Sleep training can be a stressful process. After all, no parent wants to hear their baby crying without any comfort.
However, it’s tough figuring out which sleep training approach is the most appropriate. Some parents don’t believe in letting their babies cry it out and opt for gentler methods. On the other hand, research offers advice that cry it out is the best method.
If you struggle to leave your little one who wants you to lie down with him/her until nodding off to dreamland, then rejoice!
A new sleeping method by Dr Harvey Karp, the sleep whisperer, helps to teach toddlers to be patient while waiting for you to lie down with them. The new method is called “Twinkle Interruptus” and helps to soothe the fussiest of toddlers.
Twinkle Interruptus – How to coax your little one to fall asleep
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Dr Harvey Karp is a well-known author and paediatrician who The Happiest Baby on the Block,
Most famous for his 5 Ss technique (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking)
In six steps, you can condition your little one to sleep more soundly without suffering from separation anxiety too much.
- Wait until your little one falls asleep while you lie down with him/her.
- When your toddler wakes up and starts crying because you’re leaving, explain you forgot to do something urgent and you will be back quickly. “Sorry dear! I forgot to turn off the bathroom light. I’ll be back in just a jiffy”.
- Leave for a few seconds and return as you promised. When you come back, tell your child “Good waiting! Good waiting!”
- Soothe your child and comfort him/her for a few minutes
- Repeat step 2 and leave the room for a short while. Increase the amount of time you’re away from the room by a few seconds. If the first time you left was for 10 seconds, extend the second time by 20, the third by 30, etc.
- Build this up over the course of a few nights. You’ll have gradually longer intervals where you’ve left the room to do something “urgent”. Your little one will learn to fall asleep in those intervals.
The key to this approach is returning when you say you will. By coming back shortly, it builds trust that you’ll return as you promised and is the key to trusting you to return, despite longer waiting intervals.
According to Dr Karp, he believes this technique works on 75% of children over the age of 18 months.
If your child has stronger separation anxiety, he suggests you comfort your child immediately when they start crying. To implement the Twinkle Interruptus in this case, you can pretend to search for something on the other side of the room. You’re still within sight but away from your toddler’s sight. Eventually, you will work your way up to being able to leave the room.
The sleep doctor reassures parents that this isn’t a sly or cunning technique, but one that will ultimately help everyone in the long run.
“Please don’t think of this as devious. But everyone is tired and has low frustration tolerance at bedtime, so this is a better time to be a little tricky than to enter into a battle of wills.”
3 alternative sleep training methods to try
Sleep training your little one helps to build your toddler’s independence and allows him/her to sleep soundly throughout the night.
You can begin sleep training when your child is 6 months old.
There are other methods you can use to start the process. When he/she grows older, there will be less reliance on your presence as a source of comfort as your little one will have learnt how to self-soothe.
1. Cry it out
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As the name suggests, you leave your little one to cry while trying to sleep. If the crying doesn’t let up after a period of time, you offer comfort.
It’s also known as “Ferberizing”, based off Dr Richard Ferber who originally described this approach in his 1985 book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”.
To try the Cry It Out method, follow these steps.
- Put your baby in the crib when he’s/she’s falling asleep
- Wish him/her goodnight and leave the room
- Let him/her cry for a period of time (try 5 minutes)
- Re-enter the room and comfort your child for no more than a minute
- Leave the room with the lights off, even if he’s/she’s still crying
- Wait for slightly longer before you head back in (try 10 minutes) and offer comfort
- Repeat these steps until your child falls asleep
2. No-tears method
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Many parents struggle to tolerate their baby crying relentlessly.
This approach was developed by paediatricians because of a belief that allowing your kids to cry to sleep gives negative associations between bedtime and sleep with long-lasting impressions.
Instead, the no-tears method centres on helping your baby learn how to sleep in his/her own time. Building a routine is key to forming positive sleep associations. Parents are encouraged to follow their babies’ cues so they know when it’s time to sleep.
The steps to carry out the No-Tears Method are:
- Establish a routine with your little one, including setting a feeding time, bath time, pre-bed activities like reading, and finally going to sleep
- Begin to rock your baby to sleep for some time
- Use a key phrase to help soothe your baby, like “shh” or a spoken phrase like “time for sleep sleep”
- When your baby is sleepy, put him/her down in the crib and leave the room
- Pick up your baby if you hear crying and repeat steps 2-4 until he/she is calm again
- The number of times you need to do this will lower each night gradually
3. Adult fading
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Another gentler alternative to the Cry It Out method is adult fading, or just fading.
It refers to any approach which allows a baby to cry for a specified amount of time. It’s somewhere in between a no-tears method and the Ferbirizing approach.
The key is to allow your little one learn how to soothe himself/herself.
“The idea is to be his coach, not his crutch”, advises Kim West, a licensed clinical social worker in Annapolis, Maryland, and author of The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight, who embraces fading strategies.
You can implement fading by following these steps:
- Continue using whatever soothing technique to put your baby to sleep (rocking, rubbing on the back, shushing, etc)
- When your baby is drowsy, put him/her down in the crib and leave the room
- Pick up and soothe your baby with your soothing technique
- Repeat steps 2 and 3, but decrease the amount of time you spend soothing your baby gradually. If the first time lasted 5 minutes, the following time you enter the room can be 4 minutes 40 seconds
- Over time, your baby will be less reliant on you to fall back to sleep
If you’re trying to teach your little one to self-soothe himself/herself to sleep but don’t feel comfortable with a Cry It Out method, Twinkle Interruptus might be the approach for you! It’s simple, a bit sneaky, but could be very effective in minimising tears while getting your toddler to nod off!
Let us know how this method worked for you!