Sleep Training: The Complete Guide For New Parents
As a new parent, one of your main priorities is sleep — for your sake and your baby’s. But because the saying “sleep like a baby” isn’t always accurate, babies often need some help in this area. If this is the case for your little one, you may want to consider sleep training.
In this article, the experts at Newton Baby provide a complete guide for sleep training your baby so that you and your little one can get the restful sleep you need.
What Is Sleep Training?
Sleep training is the process of teaching your baby how to fall asleep on their own...and stay asleep. If you’ve recently given birth, you know how important that is!
With sleep training, you have several options for helping your little one learn this skill — from letting your baby cry it out to not allowing them to cry at all, and everything in-between. Try different methods to see what works best for your baby.
Don’t become discouraged if your little one doesn’t catch on right away, because what works for one baby may not work for another. Just remember to keep your long-term sleep training goal in mind — everyone sleeping through the night.
What Sleep Training Is Not
Sleep training looks different for every family. And sleep training can even look different for each baby within the same family! You have to decide what you’re comfortable with and what works best for your lifestyle.
Before we go into the different types of methods and tips for sleep training, let’s go over what sleep training is not.
Sleep training is not letting your baby cry it out if you don't want them to. That’s the great thing about sleep training. There are different methods to choose from, including creating your own method.
Letting your baby cry it out is all based on your level of comfort. If you’re not comfortable with your baby crying for more than 20 minutes, then give yourself a limit. There’s flexibility within each method.
Sleep training is not neglecting your baby’s needs. You know your little one’s different cries. If you hear a certain cry, it could mean they're experiencing pain or a fever either from teething or an infection.
Sometimes your baby may need a diaper change. Accidents and leaks happen in the middle of the night. Take this into account when your baby wakes up crying.
Sleep training is also not denying your baby food when they are hungry at night. Your baby may still have to eat once or twice throughout the night while you’re sleep training. And that’s OK!
Finally, sleep training is not weaning your baby from their middle-of-the-night feedings. That’s a completely different subject.
Look at sleep training as this: giving your baby the ability to fall asleep and sleep through the night on their own in a way that your family is comfortable with.
When Is Your Baby Ready For Sleep Training?
The best time to start sleep training your baby is when they drop their middle-of-the-night feedings or when they’re able to self-soothe, which is typically between four and six months.
At this point, your baby has established somewhat of a routine sleep-wake cycle, but you may experience difficulty with sleep training if your baby still wakes up for feedings in the middle of the night.
Talk with your child’s pediatrician before sleep training your baby, especially if they were born premature or are slow to gain weight.
How Long Does It Take To Sleep Train Your Baby?
Some parents have found success after one night of sleep training, while others only succeed after a month or more. Every baby is different. But experts say that, on average, it takes about three to seven days to achieve successful sleep training results.
The key to succeeding in a week is consistency. Your baby won’t learn to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own after only seven days if you do not keep trying night after night.
That said, if you’ve been sleep training consistently for more than a week and your baby is still having trouble, reach out to your pediatrician to see if there’s an underlying issue that needs to be resolved.
Should Your Baby Sleep In A Different Room While Sleep Training?
Your baby doesn’t have to sleep in a different room when you’re sleep training. Remember, the AAP recommends that babies share a room with their parents until they’re six months old. So if you’re sleep training your four-month-old, it will be difficult to do so in a different room.
What’s more important is that you separate from your baby, staying out of their sight. Putting your little one’s bassinet on the opposite side of the room where they can’t see you is helpful when sleep training breastfed babies.
Sleep Training Methods
There’s no right or wrong way to sleep train your baby. With the amount of information available today, you have a variety of options.
However, as with any parenting choice, there are pros and cons to each sleep training method. You’ll need to weigh these pros and cons to determine which method to try with your baby.
With the cry-it-out technique, you’ll let your baby cry and self-soothe until they fall asleep — no matter how long it takes. Do not interfere while your baby is crying.
The idea is that, eventually, your baby will stop crying, learn to fall asleep on their own, and sleep through the night.
This method is the opposite of the cry-it-out method and is also known as the no-cry method. With this technique, you will gradually shift your baby’s sleep habits.For example, if your baby needs to be rocked before bedtime, rock less and less until you’re able to put them down without any rocking or crying.
Another type of no-tears method involves substitution. If your baby falls asleep while nursing, for instance, try moving up the time of their last breastfeeding session and then reading a book right before lying them down for the night.
For this sleep training method, grab a blanket and pillow, mattress, or chair and lie or sit next to your baby’s crib. Gently pat or rub your little one until they fall asleep.
After a couple of nights of this technique, simply sit or lie next to your baby without any prompts until they fall asleep on their own.
