What We Mean When We Talk About Sleep Training

sleep training definitions

To begin what will sure to be a much reviled series on Sleep Training I feel the need to get a clear understand of what we are (or are not) talking about. About 50% of the people who will read this are not from the US, are probably reading different baby books, and using different baby words (cot, buggy, dummies) so in truth we are not really speaking the same language.

Sleep Training vs. Cry it Out?

Sleep Training – Somehow sleep training has become synonymous with cry it out. Or at least I get this impression from emails that say, “We’ve been sleep training for 25 minutes and he’s still crying.”

Everybody with a baby has been sleep training since the minute the baby arrived on the scene. Learning to sleep is a skill that we teach with swaddles, pacifiers, swings, nursing, white noise, consistency, and bedtime routines. All of these, collectively, constitute sleep training.

Unfortunately I think that “sleep training” has become the gentlewoman’s way to discuss CIO which is confusing to me (clearly I’m not a gentlewoman). But since the universe is not (yet) allowing me to define my own terms, I’ll have to accept that sleep training = cry it out.

FerberizingDr. Richard Ferber is the Director of Pediatric Sleep Disorders at the world-renowned Boston Children’s Hospital. But all anybody cares about is that on page #121 of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems he lays out a chart of how often to go peek on your crying baby. He should just change his name to Dr. Cry Baby.

However for consistency of definition, Ferberizing means cry it out but with timed intervals of peeking. This is also called check and console or controlled crying.

Cry it Out – I’m going to use Cry it Out (or CIO) to mean letting your baby cry WITHOUT going back in to peek. So there is vanilla CIO (no peek) and Ferberizing (peeking at intervals). This may not be universally accepted on the Internet so you may find other people discussing CIO when they mean Ferberizing.

Attachment ParentingCoined by Dr. Sears of The Baby Book fame, attachment parenting conceptually means being a nurturing parent who strives to meet the emotional and physical needs of your baby in a loving way. Unfortunately the term attachment parenting has come to assume many other militant belief systems about nursing, co-sleeping, and baby wearing which has sadly led to a belief that you are either pro-attachment parenting or pro-sleep training.

I respectfully disagree. You can absolutely be a nurturing respectful parent who also employs cry it out as a sleep training technique.

Newborn Babies – Your baby is a “newborn baby” if he is roughly younger than 4 months of age. If your child is between 4-12 months of age he is a “baby.” Sleep training, cry it out, and Ferberizing are not tools to use with a newborn. I’m not an advocate of letting newborns cry and maintain that there are other more gentle and more effective techniques to help newborn babies sleep. So when I talk about cry it out and babies, what I’m really saying is 6+ month “older babies.”

Any other terms that need to be clarified? Stay tuned for more on this topic or keep working on cry-free sleep with these helpful techniques.

{Photo credit: Sleepfordays}