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Father Åberg and the five minute method

Five minute method the childrens' way

We have received as many questions as possible about sleep methods in general and the five minute method in particular. I have reada bit about sleeping methods and what scientific support is and is not available this summer. But only when I read Goodnight Alfons Åberg to bedtime story one evening did I feel that I could write about the subject.

Here you can read about successful nightly routines for children

Have you read the book? Dad tries to get Alfons to bed who doesn't want to sleep. Alfons shouts at dad a million times, he wants to pee, drink water, has poured water into the bed, wants his teddy bear, is afraid of a lion in the closet etc etc. Dad gets more and more tired and it becomes noticeable.

Conscientiously and with more and more dragging of his feet, he helps Alfons with what he asks for and each time tells the son that it's time to sleep.


Finally, Dad falls asleep on the living room floor with exhaustion. Then little Alfons steps around him and goes to bed and falls asleep.

It is a nice and loving book with a high recognition factor for me anyway.

Buy Goodnight Alfons Åberg at Adlibris here!

But what if Father Åberg had used the five minute method…

Alfons shouts at dad. Dad doesn't answer. Alfons gets scared and shouts louder. Dad doesn't answer. Alfons gets up and looks for dad. Dad doesn't answer but lifts Alfons back into bed.

Alfons shouts at dad. Dad doesn't answer. Alfons shouts at dad. Dad looks at the clock while he reads the newspaper. Alfons screams for Dad. After five minutes, Dad comes in and says "sleep now Alfons". "But there's a lion in the closet," screams Alfons.

Dad goes out. Alfon's crying. Dad looks at the clock and reads the newspaper. Alfon's crying and screaming ...

No, I can't stand it anymore. It is torture just to write about it.

Maybe "efficient" but at what cost?

There are several studies that have shown that five-minute-like methods (ie not responding to the screams of children for a certain number of minutes and going in after this time to show that one is there but not comforting the child) show less awakening and longer nightly sleep. And some that show no effect.

But not responding to the child's signals is for me big no-no when interacting with children. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean that parents must always have the ability to respond super-quickly to the first signal. Sometimes we can't run at all. Then maybe the child gets to cry out quite a few times before we come. Responding to the child's signals does not always mean doing what the child asks for. But to try to understand what the child wants, show the child that you have listened and then tell them clearly what to do. Sometimes it is what the child asks for, sometimes not.

But there is a difference to me between not always having the energy and having principles where you as a parent should not listen to the child. Then you are not putting the child's needs first. Putting the child's needs first is our job as parents. This is how we build security, love and closeness.

You can read more about newborns and sleep here. 

47 thoughts on “Pappa Åberg och femminutersmetoden”

  1. But… .Does it really say in the manual for the 5-minute method that it should be quiet and dark in the apartment, that the door to the child should be closed, and that you should do what you can to make the child think it is abandoned?
    I thought it said that the door should be open, that you should donate in the kitchen so that there is a little beeping, maybe moaning a little, maybe shout "sleep now" sometimes with a kind voice, so that the child hears that parents are close! Then you body every five minutes at the child's bed, pauses and returns to what you were doing in the apartment. The keyword is "nice"! So I've read the manual, at least!

    1. Unfortunately, it does not matter to such a small child, who cannot understand that the parents are there if they do not see them. It does not matter if it is "nice" or not, or even if you are standing right next to a drapery. So young children do not have the ability to understand that you are around, or the ability to calm themselves. That ability does not develop until the age of two, as the frontal lobe is then more developed.

  2. Hello

    There are so many good and thoughtful posts here. I am quite happy with the help I get from thinking about various dilemmas that a parent is faced with from time to time. But this with sleep, yes I understand how not to do if you follow your advice, but there is not much about how to do instead if you need, for example, teach the child to sleep in their own bed. It's easy to think, let the baby sleep with you, but I haven't slept a whole night since I was pregnant 1.7 years ago and rarely sleep more than 5-6 hours a night. I work and study and are breaking down because only I can sleep on the baby when it wakes up, and because I wake up so often. The child also wakes up two minutes after I got up in the mornings so it will not be good for anyone.

    I am torn between feeling selfish because I not only put down what requires my energy besides the child, but at the same time it is now or never with my studies and my new work.

