Sleep training is a process by which you teach your baby or child to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. This can be a challenging process, but it can lead to better sleep for both you and your child. In this blog, we will discuss how to sleep train and when to start sleep training.
Sleep training may not look the same for each family as it is based on a family’s unique sleep needs. But before we get started, I just wanted to take some time and explain what sleep training is NOT:
- Sleep training is not letting your baby cry for an extended period of time
- Sleep training is not neglecting your baby’s needs
- Sleep training is not denying your child’s hunger cues at night
- Sleep training is not getting your baby to sleep in line with a schedule that suits you
What sleep training is, it is providing your baby with the necessary tools and skills needed by them to sleep better and on their own and something that their family is comfortable with.
How to Sleep Train
There are several methods for sleep training, and each family will have to decide which method is right for them. Here are some of the most popular methods for sleep training:
Cry It Out (Extinction) Method:
This method involves putting your baby down for sleep and not going back in the room until the morning. This can be hard for parents to listen to their baby cry, but the theory is that the baby will eventually learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.
Graduated Extinction Method:
This method involves gradually increasing the amount of time you wait before going back in the room to comfort your baby. For example, you might start with waiting one minute, then increase to two minutes, and so on.
This method involves a similar approach to the Graduated Extinction Method, but instead of just waiting a set amount of time, you go in and comfort your baby for a few minutes before leaving the room again.
Bedtime Fading Method:
This method involves gradually pushing back your baby’s bedtime until they fall asleep easily, and then gradually moving their bedtime back to a more reasonable time.
This method involves picking up your baby when they cry and putting them back down when they stop crying. The idea is to gradually increase the amount of time you keep your baby down until they fall asleep on their own.
When to Start Sleep Training
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents start sleep training between four and six months of age. This is because by this age, most babies have developed a sleep-wake cycle and can sleep for longer periods of time.
It’s almost a trick question. There’s no one “sleep training age” — the answer will be different for every baby and every family! Plus, there’s a different question you should be asking first: How do I know if I’m ready for sleep training as a parent?
What to check to determine if you’re ready for sleep training:
- What will my schedule look like for the next few weeks? Will there be any trips or big events that may disrupt sleep training?
- Have I done my research on the method of sleep training I will be using and am I confident I understand how to implement it?
- Am I fully prepared to commit to the process and be consistent for the next 2-4 weeks and will I be able to consistently follow a sleep plan?
- Have I discussed sleep training with my partner and is the family on board? Is everything willing to commit to making it a success?
- Am I willing to make changes as is needed for the sleep training?
Yes, your baby needs to be ready for sleep training, but more so you need to be ready. Sleep training requires a big commitment from everyone involved and you’ll want to be sure that you are logistically ready to proceed with sleep training. It is also best to ensure that there are minimal to no disruptions during the period of sleep training. This means no trips, huge events that may disrupt the process
At UpChild, we start the formal training from the age of 14-15 weeks or around 4 months old. At this age, babies are typically old enough to learn to self-soothe. They are also less mobile at this stage and feeding is more established by this agel. Some babies may not even need to feed as much at night, some may even go through the night without needing a feed. Your baby’s sleep cycle also starts to mature as they are passing through the 4 month sleep regression (your baby may go through this regression before or after the 4 month mark as each baby is different) and their body clock is more regulated as well.
Once you’ve decided that you’re ready for sleep training, you’ll need to determine if your baby is ready too. First, get clearance from their pediatrician to rule out any other health or medical factors that could be playing a role in your child’s sleep.
- We are more keen for shaping newborn’s sleep habits instead of training at this age. Newborns need to be fed about 8-12 times every 24 hours, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends newborns be fed whenever they show signs of hunger. Additionally, in the first few weeks, newborns don’t have a sense of day or night, so they cannot stick to a sleep schedule. We also have a newborn education session which is more for shaping a good routine and habits from the start but is not full-on sleep training. Sometimes it works perfectly just like that without the need to train at all.
- 0-6 weeks old: you can focus on ensuring that babies are not overtired and get loads of sleep.No need to stress over schedules, routines, or training here.
- 7-12 weeks old: start to incorporate a set of routines and set up a schedule that works for your baby and the family.
However, it’s important to note that every baby is different, and some babies may not be ready to sleep train until they are older. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that your baby is healthy and gaining weight before starting sleep training.
Before starting sleep training, you should also make sure that your baby starts to build some consistent sleep schedule and that they have a consistent bedtime routine. This will help your baby learn to associate certain cues with sleep and make the sleep training process easier.
Tips for Sleep Training
Here are some tips to make the sleep training process easier:
Whatever method you choose for sleep training, be consistent with it. This means sticking to the same routine every night and not deviating from it.
Sleep training can take several weeks, so be patient with the process. Your baby may not learn to sleep through the night right away, but with consistency, they will eventually learn.
Use White Noise:
White noise can be helpful for drowning out other noises and creating a calming environment for your baby.
Use a Sleep Sack:
A sleep sack can help your baby feel secure and prevent them from waking up due to the startle reflex before they can roll. It is also part of the routine to cue the child that the bedtime is here soon. As age grows, it also prevent them from climbing out of the cot as well.
Make sure your baby’s sleep environment is calm and quiet, and avoid over stimulating activities before bedtime.
In closing, sleep training can be a challenging process, but it can lead to better sleep for both you and your child. When deciding how to sleep train, it’s important to choose a method that works for your family and to be consistent with it. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that your baby is ready for sleep training before starting and that you have a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine in place. With patience and consistency, your child will be sleeping well in no time.
I was recently interviewed by Sheila Sim during an Instagram live. We discussed sleep training and I got to answer some FAQ’s around it. You can watch the full video here.