Do you question whether you’re doing our 15-Minute Rule the right way? Or is your baby having difficulty with it? Do you feel like it’s not working? Well, we’d like to make sure you’re definitely getting it right — because when it’s done right, it works like magic for baby sleep! So here are the steps to our 15-Minute Rule with more detail, just to make sure:

STEP 1: Instead of entering the nursery, look at your clock and/or start a timer (mentally or actually set one) for 15 minutes.

This means you do NOT go into the nursery when the crying first starts. Start the timer instead, when you hear that first bout of crying. Don’t make the mistake of going into the nursery, checking on your baby, leaving, and THEN starting the 15 minutes when he cries after being put back down. He then would only learn that he will get an immediate response when he cries and you’re trying to teach him the opposite — that he will be given a chance to fall back to sleep first.

If your baby stops crying during the initial 15 minute time period, then you move on.  

If he stops for more than 4-5 minutes and then starts up again, re-start the timer for 15 minutes again when he starts back up — don’t go in the nursery yet.

STEP 2: If your baby is still really crying after the 15-minute mark, go into the nursery, turn on the light, pick him up, change his diaper, and re-swaddle him.  Burping him is also a good idea as sometimes gas could be the issue, especially if he’s waking up close to when you put him down.

Go ahead and do the diaper change and re-swaddling even if you’re pretty confident he hasn’t soiled the diaper. You never know! And this also lets you check his little body for some other possible source of discomfort like a diaper rash, a sock stuck in the bottom of his footie pajamas, or a strand of your hair wrapped around his little toe! It doesn’t hurt to double check. But this is the only time during the 15-Minute Rule when you will change and re-swaddle him.

STEP 3: Check the nursery for any conditions that would prevent him from falling back to sleep (i.e. what is the temperature of the room,whether the sound machine is too low or too loud, or if a pet got left in his room! etc.)

This is why you should never be afraid to turn on the lights when you enter the nursery. You need to look around and see what might be messing with your baby’s sleep! He’s already up, right? And turning the lights off when you leave is part of the sleeping ritual you’re creating.

STEP 4: Then put him back into his crib and gently rub or pat his side or forehead while saying some soothing words to him like “It’s nap time,”  “It’s okay, Sweetie,”  “You’re just falling back to sleep,” and  “I love you very much.”  Do this for about two minutes.

 But only for two minutes. Three, tops.

STEP 5: Turn on his crib soother machine (which you should have permanently set to last between 10-15 minutes), turn off the lights (leaving on a low night lite) leave the room, and close the door.  He will most likely continue to cry, but you need to leave at this point.  It’s heartbreaking for you but remember, you’re doing what’s best for your baby – you’re teaching him how to sleep!

You must leave, even as your heart is breaking.  Otherwise you are teaching your baby to depend on you to fall back to sleep. Turning on the crib soother is essential because he will learn to use it (not you!) to fall back to sleep. Don’t worry, soothers are completely portable so we are not opposed at all to it becoming a “sleep prop” for your baby. And make sure the sound machine is turned up loud enough too (another totally portable essential).

STEP 6: Give him a few minutes (3-5) to fall back to sleep.  If your baby is still really crying after that time, start the 15-minute timer again and repeat the process – but the second (and third) time you go in, do not change his diaper or take him out of the crib.  If you need to re-swaddle him, do it in the crib.  Say soothing phrases to him again for a couple of minutes and leave.

Turn on the light every time you walk into the nursery. Turn on or restart the crib soother every time you leave the nursery. And turn off the light and gently close the door (all the way!) every time you leave.

STEP 7: Repeat the process up to three times total.  If the third time doesn’t do the trick, feed your child early and then catch him up to the schedule gradually during the day.

When we say “up to three times total” that means three 15 minute timers completed. If your baby stopped crying for more than 4-5 minutes during your 15 minute timer, you start the timer over for another 15 minutes — and that would count as your second timer.

Reminder: Have patience with the rule — this is a learning process and therefore it takes a little bit of time. And when done consistently, your baby will quickly come to rely on it to fall asleep.

Related Posts: 15-Minute Rule, Nursery Night One!, 3-Key Burping Basics, Crib Soothers, Soother Sound of Magic, Magical Nighttime Routine, Crib Essentials, Nursery Organization Must-Haves, Why is My Baby Crying?, Crying Facts, PPB FAQ’s, Solve Early Nap Waking, Sleeping Milestones, Put Baby Down Awake, Wedge of Reason, Napping No-No’s, Troubleshooting Naps, Baby Monitors, Swaddling 


*Here’s an important “Time”article debunking the science behind Dr. Sears’ claims that crying-it-out for any length of time is dangerous or causes emotional harm.

*Also read the findings of a study done by “Pediatrics” (the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) showing no short or long term differences in children who were or were not sleep-trained as infants.