    So what is an alternative way to teach the child to fall asleep by himself? last the child was angry for 2.5 hours before giving with me and learning to cuddle with me in bed. I was lying next to all the time but they did not cope.

    I know I tend to ask for advice, but that is a pretty general advice I would think.

    Another piece of advice I want to give you as a writer, or you, is to be careful about categorization, there are many more posts about sleep when you google than it is under the category of sleep.

    mvh Misan

    1. Yes you, how to do instead? First, try your hand at your family. Try to find solutions for a better night's sleep for all of you (not least you!) I do not think that all one and a half year olds should be taught to fall asleep themselves, on the contrary I am convinced that many in that age are equally ill-equipped for it like cleaning up the kitchen after their meal.

      But a softer variant of the "sleep self-method", where one sits with the child, claps it up if needed and comforts if one feels it is frightening and before the panic strikes the child one can try if one wants. I think that does not hurt the child's sense of trust in the parent's goodwill.

      Or you can re-furnish. Is there a parent who sleeps well with the child? Let them sleep together and anyone who cannot sleep with the child can sleep in another room.

      Or will the child be ok and be able to sleep in his own bed in his parents' bedroom?

      I have heard very much about the book "Sleep without crying" by Elisabeth Pantley but unfortunately I did not read it myself. But it should give clear advice and have helped many.

  3. Yea what I liked Daddy Åberg runs the five minute method. You do not know whether to laugh or cry. Methods assume that it is a universal method that works for all children. Just as you can make all children taste the food with the same trick.
    The only thing that can be compared to the five minute method at home is when the mother goes out to take a break from a defiant three year old who refuses to stop jumping in bed.

  4. That's what I expected. Too bad to get such "knowledge" from doctors at bvc. = o / Our daughter's 6-month checkup was not a rewarding experience. Thanks for the reply!

  5. By the way, speaking of sleep, is there something called "therapeutic window"? That it is between 6-7 months and if you do not "put your foot down" with the night sleep, it is run until the next opportunity at 18 months? I have been looking for curiosity but have not found any substantial information on this. Just want to know if that is at all something that there is truth behind.

    1. It has not been shown anywhere that there is a "therapeutic sleep window" between 6-7 months. Pure stupidity sounds like that.

  6. Thanks!! There you put the words on the nail head in my mind! ; oD

    I wrote last night (a slightly tense post but still… ;-)) in my blog about everything we parents get "advised" to do from understanding peers and experts to make it best for children in general. At our 6-month checkup, the doctor felt it was time to put her foot down and stop breastfeeding completely at night - “she doesn't starve, she doesn't live in a war-torn country, blah blah blah. 35 years of experience bla bla bla ”, she would simply scream at night (ours sounds like a mist!) Until she falls asleep. The fact that we live in a house only gave her more water on her mill, then there was absolutely no reason to try to quiet the child because there are no neighbors who are disturbed. If we did not put our feet down now it would have been a night's sleep - a therapeutic window - otherwise we would not have another chance until at the earliest 1 year.

    Then it is nice to read more parents who think it is most important to listen to their children's needs. To read. To feel and think for yourself. And then it is not the same as "spoiling" or giving the child everything they point to and everything they want. The last paragraph of your post really put words into my feelings.

    My partner and I have decided, after a week of frustration and uncertainty after the doctor's visit, to continue to listen to A's needs. To really learn the difference between her screams and be flexible. We try to trust that we know her best. Now she is not allowed to breastfeed every time she wakes up but the times she does not fall asleep and clearly states that now it is something else. 90 times out of 100 she falls asleep with her dad without problems. The other 10 times we have realized that she wants something different - then we test ourselves. Most often, it is breastfeeding that is the thing 😉 What works for our child and makes her safe is what is right !!

    1. I'll post that post and glue it on the wall! Okay, that may come from well-meaning advice from family and unknown aunts, but when authorities say how you should and must do, it obviously raises uncertainty - I think it is terrible. Because you want to listen to the experts at the same time and dare to trust that there is truth behind. I am one who can handle a little lack of sleep. I would rather have expressed to bvc that a little awake at night is only to cure now that we have chosen to have children. Still, we were peppered with the need for A's sleep on the 6-month check. "Otherwise it was run .." In addition, you should go to bed at the same time as the child. In her opinion, that is the only right, without discussion. We are most disappointed that the control was mostly about me and my partner, not about A. But enough about that, it's done now. We must continue to dare to believe that we know our child best! Even when she is different; oD

    2. It doesn't sound at all different to my parents to need their parents even at night when you're half a year young.

    3. We probably didn't think so either, because we were so surprised at the visit. But sure, she based her statements on the fact that A made a two-shot on curve between 4 and 5 months. From medium to upper percentiles. Wanted to make it clear to us that A is not hungry or in need of more food at night.

