Gradual Withdrawal is a gentle behaviour lets you be a comforting presence modification technique that as your child learns to put herself to sleep in her cot or bed. You start by her two weeks, you move further away until you will be able to leave the side and gradually, over about room and your baby will settle to sleep on her own.
How do I do it?
After a good wind down routine and feed, put your baby into her cot drowsy but awake and sit right next to the cot on a chair or a cushion. If she cries or fusses, you can stroke or pat her intermittently (not constantly, because you want to avoid creating a new negative sleep association). You can do more touching on night one, then taper off. It’s also important that you control the touch rather than your baby holding your hand or finger. Touch on and off. This doesn’t apply to a sick or frightened baby in which case a little more touch may be necessary. Try not to pick her up but if she’s extremely upset, go ahead and pick her up, over the cot if possible. Hold her until she’s calm but keep it brief, then put her down again whilst she’s still awake. You can sing during the ‘getting ready for bed stage’ but at sleep time, just use your voice to shush. If you close your eyes it can make it easier not to talk to your baby as well as modeling to her that it’s time for sleep. The main thing is not to stimulate her, just be ‘boring’ and stay there until she falls asleep.
Move your chair about half way to the door (if the room is small this may have to be all the way to the door). Continue your shushing and soothing sounds but stay on the chair as much as you can. You can get up to pat or touch baby a little if necessary but try not to pick her up unless she’s hysterical. If you do pick her up, follow the same steps as the first three nights and stay on the chair until she falls asleep. (If you go to the cot side and pat her until almost asleep this will defeat the whole purpose of moving the chair away).
Move the chair to the doorway inside her room. You should be dimly lit but still in her view. Continue the same soothing techniques from the chair, intervening as little as possible. Try not to worry if she cries a bit, just keep on reassuring her. She’ll know you’re there and she should fall asleep.
Move into the hall with he door open enough so she can still see you and keep making some shushing sounds, not constantly, but enough to let her know you’re close by and responsive. Stay until she falls asleep. NB: Make changes every three days or less, as dragging it out longer makes it harder, not easier for your baby.
Nights 13 and on…
Most babies will already be falling asleep and staying asleep by now on their own with hardly any intervention, however you may need one more step: give her the opportunity to fall asleep without your presence. You can stay in the hallway at this stage, or nearly in the room where your baby can hear you but not see you. You can make intermittent shushing noises and if necessary, you can check on her from the door occasionally without going all the way into her room. Be calm and reassuring: try not to convey any
anxiety! This step is often harder for parents than the child. Your baby might cry a little for a few nights but don’t rush in to her/check on her prematurely and have faith that she will clam down and go to sleep herself!
- Can be combined with the ‘Pick Up Put Down’ technique
- Expect there to be some crying as your baby adjusts to a new situation If baby is overly upset on day four when you are supposed to withdraw touch, you can go to the cot and soothe your baby with touch at intervals e.g. 5, 10, then 15 minutes, and remember you are still working towards no touch
- If your baby wakes overnight crying on day four for example, when your chair is away from the cot, you would go into the room and to the chair and soothe with no touch if you can (you would not go straight to the cot)
- This process requires a lot of patience, and be prepared for the process to take between 10 and 14 days until your baby begins to settle herself to sleep
- It’s important that you continue to move your chair further away every three days regardless of whether your baby has fallen asleep successfully on her own, just in case there is a regression e.g. If on day six, baby is put down and goes off to sleep on her own straight away, you would still move the chair further from the cot until it’s near the door by about day 12. This is just in case your baby wakes crying a few days into the process, in which case the chair is a visual reminder of where you should place yourself when you enter the room.
“Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled, they are the ones that never give up despite the struggles!”