The Pantley method, also called the No-Cry Sleep Solution, is one of the most gentle approaches to sleep training. While it's overall effectiveness might be challenged by those who prefer a faster method, it could be the ideal solution for you and your little night owl.
If you're scrabbling for some shuteye, consider this: A study published in a 2010 issue of Sleep Medicine Reviews found that poor infant sleep might translate into family stress and even maternal depression. The Pantley method could be your secret weapon to stop bad habits and finally get your little one to slip off to dreamland for the night.
What is the Pantley Method?
The Pantley method is based upon the principles of never letting your baby cry it out. The creator of the method, Elizabeth Pantley, is staunchly against sleep training that allows your baby to scream for any amount of time. Instead, she recommends using small, simple changes to your routine over an extended period of time to essentially break your little one of her bad sleep habits; and eventually learn to fall asleep—and stay asleep—on her own. Pantley believes that as a parent, you can learn to recognize cues from your baby to tell you when she's sleepy or hungry, which can remove some of the guesswork from parenting.
Dr. Edward Kulich, a pediatric sleep expert and the author of The Best Baby Sleep Book, breaks down the Pantley method for us. "The Pantley method is a behavioral method that involves making very small changes to 'nudge' your baby into sleeping," he explains. "The issue with this ... is that it is a specific behavior method that focuses on several discreet behavioral issues and uses one approach to 'nudge' a baby slowly into a specific behavior. There is no consideration of medical issues, and one 'shotgun' approach is used for a behavior that can be stemming from multiple issues and problems." Kulich recommends a more personalized approach to sleep training overall.
One of the best parts of the Pantley method is the lack of little tears. Since you're simply not to let your baby cry, you won't endure hours of howling like you might with the Ferber and Weissbluth methods. The Pantley method more directly coincides with attachment parenting ideals, and is often grouped with the Sears method as one of the gentler approaches. The Pantley method also preaches about learning your baby's individual cues, which is a good idea for any parent. Since your demanding little one can't tell you what she wants, you'll have to learn to interpret yawns, actions and wails.
Besides the fact that the Pantley method isn't a one-size-fits-all type of sleep training, there's also the issue of time. Since Pantley recommends tiny changes each day to trick your baby into sleep, you'll need a significant amount of time to start and continue the method. Most Pantley babies take two to four weeks to fully catch on to the training, which might seem like eons when you're already completely sleep deprived. The actions of the training method itself can also eat up a lot of time, so make sure your evenings are free.
Does gentle sleep training sound like the ticket for you? Here's how you can try it for your baby.
Step 1: Arrange for regular naps throughout the day. Pantley advises against several cat naps in the daytime, suggesting that instead you opt for one or two longer siestas. She believes you have a limited window of time for that nap, so put your baby down the moment she seems less interested, cranky and sleepy.
Step 2: Begin to taper off any negative sleep associations that your baby might have. These are crutches like the breast, bottle or a binky that your babe uses to fall asleep. Instead of removing it altogether, just offer the association for a shorter amount of time. For instance, if your baby usually falls asleep on the breast, nurse for only five minutes before bed and then pull your little one off before settling her in her crib.
Step 3: Reduce the amount of time you spend on associations incrementally. For a couple of days, nurse for five minutes. After two or three days, switch to nursing for only four minutes. After that, you can reduce the time to three minutes and so on.
Step 4: Soothe your little one with a back rub, lullaby or just by staying in the room while she drifts off. You are not to let her cry it out. Instead, if she starts to cry, try the limited sleep association again, continuing to pull her off or remove the item to allow her to settle on her own.
Step 5: Continue the process until negative sleep associations are removed and your baby learns to fall asleep automatically on her own.
Just like any other sleep method, the Pantley training isn't for everyone. Of course as parents, we all rely on little "crutches" to get little ones to bed. The trick is to stop relying on a pacifier or bottle and start trusting your own instincts as a parent. Soon, you and your little one will be sleeping like, well, babies!