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A very popular topic of debate when there’s a newborn around is sleep. When do you sleep train? How do you sleep train? What’s best for baby and for you? This topic can be quite frustrating for new moms who are already exhausted from birth and are now expected to know how to “sleep train” their baby. Thankfully, sleep training can look like anything you want; we will present several different options here, but ultimately, sleep training can be whatever best fits your situation and jives with your motherly instincts.


Typically sleep training will begin sometime between 4-6 months, once baby has had time to begin developing their self-soothing reflexes and they can sleep long periods without feedings. A theory suggests that waiting significantly later than 6 months may create difficulty as baby will be used to your patterns and any change to the routine will be confusing to them. Whenever you decide to sleep train, keep in mind your baby may become more hungry, less hungry, grumpy, clingy, drowsy during the day, or more resistant to naps. Stick with it, you can do it!


There are varying amounts of intervention in each sleep training method. The most “hands off” method is the cry-it-out method. This is exactly what it sounds like: the guardian does not respond to baby’s cries and instead allows them to cry until they fatigue themselves or soothe themselves to sleep. While seemingly effective at teaching baby to go back to sleep themselves, this method is not our favorite recommendation as the point of sleep training is to establish peace and trust in the home so baby has the freedom to self soothe.


The next method is the Ferber Method, developed by Dr. Richard Ferber. This hybrid method of sleep training occurs by allowing baby to cry for a short period (3 minutes the first night and first round) and then going into the room to softly soothe them. This can look like talking to them, lightly rubbing them, or singing. This method does not involve feeding, rocking, picking them up, or turning lights on. Once baby is calmed down, you repeat the process, waiting 5 minutes instead. Continue this pattern with increasing lengths of time until baby sleeps. The next day, start with 5 minutes and work your way up. Day 3 you can start at 7 minutes and so on. This method allows baby to learn to self-soothe while giving them the peace of mind that you are still there and will come if they need you.


The next level of involvement is the chair method. With this method, you sit in the room with baby, but you do not work to calm them. Your presence is their comfort as you remain in the room with baby in a chair close to the crib. Each night, you move the chair farther away till you can eventually leave the room and baby can self soothe themselves to sleep.


You can actually train baby to self-soothe at any time. One method of sleep training, wake-and-sleep, involves actually waking your baby any time they fall asleep. Once they are asleep, tickle their foot or jostle them lightly. They will wake slightly groggy, but will normally fall back asleep within 5-10 seconds. This method can be worked on any time they sleep and teaches their brain how to fall back asleep if awakened during the night.


Lastly, the fading method involves heavy intervention. The fading method works by sleep association; For example, you may rock your baby to sleep for 30 minutes and then put them down. The next night, decrease it to 25 minutes, and continue until you can simply lay them down to sleep. Reserve 1 specific activity to do for baby to associate with the long night time sleep. Eventually, you can fade out this activity for baby and they can learn to go to sleep without it (even in the middle of the night)!


This is just a sampling of the most popular sleep training methods. At the end of the day, how you decide to sleep train is entirely up to you and your lifestyle and what your motherly instincts are telling you that your baby needs. What’s most important is that you stick with a method for at least a week, even if baby seems to hate it. You’re teaching them something new, which can be frustrating for them. You got this!




If you’d like to read some more resources, here is a good library to start:


Why is sleep training so stressful? How can you flip the switch in your mind to make it something beautiful: https://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/Children-s-Health-Wellness/no-sleep-training-required.html


Unfortunately, co-sleeping gets a bad report due to mixed definitions. Read this article to help clarify what is co-sleeping, and how it is one of the best options for you and your newborn: https://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/co-sleeping-and-biological-imperatives.html


Why does bonding have to stop when you leave the birthing place? Take a look at some of the benefits of co-sleeping in this article: https://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/co-sleeping.html


Worried about your baby having attachment issues? In this article, you can explore the philosophy behind caring for your infant while empowering them to be independent: https://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/co-sleeping-contributes-to-optimal-brain-development.html


“Fighting sleep” can be an ongoing battle even into childhood years. This article details reasons why your child may be wide-awake even when its bed time: https://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/Parenting/kids-dont-qfightq-sleep-whats-really-happening-when-kids-resist-bedtime.html


It takes a village to raise a child, don’t be afraid to reach out to those you live for support: https://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/Family-Life/sleeping-like-a-baby.html


Why does bonding have to stop when you leave the birthing place? Take a look at some of the benefits of co-sleeping in this article: https://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/co-sleeping.html


For more on the sleep methods mentioned in this article:

Overview: https://www.nanit.com/blog/breakdown-sleep-training-methods-techniques/

Choosing your own method: https://www.parents.com/baby/sleep/basics/sleep-training-methods/

Age by age guide to training: https://www.parents.com/baby/sleep/basics/sleep-training-methods/

Ferber Method: https://www.parents.com/baby/sleep/basics/the-ferber-method-explained/