    4. But if nighttime paralysis is not a problem for you and your baby, why not create a problem?

    5. Thanks for the "ball planing"! Was so incredibly uncertain and felt like a "cheater" when we still continued to breastfeed at least once a night after the doctor's visit and the promise, for a week ;-), now we run on what feels best for our family. I'm just glad that my dad and I dare to continue believing in ourselves, everyone doesn't. In addition, it felt completely idiotic to get a "weight focus" on a 6-month and therefore refuse her food at night just because she actually survives without.

      We will survive night-gathering and will continue in the future! Thanks again!!

  7. THANK YOU for this post.

    After all, it is up to each family to do what they feel is best and / or work for them, as long as no one gets hurt, there is certainly no right or wrong really. And there are different shades of crying; from howling to howling with crocodile tears, also everything in between. 🙂 The method in question is completely excluded from us, would not even think of using such a scheme. Would even dare me to say that I gravely dislike this approach, for children, in my opinion, can not be spoiled for closeness and not respond to the child's signals, such as when it is sad (it is not about petty grunts) right here) - it would rhyme very badly with the kind of parent I want to be for my child. It feels right-in-the-marrow wrong and it feels wrong, yes, it probably is too. At least for us. And I can't help wondering what impact it has on the connection (and the child's safety, of course) when we don't respond when they want help? Well, that is not for us.

    Thank you for your thoughtful, interesting and healthy blog. Get a lot of peppery, inspiration and knowledge from here. I become a better parent thanks to you, simply. 🙂

  8. Sture and Bertil's mother

    For our part, from the beginning we have had to drive two different nights. The twins were adopted at the age of seven months. Sture was very scared to fall asleep, one can only speculate if he was afraid we would disappear when he slept. We had 45 minutes of fighting every night, I held him in his arms and he waved, screamed and tried to get away. Finally, he fell asleep from exhaustion and could be put to bed. He didn't fall asleep in his own bed until he was well over the year. Bertil, on the other hand, could only fall asleep on Dad's stomach. So then we had to run the sleep-on-daddy-stomach method…

    The important thing for us was to provide security, try to do the same every night and listen to the children. Screams and anxiety from the children cut into the parent's heart. Nowadays they usually fall asleep in their own beds after bedtime story. It took several years to get there!

  9. Oh well written, much needed read for me who is about to stop at night. Thanks also to Emma K who clarifies about _answered_ infant crying - too often it is just talked about the screaming itself, and then it feels easy to think that it is harmful for children to scream / be angry / sad, but I interpret it as you mean that it's about being wrong not to try to respond to the child's signals, and not about the screaming itself. Quitting nighttime is a breeze, and for us it means many hours of screaming, where nothing else really helps. But we try to provide security in other ways, through ourselves and other aids (toys for example), and also signal that we understand why he is angry, but that he does not get the breast anyway. In a way, we "let" him scream then, but at the same time it is a big difference to us for example 5mm.
    Also nice to get these opinions from someone who is familiar with scientific facts. Otherwise I got the impression that doctors are generally very positive to 5mm, just read a pdf with info from an expert on children's sleep (doctor in Uppsala, I think?), Which seemed positive to "gradual extinction" which sounded very to me just 5mm. How about medical colleagues, is there a general attitude to sleep methods, and is it the same as yours / you in that case?

    1. I have not done any regular research but my impression of pediatrician colleagues in general is that we agree that parents' job is to respond to children's signals and help them when they need our help.

  10. Hey!

    I agree with much of what you write. However, I would like to point out that there are differences from family to family and that different things work for different families.

    We have run a mild variation of 5 mm. However, our child has a very clear difference in his crying. I can clearly hear if he is "just" unhappy or if he is sad. I never let him be sad without coming and comforting. It would never fall into me. But when he just "protested" I let him be. I should add that it was never required for a long time and that it only took a few days. Had it continued and not helped, I would have found another way to fall asleep in the evening. But now he is safe in his bed, pointing to the bed when he is tired. Then it can actually be because it is simply the way he is and has nothing to do with any method. You can never know.

