The Camping Out Method for Sleep Training

Camping Out: Tips & Techniques for the Best Baby Sleep

When it comes to sleep training your baby, any method you choose will have its challenges. Of course, every baby is different but it’s called “training” for a reason. You’re meant to train your child to self-soothe and fall asleep on her own, and as with any new habit, especially when it comes to your baby, that can be tricky.

All of this said, when it comes to baby sleep techniques and the “camping out method,” some experts believe that it’s gentler than say, the cry it out method. Will there be tears? Yup! Will some nights seem easier than others? Probably! Will it happen overnight? Nope! While considered a kinder baby sleep method, camping out sleep training takes about 2-3 weeks and is best for babies who are at least 6 months old.

Keep reading for some more info about the camping out method of sleep training.

What is the camping out method?

Camping out is a sleep training method for babies that can start as early as 6 months but that can also be used as gentle sleep training for 1 year old into toddlerhood. The idea with camping out is that you literally “camp out” next to your child’s sleep space to offer reassurance as they learn to settle on their own.

Unlike some other methods of sleep training, camp it out involves gentle touch or “patting” baby off to sleep rather than picking up and soothing. Similar to the chair method of sleep training, camping out is more about your physical presence than your physical touch.

When should you start the camping out method?

Most babies are ready for sleep training at around 4 months old but when it comes to camping out sleep training, it seems to work best on 6 months old and up. If your baby is even older, don’t worry. As your baby grows and develops, their sleep habits may change. So the best sleep training for 1 year old could differ. Figure out what works best for you and your family and let that be your guide.

Does the camping out method work?

No sleep training method happens overnight, and while some experts and sleep consultants encourage the camping out method for sleep training due to its gentle approach, it does take time and patience. As with most things baby-related, it’s important to be consistent! Routine, routine, routine will always work in your favor, especially when it comes to sleep.
Also, remember that every baby is different. What works for your best friend, sister, other child, doesn’t mean it will work for you and your baby in this very moment, and it may take some trial and error to get your little one to sleep on his own.

What are the steps for camping out?

Follow these steps when trying the camping out method:

  1. Create a comfortable space (think camping) for yourself next to the baby’s crib.
  2. Do your nighttime routine but when it’s time for sleep, pat your baby in her crib instead of the usual rocking, holding, settling. Once she’s asleep, either sleep in the space you created for yourself, or leave the room. It’s okay to leave the door open. Do this with each waking –pat her gently instead of picking her up, and leave or go back to sleep when she’s asleep again.
  3. Once this new routine has been established – usually at around 3 nights – pat her to sleep for a shorter amount of time. Your physical presence is key, more so than your physical touch. This helps give baby her confidence that you’re close enough if she needs you, but also that she can self sooth on her own. Repeat with each waking.
  4. Once she falls asleep on her own, without physical touch from you – about another 3 nights – move your sleep space further away from her crib. Again, this reassures her that you’re close and that she can fall asleep on her own. Leave your sleep space in the same spot even when she wakes up during the night. By now she should be able to go back to sleep on her own
  5. Each night for the next week or so, move your sleep spot further and further away from your baby, until you’re eventually out of her room entirely.

What are tips for the camping out method?

As with any sleep training method, it’s a good idea to do the following to ensure the best possible outcome:

  • Establish a sleep-time routine (ie: bath, books, bed)
  • Be consistent with it!
  • Darken the sleep space (close the curtains, soften the lights)
  • Create a calm sleep environment (use quiet voices, soft music, little stimulation)
  • Keep calm (even when baby is crying)

What do you do with a crying baby during the camping out method?

With any kind of sleep training, patience is important! If your baby starts to cry, pat her gently for comfort. If the crying continues or worsens, don’t be afraid to pick her up and soothe her. Once she is calm, start all over again. Gentle pat, calming presence, etc.

Who should use the camping out method?

The camping out method is best to start with babies who are at least 6 months. If however, baby seems fussy and simply isn’t adjusting to this technique, the Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack for 6 - 12 months might help! It is designed to help baby feel calm, fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. The gentle weight naturally reduces stress and increases relaxation through deep-pressure stimulation to give baby feelings of security and comfort. This product is safe for babies who are rolling and can sit or stand on their own.

How long does it take to sleep train a 1 year old?

When it comes to the best method to sleep train baby, the answer is whatever is best for you and your family… and the good news is that it’s never too late to sleep train. Most sleep training methods can take anywhere from a few nights to a few weeks. Consistency is key no matter which method you choose.

What are other sleep training techniques?

With so many options for sleep training, it’s important to do your research! Like everything baby-related, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There’s the Ferber method, cry it out (CIO), the chair method, pick up/put down, and more! So no matter which method you try, be consistent! That really is the key when it comes to getting you and your baby getting your zzz’s! …and if you think you need some help, please consult with your pediatrician or even a sleep specialist. Help is out there!

What are best practices for sleep training a baby?

With so many sleep training methods to choose from, it really comes down to personal preference and comfort level. Consistency is key, in fact, we all do better with routines in place.
That’s why it’s important to stick to plan no matter which method you choose. Remember, babies – and adults! – thrive on routine. So be consistent, be patient, and be flexible. And when needed, ask for help! Talk to friends, consult your pediatrician and/or a sleep consultant.

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In June 2022, the AAP updated its sleep guidelines and is currently not recommending weighted sleep solutions. You can read the full report here. Please note that this is not a recall. Dreamland Baby is in ongoing dialogue with the AAP regarding its stance on weighted sleepwear and hopes it will result in the statement being retracted.