When it comes to baby sleep patterns it can be confusing knowing which to try, because there are so many methods of sleep training and many of them seem to conflict. Every baby is different and you need to find a method that works for you, your baby and your family. The biggest decision you need to make is whether to try the Cry It Out method or the No Cry Sleep method.
The Cry It Out Method
The Cry it Out method works on the principle that babies learn that crying gets attention, so you can retrain them to understand that sleep time is different and crying won’t get the same response.
The Cry It Out Method involves putting your baby to bed awake and leaving them to cry for specific, short periods of time, with a parent going in to check and comfort (but not cuddle) the baby in between. The idea is that the baby comes to realise you are there and they will learn to settle themselves rather than relying on feeding, rocking or cuddling.
Parents who try the Cry It Out method find it can be an effective and quick way of establishing good baby sleep patterns. It can be very difficult to stick with though, as no parent likes to hear their baby cry. Some experts suggest that letting babies cry can result in long lasting anxiety and negative associations with sleep throughout childhood and beyond, but there is no scientific evidence to back this up.
The No Cry Method
Many experts and parents feel the Cry It Out Method is unkind and unnatural and prefer to use No Cry Methods. There are many ways you can help develop baby sleep patterns without tears; for example:
Co-sleeping, where the baby sleeps in or next to your bed
Nursing or rocking your child to sleep
Responding immediately to your child’s cries at bedtime
One of the most popular No Cry Methods was developed by Elizabeth Pantley, who suggests you return to your baby every time they cry and pick them up and cuddle them before returning them to the cot. You could find yourself picking up your baby dozens of times every night but eventually they will feel secure enough to sleep on their own.
Generally it takes much longer to establish regular baby sleep patterns using No Cry Methods but many parents find it less traumatic for themselves and their babies than the Cry It Out Method.
The key to establishing good baby sleep patterns is to be consistent. Whether you choose a Cry it Out or No Cry method you need to persevere with it for at least a fortnight, to give your baby a chance to get used to the new regime. You’ll also be much more successful if you put baby to bed before they are too tired and have a regular bedtime routine that includes soothing activities and a comfortable sleeping environment.