RAPID SLEEP TRAINING
Sleep training within parent and psychologist circles has been a heated and controversial topic for quite some time. However, within pediatric circles, for years, it’s been known as a well studied, safe, and proven method for getting your child to sleep with no known side effects. Our office promotes rapid training because of its exceptional success rate, simplicity, and ease. Most importantly, this method is typically successful in two to three days.
Before considering sleep training, you should know that children have been shown to be healthy with and without training, meaning this is only a WAY to parent, not THE way. If training makes you uncomfortable, it is not necessary for the health of your child, and you should not do this. Our group teaches this method not because it’s necessary for the health of a child but because often, when parents try without our guidance they use less effective methods which often worsens the child’s sleep and leads to unnecessary appointments and parental expense.
Sleep training isn’t appropriate for children under the age of 2 months or with certain health problems, such as growth or feeding issues. Before beginning, you should obtain clearance from you pediatrician. For the success of this program, you will need a bedroom for your child, with a safe sleep environment (as below). Lastly, we recommend a baby monitor so that you can visualize your child, but they can not see you checking on them.
Safe Sleep Environment
Crib with a firm, flat mattress
No blankets, pillows, swaddles, bumpers, etc.
No pacifiers or bottles
Building A sleep schedule
When rapid sleep training your child, you dictate how and when they sleep, however, if you don’t build a sleep schedule for your child that allows them enough sleep for their age, they will be predisposed to everything from poor school performance to mental illness. These times below include naps, however, we recommend against napping after 5 years of age for improved school performance. For example, an 11 month old child should sleep at least 12 hours in a 24 hour period, including naps.
Newborn - 1yr
Ages 1-2 yrs
Ages 3-5 yrs
Age 6-12 yrs
Age 13-18 yrs
Example: This pattern could be used between 2 months and 12 months of age. Bedtime of 8 pm with a waketime of 6 am. This 10 hour sleep schedule allows for 2 hours of nap and a total of 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. In this example, we will plan to have 2 naps, 1 hour each, at 9-10 am and 1-2 pm. This is only an example, you can build it however you want, within reason. Most children, require the lower end of the sleep requirements for age (as above), so we’ve chosen 12 hours instead of 16 hours. Please speak with your pediatrician, if you are having trouble developing a schedule for your child.
Rapid Sleep Training
Once you’ve obtained clearance from your pediatrician, built a safe, conducive environment for sleep, and decided upon a sleep schedule for your child, you can now begin rapid sleep training. In the steps below we will use the bolded example above to highlight how you can achieve easy sleep in 2-3 days.
Changed, Fed, and Healthy
Rapid sleep training is very similar to dropping your child off for daycare. Most daycares require that your child is feeding well, clean, and reasonably healthy when you drop them off. If those things are not true, then you take care of them until those things are true again, at which point you can drop them off again. This is the same concept you should mirror when instituting the other steps below. When your child is sick or having trouble feeding, you should break from their sleep schedule and meet their acute needs until they are ready to go back on schedule.
The Visual “Explanation”
Children are very smart, even as infants, but language comes later. If you want to explain something to your child before language develops, you are going to have to give them a very consistent visual pattern. When a parent takes a child to daycare, they get them dressed at the same time every day, feed them, change them, drive them in the car, and ultimately leave them with a care provider, even if they are crying. Quickly the child learns that this is the plan and quits crying at drop off. Here we are mimicking this process by doing a visual pattern for 5-10 minutes. We recommend against feeding during this pattern or bathing, as feeding at bedtime eventually can cause health issues, as can frequent bathing. If you need to do these things, do them outside of this pattern.
Example: 7:50 pm the child is fed, changed, and healthy. The parent then turns down the lights, gets the child dressed for bed, and rocks them until 8 pm every night.
After the pattern in step 2, the parent then lays the awake child or infant in the safe sleep environment and leaves the room, closing the door, your child will likely be screaming. During step 3, this one rule applies: You can check by monitor on your child as many times as you want and they can cry as long as they want, however you can only enter the room if you can see something visually wrong with your child. This seems harsh, but this is key to the method. It’s so consistent, simple, and blunt an infant can understand it.
Example: At 8 pm after giving the pattern to the child, the parent lays the child on their back in the safe sleep environment while awake. The child starts crying and the parent only enters the room to fix problems between 8 pm - 6 am. If your child spits up because they cry so hard, catches their leg in the crib, or poops out of their diaper, the parent would enter the room and fix the problem, promptly leaving the room without comforting the child. If the parent sees the child is crying on the monitor but does not see any physical problems, the child is left to cry, even if it’s all night long.
The times of your sleep schedule you built are only times you lay your child down or pick them up. The child over time will learn to sleep at these times.
Example: The parent goes in and gets the child at 6 am regardless of whether the child is awake or asleep.
Steps 2, 3, and 4 are repeated at the chosen nap times. Even though it’s tempting, don’t deviate from your plan. Giving a child extra naptime will disrupt either the future nap, or the sleep at the end of the day.
Example: At 8:50 am the parent gives the child a quick 10 minute pattern and then lays the child down at 9 am for a period of 1 hour, again instituting the rules from step 3 and 4.
This plan will work in 2-3 days and your child will start sleeping according to the schedule you’ve set. Remember your child requires your consistency to keep this plan working. There rare times, even after training that your child will challenge your schedule you’ve set. As long as your child is healthy, you’ll need to continue to stay consistent with Step 3 when these challenges happen. Should you break for a time, you’ll need to redo these steps completely for 2-3 days, such as when coming back from vacation, however it will not be as hard for your child because they already know the pattern you’ve taught them.
If you don’t pump or feed regularly your milk supply will dry up. If you’d like to continue feeding at night to keep up supply, you can, but you have to change the dynamic of how you feed. We suggest that you schedule feedings or pump when uncomfortable so that the infant or child doesn’t expect that they can cry and get food at this time. One or two feedings at night is generally all that is needed to keep up supply after 2 months of age, though you can increase this if you notice you supply falling.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Some studies have shown that having a child in their own room until 1 year, on their back in a crib, is associated with a lower chance of SIDS. This data is controversial because of many reasons, the primary reason being that many parents when faced with that sleep model, will bring an infant into their bed (co-sleeping) which conversely will raise SIDS rates. To be safest, know yourself, when co-sleeping becomes unavoidable for your family, this method is a safer alternative.