The pick up, put down method is a sleep training method. It was popularized by Tracy Hogg in her book, “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby.”

The author considers this to be the middle ground of sleep training. The goal with this strategy is a baby who isn’t dependent on you to fall asleep, but doesn’t feel abandoned.

So, does it work?

It depends. Sleep training advocates usually share many reasons that their techniques are effective, but babies are individuals. What works with one baby may not work with another, including how they learn to go to sleep.

Here are the basics of this sleep training method and how to decide if it’s right for your baby.

How do I use the pick up, put down method?

There are a few steps to the pick up, put down method.

1. Bedtime routine

The process begins with your baby’s bedtime routine, whatever that may be. After you’ve completed the different stages of your baby’s routine and it’s time to put them to sleep, lay them down in their crib or bassinet.

Ideally, they should be drowsy and relaxed from their soothing bedtime routine, but still awake. If your baby doesn’t fuss or cry, leave the room.

The method promoted by Tracy Hogg includes remaining in the room with your baby as long as they’re awake. Others who recommend this method say it’s OK to leave the room when your baby is calm.

2. Stop, wait, and listen

If your baby begins crying, follow the stop, wait, and listen approach. Don’t immediately rush to pick them up. Instead, stop for a few seconds and listen to your baby to determine if they’re simply fussing, or if they’re really worked up enough that they need you to comfort them.

3. Pick up

If your baby isn’t settling down on their own, pick them up. Hold your baby and cuddle them to calm them down. This is the “pick up” part of the pick up, put down method.

4. Put down

Once your baby has settled down, but is still awake, lay them down again. This is the “put down” part of this sleep training method.

This process continues until your baby eventually goes to sleep, and that may take a long time, which means that this sleep training method requires lots of patience. It can be a frustrating cycle for parents, and it’s very important that you are calm and quiet when you pick up your baby to comfort them.

What age should you start using the pick up, put down method?

This sleep training method is intended for babies no younger than about 4 months of age. It tends to be most effective around 4 to 8 months of age, but it may also be suitable for some babies who are a little older. Babies’ sleep patterns are often well-established by 6 months, so it may be easier to start this method before that age.

The cycle of picking up and putting down may be too stimulating for some babies. Instead of relaxing them, they find the process disruptive, which can have the adverse effect of working your baby up.

Steps for success with the pick up, put down method

Follow these steps for success with the pick up, put down method.

1. Bedtime routine

If you haven’t developed a soothing bedtime routine for your baby yet, start with that. Your baby’s bedtime routine could involve nursing or a bottle, then snuggle time with singing or a bedtime story.

Choose a relaxing routine, and stay consistent. This will help your baby learn that the bedtime routine means it’s almost time for sleep.

2. Get some rest first

Parents of babies rarely get enough sleep. But try to catch up on your rest before starting the pick up, put down method. It can be time-consuming, and it may take over two hours in the beginning to get your baby down to sleep. You’ll need energy and patience to stick with this approach.

3. Listen to your baby

If they’re simply fussy, give them some time and space to settle down. You’ll be able to tell if they’re getting worked up or becoming frightened or angry.

4. Get help

This method works best if you can do it with help. Ideally, both parents should be committed to giving the pick up, put down method a fair chance. It may be helpful to enlist the help of grandparents, aunts or uncles, or another person who spends lots of time with your baby.

Does the pick up, put down method work?

Success with this method will depend on your baby’s temperament and your commitment. It’s important to stay consistent. Sleep training is a challenge, no matter which approach you try. Remember, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to see consistent changes in your baby’s sleep routine.

The takeaway

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to help your baby learn to fall asleep. The pick up, put down method may be a great choice for certain babies, but not for all of them. Only you can decide if this may be a good option for your family. The best recommendation is to use a technique you’re comfortable with and to be consistent about it.

“The pick up, put down method can be time-consuming. At first, it may take over two hours to get your baby down to sleep.”
– Katie Mena, MD

Jessica Timmons has been a freelance writer since 2007. She writes, edits, and consults for a great group of steady accounts and the occasional one-off project, all while juggling the busy lives of her four kids with her ever-accommodating husband. She loves weightlifting, really great lattes, and family time.