Pick Up Put Down (PUPD) is a sleep training method that can be used with babies after about four months of age, although it works best with babies five months and older. It helps teach your baby how to get to sleep independently, day or night, in a supportive way that involves minimal crying. PUPD is about offering the reassurance, support and trust that your baby needs to learn to sleep well.
How to do it?
- Offer a good wind down routine and make sure your baby has been fed, changed and is ready for sleep. Lie baby in the cot whilst quietly saying reassuring and soothing words like ‘shhh, it’s time for bed now’, and then sit silently on a chair in the room right beside the cot. Keeping your eyes closed will model sleep for your baby and it might help you to relax.
- Allow your baby five minutes or so to get to sleep independently. If your baby cries after this time, go to the cot and stand by its side and spend one minute using your touch and voice to calm baby down. You can rub baby’s tummy gently, sing softly or ‘shush’. If your baby is moving around the cot, don’t restrain him, as baby needs to be given the space to do so. If your baby gets stuck, simply bring baby back to the middle of the cot and just use your touch and voice for reassurance. If your baby stands up, you would lie baby back down.
- If after a minute, your baby’s crying is not lessening (baby is getting more worked up and is not calming down), then pick baby up and offer a very boring cuddle with a slow pat, pat, pat, just until calm. Don’t walk around, jiggle or rock too much as the skin-to-skin cuddle should be enough to show your baby you are there for comfort and support. Continue just until your baby is calm but definitely not to the point where baby is sleepy.
- Repeat the process. A great idea is to put your baby down in the cot and count to 100 slowly. If your baby doesn’t calm down, pick baby up and repeat the steps above. Each day, consciously back off the pickups and the touch a bit more, so that you are leaving more time between each pickup and you are giving your baby more time to settle independently just with your voice.
- If your baby goes into the cot and doesn’t cry or cries intermittently or just grizzles a bit, you don’t need to pick baby up. Just sit by the cot and use your voice with singing or shushing. If your baby settles, the best thing to do is to simply close your eyes and model sleep.
- Continue until you think your baby is asleep and then wait for a further ten minutes just to be sure, then you can leave the room. You would use the same technique to resettle your baby at any overnight wakings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long can I hold my baby for?
A: Hold your baby for three to four minutes maximum. After this time, if your baby continues to cry, you would put baby down for another minute anyway as your baby may just need a little ‘space’.
Q: How long do I continue the process for?
A: For a lunchtime nap, continue for an hour and if your baby hasn’t settled, get baby up, offer a quick feed and play for 20 minutes, then put baby back into the cot for another 20 to 40 minutes of PUPD. If baby falls asleep but wakes early from the nap, use PUPD for a further 30 to 40 minutes before getting baby up and you would consider that nap cancelled. Overnight, use it to resettle your baby after waking.
Q: How long will it take until I see results?
A: This technique can take anywhere from two days up to two weeks or more until you see an improvement in sleep, depending on your commitment, patience and consistency.
Tips for Success
- Understand that PUPD is not a quick fix or an easy approach to helping your child sleep better and that you’ll need to put in a lot of effort and time if you want to see improvement. Do you have support from a partner or other family member? Dads are often the best at this!
- Understand that this process will be hard work for a few nights and that you’ll need to be committed and consistent over a long period of time, and that can be quite tiring.
- Staying strong and supportive for your baby means sticking to the plan and following through to the end, no matter how long it takes and how tired you are. Your baby will thank you for it!
- Patience and perseverance will be your allies. Don’t give up! The point at which you feel like giving up is usually when you see results.
- If you really want it to work, you need to make the ‘pick ups’ boring with very little stimulation and less and less interaction each day.
- Sometimes, especially with older babies, PUPD may not be the best fit because the constant picking up and handling for some babies just stimulates them more. These babies would be better off with a less hands on approach.
- If in doubt, refer to the Hierarchy of Self-Soothing. Stepping down the hierarchy will work but it will make the process take longer. Take note also that picking up and touching is below voice on this continuum, so if you can get away with just using voice then that would be perfect!