Sleep Lady Shuffle (Chair Method)
The sleep lady shuffle method is especially useful for children with separation anxiety.
As the name suggests, sit in a chair next to your baby’s crib. Every few minutes, move your chair back farther so your little one can still see you, but continue the process until you are no longer in sight.
You can verbally soothe your baby, pat their back, or even pick them up with this method. This way, your baby still knows you’re around and can gradually become accustomed to the fact that you won’t be present all night.
Repeat each night until you’re able to lay your baby down and walk out of the room without tears.
The goal of this method is to make your baby drowsy enough that they’ll fall asleep on their own. The procedure includes putting your baby down in their crib while they’re still awake (but sleepy) and coming back to check on them at gradual intervals.
When you come back to check on your baby, you can pick them up for a few minutes and comfort them. You may have to go in and out of your baby’s room several times, but eventually, your little one will fall asleep.
Similar to the pick-up-put-down method, this one involves putting your baby down even if they’re crying and coming back to check on them at timed intervals.
However, when checking on your baby as part of the Ferber Method, do not pick them up. You can soothe them, though. Eventually, the timed intervals will increase and you won’t need to check on your baby as often.
Other names for the Ferber Method include:
- Timed-interval sleep training
- Modified sleep training
- Graduated extinction sleep training
Create Your Own Method
If you’ve tried all of the above methods and none of them worked, create your own method! Or maybe you want to modify and mix and match some of them to create a method that works for you and your baby.
Go right ahead!
You know your baby best. There’s no one right method for sleep training. That’s the beauty of it. So feel free to create your own sleep training method!
Sleep Training Tips
Keep Your Baby Full During The Day
Sometimes your baby wakes up throughout the night because they’re hungry. Ensure that your little one is getting an adequate amount of food throughout the day so they don’t get hungry in the middle of the night.
Maintain A Consistent Bedtime Routine
You can start a bedtime routine for your baby as young as six weeks, and it’s never too late to start if your baby is older! A consistent bedtime routine includes a consistent bedtime. This means putting your baby to bed at the same time every night.
An example of a bedtime routine would be to bathe your baby, protect their skin with lotion, get them dressed for bed, read a story or sing a song, and then lay them down. These are just a few ideas.
Whatever you do, stay consistent with the bedtime routine you’ve established for your baby, and keep it the same time every night. Your baby will catch on after a while and recognize when it’s time for bed.
Maintain A Consistent Daytime Routine
Just as you put your baby to bed at the same time every night, make sure you’re waking them up at the same time every morning. The predictability of their daytime schedule helps their nighttime schedule.
When your baby wakes up in the morning, open the blinds and curtains and let the light in. At night, close them and create a darker environment for your baby. Sooner or later, your baby will catch on to their days and nights.
Also, fill your baby’s day with engaging activities. Play with your little one during the day, read and sing to them, and get them outside in the sunshine for a bit!
Keep A Sleep Log
Consider keeping a log of the times your baby naps and the time(s) they wake up at night, as well as how long they’re awake. This can give you a better idea of how many hours per day your baby sleeps and when you need to address their sleeping habits.
For example, if your little one wakes up at night but only takes a few minutes to fall back asleep on their own, then you won’t need to do anything other than wait.
Create A Comfortable Environment
Your baby’s environment plays a huge role in their quality of sleep.
Be sure to keep your little one’s room temperature cool but not cold. If it’s too hot, your baby may get uncomfortable and sweaty, which could wake them up in the middle of the night.
Additionally, your baby may not be able to fall asleep or stay asleep because of sunlight creeping through the window. If this is the case, it’s an easy fix. Simply move the position of your baby’s crib or hang blackout curtains.
Finally, the type of mattress your little one sleeps on — including the firmness and breathability of the mattress — affects their quality of sleep. Choosing the right mattress can help make your baby’s environment more comfortable and, as a result, lead to better sleep.
Newton Baby’s Crib Mattress reduces the risk of suffocation and helps regulate your baby’s body temperature throughout the night so they can sleep comfortably and soundly.
Maybe you’ve made huge strides in sleep training and your baby is finally sleeping through the night, but then they start teething. That’s OK!
Your little one will eventually get back to those good sleep habits, so stay flexible with them, especially in the following situations:
- Daily schedule changes
- Daylight savings time
If your baby does get off-track for a few days or a week, don’t get discouraged. You may have to retrain your baby, but there’s good news! You already know your little one can do it — and so do they.
After getting back into a routine once a sickness passes or you’re home from vacation, your baby will begin to remember what they learned not so long ago.
Avoid The Comparison Trap
Every baby’s sleep needs are different, so what worked for one child may not work for another — even among siblings.
