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Gradually Sleep Training Your Child Using Timed Checks

Updated: Mar 2

You’re here because your little one is up at all hours of the night and taking short, unpredictable naps during the day. You need a change, but are not comfortable with your pediatrician’s recommendation, which was to “just let the baby cry it out!”

Sleep training isn’t for every family but for those who are really struggling with their sleep situation, sleep training can be life-changing and does not have to involve leaving your child in a crib by themselves for 12 straight hours.

I teach several proven methods as alternatives to “full extinction” or “cry it out.” Pick up/put down, the chair method, the soothing ladder, the sleep wave, and timed checks all allow you to be involved in the sleep training process and take a more gradual approach to your child’s sleep learning.

If you prefer video content, be sure to check out my YouTube on how to sleep train using timed checks by clicking below:

Who Should Use Timed Checks

Timed checks is a very effective method for children who are already sleeping some portion (or all) of the night in their own bassinet or crib. Children at any age can learn with timed checks, but I most often recommend it for those who are young enough to still be in a crib (4 months through 3 years old) or with toddlers who have a gate at their door. An alternative option for toddlers in big kid beds and children who have been co-sleeping is the chair method.

How To Do Timed Checks

The goal of timed checks is to provide your child with the space and opportunity to self-soothe, knowing that you are still nearby. After the bedtime routine, you will place your child in the crib when they are fully awake. We want them to know where they are so that when they naturally wake up during a sleep cycle transition, they will be comfortable in their space and go back to sleep easily.

Tell your child you love them and will be back to check on them in a little bit, but it is time to sleep. You will then leave the room and set a timer for your first waiting period. Follow the chart below for waiting period suggestions.

How to sleep train using timed checks

After each waiting period, if your child is still crying, go into the room and provide them with some comfort- rub their cheeks, sing them a song, or say a calm, reassuring phrase like “it is time to sleep, night night, I love you.” Also take a moment to make sure they have not pooped, spit up, or gotten themselves stuck in an uncomfortable position. After about 30-60 seconds, leave the room and set the timer for the next waiting period.

You will continue to wait and do checks until they have fallen asleep. If they have not yet fallen asleep but have soothed themselves and are no longer crying, you do not need to do another check. Checking at this point would interrupt the process and may be more upsetting to them than helpful.

After each wake-up and for all naps, continue using the method. Be sure to follow an age-appropriate nap time schedule and bedtime routine.

How To Be Successful With Timed Checks

The key to success with timed checks is CONSISTENCY.

Being consistent will establish clear expectations for your child, who will then have the best opportunity to learn the skill of independent sleep. One of the most detrimental things we can do is begin a sleep training method and then decide that we just want them to go to sleep, so we rock or feed back to sleep. Sleep training, as in many circumstances during parenthood, is hard but I encourage you to stick it out for at least 2 weeks until you make a decision to abandon ship. It is not an immediate fix but the results are literally LIFE LONG. Putting in the hard work now will only benefit you in the long run.

Another important piece of being successful with timed checks is to continue to increase the amount of time in between intervals after each check and after each day. Please refer to the chart above. If we always keep the intervals the same, we do not give our children more time and space to gain the skill and we unnecessarily elongate the process.

But Won’t My Child STILL Be Crying!?

If you’ve made it this far, your head is likely reeling with “but HOW am I going to let my child cry?!” This is the most common reason why parents choose not to sleep train, because they know it will result in crying.

The short answer is “yes,” your child will cry. Keep in mind that a “no cry” sleep solution does not exist (even the sleep training book that boasts being a “no cry sleep solution” cautions parents on the first page that there will be crying if we are changing our little one’s behavior…I appreciate that honesty!).

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 teach 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 when you use timed checks, you are STILL there, supporting your child. Instead of supporting them through rocking or feeding to sleep, you are supporting them through check-ins, comfort, and the opportunity to learn a life-long skill. You are supporting their health and development in the long run, because sleep is the foundation for everything!!

Are You Considering Using Timed Checks?

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 in less than 2 weeks (YES…seriously, I can do that)!

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 scheduling a call below.

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