You are here

4 Baby Sleep Strategies That Work


The gist Sticking to a schedule, you let your baby cry in his crib for increasing lengths of time before you reassure him verbally.

Why it's right for you
• Your baby sometimes stops crying on his own.
• He doesn't become more upset the longer he cries.
• You're comfortable putting up with a few difficult nights for the desired result.

How to pull it off Start with a nighttime routine that helps calm your baby and signals bedtime, such as a bath, a story, and cuddle time. Next, put him in his crib at the same time every night, whether he seems drowsy or not, and leave the room. Now comes the hard part of this method, popularized by Richard Ferber, M.D., author of Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: When your child cries, wait before checking on him. On the first night, let your baby cry for five minutes. Then let him hear your calming voice, but don't pick him up. Stay for two to three minutes each time you go in to soothe him -- you're there for reassurance, not necessarily to get him to stop crying. The next time he cries, wait 10 minutes; then, 15. If he's still crying after 15 minutes, continue to wait 15 minutes before going in each time for the remainder of the night. (If five minutes seems like too long to wait the first time, start with two minutes, then increase to four, six, eight and so on.) Each night, lengthen the time you let your baby fuss before going in until it's no longer necessary. This process shouldn't take longer than a few days, says Ferber. The same steps can be used for daytime naps.

The No-Cry Method

The gist You comfort your baby whenever she wants you, gradually cutting back on the amount of time and level of attention you give her.

Why it's right for you
• You don't want to let your baby cry at night.
• You don't mind waking up throughout the night for now if it means less stress for both of you.
• You crave lots of physical closeness with her.

How to pull it off This method can be demanding, but it's also simple. You'll need to maintain consistent naptimes and bedtimes and use a calming routine (such as bathing, nursing, or rocking) to let your baby know bedtime is near. Keep your baby within earshot all night, either by sharing a room or using a baby monitor. When she awakens, listen first to see if she falls back asleep on her own. If not, soothe her however you choose, but gradually reduce how long you spend on it so she learns to put herself back to sleep. Be sure to remove your breast or the bottle from her mouth when she's sleepy but not asleep. "Otherwise, she'll expect to nurse every time she wakes up," says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and The No-Cry Nap Solution. And remember: The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against bed sharing with babies.