Sleep is vital for your baby’s healthy development. As parents, it is our responsibility to do everything possible to maximize the quality of our children’s sleep.
If you want to learn more about sleep training, how to do it, and when is the best time to start sleep training, read on.
There are many sleep training methods, and there is conflicting information about when is the right time to begin sleep training.
In this article, we will share what we have learned from our research and share this useful information with you, so you can provide your children with the best sleep possible, maximizing their development in these crucial early years.
What Is Sleep Training?
Sleep training is the process of supporting your children to learn how and when to wind down before it’s time to sleep. Initially, it is about teaching them how to self-soothe to fall asleep, so they are not reliant on a caregiver to help them fall asleep.
As they get older, this training will help them stay asleep throughout the night.
As they get older, this training will help your child to fall back to sleep after they wake up during the night. Whether that be for feeding, a change of diaper, or as their circadian rhythm develops and changes.
Sleep training begins with you as a parent recognizing the sleep patterns of your baby and developing a consistent routine around bedtime.
It’s important to note how much sleep your baby needs over time will vary. It’s also likely that the natural sleeping pattern of your baby or toddler will not fit your own needs.
Also, the method of sleep training you employ will be different depending on the age of your child. A 6-month-old baby will have a different sleeping pattern from a 2-year-old baby.
You may find it helpful to conceptualize sleep training as a process rather than a singular event. Sleep training requires persistence and determination in order to be successful.
In this article, we will discuss multiple methods of sleep training, and what age each method is appropriate for.
Preparing For Sleep Training
Babies, just like adults, function better with a regular sleep schedule and a consistent routine for naps and nighttime sleep. Bear in mind that every child is different, and the younger your baby is, the more naps they require. This gives you plenty of opportunity to practice your bedtime routine.
Below are some tips on the best way to prepare for sleep training:
Establish A Bedtime Routine
From the first week, it’s a good idea to begin laying down the foundations of a proper bedtime routine. This will make sleep training much easier later on once they get older.
Simple little rituals that help calm both you and your baby will be beneficial and prevent problems in relation to sleep later down the line.
Try your best to start this bedtime routine at the same time each evening. This may include, for instance:
- Giving your child a bath
- Followed by a nice, relaxing baby massage
- Singing lullabies
- Reading a bedtime story
Repeat this routine regularly each night before your baby gets tired.
Download our printable Bedtime Routine
Teach Your Child The Difference Between Night And Day
There isn’t an age too young to get started in helping your baby understand the difference between nighttime and daytime.
In the daytime, make sure you keep your curtains drawn. Play with your baby in between naps. A little background noise while your baby is sleeping during the day is okay.
At night time, keep the lights dimmed, speak quietly, and don’t play with or over stimulate your baby.
Try to keep nighttime diaper changes to a minimum, if possible. Extra-absorbent diapers are a good idea for keeping your baby dry throughout the night. Find out when do babies stop pooping at night here
Share A Room With Your Baby For 6 Months
It is advisable to sleep in the same room as your child for 6 months at the least. In the beginning, your baby may only want to fall asleep held in your arms. The ideal scenario is to place your tired (not overtired) newborn into their crib, so they get comfortable falling asleep unaided. It is fine if you’re standing next to their crib as they fall asleep.
Sharing a room with your baby at this age may also lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Put Your Baby To Bed When Drowsy, But Still Awake
In order to encourage your baby to fall asleep without excessive comforting, it’s a good idea to put your baby in their crib while they are still awake or just after they have been fed.
This typically works best after your baby is 3 months or older, when they are able to spend more of their time alert and awake. If you only start this process after 3 months, you can expect some resistance from your little one due to the change in routine.
When To Begin Sleep Training
Between the ages of 3 and 6 months, it’s likely that you will notice that your baby is sleeping for longer periods of time and needing fewer feeding sessions during the night. Around this time, you will see your baby’s natural sleeping pattern emerging.
It won't be until your baby is at least 6 months old before you can expect them to sleep through the night. “Sleeping through the night” at this age typically means 10-12 hours in a single stretch for a 6 month old. For 3-6 Month olds, this means 6-8 hours of continous sleep.
What Sleep Training Method Is The Best?
Below are some of the most common and highly recommended sleep training methods for an infant.
Check And Console (Ferber Method)
This method involves checking on your baby in pre-set intervals, but not feeding them or rocking them to sleep. You must allow them to fall asleep on their own.
Once you’ve gone through your bedtime routine, place your baby down to sleep in their crib. Then leave the room for a set amount of time e.g. 1 minute. Only go back in to reassure and comfort them, if required, without picking the child up if you can help it.
This method is best suited for babies over 7 months old.
Extinction (Cry It Out)
The idea behind this method is to allow your baby to cry without responding to it. This is a controversial sleep training method, but many parents swear by it. It may or may not work for you.
This method is a gradual sleep training method. You sit in a chair next to your baby’s crib as they fall asleep. You then gradually move the chair further and further away from the crib until you are outside of the room.
For more a more detailed explanaintion of the various methods, read our article on Baby Sleep Training Methods.
Keen to find out what sleep training method is best suited to you and your family?
Take our free 6 question assessment and find out why your baby is not sleeping through the night and how to restore peace and tranquility in your home.
When trying to get your child to go to sleep, it’s easy to be hard on yourself. It’s important to remember that this process requires a lot of persistence and determination, and remember that no two babies are alike.
Some sleep training methods may not work for you, so it’s a process of trial and error to discover what works for you and your baby.