What is Sleep Training?

February 15, 2023

What is Sleep Training?

Welcoming a new little one is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. However, the sleep schedule of a newborn is very erratic, and can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by both Mom and Dad.

It’s no secret that infants require much more sleep than the average adult. Generally, babies sleep 14 to 17 hours per day, but, they also must eat every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day, making sleep difficult for all!

Sleep training is an excellent option, enabling parents to help their baby learn to sleep through the night with little to no help from parents. So how do you begin sleep training, and what are the best sleep training techniques?

What is Sleep Training?

Is your baby’s sleep, or lack of sleep, weighing heavily on your mental health, and both you and your baby’s overall well-being? Sleep patterns are difficult to pinpoint in an infant, as a baby sleeps the majority of the day. Baby sleep training has one main goal — aiding in your baby falling asleep with the ability to self-soothe with little to no assistance from Mom and Dad.

A sleep training program allows your baby to get a good night’s sleep, and fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. There are several methods to sleep training that allow your baby to sleep up to 12 hours straight at night. When your baby finally falls asleep, and stays asleep, Mom and Dad can catch up on some much-needed rest and relaxation.

When Should You Begin Sleep Training?

It can be difficult for many parents to determine when is the best time to start sleep training; however, there is no right or wrong in regards to the best time to implement sleep training methods. The most important thing to consider is your baby’s bedtime routine, as maintaining good sleep habits will help sleep training work.

According to expert sleep consultants, though, early human development involving the circadian rhythm is developed around 1-3 months of age. As a result, experts recommend sleep training between 4 to 6 months of age, depending on your baby’s sleep cues, and signs of readiness.

Remember, sleep training babies is not a requirement — it is a personal choice that should be made between a baby’s doctor and parents or caregivers.

How Long Should Sleep Training Last?

Experts have said that it is important to give it up to 2 full weeks of trying one method to allow the full effect, or to determine if it is not a good fit.

When you start sleep training, it’s important to understand that the first few nights could be downright hard. However, helping your baby self-soothe will help significantly with nighttime sleep. No matter the sleep training method you choose, maintain consistency in a bedtime routine for both the baby and you.

What are the Techniques of Sleep Training?

There are many sleep training methods to help your little one fall asleep, as well as help to maintain a consistent bedtime routine. A self-soothing baby helps to ease the burden, even if it is just a few nights per week.

Some methods of sleep training are more difficult than others, as some involve putting your baby in their crib and allowing them to cry it out, rather than re-entering the room to provide comfort when your baby cries. Consistency is key in sleep training.

Of the many sleep training methods, below are the most popular:

Cry it Out (CIO) Method

Are you interested in teaching your baby to self-soothe with a consistent bedtime? The cry it out method is conducted exactly as it sounds. You place your baby into his or her crib without returning in the middle of the night when they are upset. This method allows your baby to learn that they do not need to rely on Mom and Dad for comfort; self-soothing is possible. That said, letting the baby cry at night can be difficult for many parents.

The first few days of this method are often the hardest, but, it is the most known sleep training method, and works the quickest. Ensure your baby’s crib is a safe space to sleep, with no loose bedding, blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals, as these are a suffocation hazard. Make sure your baby has been fed, and has a clean diaper, then allow them to calm themselves until falling asleep.

The cry it out method is often combined with other gentle sleep training methods, such as the Ferber method, to reduce the stress associated with letting your baby cry.

The Ferber Method

The Ferber method is a more gentle sleep training method than the cry it out method, as it allows for you to console your baby if they wake in the middle of the night. When your little one is falling asleep, it is normal for your baby to cry when you start sleep training.

When using the Ferber method, you can set time intervals that gradually lengthen. For example, start with 3-minute intervals, and slowly work your way up to 10-minute intervals. The Ferber method falls into the category of gentle sleep training methods, as it allows Mom or Dad to enter the bedroom in the middle of the night to soothe the baby. This sleep training method does not allow for the baby to be simply comforted at a distance.

As with the cry it out method, ensure your baby is full, and wearing a dry diaper with no loose bedding or other suffocation hazards in the baby’s crib. Many parents find that combining the Ferber method with the cry it out method has shown tremendous results in sleep training.

The Pickup, Put Down Method

Have you conducted a bit of research on sleep training methods, but are hesitant, as you feel your baby’s crying will become too much to bear? The pick-up, put-down method is an exceptionally gentle sleep training method allowing mom and dad to pick up their little one to soothe them when they cry, then place them back into bed once calm.

While providing physical comfort to your baby when they wake during the night is comforting to both the baby and the parents, it is important that you do not linger for too long after the baby has calmed down to ensure the pick-up, put down method can work. This gentle sleep training technique has proven effective for many babies, although it can take longer to show improvement than other techniques, such as the cry it out method.

