Gradual Withdrawal

Sensible Sleep Solution by Associate Professor Sarah Blunden

This involves staying with your child, or only as far away as he or she feels comfortable with, while your child learns to fall asleep in his or her new cot or bed. Then night by night and week by week moving further and further away.

It involves 3 elements: 

  1. Distinguish needs (e.g. Nappy change), from wants (e.g. Comfort sucking). Attempt to meet needs not pander to wants.   
  2. Prepare a series of alternative comforting methods, with a plan to gradually decrease intervention. For example each night: 
    • Put your child down more and more awake. 
    • Provide less and less patting as your child falls asleep. 
    • Sit further and further away as your child falls asleep. 
    • Sooth with voice only. 
  3. Respond before your child becomes distressed as required using minimal intervention first, pick up if necessary to calm, then start over. 

You can expect resistance every step of the way. Persist with a single step until resistance is minimal, before moving to the next.

For a series of podcasts on this technique with the primary author and researcher, Associate Professor Sarah Blunden, see
For books written by Associate Professor Sarah Blunden on the approach for 0-1 year olds, see, and for 3-8 year olds see
For a great description of this approach see
For in-person (Adelaide Australia) or online help implementing this method, as well as further details and resources, see the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep:

Please add your experiences with this approach in the comments below. Let us know how long you tried it it for. Please provide the age of your child when you tried it. If it worked, please share the effects you saw. If it didn’t work, why do you think it didn’t work in your case?


  1. Nicole Weeks

    “Baby adapts gradually to changes.” (Mother of 14 month old boy tried this for about 3 weeks and found it did help)

  2. Nicole Weeks

    “Rather than feeding to sleep my child can now be rocked / walked to sleep. I had to stop as walking hurt back. I also feel that the next phase i.e. putting her to sleep awake in cot will be traumatic so have been putting it off.” (Mother of 7 month old girl tried this and found it did help in less than a week)


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