The Sears method

An explanation of the Sears 'attached parenting' training method of getting baby to sleep.
There are many different views regarding the best way to get baby to sleep. Pediatrician William Sears recently offered a unique set of guidelines. It's a method which sits poles apart from Dr. Ferber's controversial system of crying it out.

Dr. Sears encourages 'nighttime parenting' which is supposed to teach baby to view sleep as a pleasant place to be. This is achieved by sleeping close to baby and offering comfort if baby wakes.

During daytime parents are advised to cuddle baby frequently, ideally with the use of a sling, while nap times and bedtimes should be consistent. The thinking is that by fulfilling baby's needs for contact and routine, a nighttime pattern will be more easily achieved.

Parents are then advised to dedicate a set amount of time just before bed to calming baby down. Useful techniques include slow bathing, massaging, rocking down and fathering down. This latter approach involves nestling baby's head in the crook of the father's neck. Other less practical ones include carrying baby in a sling or motoring down which uses the motion of a car to lull baby to sleep.

Dr. Sears warns against setting babies down too early as they are easily awoken in the first stages of sleep. Wait until baby is in a deep sleep, (limp limbs are a good sign) before putting baby down for the night. Having a consistently dark and quiet room for sleep helps the process.

During the night baby ought to sleep close by, in the same room or in the family bed (providing you are aware of how to do this safely). Throughout the night you should be prepared to comfort, soothe, change or nurse baby as they wake.

Drawbacks of this method include;
  • Practical problems: If you work or are away from home, the daytime regime is difficult to enforce.
  • Parents can become very tired from being regularly woken.
  • Some experts and parents believe that babies sleep more solidly and awaken less if they learn to fall asleep independently.
  • Using this approach over a period of time makes it harder to teach baby to self-soothe.
Despite this there are positives about Dr. Sears' method:
  • Mother's often find it easier than expected to mirror baby's sleep patterns.
  • The method can be used from birth, unlike other techniques which involve training.
  • Having baby in the same room makes monitoring them easier.
  • Since baby is never left to cry-it-out this scheme is a lot less distressing than other methods.
  • Frequent contact reinforces the parent-child bond.
Overall the most important aspects of this regime are routine, having a flexible and realistic approach while creating a calm environment. However, it should be noted that Dr. Sears has recently revised his original 1993 method, believing that it placed too much emphasis of the needs of baby, and not enough on the mother. In his more recent work, The Baby Sleep Book (2005) he reminds parents 'What your baby really needs is a happy, rested mother."
Author : Jane Dawson

Chat or Ask a Question:

If you have a question about this article or something else, visit our friendly forums & ask the AskBaby community.

Chat about the sears method with our friendly community...

Your Comments:

We'd love to hear your comments on this article...

Login to add your comment:

Email: Password:
Not yet a member? Join thousands of other parents and parents-to-be... Sign Up Now!
Forgot your

A slave to the baby? Really? If you didn't want to spend your time parenting, exactly why did you have a baby?
by paytek 20th Jun 2013, 3:37pm
With my first child I believed 100% in the SEARS philosophy and I lived it every day and every night. In short, IT DOES NOT WORK. What I ended up creating was a child who demanded to be fed every hour or two at night for comfort (even at 12 months old) and was whiny and overtired almost constantly. We finally sleep trained him properly (using a Ferber-type approach) and suddenly we had a happy, obedient, cheerful child who went down to sleep without any struggle. The Sears method sounds warm and fuzzy but unfortunately it usually results in cranky overtired children and stressed, exhausted parents.
by monkeymagic 9th Nov 2010, 5:09pm
getting baby to sleep is a dificult thing ,especially a cring baby.maybe these methords can help,i will have a try next time.thanks.
by kalb 12th Aug 2010, 11:00am
I prefer this method to the Ferber but I think that slavishly following any method is not right for me. I prefer to find out the advice and tailor it to what I am comfortable with and what I think might work for my son. I have a suspicion that Ferber could potentially lead to emotional problems for some children because you have to break that bond of trust that your baby has with you: that you will attend to their needs and not leave them alone and frightened. For me, soothing my child and sitting by him when he's trying to sleep or has woken up feels like the best way to teach him that it's a safe and happy thing to be in a state of sleep, as he has certainly been afraid of the transition between drowsiness and actual sleep (to the point of jerking awake and looking terrified). I hope that by the time he's six months he will have learned to sleep and nap quite happily and so we won't have to resort to something like the Ferber method.
by Pigkate 18th Jan 2010, 2:37pm
As I see it The SEARs method is fine for the first 3-6 months when your baby is more demanding and lacks the ability to self sooth. After 6 months its the Ferber Method every time. Yet to fail for our family or our friends. If you dont wan to be a slave to your child every night thats the one to go for. But not until the child is able to deal with it i.e. 6 months.
by Sulla1105 24th Aug 2009, 9:15am