I finally found some time to read the books my mother borrowed for me about sleep training. I was sorely disappointed: neither book mentioned anything about actually teaching the child how to fall asleep on her own.

Both books advocate a "method" that's like trying to teach someone to ride a bike by locking him in the gym with a bicycle. It may eventually have the desired effect, but it certainly doesn't count as training or teaching. There has got to be something different out there.

In my web searches for alternative methods, I found one brief mention of techniques that involve teaching the child how to relax, but there were no specifics mentioned, and now I can't find the site. (I don't remember how I got there the first time, and I can't remember any keywords or other search terms.)

What methods of sleep training are available that teach specific relaxation methods or other tools to help a child fall asleep on her own? I'm looking for specifics: names of techniques or authors, titles of books or websites, or comprehensive summaries of the actual techniques: either something that I can search for online or at a bookstore, or enough information that I don't need to search.

Some details, in case they're relevant:

My daughter is 17 months old. A year ago, I could put her down awake and she'd babble/hum herself to sleep in a few minutes. Then she started teething.... At this point, I'm the only one who can put her to sleep; with anyone else she gets so busy testing limits that sleep just never happens. I sit in the office chair in her room, holding her horizontally in my arms, and rock her gently up-and-down while swaying side-to-side, while she chews on her blankie-toy. It sometimes takes half an hour, but eventually she falls asleep. She often stirs a bit when I put her in her crib, but if I timed it right, she settles down almost immediately.

She sometimes sleeps straight through until morning (with varying definitions of "morning").

More often, she wakes once or twice in the night, but I can get her back to sleep by just patting or rubbing her back, or fixing the blanket, or pulling her back to the middle of the crib. Some nights, she sits or stands up while crying, so I have to pick her up and repeat the bedtime rocking ritual.

Sometimes I can then put her back in her crib and she sleeps until morning. Sometimes she wants nothing more to do with her crib, thankyouverymuch, and after about three tries I give up and take her to our bed. (There's only so much I'm capable of at 4 a.m.)

Sometimes not even that works, and she ends up sleeping on her daddy's shoulder or some such. We're pretty sure those times must have some physical cause, but we haven't figured out what. (Teething is/was our default "excuse", but she had 16 teeth by the time she turned 16 months old, so I can't imagine which teeth she could possibly be working on now...)

  • I am making some pretty significant edits to your question, as I believe there is a good question at the crux of it, but in its current form it would need to be closed (as off-topic due to it being a "shopping" question, requesting a list of websites or books). If you feel my edits change your intent, feel free to roll them back and make your own edits, but it needs to be phrased as a request for specific advice about your case, without the unnecessary complaints about specific techniques you don't plan on using.
    – user420
    Dec 27, 2011 at 17:04
  • Related.
    – user420
    Dec 27, 2011 at 17:11
  • 1
    As I already mentioned, the complaints about specific techniques you don't plan on using are unnecessary. I have removed them again, as they do not add anything to your question, and invite debate that would not be constructive. Please do not add that back in again.
    – user420
    Dec 27, 2011 at 18:43
  • 1
    While it doesn't answer your question, as a father who went through this as well, I do miss those days. While it can be frustrating at the time, I think the key is for dad to relax, and enjoy the bonding time. I know it's really easy to say that in hindsight, and I probably would have ignored my own advice back then, but for what it's worth...
    – DA01
    Dec 27, 2011 at 22:26
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    gah! How do I _un_upvote a comment? My mouse was misbehaving.
    – JPmiaou
    Dec 28, 2011 at 3:05

2 Answers 2


I don't know whether there are any formal techniques but there are lots of methods that might (or might not) work. I don't think you can get an active toddler to "get it" right away; you might need to go through several methods in sequence to achieve increasing levels of calmness. The goal would always be to make your child understand that she is safe and not alone, even when mommy isn't in the immediate vicinity.

I understand that your toddler is very active at bedtime, and that this keeps her from falling asleep. There's also a lot of crying which you want to reduce. That's exactly the case for my toddler, too: as soon as we put him on his mattress, he would immediately sit up or stand up again, and would not be left alone. As he got old enough, he would even climb out of his bed and walk to the living room. He's now 2y 3mo and it's gotten much better.

Here's what we did:

We started out with a solid bedtime routine. That cannot be stressed enough: Small children need to follow the exact same steps in the exact same order. For us it was pretty much this: put toys away, evening milk bottle, brush teeth, change diaper, put on pajamas, good night kiss, close the curtains, put to bed.

But this was not enough, of course. He would not simply fall asleep, so we started very early on to remain in his room and sing a lullaby over and over again, putting him down again and again. This would often take an hour, so we knew something had to change.

"Cry it out" was definitely not an option for us. We feel that this method hurts the child emotionally. But HedgeMage mentioned a much softer version that worked very well for us. Following her method, our son quickly learned that it's okay when the parent leaves the room. It took about a week for my son to get the hang of this, but there were many relapses in the beginning.

Now that he understands that bedtime means staying in bed, we have now developed a routine that is even easier. After putting him to bed, he gets a kiss and a cuddle, and then I tell him that I'll go give mommy a kiss too and then return - which I then do. Another kiss and cuddle, then a longer absence, perhaps 2 minutes. I repeat this with increasing intervals (ca. 2-5-8-15 minutes) until he doesn't stir when I visit him. Note that if he begins crying in between my visits, I go to him immediately, giving him a kiss and a cuddle, and leave again. It's very simple, and very effective - at least, for us! There's nearly never any crying anymore, or only very short.

Following this path helped our toddler transition from getting up immediately to staying in bed, lying down, and eventually falling asleep, with a minimum of fuss and crying. Of course there are still setbacks and impossible evenings, but it's rare, and when it happens we use one of the earlier methods. The next day is usually okay again.

  • I like the "going to give the other parent a kiss" idea, but the method doesn't sound like it'll work too well with her still in her crib -- dunno about her daddy, but I certainly can't reach to kiss her if she's lying down.
    – JPmiaou
    Dec 28, 2011 at 13:57
  • We have a bedtime routine, but maybe it's not long enough. I don't know how to work changes into it, though; she doesn't like change.
    – JPmiaou
    Dec 28, 2011 at 13:59
  • @JPmiaou You don't have to dive into the crib to kiss, you could do a gesture instead, or just the cuddle. Our bedtime routine takes around 20 minutes and that is long enough for our little tornado to calm down. Take as long as you need; it can become shorter once the whole going-to-bed thing goes well. Dec 28, 2011 at 14:16

No, there are no techniques like "sleep training". I am convinced, that sleep is not something one can learn.

Despite what many say, we never left our children crying in bed when the "should sleep". For the night's sleep, usually my wife nursed them as they needed it (one or two times a night, when they were about 1 year old), and when she was absent I carried them around when they woke up until they slept again.

Doing it this way, our children never needed to fear to be alone during the night or bedtime. They do us a favour now by going to bed easily and sleeping very well.

  • 2
    So when did your children learn how to fall asleep without your help?
    – Ivana
    Feb 26, 2015 at 15:18
  • @Ivana Without us personally being around, they were able to fall asleep calmly at about age 2 years.
    – Chrglmgl
    Jun 29, 2016 at 21:53

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