If you’re looking for a sleep training method that gives your baby an opportunity to self-settle but also lets you intervene, the Pick Up, Put Down method may be for you. Here I’ll explain how pick up, put down works; how to do pick up, put down; and we’ll also explain the science behind sleep training – and a lot more.
As you prepare to sleep train your baby, we recommend downloading the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. We ourselves understand how confusing and at times frustrating sleep training can be – that’s why we worked with other pediatric sleep experts to create an app that can help any parent help any baby learn to fall asleep independently.
What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training, also known as sleep coaching, aligns your baby’s sleep schedule with their circadian rhythm and then works to help wean your baby off your support to fall asleep so that they can learn how to fall asleep independently.
How Does Sleep Training Work?
Sleep training fine tunes the fundamentals of sleep (when your baby sleeps and where your baby sleeps) before working on how they fall asleep. Since as newborns they need support (feeding, rocking, shushing and contact) in order to fall asleep, the act of falling asleep is a learned skill and sleep training will use a consistent approach to help wean them off your support so they can learn to do this on their own.
What is the Pick Up, Put Down Sleep Training Method?
Pick Up, Put Down is a sleep training method where in which you leave your baby in their crib at bedtime; if they fuss, you wait a specific interval of time and then go in to briefly reassure them.
Once they calm down, you leave again – if your baby cries again, you repeat the process until they settle for the night.
How Do I Do Pick Up, Put Down Sleep Training?
Here are step-by-step instructions for Night 1 of Pick Up, Put Down:
- Perform your bedtime routine – a consistent, calm set of actions you do every night before bed.
- Place your baby in bed when they’re sleepy, but still awake. Remember, you want your baby to fall asleep on their own, rather than in your arms.
- Say “good night” and leave the room confidently – in other words, don’t linger or show that you’re upset or hesitant. You want your baby to know they are safe, and all is well.
- Step into the hall and listen.
- If your baby starts crying or fussy, set a timer for 1 minute. If your baby is still crying at that point, go in and pick them up to cuddle and reassure them.
- When your baby settles, place them back in their crib and leave again.
- Repeat the process.
Pick Up, Put Down Night 2 and Beyond:
For the second night of Pick Up, Put Down, you repeat the process in the exact same way except you add 2 minutes to your wait period.
On night 3, you add another 2 minutes, and so on, until your baby is falling asleep independently without intervention.
By adding time to your “Wait time” each night, you’re giving your baby an opportunity to self-soothe and learn to be solo sleepers.
How Long Does Pick Up, Put Down Take?
Pick Up, Put Down can take a few weeks. Since it involves a lot of parental intervention, your baby will take longer to adapt to and strengthen their solo sleeping. If you would like to try another sleep training method, review the other sleep training methods here.
If you’re unsure which sleep training method will work best for your baby, take this free sleep assessment.
How Long Do I Hold My Baby in Pick Up, Put Down Sleep Training?
Hold and reassure your baby just until they settle down and/or stop crying. Then place them back in their crib.
What If My Baby Falls Asleep in My Arms While Sleep Training?
We recommend holding your baby only until they stop crying. However, if your baby accidentally falls asleep in that period, place them back into their bed.
Generally, you do not want to hold your baby until they fall asleep. This is the habit you are trying to break with sleep training.
If your baby repeatedly falls asleep during the “pick up” part of Pick Up, Put Down, we recommend trying another method, such as the Chair Method. This will provide your baby with reassurance but removes the possibility they’ll fall asleep in your arms.
Can I Do Pick Up, Put Down with a 3-Month-Old?
Yes, however I believe 3 months is a little early to start sleep training as the circadian rhythm is just starting to mature. Sleep training is most effective when you start at around 4 months – your baby will be more receptive and ready to learn.
Why Wait Until 4 Months for Sleep Training?
We recommend holding off on sleep training until your baby is 4 months old for three reasons:
- Four months is when your baby’s circadian rhythm begins to take shape. Any sleep training prior to this point won’t “stick.”
- Babies at 4-months understand patterns, a key element to sleep training. When you perform your bedtime routine every night, you’re cueing your baby to go to bed. This builds a healthy habit. (Learn more in our article “How Bedtime Routine Helps Your Baby Sleep Through the Night”.)
- Most babies have gained enough weight by 4 months that they can sleep for longer periods. Babies should be 12 pounds before you try sleep training. And always check with your pediatrician to make sure your baby’s gaining enough weight, too.
Pick Up, Put Down therefore will not be effective for a 2-month-old or a newborn. Focus instead on feeding and cuddling your baby as much as they need at that point. (And survive sleep deprivation with a newborn by following these tips.)
How Much Should a Baby Weigh for Sleep Training?
It’s best to wait until your baby is 12 lbs. before starting sleep training. This ensures they’ve gained enough weight to sleep for longer periods of time.
Will Pick Up, Put Down Work for a 9-Month-Old?
Yes, Pick Up, Put Down will work just as well on a 9-month-old as it will on a 6-month-old.
In fact, you can sleep train any baby after 4 months – yes, you can even sleep train toddlers – it's never too late to sleep train. To get started, take your free sleep assessment today.
Can I Do Pick Up, Put Down While Room Sharing?
While not everyone does it, room-sharing is recommended for at least the first 6 months to make night feedings easier and to reduce SIDS.
That said – yes, you can sleep coach while room-sharing, and you can indeed Pick Up, Put Down while room sharing. You simply follow the steps and move yourself out of sight. By the time you’re ready for bed, your baby will ideally be so fast asleep that they don’t even notice you return. A visual barrier between your baby’s sleep space and yours is ideal.
If you live in a studio, try stepping into your building’s hallway or the bathroom.
What if Pick Up, Put Down Doesn’t Work?
Every baby is different. While one may respond well to a certain sleep training method, the next may need something else – and this is even the case with siblings: one of your children may respond to Pick Up, Put Down, while the other does better with Cry It Out.
If you try Pick Up, Put Down and your baby still struggles to fall asleep, we suggest trying another sleep method. The other potential sleep methods include:
The Chair Method: A method that has you sit in your baby’s room until they fall asleep, but which does not allow picking up. Read more about the Chair Method in our piece about how to perform the Chair Method Sleep Training.
The Ferber Method: A sleep training method that’s a bit of a hybrid between “Chair” and “Pick Up, Put Down,” the Ferber method has you leave the room, just like with Pick Up, Put Down, but when you go in to reassure, you do not pick your baby up. Read more about how to do the Ferber Method here.
Cry It Out: Cry It Out sleep training has you put your baby down for the night and close the door. If your baby cries, you wait for them to self-soothe themselves back to sleep. It’s categorized as a non-parental involvement sleep training method and typically is the fastest way to get sleep habits on track.
To find a sleep training method that works for your baby, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. With a little input from you, this groundbreaking app’s powerful AI will suggest a sleep training method that works for your unique little one. It’s pretty incredible – and incredibly effective: most users see results in as little as one week!
“Do responsive sleep interventions impact mental health in mother/infant dyads compared to extinction interventions? A pilot study,” Archives of Women's Mental Health.
“Infant sleep problems and interventions: A review,” Infant Behavior and Development.
“Behavioral treatment of bedtime problems and night wakings in infants and young children,” Sleep.
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.