The Basics of Baby Sleep Training

Table of Contents

What is 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.

When to Start Sleep Training?

Experts normally recommend that sleep training begins when the baby is between four and six months old. Around four months of age, a baby’s sleep is reduced from 16-17 hours to about 14-15 hours a day, this is called sleep regression. During this time, your child may wake up more frequently, sleep for a shorter amount of time, and start fussing more often. This is an important stage in your child’s growth, and it’s important to be proactive in teaching your baby healthy sleeping habits.

Note: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t be taken as medical advice, and it shouldn’t take the place of medical advice and supervision from a trained professional. If you feel you may be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see your healthcare provider immediately.

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.

Baby sleep training is all about consistency.

Still got questions? Check out our Ultimate Guide To Sleep Training Your Baby

Popular 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.

The Cry It Out Method – Cry it out methods generally involves 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.

The No Tears Method – 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.

The Fading Method – 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 to 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.

The Ferber Method – Similar to the cry it out method, the Ferber method is letting your child cry it out, but only for a set period of time. This method is a type of graduated extinction, which involves timed intervals of letting your child cry before comforting them, then gradually increasing these intervals over several nights. The goal of this approach is that eventually your child will learn to self soothe after increasing the amount of time you allow them to cry before comforting them.

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

Logan Block

Logan is the former content director of Sleepopolis. As content director, he reviewed new mattresses every week and curated the comparisons, best of pages, and video guides on the site. Logan perfected his method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so he’s not only able to discern the overall vibe of a specific bed, but to contextualize its feel within the bed-in-a-box market as a whole.