SITBACK Method: Gentle & Gradual Sleep Training Approach

  • S – Sitting and waiting
  • I – Intervening
  • T – Touch
  • B – Binky/pacifier
  • A – Additional feeding
  • C – Change diaper
  • K – Kissing and cuddling

The SITBACK method is a compassionate approach to sleep training that allows you to soothe your child while simultaneously teaching him to self-soothe.

Most parents find this method easier to implement than a typical cry-it-out sleep program.

Today’s Parent shares that “being able to fall asleep on one’s own is a necessary life skill. If you sleep-train at a time that’s developmentally appropriate for your baby and with the basic ingredients of healthy sleep in place, you can minimize the amount of crying your baby (and, let’s face it, you) will do.”

Deciding on a sleep training method and implementing the program isn’t always easy, and regression in progress is common. 

Dr. Jodi A. Mindell offers this advice: 

“Instead of looking for a strict formula … parents should focus on finding what Mindell calls “the magic moment” … the moment when the child can fall asleep independently without the parent in the room. 

For some children, more soothing or more check-ins may help bring forth the magic, and for other babies, less soothing, fewer check-ins may work better.”

Understanding the SITBACK Method

The SITBACK Method allows you to observe your child and meet their needs with logical, gradual interventions that are loving and practical.

It offers guidance without rigidity, and you can adapt the method to work for your family.

Instead of focusing on immediate results, the SITBACK Method allows you and your baby to ease into the idea of them sleeping without sleep aids or constant stirring.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, and that is what makes it truly special.

The time this method takes to work varies based on your child and how consistently you use it. Don’t expect immediate results.

S-I-T-B-A-C-K 

S – Sitting and Waiting

Easily the most difficult phase for most of us, sitting and waiting is exactly what it sounds like.

You put your baby down to sleep, and if they start fussing or stirring, you wait them out for a bit.

This does not mean abandoning a hysterical child. It just means sitting and waiting to see if your child will settle on his own. 

Start with short intervals of time, and move to longer stretches as your child is successful. 

I – Intervening

If your baby can’t settle back down on his own, you can intervene, but the key is to do it in the least intrusive way possible.

Don’t immediately pick your baby up from the crib or bassinet. Simply pat your baby’s back or make soft shushing noises to help calm him.

Turning on a sound machine could help as well.

T – Touch

You can touch your baby if he isn’t calming down, but don’t pick him up just yet.

Place your full palm on his chest or stroke his hair so he can feel your presence.

However, do this gently so your baby doesn’t take it as a signal to get up and play.

B – Binky/Pacifier

My kids didn’t use pacifiers during the day, but they helped with sleep at night. They may also reduce the risk of SIDS.

Offer your child a pacifier when he is calm, and see if the rhythm and practice of using it helps him rest.

Fair warning: your child may get upset when the binky falls out of his mouth, causing him to wake up and scream.

A – Additional Feeding

Your baby is not a machine. He will go through growth spurts, and he may not be sleeping because he is hungry.

If this is the case, give him another feeding. 

C – Change Diaper

A full diaper can keep your child from getting comfortable enough to sleep.

Though you shouldn’t change your baby’s diaper unless it is pretty full, a clean diaper may help your baby reset and rest.

K – Kissing and Cuddling

You don’t have to stand by indifferently as your child struggles. You are their parent!

You can use kisses and cuddles to help your child calm down during sleep training.

Just try other interventions first so your child learns that they can self-soothe during sleep time.

Effectiveness of the SITBACK Method

The success of any sleep training method depends on a variety of factors.

Your baby’s temperament, age, and specific needs all impact the outcome of sleep training.

Your consistency in using the same method and creating an ambient space for your child to rest are also factors.

You may also find that this method, while great for one child, doesn’t work with another. 

Best Age for the SITBACK Method

It’s generally recommended to wait on sleep training until your baby is at least four months old.

Some parents choose to wait until the six-month mark. It depends on your baby and their specific needs.

