Are you tired of not getting enough sleep at night? Are you frustrated with other sleep training methods that just haven’t worked for you?
If you’re like most moms, you’ve received your fair share of opinions on how you should sleep train your child. This post is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all approach to sleep training.
I know every child and every parent is different and we all have different views on the subject. This method is what has worked best for me and my family. I like it because it is a combination of other methods that we’ve tailored to fit our family.
Having said that I want to make a disclaimer that I am not a medical or sleep-training professional. I am a veteran mom who has used this method to successfully sleep train all three of my children before 10 months. And I also am not a fan of the Ferber or Cry-it-out method.
My approach to sleep training is more nurturing while still allowing the baby room for independence.
How to start:
Before trying any sleep training method or change in a baby’s or child’s routine, it’s important to do this earlier in the day such as nap time. Changes can sometimes be hard on the child and it’s important that you establish these changes when you have enough energy to follow through with your plan.
Waiting until bedtime to sleep train will cause a lot more frustration as you will most likely be giving up your sleep time as well. This is typically when parents give up on a specific method, claiming it didn’t work for them. My advice: Be more stubborn than your child. And start sleep training when you and your partner are home for three days. For most families, this is typically done during a long weekend (holiday weekend).
Some other things to note to have a successful start to sleep training include:
- Having a noise machine in the bedroom
- Using soft lights or night lights
- Utilizing the same routine for nap time that you use for bedtime
- Having patience
- Remove distractions (no electronics 30 minutes before bed)
Babies and child love routine and thrive with some structure. I recommend establishing a schedule that you can stick to each day. When baby is tired, note these times and make sure to put them down when their bodies are telling them it’s time to sleep. Fighting it and pushing this time back will most likely result in an overtired baby. Which isn’t fun for anyone.
When to start:
We start sleep training on Day 1 typically but with our last we didn’t lay any sleep training foundation until 9 months. It was a lot harder and took longer for her to become sleep trained versus our other children.
Sleep training a baby less than 6 months
In our house, we don’t require a baby to sleep through the night before 6 months. All of our children have enjoyed that midnight feeding and I’m happy to give in. I actually enjoy that feeding during the night. It’s quiet in the house and it’s a time for just me and baby. No one else, just us.
However, I definitely didn’t want to be feeding the babies every two hours throughout the night so we created a schedule. Babies need a specific amount of milk each day. If they’re sleeping longer during the day then they’re going to be up more during the night. Either way, they’re going to get what their bodies require for survival.
I recommend establishing a schedule. I never let my children sleep longer than 3 hours at a time. Yes, I would wake them up, feed them, and lay them back down. Because I established this schedule early with my first two, they both were sleeping through the night at 3 weeks. This is not normal though and I believe some of the reason was due to them being large babies (9-10 lbs at birth). With our third, I fed on demand and never established a schedule. She was way more difficult.
I just want to point out the difference.
Also this early on I never let my baby cry. If they were hungry I fed them.
Basically, our schedule looked similar to this:
- Wake up around 8am, fed, change diaper, play
- Wake to feed every 2-3 hours
- Last feeding was around 9 pm: dim lights, bath, swaddle, noise machine, soft voices, fed, bed
- Feed during the night as baby needed (which at 3 week the first two didn’t wake up for that feeding until they started teething)
I included this section as a way to easy into the more difficult sleep training months, which I believe should come later when the baby is older and no longer needs that extra feeding during the night.
In this section, if you’re starting this early with sleep training, I recommend establishing a schedule during the day, stick to a nap time and bedtime routine (noise machine, rocking, swaddle, etc), and lay baby down drowsy but away. Having them drift off to sleep helps build that independence early which makes sleep training through the night easier.
Basically the longer you wait to sleep train, the harder.
Sleep training a baby over 6 months
With all my children, we don’t start removing that midnight feeding till around 9-10 months but they do not require it after 6 months.
In this section we’re focusing on fully sleep training the baby. They will no longer need you to rock them to sleep after this stage and they won’t be waking up for that midnight feeding.
With baby #3, we started out very different. As I mentioned above, we didn’t stick to a schedule or routine, I fed on demand, and it got to the point where I was waking up 6x a night to feed and rock back to sleep. I was exhausted. My hair started falling out, I had this constant headache, and I was moody. Basically, I was sleep deprived. I was a zombie and I was tired of snapping at the people around me and feel like crap all the time. So something needed to change.
She was by far the hardest to sleep train but was still sleep trained within a week (the others only took 3-4 days).
Here’s what to do:
- Find the routine that works for you and your baby. Ours love being swaddled. At this age we leave the arms out as they were all belly sleepers by this point. They also love the white noise machines and bath time.
- Start with nap time
- The sleep training approach is the same for nap and bedtime.
- Give yourself at least a week. Please don’t be that parent that does it one or two nights and gives up. I get it, some kids are more stubborn than others which is why I said earlier, you have to be more stubborn than your child. Period.
