I’ve gotten several questions lately about sleep training. It’s a hot topic in the parenting world that comes with lots of decisions. Should you sleep train? Should you not sleep train? How do you do it? Which method do you use?
There is so much information in the online space regarding sleep training that it can feel overwhelming. I’ve raised four very different babies with their own sleeping patterns, so I would like to share some sleep training tips that have worked for me.
What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training is when parents or caregivers use a method and routines to try and adjust their baby’s sleep behaviors. This may include working towards having your baby soothe itself to sleep initially or after waking in the middle of the night.
Parents decide to sleep train for two major reasons. The first is so that their baby can get more sleep. We all know that babies need a lot of sleep, but many don’t get the recommended amount of sleep for a variety of reasons. The second big argument for sleep training is for the parent. If you have a newborn or a young baby, you’re likely feeling sleep deprived most days and longing for the night where you’ll be able to sleep all the way through. Successful sleep training can bring much needed rest of moms and dads.
My Top 5 Sleep Training Tips
To avoid information overload, let’s stick to 5 great pieces of advice for sleep training your baby.
1. Pick a date
Think of starting sleep training like ripping off a band aide. It may not be pleasant at first, but it’s something you just have to start. If you have a partner, have a discussion with them and get on the same page about your start date. Keep in mind that sleep training may mean several wake-ups throughout the night, so consider taking shifts with your partner if possible.
Some parents begin sleep training their baby as young as four months, while others wait until after a year. Every child and family is different.
2. Choose a method
There are several different options for methods of sleep training. Choose one and try it out to see it works for your family. You’ll find that some will be good for you, while others won’t be. For example, for someone with postpartum depression and anxiety may not find the cry it out method to be best for them because the crying will be triggering for them.
You can Google or find books on each of these methods. Here are three well-known methods with a brief description:
Cry it out method
In this method, you allow your child to have the opportunity to self-soothe themselves. This often involves them crying for spurts of 20 minutes or longer.
No tears method
This is basically the opposite of cry it out. This is a more subtle approach to changing sleep habits. For example, if you usually rock your baby to sleep, each day allow the rocking to go on for less and less time.
This method is popular because it seems to be a mix of other methods. You allow for some crying, but also continue to help your baby feel soothed.
An important piece of this method is timed intervals. You put your baby down in his/her crib, even if they are crying, and return in 5, 10, or 15 minute increments. After the desired amount of time, you go into their room and can soothe them by rubbing their back or singing to them while they are still in their crib.
3. Avoid sleep crutches
Although I think each method has it’s own strengths, I do find that you need to try and eliminate sleep crutches. If you are going to sleep train, it’s difficult to do without eliminating routines such as nursing to sleep or rocking to sleep. If this is the only way your one year old will go to sleep, then they will have a very hard time soothing themselves if they wake up in the middle of the night.
I have recently been going through this as I’ve weaned my youngest off of nursing when she turned one. It was difficult, more so for me emotionally, but now she’s able to begin self-soothing.
4. Create a sleep routine
I feel that a consistent and peaceful sleep routine is one of the best sleep training tips. For babies, a sleep routine I love is taking a warm bath, putting on baby lotion and cozy jammies, reading a book in a chair together, turning the sound machine on, and laying them down in their crib. You could even have some kid-friendly essential oils diffusing, such as lavender.
If you keep your sleep routine consistent and crutch-free, your baby will eventually begin to make the connection between the routine and sleep.
5. Give it time
The last sleep training tip is to give it time. I know you’re tired, and your baby is tired, but changing sleep patterns will take more than a couple days. If you remain consistent and try to stay patient with it, sleep training can really pay off.
Some helpful Instagram accounts that discuss sleep training tips are:
I’ll leave you with this: Sleep training isn’t right for everyone, and that’s okay. Every child has different sleep patterns and some babies may not even need sleep training.
However, remember that sleep is also important for our mental and physical health. If you are finding yourself completely sleep deprived but nervous to sleep train, I’m confident that you will be able to find a gentle sleep training method that works best for you! If you’re interested in learning more on how to help your baby self-soothe, head to my post on how to stop swaddling your baby.
Have you ever been through sleep training? Tell me how it went in the comments!