When to start sleep training your baby is complex, so I’ll give you an overview of what we know based on 12+ years of helping parents sleep train babies in their homes at different ages.
Importance of sleep training for infants and parents
Sleep is vital for your baby’s growth and development. Though you may hear about magical babies who naturally sleep through the night without any training, that is exceptionally rare. 99% of babies need to learn how to self-soothe in the beginning of the night in order to learn how to put themselves back to sleep every time they wake up through the night. Babies also need to learn to self-soothe for naps in order to sleep longer than one sleep cycle (20-40 minutes). If your baby hasn’t learned to self-soothe, and they’re taking short naps and/or waking up multiple times through the night, it’s time to consider sleep training for your baby’s growth and development, and for you as parents – so that you can be the best (fully-rested) parents for your baby!
When are parents ready?
When we help parents sleep-train babies, it’s crucial that all caregivers are aligned and ready for change. We consider parents “ready” to sleep train when they’re ready to reduce to one feed at night (between roughly 7pm-7am), and they’re ready for their baby to sleep in their own room. (We don’t recommend trying to sleep train your baby in your room with you because it’s disruptive for your baby’s sleep, and new sleep habits won’t work for the long term if you room-share. We know this goes against AAP recommendations to room-share until 12 months, but if you have a good quality video monitor, it’s like sleeping in the same room and it’s perfectly safe!)
Is sleep training safe?
Sleep training is extremely safe if done correctly, in the right environment. When Mommywise Coaches guide parents through sleep training, we check for safety first and ensure that all of your baby’s needs are met before we begin. From there, we observe babies as they’re learning to self-soothe and monitor for safety throughout the entire process, night and day.
Sleep Training at 2 Months
Most pediatricians don’t recommend sleep training at 2 months, but the largest pediatric practice in NYC (Tribeca Pediatrics) strongly recommends sleep training babies between 2-3 months. They recommend sleep training babies at two months old because sleep training a 2-month-old can be easier for babies to learn when they’re more sleepy and malleable. At 2 months, babies aren’t teething or going through major developmental milestones like at 3+ months when babies are learning to roll, crawl, sit, and stand. The other benefit of sleep training between 2-3 months is that you’ll get ahead of the 4-month sleep regression, which typically begins at around 3 months old. Though we begin sleep training with our clients starting at 11-12 weeks, we have helped babies as young as 2 months old learn to self-soothe with great success. We will recommend that your baby is 12+ pounds and can reduce to one feed per night to sleep train a 2-month-old.
Newborn sleep patterns: The first few months
Newborns sleep a lot. By 8 weeks, they may be sleeping up to 8-hour stretches, but that will most likely change around 12 weeks if they haven’t learned to self-soothe. Babies become more wakeful by 3 months old, which is the beginning of the 4-month sleep regression. That’s when you’ll start seeing more wake-ups at night, and naps becoming more challenging. Maybe your baby will only contact nap, or sleep for 20-40 minutes for naps and wake up crying. That’s the time to consider teaching your baby independent sleep skills!
Sleep Training for 4-6 Months
Sleep training at four months old is generally the most popular time for sleep training, and when we help most families overcome sleep challenges. By the time babies are between 4-6 months old, sleep has probably gone from bad to worse. Getting your baby down may be more difficult, night wake-ups are more frequent, and 20-40 minute naps become super frustrating. This is because your baby is more alert and awake, and has already gone through the 4-month sleep regression (which is triggered by the 3-month developmental leap). Sleep training between 4-6 months may intersect with developmental leaps like learning to roll or crawl, your baby’s first cold, and the beginning of teething. All of these things can make sleep training more challenging, but once your baby is sleeping through the night and napping better, developmental leaps like rolling and crawling come easier and faster! If your baby can roll, through sleep training, your baby will probably learn that they love sleeping on their tummies and that makes sleep training so much easier!
Sleep Training at 6-9 Months
Teething and developmental delays plus the beginning of separation anxiety begin to peak between 6-9 months, which can make sleep training more challenging. However, it’s totally fine to sleep train your baby between 6-9 months. The benefit of sleep training at 6-9 months is that self-soothing comes faster and easier since they have more gross motor skills to get comfortable sleeping on their tummies. If they use a pacifier, they can learn to find their pacifiers in their crib themselves which gives them an extra tool to self-soothe. Closer to 9 months, your baby may be able to pull themselves up in the crib and stand, which can make sleep training a little bit more challenging for some, but it’s still totally do-able because if babies can learn to stand, they can also learn to sit down by themselves.
Sleep Training at 9-12 Months
If your baby is between 9-12 months, sleep training is totally possible and can be easier than when they’re infants because, like sleep training at 6-9 months, they have all the gross motor skills to self-soothe and get themselves comfortable in their crib. They can easily find their pacifier, get attached to a lovey, and tummy-sleep (which babies almost always prefer!). The downside of sleep training between 9-12 months is that your baby is a little bit more set in their unhealthy sleep habits (like feeding or rocking to sleep), and may object to routine changes a little more loudly! They are more likely to sit or stand up in their cribs which is an additional challenge. That said, we sleep train at 9-10 months all the time with great success.
We can help with every decision.