Does teaching the child to fall asleep on its own involve leaving it alone to cry it out and finally doze off?

There are a number of methods (so-called behavioural techniques) that can help the child fall asleep on its own. The main difference between them is the way parents react to the child’s crying during the teaching period:

– the most extreme and controversial is the so-called “cry it out” / “extinction” method. It requires parents not to react to the crying child during bedtime; the child is put to bed in the evening, and parents only come back at a specific time in the morning, even if it cries at night. This method usually brings effects within a few days.

– “controlled crying”, “Ferberisation”, “check and console”, “fading”; one of the first versions of this method was developed by an American paediatrician, Richard Ferber, hence the name “Ferberisation”; it involves leaving the crying baby and consoling it every now and then at specific, usually progressively increasing intervals, e.g. every 3–5–7 minutes. This method is usually effective after 7–10 days.

– various types of so-called “camping out” or “fading”, in which parents gradually reduce their presence and associations with falling asleep; they are still there when the baby is falling asleep, but they move further away from the crib (this usually takes approximately 1–2 weeks). Another version of “camping out” consists in slowly moving the baby away, e.g. in the case of co-sleeping. If the baby sleeps in a crib, you gradually move it further away from the parents’ bed. In the case of older children, the baby can initially sleep on a separate mattress near the parents, and then the distance between them is increased. This method is usually effective in 1–4 weeks.

– so-called “staylistening”, which can be a method on its own or can be used to supplement other methods; in this case, parents passively accompany the child while it is crying, e.g. by holding it in their arms. This method is usually effective after 7-14 days.

– the “put up/put down” method, named and popularised by a British nurse, Tracy Hogg, involves putting the baby up when it cries and putting it down right after it stops crying. This method is usually effective after 7-14 days.

– very slow (spread over weeks/months) withdrawal of assisting the baby while falling asleep with mixed methods, involving elements of e.g. camping out or very gentle departure from the association of breastfeeding with falling asleep (e.g. the method developed by an American parenting educator, Elizabeth Pantley). This method usually brings effects after a few weeks up to a few months.

… and other methods, including combinations of the above.

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