Pick Up/Put Down Sleep Training Method

Part Four in our Sleep Training Series offers parents another slower or “gentle” sleep training plan called Pick Up, Put Down or PU/PD for short. It is important that you first follow the tips in Part One of this series and also have a good understanding of  protest crying, which we covered in Part Two. If you haven’t read those sections, please do as they will help set you and your child up for success.

Pick Up, Put Down which is most notably advocated by Tracy Hogg in her book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with your Baby, offers parents another alternative to Fading.

Tracy calls this approach “middle of the road” and some people feel it falls under the category of “gentle” methods while others  feel this approach is very confusing for children and frustrating for all involved. But it’s important to decide for yourself.

Essentially with PU/PD, you would do your wind down routine and lay your child down still awake. If there was no fussing (or anything that made you uncomfortable), you would leave the room. If you’re child began to cry to the point of making you uncomfortable, you follow a “stop, wait and listen” approach. If your child continued to get worked up and needed  your help, you would return to the room and pick your child up for  a minute or two to settle them down (the pick up part) and then lay them back down (the put down part) still awake. You would repeat this process until your child settled down in their crib and eventually went to sleep.

Tracy advocates this method be used from 4-8 months of age and after that, you wouldn’t pick your child up anymore, but just gently lay them down in the crib each time they sat up. However, laying a child down every time they sit up can quickly become a game at that age or really frustrate them, so you would need to reassess if that was happening with your child.

A few tips for success:

1. Ensure your child is on a great sleep routine and bedtime is age appropriate.

2. Start with a soothing wind down or pre sleep routine and implement it before you begin the sleep training part.

3. Make sure you as the parent are well-rested before you begin, so that you have the energy to see it through to the end.

4. Listen to your child’s sounds-if they are just fussing, give them some time and space to see if they can get settled on their own first

5. Enlist in the help of someone else. Tracy even says herself  that this method can be  “darn hard” and can be taxing for one parent to do it solely on their own.

How Long Does It Take to Work?

Pick Up/Put Down can take anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks to see consistent changes. On average, I have found it’s closer to 2-3 weeks though. Like any method, your child’s temperament and your ability to maintain the consistency is what will also influence the time line.

Pros and Cons of Pick Up/Put Down

Pro

  • Parent can stay in the room with their child the entire time
  • Parent has the opportunity to comfort their child as they learn how to fall asleep on their own
  • This method has slightly more structure than a ‘no-cry’ method such as Fading, without being too rigid

Cons

  • Is very physically demanding
  • Night wakings can last 2+hours in the beginning with over 100 pick ups and that can be hard to maintain this method consistently
  • Some children get very upset with this method and it causes much frustration for both parent and child
  • If you have other children to tend to during nap time, this method is hard to do consistently
  • Can be confusing to a parent exactly when they should be picking their child up and for how long

Pick Up/Put Down is a gradual method that can be a nice alternative for a parent looking for a more slower approach, but with progress becoming  evident a little bit sooner than the Fading approach. However, like all methods there are pros and cons to it and you need to evaluate if this method suits your child’s personality and one that they will respond to well. If you are looking for another method, please continue reading and check out Part Five in this sleep training series.

If you’re not sure if this method is right for your child, Baby Sleep 101 is always here to help you assess your child’s sleep problems and come up with a plan that will help you see success with your goals.

Have you tried the Pick Up/Put Down method? Tell us about your experience below!