What Is Graduated Extinction In Sleep Training?

When it comes to babies and sleep, parents generally fall into one of two camps — those who choose to train their babies to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own, and those who prefer to respond to baby's cries throughout the night by offering some form of soothing technique. Although great arguments can be made on both sides, all parents agree that a good night's sleep is the ultimate goal. If you've been searching every inch of cyberspace for the best way for everyone in your house to get a few more Zs at night, you may have wondered, what is graduated extinction in sleep training?

Sleep expert, Dr. Richard Ferber defined graduated extinction to Parenting as delaying your response time to baby's night waking in the hopes of getting them to eventually sleep through the night. Even though it is totally unrealistic to think that your baby will never wake up in the middle of the night, the thought is that by not immediately responding to cries with rubbing, feeding, or other soothing techniques, your baby will learn to fall back to sleep on her own.

Considered a little gentler than full-blown "cry-it-out," graduated extinction calls for parents to ignore their child's cries for two minutes, gradually increasing the response time for up to six minutes in the first night, according to Forbes. The time period would continue to extend for the next few days until baby is sleeping for longer stretches through the night.


And although graduated extinction can help give mom and dad a little more time to snooze, this technique certainly isn't for everyone. The idea of "ignoring" their baby's cries can make some parents feel downright evil, and as a result reluctant to try any form of sleep training.

But if you're worried that letting your baby's cries go unanswered will cause them to have attachment issues down the road, you can rest easy. The Today Show reported on research by Australian researchers which found that babies who are allowed to "cry it out" were no more stressed than babies who had their parents respond to every cry. In fact, the babies who were trained to self-soothe actually spent less time awake during the night.

Whatever method you choose, you can feel confident that your baby will get the hang of the sleep thing, eventually. According to Parents, babies typically begin to sleep for more than eight hours at night after six months. That is, until developmental milestones like crawling, walking, and teething throw a wrench in everything. So the moral of the story is, nothing lasts forever, even your good night's sleep.