When Can You Sleep Train Your Baby

When can you sleep train your baby?

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.

Preparing for When to Sleep Train 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.

Some of the sleep training methods available include the Ferber, babywise, and extinction methods.

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.

If 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.

The babywise sleep training method mainly involves establishing an eat-activity-nap routine combined with parent directed feedings from the beginning. So how does putting your baby on a feeding schedule work? Well essentially what you are doing when you put your baby on a feeding schedule is training their metabolism to eat at specific times. So if you feed them at 7 o’clock, then 3 hours again at 10 o’clock and then again in 3 hours at 1 o’clock etc, etc – then what happens is that your baby’s body, his metabolism is getting used to getting hungry every 3 hours. But see as a newborn when they are latched to your breast, you not supposed to make them “wait” every 3 hours to eat, they are supposed to eat on demand.

When they are newborns the whole point is for them to get used to breastfeeding, and to establish your milk supply. That is why it’s important not to do this until your baby is 4 to 6 months old. Or when your pediatrician says it is okay. The babywise sleep training method also includes proper sleep time routines, wake times, and avoiding any bad sleep associations. The babywise sleep training method is a whole holistic approach to sleep training and involves a lot of parent involvement, meaning you won’t really have time to do anything else in the instance if you are working from home.

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.

When can you sleep train baby depends on how mature and adaptable your baby is;

  • Your baby needs to know how to self-soothe before you sleep train. Putting down your baby when he/she is drowsy encourages him to sleep on his own. This means that when he wakes up during the night, he will soothe himself to sleep and all without crying for you.
  • If your baby has a very sensitive temperament, it will be more challenging to sleep train
  • Sleep training is primarily dependent on the creation of a new schedule meaning bedtime should occur at the same time every night.
  • Some nights will be challenging as you sleep train especially if a parent is traveling or the baby is sick. You need to stick to the routine regardless.
  • You should not become discouraged if the sleep training does not go as expected and your baby undergoes sleep regression.

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.

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I completely understand the ‘mommy guilt’ situation. I only ever want to soothe and calm my little boy but now that I am sleep training him I have to stay strong! I want him to have healthy sleeping habits. Reading your article really helped me regain my energy to continue on with the process.

Yeah it really pulls my heart strings when my son stands up in bed, and with eyes all half asleep he’ll be reaching out to me, and I just can’t…. but I DO! I am not that strong, let me tell you. Right now my son has taken over my bed so that is why I am here online now lol I mean, as a parent, you are going to be flexible with your child no matter what.

Hi Sophia,

Great post! Our kids sometimes give their mom some real trouble when it comes to sleeping. Our daughter seems to rule the roost. She has my wife wrapped around her finger. She stays up late and is tired the next day.

I am definitely going to get my wife to read this and we are going to implement some of these ideas!

Thanks for a terrific post and a very helpful one 🙂


Hi Kevin! Great to see you again 🙂 Yes, my son still gives me trouble at night. He is 18 months old and going through his 18 month sleep regression, so its like “Here we go again” and like your daughter, my son has me wrapped around his finger! I can’t wait to tell him all about how he kept mommy up at night and mommy still loves him 🙂 Thank you sharing!

I am from the old school of baby sleep training, and the only methods that i can really bring to mind is the old lullaby singing method, and the more gently you sing the lullaby the better .Also the gentle rocking of the crib, as this method also works on people riding on a train, it certainly puts me to sleep.

Hi Andrew. People still sing lullabies to their babies, its not considered “old school” so much as is rocking your baby to sleep. If you rock your baby to sleep every night, then your baby gets stuck in a habit of needing to be rocked to sleep every night. Lullaby or not, you will have to hold your baby and rock the entire time. No fun! So that is why they say to place your baby in their bed while drowsy but awake, its a light form of sleep training.

I have been thinking about sleep training my daughter for a couple of weeks now. She will be 5 months old this month and is showing signs that she’s ready and has been sleeping through the night since she was three months old.

I still rock her at night and then put her down when she is sleepy, sometimes she cries, and other times she goes right to sleep. If she cries hard, I go back in and rock her some more. I know that I shouldn’t go back in, and it confuses her, but she is a really happy baby normally and only cries when something is wrong.

What method would you suggest I use to help her go to sleep on her own every night?

Hi Stephanie, thank you for your comment. What method depends how you plan on sleep training your little one. There are several methods and when you pick one you should stick to the plan. So it seems like you want her to sleep on her own in her crib and not co sleep with you. So most importantly, do not go back in your baby’s room when she cries, just let her cry for about 10 minutes at first and then go in if you must and cannot bear to hear her cry ( I feel you! I understand because I also felt that way! ) after you soothe her, and put her back down again, this time wait 20 minutes. The idea is to hold out a little longer each time. Also do not cave ( like I did ) and bring your baby in bed with you. This is going to cause you problems later. So just make sure you feel secure that your baby is old and mature enough to sleep train, and stick to the plan! The sooner you stick to a routine and implement it, the sooner it will sink in and your baby will be sleep trained quicker!

Lol while I’m definitely not a parent yet, I still found this helpful because I learned a few things that I wasn’t aware of. Especially the thing about putting them down so they sleep on their own, that’s pretty interesting actually. Pretty sure this will come in handy in a few years.

I am glad you learned something because indeed when you become a parent one day you will understand the joys of sleepless nights with your baby 🙂 I think all babies keep their parents up in the beginning at least. Sleeping is a learned skill. Hopefully you will be a lucky parent and have a good sleeper who sleeps through the night at 12 weeks! By teaching your newborn the difference between night and day as soon as they are born, can help you speed up the sleep training process.

Lovely website just love the colours it makes me feel so relaxed. There is lots going on with your site, plenty of articles to read and you go into depth with them too, Great. Only one thing I found that I would change on this post is putting some of your products for sale in between some of your writing just to break it up a little, that’s my 2 pennies worth, Keep up your great work.

Huh, I’ve always wondered about whether it was a good idea to give in to a child when they cried, this is a great post about how to train our children to sleep.

I know my parents were that way with me. I learned quickly that I wasn’t going to prevail by crying ;D
Thanks for the tips!

It sounds cruel to do, but when you think about it, the idea is practical in a sense that your child will “learn” that if they cry long and hard enough, you will come, that is not the message you want to send. So to nip that idea in the bud, you have to wait it out. If you cave, and go in to your baby to soothe them and put them back down, it will only send mixed messages. If you decide you can’t listen to your baby cry then there is always co sleeping! The alternative to hearing your baby cry for long periods at night is to co-share the family bed! If that is okay with you then it usually works well with the little ones 🙂

I read in another article you wrote how white noise is very helpful for putting babies to sleep. I find this quite remarkable as I always assumed babies needed peace and quiet in order to sleep . The kind of white noise I find that babies like is rather loud. Any idea why this calms and puts babies to sleep so quick?

Great question Easter, the reason why white noise is a very effective tool in making babies relaxed, calm down, stop crying and fall asleep is that because it mimics the sounds in the utero! That is right! Inside of a mothers womb is very noisy! In fact if you google “womb noises” you can hear on YouTube the WOOSH WOOSH sounds that happen all during the time a baby is growing inside of a mother. Imagine the whole time you are growing up inside your mother’s belly, all you hear is WOOSH WOOSH, WOOSH! WOOSH! Then suddenly when you are born, its MUCH quieter than it was than being in the womb. The silence is actually deafening and very unnerving for babies. You can play a vacuum cleaner, a hair dryer or any loud white noise, even a fan will work, once you understand that babies thrive in that noisy environment it won’t be such a mystery to you wny they like that kind of noise. Read more about white noise and babies here.


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