The Chair Method

The chair method is just as it sounds. You place a chair (preferably a comfortable one for yourself) next to your baby’s crib at night, so you are close by to provide emotional support to your baby without providing physical comfort. The chair method requires ample patience as your baby will likely be distracted having you there without being able to be held.

As the nights pass, gradually move the chair further from your baby’s bed until you are no longer needed in the room. Remove yourself from your baby’s room as soon as your little one falls asleep only to return if they wake again. The chair method can become difficult for parents, as they do not like to sit and listen to the crying without being able to engage and soothe.

The no Tears Method

The no tears method allows your baby to learn self-soothing techniques to help them sleep tight with minimal support from Mom and Dad. With this sleep training method, consistency is the most important thing, including maintaining dinner, bath, and bedtime activities at the same time each night, allowing your baby’s mind to become aware of the approaching bedtime.

With the no tears method, a combination of various methods is used to ensure the baby does not cry for an extended period of time, and both the baby and parents are comfortable and secure in the sleep training method.

As time progresses, you’ll begin to gradually fade from your child’s view, allowing them to self-soothe until they fall asleep.

Weissbluth Method

Does your infant have a consistent bedtime routine in place, but is experiencing difficulties with falling back to sleep during the night? The Weissbluth method is a great sleep training technique, similar to the cry it out method, in that you place your baby in his or her own bed, fed and with a dry diaper, and do not return to help soothe them when they become uncomfortable or upset.

Bedtime Fading

Bedtime fading is not necessarily a sleep training method, as it’s a technique designed to adjust to a new desired bedtime. For instance, if your baby is currently being put in bed at 8:00 pm, but exhibits crying and an upset mood for 30 minutes to fall asleep closer to 8:30 pm, bedtime fading allows you to gradually shift their bedtime to 8:30 pm, without causing serious disruptions.

It’s helpful to implement bedtime fading in small increments up to 15 minutes at a time to provide your child plenty of time to adjust to the change.

Tips for Better Sleep Training

No matter the sleep training method you choose, or a combination of the many methods available, you should remember that setbacks and regressions will occur. Sleep specialists have joined together to provide you with the above sleep training techniques to help you on this sleep journey. But, tips for better sleep training are helpful, too.

Regressions are Normal

Sleep regressions occur for many reasons, whether it be due to teething, illness, or developmental growth. Regressions are a normal part of growth during infancy, and into toddler age. It may take a few days for sleep to return to normal, but do your best to maintain a normal sleep schedule to help your little one adjust back to normal.

Do not Compare to Other People’s Journey

Remember that no two journeys to sleep training are the same. Try your best not to compare your little one’s journey to a friend, family member, or story you have read. Focus on the specific needs of your baby and family to ensure a successful journey.

Implement a Bedtime Routine

Maintaining a stable bedtime routine, regardless of the desired sleep training method you have chosen, is the key to implementing success. Conduct the same or similar sequence of events each evening, such as dinner, bath, and putting your little one in bed at the same time each night.

Stick with It

The beginning of any sleep training journey is difficult, and takes a bit of time to adjust. As mentioned earlier, sleep experts recommend allowing two full weeks of implementing a sleep training method before deciding to either switch to a different method, or choosing to wait to try altogether until a later date.

It is Okay to Wait

The minimum age recommended for beginning sleep training is approximately 4 months of age, as this allows time for your little one’s circadian rhythm to develop as well as helps ease unhealthy sleep habits, such as being rocked to sleep. If you are uncomfortable or unsure if it is time for sleep training, it is okay to wait until your baby is a bit older. There is no set schedule of when sleep training must occur.

Sleep Training Frequently Asked Questions

When is it too Late for Sleep Training?

While experts recommend starting sleep training between 4 to 6 months of age, it is never too late to begin the journey. Many parents have found success in sleep training well into toddler years with their children.

What are the Differences Between Night Weaning and Sleep Training?

Night weaning is significantly different from sleep training. Night weaning is designed to ensure your baby is getting plenty to eat during the day, so that they are less likely to wake for nighttime feedings. Nighttime weaning is safe if your baby has no health complications, maintains a healthy weight, and your baby’s doctor has given the “all clear”.

Should my Baby be in a Different Room When Sleep Training?

Sleep training experts recommend having your baby sleep in a separate room for many sleep training techniques; however, it is not required for all techniques. It is best to choose a sleep training method that meets the needs of both you and your baby to ensure success. Whether you choose to have your baby sleep in a separate room or the same, a comfortable mattress from Eco Terra will help you get plenty of rest during the night.

Should I Follow Only One Sleep Training Method Exclusively?

Many people find success in combining sleep methods, but as we discussed, it’s recommended to allow two full weeks for whichever sleep training method you have chosen before deciding to implement a new one if the current one is not working for your baby.

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 13 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.