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Check In, Then Leave

One crying-it-out type of sleep training is the well-known, yet controversial, Ferber Method, also known as "Progressive Watching" or "Graduated Extinction." The goal is to teach your baby how to sleep on her own and put herself back to sleep if she wakes up during the night. Richard Ferber, MD, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital Boston, developed this method. He advises parents not to start this training until their baby is at least 5 or 6 months old. Here’s an overview of how it’s done:

  • Put your baby in her crib -- drowsy, but awake. Once you've finished her bedtime routine, leave the room.
  • If your baby cries, wait a few minutes before you check on her. The amount of time you wait depends on you and your baby. You might start waiting somewhere between 1 and 5 minutes.
  • When you re-enter your baby’s room, try to console her. But do not pick her up and do not stay for more than 2 or 3 minutes, even if she's still crying when you leave. Seeing your face will be enough to assure your baby that you are close by so she can eventually fall asleep on her own. 
  • If she continues crying, gradually increase the amount of time you wait before going in to check on her again. For instance, if you wait 3 minutes the first time, wait 5 minutes the second time, and 10 minutes each time after that.
  • The next night, wait 5 minutes the first time, 10 minutes the second time, and 12 minutes each time after that.

Adopting this method might be difficult during the first few nights. But you’ll likely see improvement in your baby's sleep pattern by day 3 or 4. Most parents see an improvement within a week.

Tip: If you want to try the Ferber Method, make sure you're well rested before the first night of sleep training. For the first nights especially, you'll spend a lot of time listening for your baby's cries, checking your watch, and entering and exiting her room.