    But what I do know is that everyone has to find something that works for them. If you do not think it is a problem to sit with your child in your arms for an hour every night, you have to do it without the environment. You may even want to do it for your own sake. Would it be so awful to admit. 🙂
    And you think that some of the methods work that way.
    As long as no child is ill, every family will find what suits them!

    I want to take this opportunity and thank you for an incredibly educational, reassuring and wise blog! I feel like a better mom because I read it!

    hugs

    1. I think it sounds like you are a wise and responsive mother who responds to your child's signals. To wait a little while to go to a child as a whine is not the kind of method I like so badly.

  11. Thanks for this post, you have described exactly how I feel about the 5 minute method!

    My now five-year-old daughter had trouble falling asleep herself and already had 8 months of baby nightmares and something suspiciously like night terrors. Got the council to try the 5 minute method of BVC for "-he does not harm from screaming" (I am of a different opinion and above all, I take damage from doing something that is contrary to my instincts).
    Instead, the daughter's dad found a custom night strategy that worked really well for us.

    I honestly do not understand how a baby should feel sufficiently secure and sleep well when its parent / parents become another person when it is time for bedtime? The baby's only way to talk about something ("I am alone / hungry / cold / hot / wet / need to rape / etc") is through screaming and if the parent during the day is soft, warm security, the nights become contrary to the habit. In discussions with acquaintances I have explained my thoughts like this: Imagine if you yourself were badly injured in an accident in a country where you cannot understand yourself with the language / voice. You end up in hospital and get all the help you need during the day, but at night you wake up and feel weird, you need help. You light the lamp and press the alarm button, but the only thing that happens is that the staff comes in, stops you, switches the lamp off and goes again. It wouldn't be ok for you so why should my child settle for a similar experience?

  12. So GOOD written! Nor do I believe in methods and firm principles. My soon-to-be 3-year-old daughter falls asleep easiest and fastest if she gets her baby bottle with me and I lie side by side in her bed for a while holding her hand. Usually it only takes five minutes before she falls asleep, sometimes much longer ... But it will be a cozy ending to the day instead of leaving a sad girl in bed who should try to fall asleep on her own.

  13. Thanks!
    Feel pure disgust at these methods. In our family it worked fine anyway. And as a single twin mom I dare say, I don't apply these methods so no one else has to do it either!

    1. All cred, I'm a twin mom but not single and fully inclined to back up your claim! And of course to Cecilia himself: thank you for daring to address this and many other infected topics. A sequel to this post that concerns Anna Wahlgren is hereby placed on the wish list. 😉

    2. No, badly expressed by me to write "Anna Wahlgren" as a person when it is the SHN cure I am critical of - something that deserves to be clarified as many people witch hunt for her personally. I have only read about her participation in Skavlan but understood that many thought it was over the limit in many ways. Whatever it is with Anna Wahlgren, her SHN course seems to be in demand and used in a very lively way yet. The children's book has sold to such an extent that it feels justified to say that it has left a great imprint in the Swedish children's view, at least for some generation. And no matter how much she herself has to suffer from negative publicity and how much families and parents suffer from sleep problems, there is, to me personally, a far limit to what is morally justifiable to do even in extreme circumstances. I think the SHN program has too small margins in “correct” execution so as not to invite child abuse, an opinion I share with, for example, Lars H Gustafsson. Up to this far limit, I have all the respect for the different conditions of families.

      I had wished that more people with relevant knowledge and education dared to take the uncomfortable discussions, although unfortunately it can sometimes hurt. I imagine, for example, that it was not so popular when it came to Bowlby's time that children who were evacuated to the country during World War II had worse mental health than children who stayed with their parents in lightning London - but it provided important insights. Either way, I appreciate you occasionally doing so but with the utmost respect for the differences of families. Precisely this, that everything does not work for everyone and that methods of evidence should be put in relation to a problem (eg Comet for families struggling with serious problem behaviors) rather than (never) used indiscriminately, is something that is often lost when opinions about child rearing is breathed.

    3. The SHN course is one of the methods I include in the concept of a "five minute similar method". It also has some extra physical features that I don't like at all.

