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Gradually Sleep Training Your Child Using the Chair Method

Updated: Mar 5


best nj sleep consultant near me


Fact: sleep training is not for every family.


Also a fact: sleep training does not mean “cry it out.”


Did you know that there are several ways to sleep train your baby or toddler that do not include putting them in a room and shutting the door until morning?


Families often find this surprising to hear, because many of them believe that this is the only option. I hear so often that pediatricians will recommend “cry it out” as the only way to solve a baby’s sleep issues, which is doing such a disservice to exhausted parents.

(No shade to pediatricians- they are amazing individuals, but most did not receive any training in pediatric sleep during medical school).


So what are your options if you are ready to solve your child’s sleep issues, but not willing to go to such extreme measures to accomplish your goals? Some methods that I received training in are: pick up/put down, the chair method, the soothing ladder, the sleep wave, and timed checks.


If you are a family who desires a more gradual approach that allows you to be involved in the process the entire time, then the chair method is the way to go!


Let’s talk about who benefits from this method, how to do the chair method, its positive aspects and its challenges.


(P.S.- If you prefer video content, then head over to my YouTube on the Chair Method)





Who Should Use The Chair Method of Sleep Training


Anytime I am working with a family who is either co-sleeping or room sharing, I recommend starting sleep training your child using the chair method. Because the method allows the caregiver to be in the room the entire time, this is typically a more gradual transition from being right next to the parent the entire night.


The great part about the chair method is that you can still room share and use this method, making it slightly easier during middle of the night wakings (it means you get to do the method from your bed!).


Are you a parent of a toddler who is no longer in a crib and gets out of bed ALL night long?

Maybe they need you to fall asleep with them while you are squished up in their tiny toddler bed? Are you not comfortable putting a gate at their door or using a door monkey?


You would also be a good candidate for the chair method. This provides a gradual way of implementing new sleep rules and expectations, without leaving the room completely at bedtime.


This method can be used successfully for children of all ages, although it is usually easier for parents to implement it when they are sleep training babies under 12 months old.


The reason being that babies will typically see their parents’ presence as a comfort while toddlers may see it as a game, or a way to push more limits at bedtime. However, anytime a parent is 100% consistent in their approach, the method will help accomplish your goal of sleeping through the night.


How To Do The Chair Method


If you are room sharing, it is suggested that you put the bassinet or crib furthest away from your bed.


Creating a visual barrier so your baby cannot see you in bed is not necessary but can be helpful in ensuring that they will stay asleep for longer periods of time. Whether your child is in your room or in their own bedroom, the room should be cave-like dark with a white noise machine.


Start by putting a chair right next to their bassinet, crib, or bed. Your job while you are in the chair is to be their support system while they are learning to fall asleep independently. This means that you can briefly comfort them by rubbing their cheeks or back, saying a comforting phrase, or a calming mantra.


However, it is their job to fall asleep. No phones allowed! You must be completely present with them, without distraction. You will stay in the chair until they fall asleep.


If they wake again in the middle of the night, resume your seat in the chair, briefly soothe, and stay in the chair until they fall asleep again. For all naps, bedtime, and night wakings during the next 3 days, you will leave the chair next to the bassinet, crib, or bed.


On Night 4, move the chair to the middle of the room.


This leap can be challenging for both little ones and parents because it means you are not able to soothe with your touch. However, it is absolutely essential to the process. You want to gradually fade your support and give your child the opportunity to practice their new skill of falling asleep independently.


If your child is in a toddler bed and gets out of bed, practice a silent return to bed. Stay in the chair until they fall asleep and resume your position for any night wakings, naps, and bedtime for the next 3 days.


On Night 7, move the chair to the doorway.


This transition should not be as challenging as Night 4’s because they are already used to you not providing physical touch. Stay in this position until they fall asleep and resume the position for all night wakings, naps, and bedtime for the next 3 days.


On Night 10, you will officially be out of the room!


Move your chair into the hallway, out of view of your child. You can choose to leave the door open or shut the door, whichever you think is best for your child. At this point, most parents ask me if they actually need to sit in the chair or if they can officially end the process.


If they are comfortable with their baby or toddler being able to fall asleep independently, there is no need to stay in the chair any longer and they can consider themselves sleep training graduates!


However, if their toddler is still getting out of bed to make sure you are still in the hallway, I would recommend staying in the chair to continue to build trust with your child in order to ensure success.


How To Be Successful When Sleep Training Your Child Using The Chair Method


Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.


If your child is being taught something inconsistently (i.e.- sometimes you’ll rock them, sometimes you’ll follow the plan and stay in the chair), then we can expect their sleep behavior will also be inconsistent.


Remember that you are the parent, you have chosen a new way of teaching sleep, and you are there to support them the entire time. When parents relay a fair but firm stance on their rules, children respond quickly and understand their new expectations.


Because this is a more gradual process, you can expect that it will likely take at least 10 days to achieve your goals (sometimes more with toddlers and pre-schoolers). When choosing the chair method, be sure that you have no major life events going on in the next 2 weeks in order to give it the time it requires. If you are on Day 10 and still see no improvement, reflect on your teaching and if you are following the process with 100% consistency.


If you are, this may mean that, while YOU are comfortable with this method, your CHILD may need to learn in a different way. This is when I usually suggest moving to a less involved approach such as timed checks.


The Positives and Negatives of The Chair Method


Real talk here: the challenging part of the chair method is that your child will likely still cry. Yes, this is a gradual method, but gradual does not equal zero crying.


In fact, it is possible that they may cry more than if you used a less involved approach such as timed checks. The reason for this is that you are there the entire time, and they might put up a fight to try to get back into bed with you or get you to rock them to sleep. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “no cry” sleep training method.


Here’s where I offer support for families who are really struggling with sleep vs. crying: it is okay to choose SLEEP, even if learning how to sleep will result in a few nights of crying. The crying typically doesn’t last more than 30 minutes (most of the time less) and your child has likely cried for that amount of time during other situations in their life.


It’s our children’s job to protest and push back when we are teaching them new things, so we can expect that they will cry when we change the way we are teaching them to sleep. But it is our job to provide our children with healthy choices.


Getting enough sleep directly affects their growth and development, so there is nothing wrong with making this choice for your family. In fact, it will only benefit everyone in your household once you are all sleeping better.


The good news is that the chair method allows the parent to be with their child the entire time and does not require that the parents leave the room while the child is crying. The chair method is wonderful because it can ease parents’ anxiety when it comes to the challenging process of sleep training.


Are You Considering The Chair Method?


If you are struggling with sleep and this method sounds appealing to your family, I can help make sure that you are implementing it correctly and efficiently to quickly achieve your goals!

Let’s set up a free 15 minute discovery call to learn more about your sleep situation and how I can help your family get more sleep by clicking the button below.






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