Don’t compare yourself with what friends or family members are doing, even if they’re having success and you’re not. It takes time, so be patient and avoid falling into the comparison trap.
Know When To Toss The Swaddle
Swaddling is a technique used to help babies fall asleep and stay asleep. Your baby’s startle reflex can wake them up, which is why swaddling is a good idea for young babies. However, once your baby starts rolling over, it’s time to stop using the swaddle.
Once you do stop, your baby’s hands are freed up. This means they can suck their thumb, put their hands behind their head, or rub their head to help them fall asleep.
Pay Attention To Sleep Clues
Some babies rub their eyes, yawn, or start to get fussy around the time they’re ready for bed. Pay attention to your baby’s sleep clues, as they may differ from the ones listed. When you notice these clues, start their bedtime routine right away.
Aim For Healthy Naps
Naps are an important part of your baby’s daytime routine. It’s easy to think that if your baby doesn’t take a nap or if they take shorter naps they’ll sleep longer and better at night. This actually isn’t true.
Skipping or shortening your little one’s nap time can actually make them more tired. And an overtired baby is hard to get to sleep. Most babies take at least two naps per day until they’re around one-year-old, when they drop down to one nap a day.
These naps usually last about one and a half hours, give or take. Aim for healthy naps during the day for better sleep at night.
Step Up Your Baby Gear Game
Your baby’s gear can be a gamechanger in your sleep training journey. Baby gear is an investment that pays off in the long-run.
Having the right bassinet, crib, or crib mattress — like Newton Baby’s Crib Mattress — can make a huge difference in the quality of your baby’s sleep.
Additionally, keep a close eye on your baby while sleep training with an effective baby monitor. Choose one with a clear picture that allows you to monitor your baby closely so you can see if you’re making any headway with their sleep training.
Use A Sound Machine
Most babies can sleep through loud noises. Older kids playing in the house, doors opening and closing, vacuum running — you name it, they can sleep through it.
But some babies can’t. Some babies wake up to disruptive noises like the ones listed above.
To keep this from happening, use a sound machine wherever your baby is sleeping to help drown out the noise. If you do use a sound machine, choose one that stays on all night. The sudden, unexpected silence could wake your baby up.
Put Your Baby To Bed While They’re Awake But Drowsy
To help your baby learn to fall asleep (and stay asleep!) on their own, put them to bed while they’re awake. If you’re rocking them or feeding them until they fall asleep, they won’t be able to learn how to do it on their own.
We know it’s so tempting to sit there and cuddle your sweet baby until they fall asleep. Every now and then calls for moments like that, but if you’re doing it all the time, your baby will have a hard time learning how to self-soothe.
And once they do learn how to self-soothe and put themselves to sleep, it’s easier for them to fall back asleep on their own when they wake up in the middle of the night.
And keep in mind, it’s completely normal for babies to wake up in the middle of the night. But this way, they learn how to fall back asleep without any intervention.
(Note: Remember to pay attention to your baby’s cry. If they wake up in the middle of the night and they’re crying and not falling back asleep, it might be a good idea to check on them for a diaper change or fever.)
Choose A Sleep Training Method
Before you start sleep training your baby, do some research and discuss with family members what everyone thinks is the best method to start with. It may not work right away and you may have to switch up some things, but this way you have a plan in place.
Things To Consider Before Sleep Training Your Baby
Before you start sleep training your baby, it’s important to look ahead. You don’t want anything disrupting their sleep patterns during this time.
Here are some things to consider before you start sleep training your baby:
- Do you have any trips or events coming up in the next few weeks that may disrupt sleep training?
- Can you be consistent with bedtime for the next few weeks?
- Do you know what sleep training method you want to use?
- What are you comfortable and not comfortable with?
- What is your limit on crying?
- Have you discussed sleep training with your significant other and other family members?
- Have you set reasonable (and flexible) expectations for bedtime and what you are and aren’t going to do when your baby starts crying?
Eat, Sleep, and Choose The Right Mattress
When sleep training, don’t expect perfection right away. Celebrate the little victories. Remember that every child is different, even within each family. Try different methods to determine what works best for you and your baby.
Keep in mind the connection between your baby’s quality of sleep and their environment. Choose a mattress — like Newton Baby’s — that is designed with your baby’s health, safety, and comfort in mind to ensure optimal results with sleep training!
At Newton Baby, we know that sleep is important for both you and your baby. Our mattresses offer the perfect combination of cushy firmness and good air circulation to help your little one fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Even better? Newton Baby's Crib Mattress Pad provides waterproof protection without interfering with breathability, allowing your baby to sleep safer, cleaner, and more comfortably.
So what are you waiting for? Put your baby down and go catch some Zs!