How to get your baby to sleep: the camping out method

Baby not sleeping and wondering how to get baby to sleep? Check out our step by step guide on the camping out method.

If your baby’s not sleeping well, the camping out strategy might help. The idea behind the camping out method is to teach your child to settle themselves by providing them with the reassurance that you are close, while minimising your role in them falling asleep. 

You can begin trying the camping out method with bub after they turn six months old. However, the camping out method isn’t just limited to babies not sleeping. It can also be used with older children who are having problems falling asleep, particularly if they’re feeling anxious or frightened. 

Laying the foundations for camping out

Before starting the camping out method, it’s important that you and bub have good sleep habits in place. Read our article on how to get your baby to sleep through the night for more information on how to lay these important foundations.

Camping out stage-by-stage guide

Stage One: Start by putting your chair next to your child’s bed or cot. Sit, and pat or stroke them off to sleep. Remember to be quiet and firm about sleep time not being playtime. If they try to play with you, tell them you will have to leave if they don’t lie down and try to go to sleep. Once they are asleep you can quietly leave their room.

Stage Two: Once they are comfortable with stage one, which can take three or more days, keep your chair in the same place, but don’t pat or stroke them. Let them fall asleep just knowing you are beside them. Keep sitting there quietly until they fall asleep. 

Stage Three: Once you’ve mastered stage two, it’s time to move the chair. Move the chair away (half a metre or so) from your child’s bed or cot where they can see you. Sit there quietly until they fall asleep. 

Stage Four: Keep gradually moving your chair away from their bed over time, but don’t rush it! Do a few nights in one spot before moving any further. Gradually move the chair toward the doorway and out of your child’s room over a period of one to three weeks. The amount of time you need will simply depend on your child. 

Each morning give them a reward for staying in their own bed - a sticker chart on the fridge can be great for toddlers.
a toddler asleep in her cot

One step forward, one step back

Your little one may have a few good nights or even weeks and then revert to old behaviour, perhaps more frequently or strongly than before. This is known as an extinction burst and can be tough for parents, but be assured it is temporary. 

Try to keep going with same camping out routine - the behaviour should stop after a few days. 

Consistency is key

If you’ve decided to try the camping out method, it’s important to be consistent. That means you, your partner and any other adults who settle your baby.

Extra support

If things haven’t improved after two weeks and your baby is not sleeping, talk to your GP or child and family health nurse for some tips on how to get your baby to sleep.

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