For new parents, getting a baby to sleep through the night can feel like an exhausting uphill battle. There comes a point when those frequent, middle-of-the-night wakeup calls just won’t cut it anymore: Enter sleep training.
Sleep training often gets a bad rap because it requires parents to let their infants “cry it out.” But with the right knowledge and tools, the process can be much easier.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Sleep Training: What Parents Should Know
The ultimate goal of sleep-training is to teach babies to sleep through the night on their own. But common wisdom is split: Some find the process an unnecessarily harsh way to teach infants independence, whereas others find that the ends far outweigh the means.
Research shows that in babies older than six months, sleep training techniques, combined with controlled crying and “bedtime fading,” improve sleep and do not lead to excess stress. What’s more, crying doesn’t do babies harm — it can lead to better sleep.
What’s the right age for sleep training?
Most experts recommend sleep training between four to six months. At this age, babies are generally large enough and eating enough during the day that they’re capable of staying asleep through the night, but they’re not so old that they’ve gotten used to being nursed or rocked to sleep.
That said, babies older than six months can still be effectively sleep-trained. Research indicates that nine months is another sweet spot where your child can grasp routines and doesn’t need to eat at night.
Your baby’s age will determine what kind of sleep-training method you choose. You may try a gentle technique with your five-month-old, but you may need to use the cry-it-out method for a one-year-old.
Top Four Sleep Training Tips For Your Baby
1. Establish a Bedtime Routine
Follow a consistent 30-to-45 minute bedtime routine to help transition your baby from being awake to being asleep.
2. Get the Right Timing
Don’t change your baby’s sleep routine in the midst of other big changes; say, moving, new caregivers, or ear infections. Wait until things return to normal before attempting to sleep-train.
3. Know When Your Baby is Tired
Watch for typical sleep cues like yawning, ear-pulling, or crankiness, and take note if they happen around the same time at night. Put your baby to sleep when they’re sleepy, but not overtired; overtired babies are more likely to have a hard time settling and are therefore more likely to get poor quality sleep or awaken early.
4. Delay Your Response Time
As hard as it sounds, avoid running to the baby’s room at any little sound. Babies make all sorts of noises when they’re falling asleep; some naturally cry for a bit before drifting off. If you respond to every little sound, you could wake a baby that was about to nod off and hinder their efforts to self-soothe.
Top Sleep Training Mistakes to Avoid
Giving Up Too Soon
It takes three-to-five nights for a baby to learn a new routine. Many parents find these nights too challenging and end up giving up. Remember that sleep training works, but not without willpower, inner strength, and consistency.
Not Creating a Proper Sleep Environment
A healthy sleep environment is all about the little details; for example, black-out curtains that keep light out or a white noise machine can help your efforts by signaling sleep for your child.
Poor Nap Time Habits
You can confuse your baby by only sleep training at night, and not for naps. If you rock them to sleep at naptime but plop them in the crib at night, your baby won’t understand the sleep “cues,” and you risk undoing the progress you made the night before.
How Vivvi Helps Parents Support Sleep Training On Our Campuses
As always, do your research and speak with your doctor if you’re overwhelmed. But the right early-learning and childcare provider will also provide sleep-training support.
At Vivvi, we strive to create an environment that not only fosters learning and growth but reinforces healthy lifelong habits like sleep health. Contact us to learn more about our programs or to arrange a tour of one of our New York City campuses. Also check out our potty training article.