The Basics of Baby Sleep Training
Sleep training refers to the process of teaching a baby to fall asleep and stay asleep all night. There are a few different methods of sleep training that parents can try. It can be especially useful for babies who have trouble falling asleep for the night. Experts normally recommend that sleep training begin when the baby is between four and six months old. The three main methods of sleep training include no tears, cry it out, and fading. Parents should consult with a qualified medical professional to ensure that their baby is ready for sleep training.
Preparing for Sleep Training
There are several things that parents can do to set the stage for sleep training success. Parents may want to consider the following to help get ready for sleep training.
- Set a consistent bedtime so that the baby isn’t overtired and fighting sleep. Experts generally recommend a bedtime between seven and eight o’clock.
- Create a bedtime routine, which can be started when the baby is as young as a few weeks. Bedtime routines can include lullabies, warm baths, and reading books.
- Create a consistent daytime schedule. Getting a baby up at the same time each morning, feeding them, and having nap time around the same time each day helps to create a feeling of security and allows the baby to relax. Relaxed babies will be easier to get settled for sleep.
Sleep Training Methods
There has been lots of research done regarding sleep training and experts continue to debate the best methods for sleep training. Ultimately, the sleep training method used is less important than consistency. Studies have shown that most sleep training techniques are effective when they are consistently applied.
- Cry It Out – Cry it out methods generally involved putting a baby in their crib while they are still awake and alert, and allowing small periods of crying then comforting, but not picking up the child. Proponents of the cry it out method do not advocate for letting a baby cry indefinitely. The cry it out technique developed by Richard Ferber is the most well known. Ferber, a pediatrician, states that in order to fall asleep and sleep all night, babies need to figure out how to soothe themselves. Ferber believes that one way of teaching a baby how to soothe themselves is to allow them to cry alone for short periods of time.
- No Tears – The no tears approach to sleep training encourages a more gradual approach than cry it out methods. With the no tears approach, babies are soothed to sleep and offered immediate comfort when they cry. William Sears, a pediatrician and author, is one of the leading proponents of the no tears approach to sleep training.
- Fading – Fading falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of sleep training. With fading, parents work to diminish their role in the bedtime routine gradually by sitting next the baby until they fall asleep. Parents then gradually move their seat further from the crib every night. The goal of the fading approach is to allow babies to figure out ways to soothe themselves. Kim West, an author and licensed clinical social worker is a leading proponent of fading.
In addition to the sleep training methods discussed above, there are several other techniques that can be used to sleep train. Some techniques are specifically intended for newborns but aspects of these techniques can be used for older babies if they prove helpful. It is important to keep in consideration that some children are naturally better sleepers while others will need more nurturing and help to get a good night’s sleep. The same sleep training approaches will not work for all babies, even within the same family. Parents should be open to trying different techniques to find the approach that works best for them.
More Information on Baby Sleep Training
- Ten Steps to Sleep Training Success
- The Top Ten Sleep Training Mistakes & How to Avoid Them
- Sleep Training Advice – Newborn to 12 Months
- How to Sleep Training A Baby
- Gentle Infant Sleep Training Techniques
- Finding the Right Sleep Training Method for Your Baby
- Sleep Training Techniques for Babies and Young Children
- Can You Sleep Train Your Baby at 2 Months?
- Common Sleep Training Methods Explained
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Derek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sleepopolis. Derek has tested over 100 of the most popular online mattresses, and scores of other bedding accessories. His testing approach is grounded in objective criteria and personalized in-depth research. Derek lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife Samantha and dog Tibbers.