How To Implement the SITBACK Method

Make sure your child’s room is comfortable, and have a bedtime routine that helps your baby recognize sleep time is coming.

Don’t wait until your baby is overtired. Instead, look for signs of drowsiness, and follow your child’s cues. 

Ensure your baby’s sleep environment is conducive to restful sleep. Consider the bedroom’s lighting, temperature, and noise level.

A sound machine with soft, soothing lights, like the Hatch Rest+, can be quite helpful in fostering a calming atmosphere.

Know the SITBACK steps, and stick with them, even on the worst nights.

Get your partner involved so you can implement this method consistently. That can help you see results faster.

Possible Challenges To Be Aware Of

No sleep training method is without issues. A big complaint when it comes to the SITBACK Method is that babies don’t sleep through the whole night.

After you have gone through the steps, your baby may wake up after half an hour and expect to start the whole process over again.

The SITBACK Method also requires parents to be present when their child is trying to rest.

While this is a good approach, it means that your night is still going to be spent next to a crib, not doing other things while your child tries to put himself to sleep without you.

An adorable baby lying in his crib with his head turned to the side while he sucks on his fingers.

Other Sleep Methods Worth Exploring

Every baby is different. You might need to experiment with several sleep training methods or strategies before finding one that works.

Don’t rule out the possibility of combining aspects of two or more methods to find what works for you.

  • Fading Method: This is also considered a gentle form of sleep training where you will slowly fade out interventions to help your child become even better at self-soothing.
  • Chair Method: The chair method requires you to sit next to your baby’s crib in a chair, but you move the chair further away from the crib as your child makes progress going to sleep on their own. It does not encourage interventions to help your child.
  • Your Own: You don’t have to follow someone else’s rule book to help your child sleep. Figure out what you and your baby are most comfortable with, and go from there.

The Difference Between SITBACK and Ferber

The Ferber Method is considered a cry-it-out method, but recent guidelines make it gentler than it used to be.

This method involves leaving your child to cry for a certain amount of time each night before intervening, and some Ferber enthusiasts recommend not intervening at all. 

The SITBACK Method allows room for interventions and doesn’t require parents to leave a child alone for a certain amount of time.

SITBACK offers guidelines on intervening in the least intrusive ways while still letting your child be comforted and cuddled when he needs it.

Sleep Training by Age

Every child is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep training.

It’s crucial to consider the child’s individual needs and the parenting philosophy that aligns with the family.

Here’s a general overview of sleep training approaches and reasonable expectations by age:

Newborn to 3 Months

Sleep training in the traditional sense may not be suitable during this stage

Newborns typically have irregular sleep patterns and need to eat frequently. They sleep for short periods (2-4 hours) and wake up often for feeding. 

Focus on creating a soothing bedtime routine and providing a consistent sleep environment.

As they approach three months, you can start introducing a bedtime routine.

3-6 Months

Babies in this age range may start to sleep longer stretches at night (4-6 hours). However, they may still wake for night feedings.

Naps become more regular but can vary in length.

Establish a consistent bedtime routine and encourage self-soothing.

Some parents choose a gentle method, such as the Ferber method, where the time between comforting visits is gradually increased.

6-9 Months

Many babies 6-9 months of age can sleep through the night without a feeding.

Naps become more predictable, and some babies may transition to two naps a day.

Continue with consistent bedtime routines. Implement a more structured sleep schedule, and encourage self-soothing and independence.

Gradual extinction or fading methods can be effective.

9 Months to 1 Year

At this stage, most babies can sleep through the night without night feedings. They may take two naps a day and enjoy longer nighttime sleep.

Reinforce sleep routines, and continue to encourage self-soothing.

Be consistent in responding to night wake-ups, and establish a consistent sleep schedule.

1-2 Years

Many toddlers sleep through the night consistently. Most will transition to one nap a day, usually in the afternoon.

Continue with consistent bedtime routines and sleep schedules.

Address any emerging sleep challenges promptly, and be mindful of potential sleep regressions.