If you’ve chosen to sleep train your baby (that is, help him learn to fall asleep well and stay asleep through the night) there are several approaches you can take. When sleep training at 4 months the following methods will work best; Cry it Out (CIO), No Tears, and Fading. Pediatricians typically recommend beginning these methods when your baby is about four months to six months.
Some babies are naturally better sleepers than others and will learn fairly quickly and easily. Others can take a bit more patience, and parents may need to try more than one approach. Take a look at the popular options explored below and begin with the one that feels right for your family.
Sleep Training Methods at 4 Months
Approach 1: Cry it Out (CIO)
The Cry it Out approach is often considered controversial. This is because many people believe it means letting your baby cry alone in his crib for as long as it takes before he falls asleep. However, what it really means is letting your baby cry for a designated period of time before offering comfort. There are several methods that fall under this approach. We’ll go over them in a bit more detail below so that you can get a real feel if this is right for you!
This version of the CIO is aptly named after pediatrician and author Richard Ferber. He first published a book about this sleep training method in 1985. It remains highly popular today, and it is founded on the concept that falling asleep on his own is a necessary skill your child will need to master. This method does not condone simply letting your baby cry until he falls asleep. Rather, it advises parents to use a progressive-waiting technique so that baby has more time to try falling asleep on his own before offering him comfort.
If this method interests you, I recommend checking out Dr. Ferber’s book!
Gentle Sleep Training
This method is similar to Ferber’s in that baby will be left alone to cry a bit. However, gentle sleep training methods usually feature checking on your baby every five minutes, and comforting him and laying him back down each time until he falls asleep. This way you won’t have to face extended periods of letting your little one cry. They will still have a little bit of comfort from you while learning to soothe themselves.
Additionally, it typically includes slowly removing so-called “sleep crutches”. This includes putting a stop to nursing at bedtime, the pacifier, and toys. The reason for this is to help your baby learn not to rely on anything external to fall asleep.
Approach 2: No Tears
Some parents don’t like the idea of using a sleep training method that lets their little one cry for any stretch of time. In this case, a no-tears method may work better for you. These methods are founded on the idea that bedtime offers a great opportunity for connection with your child. Things like cozy bedtime rituals and responding to food and comfort needs deepen your parent-child bond.
This is a favorite of those using attachment parenting. The basic idea is to put your baby into the crib while he’s still awake. Then, sit next to his crib in a chair and provide soothing and support until he falls asleep. Each night, you move the chair a bit further away.
Wake and Sleep Method
This method was pioneered by Dr. Harvey Karp and it recognizes the fact that all of us, adults and infants alike, naturally wake up 3-4 times each night. So, the idea of a baby sleeping through the night without waking is a myth in Dr. Karp’s eyes. His method focuses on helping the baby soothe himself to sleep multiple times per night. The idea is to soothe your child to sleep in your arms using rocking, white noise, or singing. Then, lay him in his crib. Next, you immediately rouse him by tickling his feet or neck until he wakes up, then you will allow him to slip back into sleep on his own.
Approach 3: Fading
If you aren’t totally comfortable with CIO methods, but you aren’t sure No Tears methods will do the trick for your baby, the fading approach offers a middle ground of sorts. It begins with parents offering lots of support and soothing as the baby falls asleep, and gradually diminishing that role. It can include short periods of crying as your baby learns to self-soothe. Parents are advised to focus on “coaching” their baby to sleep rather than serving as a crutch.
Camping Out Method
This is similar to the No-Tears Chair Method. It involves sitting in your baby’s room until he falls asleep, but it differs in that parents are encouraged to offer little support besides their presence and a soft “shh” as needed. Practitioners of this method are encouraged to move the chair closer to the door every night. Then finally move it completely out of the room within two weeks.
Timed Check-In Method
In this approach, you place your baby into the crib awake. Then, check-in on him every five minutes until he falls asleep. Be consistent each time you enter the room. You can do this by either offering a gentle pat or by saying “I love you” before leaving again. Though this sounds a bit like the Ferber Method, it differs in that you never wait longer than five minutes to go back into the room, versus Ferber’s progressive-waiting technique.
Some General Advice About Sleep Training at 4 Months
The above list is not exhaustive when it comes to sleep training methods, and many parents find they need to try more than one before baby satisfactorily falls asleep and self-soothes upon waking in the night. Sometimes parents experience a bit of a start-and-stop, too, where a sleep training method that does not work at four months is quite successful at five or six months. Other times, your baby may be sleeping quite well until hitting a sleep regression which requires a second (or third!) round of sleep training.
Development at 4 Months That May Effect Sleep
Every baby is different and will have unique needs, so a method that worked with one child may not be ideal for another. Remember, too, that things like growth spurts and teething at 4 months commonly cause sleep disruptions for infants, and it is completely normal for a baby to wake up and cry in the night even if you’ve sleep trained him extensively.
Around this age, it may also be time to transition your baby out of their swaddle. This can be a little rough. Babies love the swaddle for the comforted feeling that resembles the time being in the womb. The Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit is a sleepsuit that helps babies and parents transition out of the swaddle.
The Magic Sleepsuit keeps babies snug like they are being held but helps them be comfortable with sleeping with arms out of the swaddle position. The Magic Sleepsuit has two zippers that allow for easy access and comfort. Not only is this suit best for helping transition out of the swaddle, but it is also a great sleep tool for helping babies transition to their cribs. Being in a big open crib can be intimidating for your little one, the Magic Sleepsuit brings comfort to them as they make such a big transition. This suit is best for babies who are not independently rolling and enjoy sleeping on their backs.
Finally, it’s a good idea to get the go-ahead from your pediatrician before beginning any sleep training regimen. If your baby is having difficulty gaining weight, his doctor might advise against it, knowing that feedings throughout the night will be necessary for his continued growth and development. Your pediatrician might also be able to offer guidance on which methods to try first based on your baby’s temperament.
Sleep training can be a confusing decision for parents, with all the various methods in use, but it is often a necessary step. Successful sleep training will allow your baby to become more independent, while allowing you to begin getting a good night’s sleep, too.