      We also try to have an absolute majority of posts dealing with things we think are good, and rationing out our warnings for dangers to a minimum. For various reasons. But we are happy with that principle.

    4. With all due respect for your tough job as a single twin mom, I still want to say that it often does not lead to condemning others based on what you can do yourself. There are many factors other than the number of children and adults in a family that play a role in how acute sleep deprivation becomes.

    5. My comment looked very arrogant when I read it again. Yuk! That wasn't my point at all. The purpose of the comment was more; There are other ways to solve it regardless of the circumstances. And I have had to fight for that, not least at BVC unfortunately. Not fun to hear that I should not spoil the kids by picking them up for the smallest little beep because then I will never be able to cope in length etc. When it turns out it's just the opposite.
      And if anyone was sad about my comment; sorry!

    6. 🙂 nice you are reading through and posting forgiveness and explanation comments. We like that very much!

  14. THANKS! Simple and straightforward, in a way I think most people can understand.
    As a parent of two young children in which one (the other we do not know yet, they are still so small) have had major sleep problems, I have devoted a lot of thoughts and reading hours to this topic.
    For me and my partner, 5mm and similar "methods" are completely impossible to imagine - no matter how tired and desperate we have been. For us, it would be to betray our child and break in our parental responsibility (safety above all!)

    As a child psychologist, I think similar (but more on the one hand, on the other hand, and above all with respect for each unique parent-child constellation). Based on connection theory and research as well as research on how developmentally inhibited unanswered infant crying is, I think there is so much else one can do to deal with sleeping difficulties in young children…
    As soon as I gain access to the research databases again (after parental leave) I thought I would delve into how unanswered infant crying affects neurological development ... But right now I am a parent and very confident in my gut feeling!

    1. The comment got away the first time so try again! Well, it is perhaps to take it far to say that sleep methods (in a parenting with otherwise adequate nursing) lead to disorganized attachment, but my own guess is that it probably stood for some precarious / avoidable. I think Allan Schore might be worth reading when it comes to at least affect regulation and affiliation (screaming methods have some overlap there) with neuropass perspective. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to read Schore myself (the psychologist program) but Tor Wennerberg wrote a very readable article in DN about a book a few years ago. http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/kulturdebatt/i-huvudet-pa-ett-litet-barn/

  15. Thanks for another great article. So incredibly good description of what the 5 min method means. In spite of my struggles with my twin boys, now 3 years old, I have long had to bottle not only one, but not infrequently twice a night, per child, stubbornly kept everything called methods away. I haven't been able to let them cry, it feels like a far too great betrayal as a mother. With twins, it became all too often that they had to wait and sometimes cry because they had to take care of one of them at a time. Sure it has been tough and I am far from always so fantastic educational but I work on it. My latest solution, so that it is not always possible for two parents to put them down, is that I sit in their room until they fall asleep to at least try to make them fall asleep in their own beds. Holds the hand if needed, checks the diaper if needed but doesn't say much when the light is off. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you will hear some stories that show how much is moving in their little heads. It's happiness.

  16. Thanks for this post! Must show this to my acquaintances who do not understand how in their eyes I pet with my children. Have a 3 year old who has always wanted to have body contact when he goes to sleep. As well as a 6-month, which basically eats to the south. Considers it is just to enjoy as long as they want to be with us parents. Don't know then any teenager who wants to fall asleep with their parents. 🙂

    1. I have a hard time understanding why you are considered to pet children when you meet their needs, whether it is food at night or need for proximity. But you are apparently more successful as a parent if the child does not eat at night and sleeps in his own bed all nights ..

    2. I was a teenager who wanted it! Still have anxiety before falling asleep myself.
      My parents drove my entire upbringing on a rocky night like the five-minute model. Fantastic parents anyway, but this is the kind of night I shouldn't expose my children to!

  17. Great "like" on it. My second daughter, now 3 1/2 years old, was quite unable to fall asleep for a long period, at least the first year if not longer. Tiring as a thousand. Well-wishing acquaintances sometimes talked about the 5-minute method and other things, but we just couldn't resist trying. It's so far from how I want to be as a parent. I was probably exhausted and on the verge of irrational from time to time, but to leave a sad child - no. Not to say that I am perfect, I lose patience and am inconsistent and bribe and do a lot of stupid things, but I can't go against my instinct when something feels wrong with the forest.

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