Karen Kirsner, Florida mother of 3-year-old Sammy and 1-year-old Adam, has a new twist on traditional sleep training. As a new mom desperate to get her firstborn baby to sleep, Kirsner came up with her own formula that combined several proven sleep training styles — and it actually worked. Kirsner says her older son slept through the night at 7 weeks and her younger son slept through at 6 weeks old thanks to “progressive watching,” which Kirsner details in her self-published book The Baby ‘Fast to Sleep’ Formula. Progressive watching means you don’t respond right away when your baby cries. Instead, you wait 30 seconds or so to see if your baby settles back to sleep. Gradually you increase this wait time as the baby gets older, working up to five minutes for an 8-week-old baby before responding.
Kirsner makes a pretty big distinction as she introduces her new sleep training secret to the public: This is not your mother’s version of “cry it out.” If you’ve taken a spin through any parenting forum, specifically looking for information on the topic of infant sleep, you’ll quickly find that most new parents are divided into two camps: sleep training advocates and sleep training haters.
The advocates of sleep training say that teaching a baby to sleep is one of the best things you can do for your child. The critics say that babies don’t need to be taught to sleep — it’s a natural function they will grow into in time — and sleep “training” can be disruptive, cruel and even abusive, in the wrong hands.
Who is right?
“Cry it out” is by far the most popular method of sleep training and simply means you are actively encouraging your baby to sleep. Pediatrician Richard Ferber popularized the style in his 1985 book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, which is why many parents now refer to “cry it out” as “Ferberizing.” Advocates of sleep training and followers of Ferber insist there are non-cruel ways to go about letting a baby cry for short periods of time before they self-soothe to sleep. A 2012 study published in Pediatrics confirmed that letting babies cry for short periods to teach healthy sleep patterns did not cause long-term psychological damage or weaken the parent-child bond.
On the other side, we have the anti-sleep trainers, who find “cry it out” to be cruel and unrealistic for an infant who needs to feed often instead of sleep. In 2014, Dr. Darcia Narvaez, a psychology professor at Notre Dame, published a similar stance in Psychology Today. Her strongly worded article stated that sleep training is far from harmless, citing research that letting babies cry to the point of distress could cause potential neurological damage.
As Kirsner has emphasized, her magical new method falls somewhere in between, focusing on the fact that each baby is unique and may respond differently. According to Kirsner, some babies slept well using progressive watching as young as 2 weeks, while other parents used the formula to help older babies sleep.
No matter which sleep training camp you fall in, it’s still important to talk with your pediatrician before trying a new and now-viral parenting hack on your baby. Kirsner’s method isn’t backed by research but by her own experience and consistent use. And as we have all learned the hard way from jumping our own new-parent hurdles, what works for one parent may not work for another. At the very least, parents brave enough to try this mom’s new watch-and-wait version of “cry it out” could get a few extra hours of sleep.
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