Every baby is different, but most parents find it’s best to establish some kind of sleep schedule or routine during those early months. This will help set the stage for a better night’s sleep down the road for both you and your baby. Sleep training is the best way to do this. While it can be overwhelming at first, it’s really quite simple and straightforward.
To ease seamlessly into the sleep training process, we’ve compiled a list of some tips and tricks to follow that will help successfully sleep train your baby! Check it out…
1. Choose The Right Time To Start
While every baby is different there are some general guidelines when it comes to choosing the right time to start. You cannot sleep train a newborn baby (0 to 6-weeks) because during this stage they are simply “sleep surviving.” At 2 to 3-months old it’s still too early for sleep training, but you can start incorporating a bedtime routine and healthy sleep habits. The best time to start formally sleep training a baby is between 4 to 6-months. Remember, every child is different.
You should also consider what your schedule is going to be like. Don’t start sleep training if you’re about to go on vacation or you know you’re going to have some significant changes. You’ll want to wait until you know you have three full weeks of uninterrupted changes in time zone, cribs, or bedrooms.
2. Discuss it With Your Partner and Doctor
You should always talk to your pediatrician before starting a new sleep training method. Some of the methods require you to cut back on nighttime feedings, and you don’t want to do this unless your doctor has given you the green light and ruled out any underlying medical conditions your baby may have such as reflux, GERD, sleep apnea, or allergies that could keep them up at night.
This one might seem obvious, but it’s important. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. You both need to agree on when to start sleep training and what method to pick. This will help maintain consistency down the road which is the key to success. No amount of training will work if you and your partner aren’t using the same techniques.
3. Pick a Sleep Training Method
If you’ve already done some research on sleep training, you may have noticed that there is a ton of information out there. There are several different sleep training methods, many of them are similar with minor tweaks, but there are a few more drastic measures. You need to choose one that is right for you and your baby. If one method is too intense for you, then don’t do it. You need to be consistent, so you’ll want to choose a method that you know you can stick with.
Some of the most common sleep training methods are the “Pick-Up-Put-Down Method,” the “Chair Method” or Camping Out, the “Fading Method,” the “Ferber Method” also known as “Ferberization” or “Graduated Extinction,” and the “Extinction Method.” To learn more about each individual one, check out this article on “Common Sleep Training Methods Explained.”
4. Establish a Routine
One of the most important parts of sleep training is to establish a routine. Babies love routine because they want to know what’s next. A structured routine that happens every night before bed let’s them know that it’s time to sleep. You should follow through with a routine before every nap and bedtime.
Try to put a routine in place as soon as possible. While both nap and bedtime should have a routine, they don’t need to be the same length. Nap time routines can last anywhere from 5 to 10-minutes and include swaddling, gentle rocking, and a song. Bedtime routine is usually a bit longer (around 60-minutes) and should include a bath, massage, and a full feed, says Healthline.
5. Set an Early Bedtime
While it might seem more logical to put your baby down to sleep later rather than earlier in order to get them to sleep longer, an early bedtime is the way to go. You’ll want to put your baby down for their evening sleep at around 6:30 to 7 P.M. This may help them sleep longer.
The reason for this is because being overtired can make it harder for a baby to fall asleep, stay asleep, and lead to nighttime wake ups and early rising, says Sleep.org.
6. Manage Their Sleep Environment
Consistency is key. This is one of the most important things to remember while sleep training your baby. While it might not be possible every night, try your best to manage their sleep environment by keeping it the same for every nap and when they go to sleep in the evening. Make sure the room is dark, white noise, and regulate the room temperature.
You want your child to get used to waking up in the same place every day, says Healthline. This is particularly important if you are trying to switch your baby over from sleeping in a bassinet to their new crib.
7. Structure Naps
Part of managing their sleep schedule is to also manage how long they sleep. You want to keep a fairly regular schedule which means you want most naps to be the same length. A good nap should be at least 30 to 45-minutes (ideally more), but no longer than 3-hours.
We all know that a lack of sleep leads to a fussy and tired baby that will have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, but did you know that a baby that gets too much sleep will also have the same problem?! Too much nap time can lead to difficulty falling asleep and an extremely early wake up call the next morning.
8. Prioritize Full Feedings
You can’t sleep train a newborn baby because they need to feed every so often, so it’s not possible to have them sleep through the night. But as they get older, it is possible to drop nighttime feedings. Before doing so, you must consult with a pediatrician. During the first two months of a baby’s life, their feedings generally last anywhere from 20 to 40-minutes. However, babies tend to get tired before they finish their full feeding.
When sleep training your baby, try to make sure your baby gets in a full feeding before putting them to bed. Do your best to keep them awake during the entire feed. Overtime they’ll naturally drop their nighttime feeds and be able to sleep through the night. According to Healthline, if a baby does fall asleep during their feed, spend only 10 to 15-minutes trying to wake them up. If they don’t wake up, that’s okay. Do your best to not let them go more than three feedings in a row without completing a full feed.
9. Put Your Baby Down Awake
Another important aspect of sleep training is that the baby is awake when you lay him or her down. Parents suggests running through your bedtime routine with the lights on, then place your baby down in the crib drowsy, but not asleep. We won’t lie, at first there are likely to be some tears. This will probably go on for the first three nights.
To help soothe them you can stay close by, but don’t pick them up. You can sit in a chair next to the crib and offer gentle reassurances either with your voice or a gentle touch. If your baby becomes hysterical, you can pick him or her up, but be sure to place them back down as soon as they calm down. Stay in the room until they are asleep. Anytime your baby wakes up in the night respond with a similar approach.
10. Don’t Rush and Respond
You’ll likely be tempted to rush into your baby’s room everytime you hear any little peep or noise, but try to avoid doing so. It’s not uncommon for babies to wake up in the night. The same thing happens to adults!
The key is to teach them how to put themselves back to sleep so that you can also get a good night’s sleep. If you hear your child wake up in the night, stand outside their bedroom door to see if they fall back asleep on their own or if they are just whimpering in their sleep.
11. Stay Consistent
In order to make sleep training a success, you have to remain consistent. This goes for whatever method of sleep training you might use (if you’re using one at all). Take the time to read about all the different methods ahead of time so that you know which one will likely work best for you and your baby. This will help avoid needing to switch methods halfway through.
A good example of staying consistent is if you hear your baby cry in the middle of the night. You can go check on him or her to make sure they are okay, but don’t fall back into old bad habits. Once you’ve established that he or she is okay, comfort them from the outside of the door or at their side without picking them up. If you run into a minor setback due to travel or illness, do your best to hop back on the training wagon as soon as possible.
12. Wake Up Routine
Just like you need a routine when going to bed, you should also implement a routine for when your baby wakes up. Again, it’s all about consistency! Healthline suggests using a method like “Eat-Play-Sleep” (EPS).
When they first wake up, they should have a full feed. This is followed by some play time, such as tummy time, errands, or a walk around the neighborhood. Lastly, follow this with more sleep (either nap time or their evening bed time depending on what they woke up from).