepare yourself for some challenges with this method. Its creator, Dr. Marc Weissbluth, encourages parents to allow children to cry without responding because it hastens the training process and usually leads to permanent sleep habits. “Crying it out” -- known as “extinction” -- is controversial and may not be suitable for every child, especially children younger than 4 months of age.
Overview of Weissbluth Method
Weissbluth advocates for healthy sleep habits for children. The five elements of healthy sleep include sleep duration, naps, sleep consolidation, sleep schedule and sleep regularity. When you work to balance these elements, your child will have the rest he needs, according to Weissbluth. Newborns need up to 18 hours of sleep each day, babies up to age 1 need between 14 and 15 hours and toddlers need between 12 and 15 hours, according to the Sleep Health Foundation website. Children also need a regular nap schedule during the day and uninterrupted sleep at night. A regimented sleep schedule will train a child to sleep, and watching for signs of drowsiness will ensure that a child doesn’t become overtired.
Choosing a Method
Weissbluth outlines several options for the process, depending on the age of your child and your personal preferences for training. You might choose a “no-cry” sleep method, which involves watching your little one carefully for signs of drowsiness and soothing her to sleep before she becomes overtired. Weissbluth recommends this process for newborns. Another option is the “maybe-cry” method, which involves responding to your baby to soothe her. With this method, you would place your child in bed in a drowsy-but-awake state, but you would return to soothe her if she has trouble falling asleep. The “let-cry” method involves ignoring all crying at sleep time to allow your child to fall asleep independently. It’s acceptable to check on your child for safety, but Weissbluth advises no interaction to soothe.
Weissbluth Sleep Strategies
Once you decide how you want to train your child, learn important sleep strategies provided by Weissbluth. An important strategy for healthy sleep involves monitoring your child for signs of fatigue to ensure that you put him to bed before he becomes overtired. Signs of drowsiness include slowed movements, droopy eyelids and vacant stares. An overtired child often has trouble relaxing and falling asleep, so preventing this situation will make falling asleep easier for your little one. Once you notice signs of tiredness, begin the sleep routine you have chosen (soothing briefly before putting your child to bed or just tucking your little one into bed). Soothing might involve rhythmic rocking, gentle swaddling or baby massage, Weissbluth notes.
The routine you use to help your child slip off into dreamland will be paramount for creating a safe and secure sleep experience, Weissbluth says. Children rely on a bedtime routine that helps them relax and become ready for sleep. Elements that may be incorporated into a routine include a quiet and dim room, soft music, special phrases and a favorite “lovey” item. Begin this routine at the first sign of tiredness. Consistency and patience will eventually pay off with your youngster accepting the routine and going to sleep readily. The time it takes depends on your child’s age, temperament and which approach to crying you choose to use.