When can I sleep train my baby?

When you have a new baby, you expect to get a little less sleep at night. After a few months you may begin to wonder when your baby will sleep through the night. You might even have well-meaning friends and family tell you that you should start sleep training your baby. Sleep training is the process of helping your baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Although your baby might have an easy time doing this, other babies struggle sleeping through the night. If your baby isn’t sleeping well, it might be time to sleep train.

You (and your doctor) know best

Discussions on sleep training can turn negative quickly. Every parent has an approach they feel works best. Some parents are big proponents of the cry it out method, while others don’t believe in sleep training at all. No matter how you feel about sleep training, remember that you know your baby best. Even two siblings may have different sleep needs. Take your cues from your baby, and ask your child’s pediatrician before attempting sleep training

When do I start sleep training?

Although it can vary, most babies are ready to begin sleep training between four and six months old. By four months, the majority of babies have started to drop night feedings, and sleep wake cycles are becoming more regular. At your child’s regular checkups, discuss your baby’s sleep needs and if your baby is ready to begin sleep training.

Introduce good sleep habits

Newborn babies sleep whenever they get the chance. As your baby gets older you may be in the habit of letting them sleep however and whenever they want. One of the first things you can do to promote healthy sleep in your baby is introduce good sleep habits. Try these healthy habits:

  • Develop a bedtime routine. Read a book together. Take a bath. Enjoy cuddles. You can start a bedtime routine as early as you like.
  • Follow a schedule and pick a bedtime. Newborn sleep is unpredictable, but it’s critical to choose a time when your baby will officially “got to bed”. This will help your baby start establishing a good internal clock. Try to keep daytime activities on a predictable routine too.

Begin sleep training

When it comes to choosing a sleep training method, there are plenty of options. You can choose what will work best for your family. Here are three of the most common methods. 

  • The “cry it out” or Ferber method might be some of the most commonly debated sleep training methods. The idea is that babies need to learn to soothe themselves. This is done by putting your child to bed awake and leaving the room for a short amount of time. Most children will cry. If you use this technique you will allow short periods of crying, then comfort (not pick up) your baby periodically. Others choose to let their babies simply cry themselves to sleep without going in repeatedly to comfort the child until the child falls asleep. Usually after 2-3 nights of crying themselves completely to sleep they will be successfully sleep trained.
  • Fading, camping out, or chair method. With this method, you gradually diminish the role you play in your child’s bedtime routine. At first, you might sit right next to your child’s crib until they fall asleep. The next night you would place your chair a little closer to the door. Gradually, you’ll move your chair each night until it’s out the door. This allows your child the chance to learn to soothe themselves, without being alone.
  • No tears method. This approach is a more gradual way of encouraging your baby to sleep. When your baby cries, you offer comfort right away.

Keep in mind you don’t need to sleep train your child. If your family is happy with how your baby is sleeping, there’s no need to change anything. When you choose to sleep train your child, it could be as little as a few days to see results, while other babies might take weeks or even months for consistent results. Follow your child’s cues and discuss any problems or concerns with your doctor.