Sleep training involves helping your baby learn how to sleep and make it through the night. Some babies can fall asleep easily and quickly while others find it hard to fall asleep or get back to sleep after waking up. Parents often wonder ‘when can you sleep train baby?’ and experts advise on sleep training any time between 4 months and 6 months old.
My son has had challenges with sleep since he has been born. We have successfully managed to get him sleeping willingly, peacefully and fully throughout the night, when a *blip* happens such as a sleep regression, or an illness, or I might give in one night and allow him to come in bed with me, then the next night he wants to come in bed with me again which starts a whole cycle of problems. Mommy guilt reins and I find myself allowing my son to dictate the rules at bedtime I feel so silly when I realize this happening. When you are a sleep deprived mom, you make silly decision I understand. But the most important thing to remember is being consistent so you don’t confuse baby and yourself about who is running the show here.
By the time your baby is 4 months old, he/she has started developing a regular sleep-wake cycle and stopped most night feedings. This is an indication that your little one may be ready to embark on sleep training. At this age, most babies are at a developmental stage whereby they can sleep for longer during the night. Each baby has different needs, as some of them may be ready to sleep train at a much later age. Other babies can sleep for up to 7 hours or even longer when they are younger while some will not be able to do so until they are older. Regardless, it always better to seek your pediatrician’s advice before sleep training your baby.
If your baby was born prematurely and you still don’ t know when to sleep train him/her, it is advisable to start with the adjusted due date instead of the actual due date. If you gave birth at around 38 weeks, you will not need to adjust the date because your baby will be on track in terms of development.
If your baby has reflux, you should ensure the reflux is first under control or being managed. You should also ensure your pediatrician gives permission to proceed in terms of your baby’s development and growth so you can start sleep training. As an exhausted parent, you may want to start sleep training as soon as possible. Some pediatricians will tell you that infants are ready for sleep training after achieving a specific weight but it is much better to wait until your baby is at the developmental stage allowing them to self-soothe at around 4 months old. As much as 4 months is an ideal time to start sleep training your little one, experts will tell you that your baby will not be at a loss if he/she starts sleep training at 10 months, 12 months or older.
You might have read up on different sleep training methods in the early weeks after birth or during pregnancy but you should always speak to your pediatrician before starting. If, for example, your baby was born prematurely or is gaining weight slowly, she might not be prepared to drop a nighttime feeding. Instead, your baby might need to adopt a sleep-training schedule suited to some of the nighttime wakings.
The Extinction sleep training method, also known as the cry-it-out method. It entails putting your baby to sleep like this: you put the baby in the bed, you walk out the room, close the door, that’s it the end. If your baby cries, you do not go back in. At all. Do not “check in” on your baby. Do not even PEEK. Because if your baby even sees you ONCE that is it, the whole “training” session is ruined, and you will subsequently have to wait a few weeks before attempting to try this again. It you attempt to try it the next night, your baby will cry doubly harder, twice as much because they think you are going to come and peek in on them. So this method is usually considered brutal, but most parents say it is effective. Quicker results are also seen.
The Ferber method is often mistaken for the extinction method but the difference is that you let your baby cry for only “periods at time” before you go in and check on your baby. Usually this method is more flexible. More parents attempt this method first to see if their baby will get the point and go to sleep. What happens is that the very first night you put baby down, you give baby a kiss, maybe read a bedtime story, and give cuddles, and then you put baby in their crib, give them a kiss & say goodnight and then leave the room. When baby cries, this time the first night you wait 3 minutes – that’s it, you let them cry for 3 minutes and then you go back in the room, check on them, tell them it’s okay, and then leave the room again and this time wait 5 minutes…. after that, you wait 10 minutes…. Some parents say this method works because they are able to let their baby know that they are there, while in part trying to make baby understand that it’s bedtime. The second night, on the first wait you wait 5 minutes this time, and then 10…. The third night when you put baby down, you say goodnight, give a kiss and this time, you let baby cry for 15 minutes before going in…. As you can see, everyday you extend the amount of time before you go in and check in on your baby. Its pretty much like that. But I feel like it isn’t effective because I personally have used this method before and it took me months! When I finally got my son sleep trained, he would get sick or a sleep regression would hit and then we would be back at square one. I am telling you from experience, if you are thinking of either the extinction or Ferber method that to just go ahead and save yourself the headache and heartache, do the extinction method first. I believe the Ferber method sends mixed signals to baby. Baby has no clue what is going on and pretty much this is going to be more stressful for you both.
There is no easy age to sleep train your baby. Ages 4 to 5 months can be challenging because your baby is battling with short naps and still has to get feedings during the night. However, so many babies at this age have done amazing with their sleep training. Ages 6 to 7 months can also be complicated because the baby is approaching the 3-2 nap transition. Babies aged 8 months and up are also at a good age to start sleep training particularly when they are in a place to drop their feedings.
I personally attempted to sleep train my son when he was 6 months old. My pitfall was that my son & I share a room so it is very difficult to sit outside the door while waiting for him to stop crying and go to sleep. It was a big struggle especially since the people in my household also couldn’t bear the sound of him crying either. I would cave in and go in the room and let my son sleep next to me. It was sending him HUGE mixed signals and making it especially hard for me. The most important thing that I learned is that you need to STAY consistent or else you will have a situation like mine; where it took months to finally take the initiative to NOT go in the room when baby is crying. Your baby will simply learn, that all they have to do is cry for a little bit longer and you will come. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen.
Babies require a lot of sleep. When they are aged between 4 to 11 months old babies, require 12-15 hours of sleep a day, which includes naps and nighttime sleep. At some point, babies can get in most of these hours at night consecutively. Sleep training is crucial for this. Sleep training does not work when the baby is too young because it typically takes them roughly 3-6 months to establish their circadian rhythms. This circadian rhythm is what makes the baby want to keep awake during daytime and sleep during nighttime. However, after this occurs babies can get in 9 to 12 hours of sleep every night. Even though each baby has a different reaction to sleep training, there are different points to keep in mind when taking up a specific sleep training method.
Even after you have determined when to sleep train your baby, ensure you go with a sleep training method that works for everyone, your baby included. You should try to maintain flexibility about how you use it and monitor your baby’s reaction carefully. If the baby is resistant or there is a change in his/her behavior and mood, stop and give it some time before choosing another method or trying again.