Everyone gives you a different opinion, and you’re confused about what is the best age to sleep train a baby. If you want more of an in-depth answer to help you decide when YOU and your whole family are ready, read on…
The old adage goes, “You never miss anything until it’s gone,” and that includes a good night’s rest, as sleep-deprived parents of new babies know ALL too well. Contending with nighttime disruptions is par for the course of taking care of your newborn. And, there’s no shame in admitting it – the lack of sleep and exhaustion that comes with taking care of your new baby can sometimes be a bit too much.
Enter sleep training – a wonderful way of giving you needed shuteye when your baby needs to begin sleeping on their own. Mommywise realizes the ideal time to begin sleep training your baby is a very personal decision, but by the end of this post, you’ll know the answer to how and when to sleep train a baby, along with some other helpful tips.
When do babies learn to fall asleep on their own?
Newborns need their parents to sing a routine of lullabies and bounce and rock them before bedtime. These tender actions go a long way toward soothing and regulating their tiny nervous systems – coaxing them to nod off in their cribs. As they grow, they can gain the ability to self-soothe, which is a helpful habit that allows a baby’s innate sleep skills to take over and shine.
Learning to fall asleep on their own and go back to sleep when they wake up, is an important skill that you can help your baby learn when they’re old enough. The consensus amongst most pediatricians is that babies can fall asleep on their own when they are between 3 to 4 months old.
Will baby learn to sleep without training?
Some babies learn to sleep without training, but most of the time they don’t. What follows are the reason why.
A baby’s sleep cycle changes around four months. During this time, your baby’s brain and sleep cycles are maturing. Instead of drifting through the sleep cycles like they did as newborns, your baby will begin to fully wake between them. This typically means your baby takes 30-45 minute catnaps during the day and wakes up every 1-2 hours overnight.
Until your baby can COMPLETELY settle themselves back into slumber, without you cooing, patting, rocking or feeding to help them along, they will carry on catnapping and waking every couple of hours in the night. They will even do it once they have reached four months and beyond! When they do, they will want your help to go back to sleep every time.
During this adjustment period, babies can start a habit of reaching externally for something soothing to get back to sleep — meaning you hear them throughout the night. When Mommywise works with parents during this time, our main goal as sleep trainers is to help them eliminate nighttime interventions.
Deciding when to sleep train baby
Nearly all pediatricians disagree about timing and what age to sleep train. While Tribeca Pediatrics encourages all of their patients to sleep train their babies between 8-12 weeks before developmental leaps and teething begin, most other pediatricians are vague and recommend starting anywhere between 3-6 months – or whenever the parents can’t take it anymore.
I’ve sat down with entire pediatric practices, and literally, every clinician had a different opinion.
For over 11 years Mommywise has been observing babies while guiding parents through sleep training in their homes. I can say with certainty now that there truly is no pattern about which age is easier. Why? Because each human being is unique, and babies are human!
When to start sleep training?
Although most of our clients sleep train their babies between 3-4 months, they can be sleep trained as early as 8 weeks. I know this because one of the leading pediatric practices in the Tristate area recommends this to all their patients, and I personally trained my daughter at 8 weeks. She’s now a teeanger and still sleeps 12 hours whenever we let her!
The ideal window to sleep train your baby is between 12 weeks to 5 months old. Babies, in my professional opinion, are ready for sleep training from 12 weeks onward, just as long as they’re healthy, eating and growing well, are a minimum of 12 pounds and have basic motor skills to find or suck their hands. They also need to be able to reduce to one overnight feed; for instance, 10-12 hours between 7 pm to 7 am – or whatever schedule works best for your baby.
Can you sleep train a newborn?
Signs baby is ready for sleep training:
- Your baby is 12+ lbs
- Increased night wakings
- Breaking out of the swaddle
- Outgrowing the swaddle
- Starting to suck hands
- Trying to roll or rolling to one side
Mommywise is not terribly comfortable advising parents to sleep train a baby at 12 weeks or under, but we will do it on request if we’re with you in your home ensuring that all is going well.
When are parents ready?
The ideal time to sleep train your baby is when everyone in the family is ready – including all caregivers AND your baby. Parents are ready when they and all other caregivers are aligned and willing to allow their baby to express their opinion about the new routines.
Baby will object! And, that’s normal.
Babies do cry when learning new skills, but our focus is not preventing tears. Instead, our goal is to make the entire process as safe and easy as possible for your baby and prevent weeks or months of confusion and crying.
Although everyone is different, I see that the families we work with are ready for sleep training when they’re ready for their baby to sleep in their own room, reduce to one night feed, and give the baby space to sleep for 10-12 hours (except for one dream feed as needed).
I also know from my own experience that it is hard to leave your beloved little boy or girl alone to get the “pouty mouth” that comes with figuring out they aren’t going to be picked up and cuddled 24/7.
We are wired to want to respond to their cries and comfort them. I had to think of this when I felt weak, “I am overshadowing his self-soothing skills and getting in the way of his independence.” Plus, I’m not trying to be dramatic here, but you need your rest. Getting enough sleep is crucial to your health, and a lack of it can cause lower quality of life.
Is sleep training safe?
As long as your baby is in a safe environment and is old enough, sleep training is perfectly safe and healthy. As for its benefits, The Cleveland Clinic says, “it’s been known to improve parental mood, improves an infant’s sleep quality and increases the secure attachment between babies and their caregivers.”
Nevertheless, if you have any medical concerns about sleep training your baby, don’t hesitate to consult with your pediatrician. However, if there are no medical concerns, and you believe that your baby is ready at 12 weeks, your pediatrician may have a different opinion. It’s up to you to take or leave their opinion.
I hope this helps you decide when you’re ready to begin sleep training and get your evenings back! We’re here to help you make that decision and plan out the best strategy to sleep train a baby, get your baby sleeping through the night (10-12 hours), consolidate naps, and have predictable days that you enjoy together.
We can help with every decision.