Sleep Training – In or Out?


By Good Night Consultant

In South Africa, the controversial “sleep training” debate has heated up considerably over the last few months. With so many puritan views on the subject, it’s difficult to discern which information is objective, honest and suitable for everyday families.

With the vast amount of books out there, how do you decide which “method” or approach is the best for your child?
The truth is, if you have heard about sleep training, then you would have heard some of the following names and I thought I’d supply some clarity on the different approaches.

Most methodologies can be summed up in the following four categories:

1. Controlled Crying (where you leave a child to cry and check on him/her intermittently)
2. Gradual Withdrawal (A slow approach of starting next to your child and moving out of the room)
3. Extinction (Leaving a child to “cry-it-out”)
4. Pick-up/put-down method (where you continue to pick a child up and put him down when they are unsettled)

Dr. Weissbluth – The Extinction Method

Dr. Weissbluth’s method is based on the parent reading the sleep cues of the child and then acting accordingly. Although, with the extinction approach, Weissbluth is synonymous with “putting your baby down and then allowing him to fall asleep without any intervention or help on your side”. Dr. Weissbluth talks about eliminating crying in different ways, depending on how receptive the parents are regarding the tolerance for the child to “cry it out” (CIO).

Dr. Ferber – Ferberizing

Ferberizing is a term commonly used in the sleep training sphere, and it is often associated with the CIO approach. The Ferber method is a technique invented by Dr. Richard Ferber to solve infant sleep problems and involves “baby-training” children to self-soothe by allowing the child to cry for a predetermined amount of time before receiving external comfort.

Dr. Harvey Karb – Happiest Baby on the Block

As a nationally renowned paediatrician and child specialist, Dr. Karb is known to have worked with a number of celebrities, such as Madonna. His technique is fundamentally based on the Five S’s of soothing a baby: Swaddling, Side/Stomach, Shushing, Swinging and Sucking.

Jodi A Mindell – Gentle Ferberizing

Mindell’s method is often described as being a gentler method than that suggested by Dr. Ferber, but it also involves a cry approach with more frequent and gentler intervention. She has done a lot of research on sleep and is a great advocate for the notion that when a child cries themselves to sleep it causes no type of long-term trauma for children.

Dr. Elizabeth Pantley

Dr. Pantley wrote the book, “The No Cry Sleep Solution” and fundamentally her philosophy is scheduling and realising the child’s natural cues. Pantley suggests parents adapt their schedule to their child’s for a more peaceful night’s sleep. Pantley emphasizes that parents must understand a child’s needs and allow babies to dictate how they go to sleep at night, whether through co-sleeping, nursing or anything else that makes the babies comfortable.

Dr. Marc Weissbluth

Dr. Weissbluth is an advocate for consistent naps and early bedtimes, saying that babies who are kept awake late to accommodate parent schedules end up paying a price in long-term sleep deprivation. His five components of healthy sleep include duration, consolidation (uninterrupted sleep), naps, timing and regularity.

Dr. William Sears

Dr. Sears is a proponent for the attachment parenting philosophy and offers a very baby led approach to children’s sleep habits.

As with all approaches and sleep training, always remember:

1. No amount of crying will make a baby sleep without first addressing the fundamental building blocks of good quality sleep. Without addressing those, you will only cause unnecessary heartache for yourself.
2. All children are different, and to take a “one size fits all” approach with sleep training is unrealistic. If any sleep consultant offers you a quick-fix solution– Run!

If you enjoyed reading about these approaches – join us at our first ever Sleep Seminar on 1 November at the Indaba Hotel. Petro Thamm will be talking about sleep training methodologies and how to apply them, and a host of other medical and children’s development practitioners will be sharing their own information regarding creating and maintaining healthy sleep habits.