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When is the Right Time to Begin Sleep Training My Baby?

When Is the Right Time to Sleep Train Your Baby?

Sleep training your baby is the most effective way to teach your baby how to fall asleep and get through the night without interrupted sleep. Some babies have a natural gift of falling asleep easily and within minutes while others struggle to fall sleep and can rarely make it through the night without waking up several times. Parents wonder often when exactly they can sleep train their baby, and many experts advise that sleep could begin as early as four months. The recommended time frame is to begin sleep training somewhere between the 4-6-month mark.

The subject of my daughter and sleep have always been troublesome since she was born. Even though it’s been a long, exhausting, and difficult road, me and my husband have managed to get her to sleep peacefully throughout the night for the majority of nights. Through intensive sleep training, forming good sleep habits, being consistent and never giving up, she does pretty well with sleeping at this point. However, there do come nights where she just constantly wakes up. Whether this is due to sleep regression, or something else, there are still times where I might give in and just have her sleep in my bedroom, which disrupts her cycle that has been working for quite some time. Remember that cheating and taking the easy way out with your child’s sleep will only make you regret it later on, whether it be the next day, weeks later, or even months down the road.

The guilt pours in the moment I realize that me letting my daughter sleep in our bedroom was not the best idea. Yes, it’ll help me get to sleep faster for THIS night, but it could possibly cascade into a mountain of potential problems for each of the rest of the nights of the week. When you’re tired, cranky, and just want to get to sleep, sometimes taking the easy way out is simply the option that makes the most sense to you at that time. The worst part about a choice like this is that it interferes with consistency and everything that you have established in the past with you and your baby. Remember that at the end of the day, you and/or your SO are the ones who are in charge!

When your baby is around four months old, they will have begun developing a sleep-wake cycle that somewhat similar to most people, but still different, as well as not needing night feedings most nights. This could potentially be a prime moment for your little one to begin the journey of sleep training. Plus, at this age, most babies are prepped developmentally for being capable of sleeping longer throughout the night.

As each and every single baby is unique, some of them might be ready to begin sleep training while others may be resistant. Some might be ready to start as early as four months old, when others might not be ready until several months later or even until they’re a year old! Some babies have no problem sleeping up to seven hours or possibly even longer while others might not be able to get close to that number until they’re much older. Regardless of where you think your baby fits into that, always ask your pediatrician for advice before beginning sleep training for your baby.

Making Preparations for Sleep Training

For you parents out there with premature babies, it’s advisable that you should start with their adjusted due date instead of their actual one. Once again, your pediatrician will be able to help you on this one.

In the event that your baby has reflux, make sure you try to manage and ensure that their reflux is under control before you begin sleep training them. You definitely want to get the okay from your pediatrician to begin sleep training in this situation as well. I know that as an exhausted parent, you probably want to start sleep training ASAP. You also have to remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry always, especially when it comes to your child well-being.

Some pediatricians recommend that you can begin sleep training once a specific weight is reached. However, many parents prefer to begin sleep training based on age rather than weight, due to the fact that this is a better way to judge their developmental progress. The four months mark is a universally agreed starting time due to babies being capable of self-soothing themselves at this age. Experts also agree that there is no specific correct start time for sleep training, and if parents prefer, they can begin sleep training as late as 10 months or even a year old.

Maybe you’ve read up on various sleep training methods while you were pregnant, or even right after birth. Regardless of all the information that you have on the subject or not, you should still talk to your pediatrician before beginning. This is especially true if your baby is not a standard case, i.e. they were born prematurely, or was born with a lower weight. These are special cases that definitely need a consideration from your pediatrician to know the correct time to start sleep training for.

3 Common Sleep Training Methods You Can Use

  1. Ferber Sleep Training – This method of sleep training involves you letting your baby cry for select amounts of time before going in and checking on them. One of the biggest strengths about this method is that it provides parents with lots of flexibility. This is usually a good starting method for most parents because it’s simple, and they can adapt and change to best suit their baby’s individual needs.

    To give a quick rundown of what this method involves, it essentially has you checking in on your baby every fixed amount of time once you put them in their crib for bed. What you do is prepare your nighttime ritual, but wait for them to sleep and then leave the room. If you hear them crying, you’re supposed to wait a fixed amount of time before going in and checking on them. For example, the first night you might want to wait a few minutes before checking in on them, then once those few minutes pass, you check on them when they’re crying and let them know that everything’s okay. Then, leave the room, rinse, and repeat. The following time that they cry, you wait a little longer, and each time after that continue to do so.

Many parents have success with this method because it lets their baby understand that they are there if anything happens, but essentially makes the baby know and understand that it’s bed time and that they need to go to sleep. Each time they cry, you’re supposed to wait just a little bit longer each check-in. For example, maybe the first time you wait 5 minutes, then 10, then you wait 15 before checking on them again when they’re crying…and so on and so forth. What you’re doing is increasing the amount of time before you check on them during each moment that they awaken.

I tried this method and for me personally, it was in the most ineffective for me and my daughter. I believe the main issue is that it took too long for my daughter to get the hang of things, then she would get sick or some other external factor would wake her up, and then disrupt our progress. The concept behind the method has a strong foundation and certainly makes sense, but I just don’t think that my daughter was able to put the two together. I think she was sort of understanding and knew was going on, but it was just too inconsistent out of all the sleep training methods that I tried. However, with that said, just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t rule out that it won’t work exceptionally well for some other parents and their child. Remember to not cross anything out based on personal recommendations because each and every child and baby out there is unique!