- Your baby will fuss and they will cry. The point of this method is to not have them do it alone.
Here’s a breakdown of the approach. Feel free to tweak to fit you and/or your baby.
Day 1: The hardest day!
Nap time – dim the lights, turn on the noise machine, warm the bottle, talk to your baby and tell them it’s bedtime/we’re going to go night night in a soft voice, swaddle them, turn off the light and feed and rock them.
Get them drowsy but still awake. Lay them down with a kiss on their forehead and say good-night. If they’re tummy sleepers, roll them over and rub their backs for a minute or two before leaving the room. Also two of ours used pacifiers and one was a thumb sucker.
Leave the room and close the door. They will immediately cry or fuss. I don’t mind fussing but not for longer than 5 minutes. And I’m okay with crying as long as it hasn’t ramped up. The goal here is to know your baby and what each cry means for them.
We never let the baby get to a point where they are doing the hard cry.
We set a timer and go in there every 4-5 minutes. First we start with 4 minutes and ramp up to 5 on Day 2, never letting them cry or fuss longer than that, EVER.
This first time is going to take the longest.
When it’s time to go back into the room to reassure baby you’re still there, it’s important to soothe without picking up. Rub the back, pat the bottom, sing a song, etc. Anything that soothes your baby and calms them down. While you’re there, they may ramp up again. This is okay. Softly say “It’s bedtime. Night, night.” Leave and close the door again.
Note: Even though you’re setting a timer, you are welcome to go in before the timer is up. The timer is just a guidance to not go longer than that. For example, if I hear my baby starting to ramp up to that hard cry that causes her to be extra stressed, I go in before she gets to that point to calm her down.
Please also note that I go in even if baby is just fussing for 4-5 minutes off and on. I always want to establish that I am there for her and she is not alone.
Baby should be down within an hour. Most of the time is only take 30 minutes but every baby is different.
For bed time we take the same approach. The only thing we do differently is give baby a bath before bedtime. But everything else is exactly the same.
I recommend trying to rest or nap when baby does. Plan to go to bed on the earlier side because baby will be waking up through the night, especially that first night.
Switch off with your partner so the burden isn’t on just one person. This also lets the baby know that you are both supporting her and are their for her during this process.
Day 2: The Hardest Day, Part 2
Yes, I know Day 1 had it’s set of horribleness but you’re not finished yet.
Repeat everything for Day 2, exactly the same.
You may notice a slight improvement like it only took her 24 minutes to go down for nap time versus 30. Don’t deviate from the plan. Remain strong.
For Day 2, you may want to consider taking a nap. Bedtime tends to be the harder process but the more important one for most parents. Make sure you’re well rested to endure the day and night. Again switch off with your partner if you can.
Day 3: Start seeing the light
Today, you may see a big improvement in your baby.
When I was sleep deprived, I noticed so was my baby. She wasn’t getting the sleep she needed either. Now she’s a way different baby. She’s less fussy and clingy because she’s well rested. Where it used to take us over 30 minutes to put her to bed, now only takes about 10.
On Day 7, she slept from 8 to 8:30. That’s over 12 hours! As I said before, I don’t mind doing that one feeding a night but she never even woke up for it.
Now that she has the skills to put herself back to bed, if she wakes up during the night she finds her pacifier and goes back to sleep without a peep.
I think this gentle approach to sleep training empowers both the baby and parents. It gets results faster than No-Tears while not being as harsh as Cry It Out.
Sleep training a toddler
Follow the same steps for babies over 6 months but use more words to let your child know what’s going on.
If child is standing, holding onto the railing of the crib just take him off and lay him back down, rub his back, tell him goodnight and leave.
I’m a firm believer (as most parents) to keep baby in their crib for as long as possible. My son has always been at the 98th percentile on height and he was in a crib till after he was 3 years old. My daughter was in her crib till after 3 as well. Even then she’d still sleep in the pack ‘n play when we visited family.
It’s okay to move the child back into a crib to establish proper sleep training. You may have a bit more of a fight but it can be done.
I truly hope you find the method that works for you and your baby and start getting some rest. Please let me know in the comments if this method has worked for you.
Good luck, mama!
How long does it take to sleep train?
With this method, typical results are within 7 days. Because each child is so different give yourself a full week before abandoning or tweaking your sleep training approach.
How do I teach my baby to self soothe?
Two of my children liked the pacifier while one was a thumb sucker. I listen to what my baby enjoys and encourage them to find whatever method of self soothing they enjoy the most.
When to start sleep training?
I believe sleep training can start as early as Day 1. While sleep training through the night should be after 6 months.
My name is Becky and I’m a homeschooling, natural-birthing, breastfeeding, chaos loving, 80’s music rocking, and small business owner mom of three. I love watching football, drawing, dancing, doing crafts, playing with my kids, and snuggling my fur babies. I have lofty dreams of traveling the world with my family and enjoying every second of this crazy life.