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How to Use the Chair Method for Sleep Training

Looking to teach your baby independent sleep habits? Learn about the Chair Method for sleep training and see if it’s a good fit for your baby!

chair next to crib to use for sleep training

As adults, sleep comes so naturally to most of us that it’s easy to forget that we all had to learn how to fall asleep on our own at some point!

When you’re a new parent with a very sleepy newborn, it’s easy to think your baby already has the sleep thing all figured out. 

But then your baby grows, develops, and “wakes up” in those early months! All of a sudden, you can easily see how much work it takes to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.

That’s why sleep training is so helpful to so many families. Lots of people equate sleep training with crying it out, but that’s not always the case!

While there are plenty of sleep training methods to choose from, not all of them are going to be the right fit for your baby.

Do you want sleep training to be a gradual process or done as quick as possible? Do you prefer a gentle sleep training method or a leave and check method like the Ferber method or extinction method? What age is your baby and what’s their temperament like?

These are all questions you need to ask yourself before choosing from some of the most common sleep training methods.

In this blog post, I want to take a closer look at the chair method for sleep training,. The Chair Method or Sleep Lady Shuffle is often referred to as a gentle method that allows families to be more involved in the process. It’s a method I’ve used with many of my clients and have learned some things along the way!

mom holding baby's hands during sleep training

Why Sleep Train?

Sleep training definitely has a reputation, and not always a good one. I’ve worked with new parents who are hesitant to start sleep training because they associate it with negative things like crying and abandonment.

In actuality, sleep training is a way to optimize your baby’s sleep by looking at their nursery environment, sleep schedule, and sleep associations to ensure everything is optimized for your baby to get their best sleep.

The goal of sleep training is to improve everyone’s mental and physical health by improving your baby’s sleep. You’re teaching your child a new way to fall asleep, which can be so beneficial for everyone!

Sleep training is helpful during times of transition, like when your baby stops room sharing and transitions into a crib, or transitions from a SNOO to a crib.

It’s also great to use when you are trying to wean off of night feeds or stop nursing your baby to sleep!

It can also be a way to kick a sleep regression and to help break some of the unhelpful sleep props that you might have introduced to your baby in the sleep-deprived newborn days.

Sleep training can be a lifesaver when you’re at your wits end with bedtime battles or constant night wakings.

If you have a negative opinion about sleep training because it seems too harsh for your baby (or you!), you might find that the chair method is a great sleep training method to try out.

baby sleeping at night in his crib

What is the Chair Method for Sleep Training?

The Chair Method, also commonly called the Sleep Lady Shuffle, is a sleep training method invented by Kim West.

It’s a great option for families who want to stay by their baby’s side during the sleep training process.

The Chair Method involves literally sitting in a chair near your baby’s crib when you set them down to sleep, and staying there until they fall asleep.

This allows you as the parent to to provide verbal and physical reassurance, while your baby gradually discovers for themselves what self-soothing activities they like best.

While many people refer to the Sleep Lady Shuffle as a more gentler method, please note that doesn’t mean there won’t be tears.

Babies will cry to communicate and protest change! The chair method allows you to teach them healthy sleep habits with parental presence. There may be fewer tears with this method, but that depends on your baby!

mom holding baby's hand while doing the chair method

How to Do the Sleep Lady Shuffle / Chair Method

Here are the steps you can follow for the Chair Method:

  • Make sure that baby’s room is as dark as possible. Since you’ll be in the room with them, it’s best to use nursery blackout curtains so your presence doesn’t stimulate them. This means avoiding eye contact and playfulness as well!

  • Sit in a comfortable chair next to your baby’s bassinet or crib while they are still awake in the crib.

  • Provide verbal reassurance if baby starts to fuss (something short and quiet—“Momma’s here” or some light shushing work well). If necessary, you can also use physical comfort such as patting your baby gently or holding his hand. The first night is usually the toughest!

  • Once baby is asleep, quietly leave the room. The amount of time it takes a baby to fall asleep varies.

  • For each middle of the night wake-up, sit back in the chair and repeat the process.

  • After three days with your chair in the same spot, move the chair further away. For example, if the chair started right next to the crib, move it halfway between the crib and the bedroom door.

  • Keep using your voice to soothe baby if he’s upset. Resist moving your chair back to a closer position. These are the baby steps you guys have to take to make progress!

  • Every three days, move your chair further away until it’s out of the room.
  • You’ll know your baby has finally established independent sleep habits when they no longer need your voice to fall asleep!
baby's head asleep in his crib

Does the Chair Method Work?

I’ve worked with plenty of families who have found sleep training success with the chair method. Many parents like it because they want to use their presence to soothe their baby and gradually fade that out.

The chair method takes a little longer than some other methods, so it definitely takes a lot of patience and consistency.

But for parents seeking a gentle sleep training method, that’s kind of the magic of the chair method approach. You and baby can gradually get used to their new sleep independence!

baby asleep in the crib

What Age Does Well with the Chair Method?

The chair method can work for a variety of ages! The youngest I’d use it on is 4 months of age and it can be effective all they way up to toddlerhood.

Consider your baby’s temperament when choosing a sleep training method. Is she mellow and calmed by your presence? Can you commit to sitting in the chair and soothing your baby while allowing her to put herself to sleep?

If yes, then this may be a great method for your family. Otherwise, there are other options out there too!

The great thing about the chair method is that it can be used over again during any other sleep setbacks. You can even use it with older toddlers who are going to transition to a toddler bed.

mom putting sleeping baby down in the crib

What is the Most Effective Sleep Training Method?

Like so many other things in parenting, there is no best or one-size-fits-all approach to sleep training. There is simply the best method for your baby and your family.

There are plenty of options out there such as The Pick Up Put Down Method, Fading method and even cio method.

The chair method for sleep training is a great middle ground.

However, the best sleep training fit depends heavily on your baby’s temperament. It also depends on your own comfort (or discomfort).

Even from a very young age, babies start to develop temperaments and personalities. For example, if your baby is generally clingy or cuddly, a more hands-on sleep training approach is probably a better fit.

Maybe your baby already shows some signs of independence and no separation anxiety. If that’s the case, a different method like leave and console method might be more effective for your baby.

The key with sleep training is consistency. Once you pick a method, try to stick with it for multiple days in a row. It takes time for these methods to be effective and to start seeing results.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to commit to staying in the chair for long periods of time, choose a different sleep training method.

Make sure you and your partner are on the same page before you get started. If one parent is consistent but the other isn’t on board, in can really drag out the sleep training process!

DREAM mockup

Need extra help with your baby’s sleep?

Let me walk you through the transition! The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System is for babies 4 months through 2. 5 years old. I’ll walk you through how to establish daily routines and sleep training techniques to help you break the sleep associations you no longer find beneficial! Check it out here.

Amy Motroni