  1. Extinction Sleep Training a.k.a. The “Cry It Out Method” – This method is similar to the Ferber method, with one big difference – once you put your baby to sleep, you’re supposed to walk out of the room, close the door, and you’re not supposed to check on them even if they cry. Even if they’re screaming and howling, you’re not supposed to check on them. Not even a peek. The point is to not let your baby see you at all, and if they do, you’ll be wasting an entire night. If you do cheat and check on them, and try at the following night, your baby will probably cry even harder, trying to get your attention to make you check on them. This method might have disagreements between a lot of parents, but the ones that do try it say it is an effective method that does work quickly and results can be seen much faster in comparison to the Ferber method.

    One way to ”cheat” is to use a baby camera so that you can visually check on them without being in the room. This is such a great way to utilize technology to ensure that your baby is safe, while still complying with the sleep training rules and guidelines. This is actually one of the main reasons why I went with this method. I put a baby camera right next to my daughter so I could actually follow the method fully while having my own set of private eyes on my daughter. I saw pretty good results with this method in comparison to the Ferber method. It was way more consistent for me and my daughter.

  2. Baby Wise Sleep Training – This method involves creating an eat-play-sleep routine with controlled feedings right from the get go. How exactly do you put your baby on a feeding schedule? Well basically, what you’re doing is training their bodies to be hungry and eat only at specific times of the day. Let’s say for example that you feed them at 7, then 10, then 1, what you’re doing is training them to be hungry at those specific times, essentially shaping their metabolism. It’s different when they are a newborn, because you’re not supposed to make them wait to feed.

    This is why you’re not supposed to begin sleep training until your baby is at least four months old or at the minimum until your pediatrician gives you the go for it.

This sleep training method involves avoiding bad sleep associations and changing any bad ones, creating proper sleep routines, as well as wake times. The Baby Wise sleep training method tackles every aspect of sleep training and involves a lot of time and effort, which can be very draining for parents. Always remember that there is no specific and universally accepted age to sleep train your baby. 4 to 5 months old can be rough because your baby is still dealing with short naps and still needs nighttime feedings.

With that said, babies seem to respond well at this age if you do begin to choose to implement sleep training, 6 to 7 months old might be a little tricky because babies at that age are transitioning their nap times and lengths. Babies who are around eight months old and older are also at a good starting point to begin sleep training mainly because they are in a good spot to cease their feedings around this age.

I personally began sleep training my daughter when she was about six months old.

Above all else, keep as consistent as possible and don’t give in, regardless of how much you want to.

It’s easy to cheat or take a short cut to check on them when they’re crying. If you do that however, they’ll keep associated crying with you being there. You don’t want this to happen because this is exactly how you don’t ever get them to sleep throughout the night – unless you intervene.

Babies do require lots of sleep. From 4 months old to 11 months old, they need at least 12 to 15 hours of sleep each day, which includes nighttime sleep as well as naps. Eventually, babies will be able to get a majority of these necessary hours at night without interruptions. This is where sleep training comes in. The reason why sleep training is not implemented for babies younger than four months old is that their circadian rhythms have not yet been established at this point. Circadian rhythms are how people know to wake up during the day and go to sleep during the night. Once they do have their own circadian rhythm established, babies are able to get about 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Because each and every single baby is unique, some will certainly react differently to sleep training than others, and some will have an easy time with it while others struggle at every step of the way.

Some Important Factors on The Subject of Implementing Sleep Training for Your Baby

  • Some babies will react extremely well to sleep training while others will fight it along every step of the way. You might be absolutely exhausted beyond what you think you’re capable of, especially if you’re a single parent. Regardless of how tough it is, try to stick to the routine guidelines and be as consistent as you humanly can.

  • Don’t give up if things get tough or don’t go as you expect.

  • Your baby’s ability to self-soothe themselves is absolutely vital before you begin sleep training. Start establishing this by putting your baby down for bed when you notice that they’’re drowsy so that you can encourage them to fall sleep on their own. By doing so, if they do wake up during the night, they’ll be able to get themselves back to sleep completely independently!

    This is one of the best feelings ever I’ve felt so far as a parent. Once you see your hard work finally paying off, all of the headaches, sleepless nights, and the added extra stress, are ALL worth it for finally being able to not worry about waking up from your baby most nights.

  • If you notice that your baby has a sensitive temperament, they will require much more effort to sleep train than others. I always say how every baby is unique…and this is just as true, even in this regard.

  • Sleep training relies heavily on creating schedules that encourage good sleep habits. It also involves following those schedules and guidelines each and every day and night.

Remember that some methods work much better for some babies than others. Before you’re ready to throw in the towel, you should try to give each method an ample amount of time to determine if it works or not. You should also try each and every method to find out one that specifically works best for you and your baby. Take notes and write down what you noticed helped on one night versus another so that you can logically see what’s working and what isn’t. Being aware of these specific things you’ve done that show results, as well as everything else in-between that hasn’t helped, are super important for finding out a solution that fits your baby!


About the Author Elizabeth

Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. My beautiful daughter Alice keeps me awake occasionally...but when I'm busy and can't sleep, I post parenting tips and different ways you can get your baby to sleep soundly through the night, and even naps!