By now, few parents are strangers to the idea of sleep training. You’ve probably heard the technique thrown around, but maybe you don’t know what it entails. Maybe you know the basics and want to know the steps. Perhaps you’ve tried several methods by now and are looking for another one.
No matter how much you know—or don’t know—about sleep training, this little guide is for you. I have had success with sleep training a couple of my kids, and it has helped our family out a lot. It can be tricky to find a rhythm, but you’ll get there with enough determination and patience.
What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training is a process where you train your child to sleep on their own. There are a few different ways that it can be done, which I will give you more information on throughout this guide.
At What Age Should You Begin Sleep Training?
You should start sleep training a baby when they are about 4-6 months old. You can give it a shot before then if you would like to. The reason that it’s recommended to start around 4-6 months of age is that the baby has a sleep-wake cycle by then. If you are a little bit late to the game and start after the 6-month mark, that’s okay too! 4-6 months is ideal, but the results will vary among babies. It’s also a good idea to ask the baby’s doctor so that you can see if your baby might be ready for sleep training early.
What Should You Do Before Sleep Training?
It’s important to start a bedtime routine as soon as possible. This can be tricky right when a baby is born because the whole household is adjusting to having a new baby in the home. You can wait until the baby is a month or two old if that works better for you and your family.
A bedtime routine might include a bath, a massage, and a bottle right before laying the baby down. You will probably want to experiment with a couple of routines to see what works best for your baby. Other pieces of the routine could be things like books, lullabies, or a few minutes in a baby swing.
Do what you can to set consistent bedtimes for your little one. This will make sleep training easier.
Types of Sleep Training
There are three main sleep training approaches. These include: the cry it out method, the fading method, and the no tears method.
The cry it out method is the most well-known, and most parents choose to start with it. You simply lay the baby down in his or her crib while they are still awake. You let them cry for several minutes, go in to comfort them, and then let them fall asleep on their own. You will have to go into their room to comfort them several times before it works, but they will eventually be able to self-soothe.
The fading method is where the parent sits in the baby’s room while the baby falls asleep. Each night, the parent sits further and further from the crib. This allows for easy comforting. Some parents use this method to reassure the baby every few minutes, which eventually teaches the baby to self-soothe.
The no tears method is similar to the other approaches, but the parent comforts the baby as soon as they begin crying. This is to prevent any tears and gives the parent a chance to connect with the baby. This can create a positive nighttime routine, but it can be a challenge for parents.
How to Sleep Train
1. Choose a method and a start date.
2. Set a bedtime routine.
3. Start by laying baby down while they are awake.
4. Follow through with the guidelines set by the method you choose.
If you are following the cry it out method, you will allow the baby to cry for a few minutes. Then, you will comfort the baby without picking them up. Repeat this until the baby falls asleep.
If you are following the fading method, you will place a chair beside the baby’s crib on the first night. When the baby cries, you can comfort them. Each night, you will move the chair further away from the crib until you are outside of the room.
If you choose to use the no tears method, you will comfort the baby whenever they cry. This will likely become a part of your baby’s bedtime routine, depending on how you decide to comfort them.
It should take some time to nail down a sleeping routine, and you will have to make adjustments. I shared the three most common sleep training techniques, but you will likely make changes to them. I tried to follow them with my babies, but I ended up combining techniques and bringing in my own ideas to make them work. It’s important to take your family’s lifestyle into account when coming up with a sleep plan for your newest family member!