How the Kim West – Gradual withdrawal approach worked for a gentle sleep training client at 7 months.


Kim West the Author of the Sleep Lady Shuffle has really popularized the sleep training method of gradual withdrawal. I love this sleep training method as much as Kim West when it is the right fit for the family as it was in this case!

Mum had read Kim West’s book the sleep lady shuffle and had on and off been trying to apply the principals since Chloe was born 7 months ago. But a recent case of the flu had really set Chloe back and now she was waking 2 hourly at night, and mum had been rocking her to sleep while she was sick, this had quickly developed into a sleep association for Chloe.

Mum had tried the suggestions in Kim West’s book but felt too exhausted coming off the back of this flu with Chloe, and didn’t feel like she was making any progress this time. I came to see mum and Chloe one evening to see if our bed time package could help get Chloe back on track.

The first thing that was evident to me was just how tired Chloe was! She was in bed from 7pm-7am, but was really only getting 10 hours sleep at a push due to how long it was taking to re-settle her each time she woke. This fragmented sleep was also taking its toll as we know extremely broken sleep is not as restorative for baby or mum!

Chloe had dropped to two naps a day, and when I arrived at 5pm, she had already been awake 3.5 hour’s. I suggested in light of how tired she was, and how long mum said the 7pm bed time settling was taking (sometimes up to an hour) that we start her evening routine now.

We gave Chloe her dinner and bath by 5.30pm, and chatted about the Kim West gradual withdrawal, or sleep lady shuffle approach. It was clear to me that mum had been a little inconsistent since Chloe had been sick, which is 100% expected when we get exhausted. She was chopping between rocking until drowsy and trying to implement the shuffle.

I explained that at this age, I think we should only rock Chloe until she is calm at bed time, and then stick with gradual withdrawal (the sleep lady shuffle), and allow our proximity, voice and intermittent touch to be enough for Chloe. Mum was a gentle style parent and felt comfortable with this as she knew she would be able to calm Chloe with singing and her touch, without picking her up to rock her.

We got Chloe into bed by 5.55pm (the earliest she had been to bed in weeks!), she was already rubbing her eyes, and was clearly exhausted. This earlier bed time was paramount to our success, as I felt the later 7pm bed time combined with the fragmented night sleep was meaning Chloe was going to bed over tired and the resulting cortisol and adrenaline would not be helping her settle or sleep well.

Mum sat by Chloe’s bed and used her voice, and reached through the bars to touch Chloe when she needed it. I could see mum struggling at the 25 minute mark, and she told me her instinct at this point was to rock Chloe to sleep. Once I explained to mum that Chloe was actually becoming quite intermittent with her crying/grizzling, and that she was more sleepy than 20 minutes ago, mum was happy to continue.

Chloe would grizzle and cry, then roll her head towards mum to check she was there and stop crying for a few minutes. This went on for a further 20 minutes, by the end of the 40 minutes, Chloe was almost asleep and we hadn’t needed to pick her up at all. She was fully asleep by 6.45pm, and didn’t wake again until 1am!

Over the following week Chloe began to settle faster and faster, she had a little blip on night 4 when she had a trial day at daycare and didn’t get much day sleep, she took 40 minutes to settle again, but mum stuck to her technique, and the following night Chloe settled in just 10 minutes.

The key to sleep training success is matching the technique to the client. Not all clients will be fans of Kim West’s sleep lady shuffle (gradual withdrawal), and not all babies will suit this technique. But when the mum is happy the technique doesn’t make her compromise on her parenting style, and the sleep training approach suits the child’s temperament the process is usually a fairly easy one.

Chloe’s mum felt she needed the support from a home consult, and this was evident when  I saw her. Sometimes the fresh pair of eyes and the hands on support makes all the difference to whether on not we are successful in changing our child’s sleep patterns.