Baby Sleep Training: A to Z
Reviewed by Diane Dauphinais, Certified Sleep Specialist on 5/15/2020
New parents go through an initial inevitable lack of sleep phase because their baby wakes multiple times during the night. We all know what lack of sleep can do to our body, mind, and relationship and yet there are ways to improve your sleep even if you have an infant. Did you know that you can easily train your baby to fall asleep alone? Sleep training your baby will also help him/her to fall back asleep alone when they wake up during the night. Yes! We’re not kidding!
Babies go through phases where they will sleep well through the night for a few weeks and then start waking up and have difficulty falling back asleep. Some babies develop sleep habits that aren’t good for their overall sleep patterns and it takes some work to ease them out and into better sleep habits.
You might have heard about sleep training for adults but a different method can also be applied to help a baby sleep better. Sleep training methods exist to help show your baby that they can self soothe and fall asleep without being rocked, breastfed, or pacified.
Ready to get your full nights’ sleep back? Read on to learn how to sleep train your little bundle of joy.
What is sleep training?
Sleep training is about teaching your baby to fall asleep on her own. When she can achieve this she can also fall back to sleep easily when she wakes up in the night.
Several methods exist to teach your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep. The topic is a heated one with both sides of the fence filled with people who approve of the concept and others who don’t believe that it’s a good idea to use these methods on babies.
There is not only one method or technique involved in sleep training. There are actually a few that you can use to try to get your little one to go to sleep. There is a trial and error period and an adaptation period for a baby to get used to the routine.
Many people believe that it’s difficult to break a bad sleep habit, but it is not impossible. What do you think your munchkin will be looking for at 2 am when every time she wakes up, she falls asleep with a pacifier? And what happens if she can’t find it? Now everyone in the house is awake.
We’ll go through a few methods, and as a parent, it’s important that you trust your instincts in regards to these sleep training techniques.
When To Start Sleep Training
Instilling a consistent bedtime routine with your baby when she is 6 weeks old is a good idea. Bath time, story time, bedtime. Whatever routine you choose, be consistent every night. Also, try to be consistent with the hour of naps and bedtime every day. This will form a daily routine for your little one and make it easier when you want to start sleep training.
You can start sleep training with your baby anywhere between the ages of 4 and 6 months old. You can start sleep training methods when you notice that your child is sleeping for longer periods at night. This is usually a sign that he or she will get used to a routine more easily. Don’t try to force any technique if you think that your baby is not ready.
You should consult with your doctor or pediatrician to get their opinions on your approach.
Methods of Sleep Training
There is a multitude of methods for getting your baby to fall asleep alone. The most important thing to do is to choose one that you think your baby will adapt to well. You are the one who knows your baby best!
The main thing to consider when starting sleep training is to be consistent. Choose a method and stick with it. Obviously, if your baby doesn’t adapt well at all after several weeks you may want to think about switching to another method.
Here are some of the main sleep training methods that have proven to be successful with parents.
Cry it Out Method
This is one of the most controversial because it involves leaving your baby to cry for longer periods of time without being soothed or consoled. Put your baby into her bed after the bedtime routine and leave the room. This takes a lot of patience because there usually is a lot of crying involved at the beginning. The parents who have successfully used this method claim the crying diminishes as the nights' progress.
You may already have started a routine that involves your baby falling asleep somewhere else than in her bed. You may have been rocking her to sleep every night? If so, keep the routine but diminish the rocking time every night until there is no more rocking.
This may take quite some time and will require some patience to be successful.
This method is where you sit in a chair close to your baby’s crib while she is getting to sleep and move it away gradually every night. Eventually you will no longer be in the room and your baby will have learned to put herself to sleep alone but not completely “alone”.
The point of using sleep training is to get your baby to fall asleep alone in her bed. You don’t want to have your baby fall asleep somewhere like in your arms and then put them down. She needs to learn to put herself to sleep alone in her bed.
Using the pick-up/put-down method you put your little one in her bed while she is still awake but you stick around. Let her cry for a while and pick her up occasionally to soothe her. Make sure she is still awake when you put her back into her crib.
- Consistency is Key
Give it a week before switching techniques because you think it isn’t working.
- Stick to the bedtime routine
Create a bedtime routine that your child will expect every night before going to bed. No surprises!
- Be patient
This may be the hardest thing to do when your baby has been crying for 15-20 minutes straight. It is important to make sure your baby is comfortable and not crying because of hunger or any other discomfort.
- Be prepared for setbacks/adjustments
Of course, life happens. Your child may get sick, you may go on a family vacation or anything else that gets you out of your routine. Just remember to get back into it as soon as possible. Be flexible.
- Create your own
You know your baby best and if mixing a few methods is what it takes, then go ahead! The basic rule is that your baby needs to hit the bed still awake and fall asleep with no external aid. So when she wakes up at night she will fall back to sleep without you.
Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed and decide to consult your doctor or a specialist who can help with sleep training your baby. The sleep consultant will analyze your baby’s sleep pattern and make some suggestions to help you guide her to better sleep.
Ssssshhh...Baby Is Sleeping!
Try any one of these methods or as many as it takes until you find something that works for you and your baby. Remember to trust your instincts but to also be consistent.
"Be prepared for one style of nighttime parenting to work at one stage of an infant's life, yet need a change as she enters another stage. Be open to trying different approaches. Follow your heart rather than some stranger's sleep training advice, and you and your baby will eventually work out the right nighttime parenting style for your family." - The Baby Sleep Book by William Sears
A good and quiet night’s sleep, finally!
Your baby will grow up with good sleep habits that she will take into her adult life. That is quite a good gift for life to give your child!