When to Start Sleep Training

By
Christen Robinson
- November 14, 2017

You’re Ready to Sleep Through the Night: Is Your Baby?

When to Start Sleep Training
olesiabilkei/iStock/GettyImages

We live in the age of information. With a few keystrokes, we can find multiple answers to virtually any question. If, like most new parents, you are sleep-deprived, you probably have searched for answers to that parenting Holy Grail—sleep. You yearn for a stretch of uninterrupted sleep. You’re ready. But is your baby ready?

What Is Sleep Training?

Sleep training is a structured plan to help teach your baby to fall asleep on his own for longer periods. The two commonly recognized methods are called “controlled comforting” and “camping out.” Parents using controlled comforting respond to their baby’s cries at progressively longer intervals, giving their baby time to learn how to self-soothe. During the camping out method, parents sit in their baby’s room as he falls asleep, moving closer and closer to the door each night.

Is It Safe?

The good news is that studies report that sleep training can have positive short-term benefits for both baby and mother, including reduced maternal depression and improved infant sleep patterns. The studies suggest that these benefits taper off over time, but researchers have found no long-term negative effects either.

When Is Your Baby Ready?

It’s believed that babies can differentiate between night and day at about 4 to 6 months of age. Earlier than that, infants have erratic sleep patterns and needs that must be met, regardless of the time of day. Newborns eat every 1.5 to 3.5 hours. Do your best to sleep when you can during this period: It won’t last forever. At age 4 months or older, you and baby can begin sleep training.

Tips for More Sleep

Whether your baby is 4 weeks or 4 months old, you can begin now to build healthy sleep habits. When it’s light outside, play games and talk to your baby. When it’s dark, make baby’s environment calm and quiet. Create a consistent bedtime routine. Turn down the lights, give your baby a soothing bath, read stories and listen to lullabies. When your baby—inevitably—wakes during the night, try to keep your voice low and soothing, and do not turn on a bright light.

When to Consult a Doctor

Talk to your pediatrician when you are concerned about getting enough sleep. She likely has years of experience supporting families and babies with sleep strategies. Sleep training looks simple on paper, but it can be difficult in actual practice. If you and baby are struggling, talk to your doctor. Every baby is different. Your pediatrician will likely suggest changes to your sleep plan to make it work for your family.

About the Author

Christen Robinson's day job is full-time mom and teacher. She writes content for education and relationship sites in the early hours of the morning while her children blissfully slumber. Robinson teaches special education, and specializes in working with children with autism. She holds a master's degree in teaching from Central Washington University.