What is sleep training? Should I do it?

One of the most frequently asked questions I’m asked is, what is sleep training, and should I do it? First, I should say that it’s really not for everyone. Many parents love to baby wear, co-sleep, and wake up with their baby. And that’s totally fine! Every family has different dynamics, and I’m not here to tell anyone what to do.

My goal with this post is to educate you on what sleep training is, why to start sleep training, when to start, and how you would start.

baby sleep training

What is sleep training?

Sleep training is a process that helps a baby learn to sleep independently, and on a schedule. This means that you are able to put the baby down in their bed, and that they will either settle themselves to sleep, or stay asleep. There are many methods to sleep train, and each baby has different needs. Some babies need to be left to fall asleep on their own. My youngest is that baby. She would practically jump out of my arms when I tried to rock her or hold her to sleep. She still does actually, at 2 years old. I can’t help it that I love my baby cuddles!

Other babies need to be nursed to sleep, or rocked to sleep. That’s my first born, for sure. Since the day she was born, she has loved to snuggle with me. She loved nursing to sleep, and she loved when I held her for naps.

There are also babies who just sleep anywhere, anytime.

Whatever the baby, you can certainly teach them all.

Is sleep training the same as cry it out? This is one of the most common misconceptions about sleep training. The cry it out method, generally refers to “extinction” the Ferber method. As a sleep consultant, I would never ask any parent to leave their baby to cry alone, without comfort, for long periods of time. There are so many methods, which are much more gentle, which I would be able to teach you.

Why to start sleep training

This is a question that would need to be answered on an individual basis. The most common why, is that parents are exhausted. They’ve been holding their baby all day, and all night because every time baby is put down, they cry. There is no joy in sleep deprivation.

Another reason why, is that often daycare providers have scheduled nap times, and they kind of require that the babies are able to settle themselves to sleep. So if daycare is necessary, then so would be sleep training.

Each family would need to decide on their own why before beginning the sleep training process, because it can be a stressful start. There will be tears, mostly from the baby, but also from parents. Parents can disagree with which method is best, it can be tricky. So really figuring out why is really important. Even if it’s as simple as “We all need to sleep more, and through the night, with way less tears.”

When to start sleep training

The very youngest I would start using any type of method is 4 months old. That being said, you can set up the foundations of sleep right away!

Sleep environment

It’s always such a thrill before the baby comes to buy all the things the baby needs, and this is where you get to set yourself and the baby up for sleep success! One of the foundations of sleep is the baby’s sleep environment. Make sure they have a safe bassinet in your room (for the first 6 months) and a crib in their own room. The room should be able to be completely dark during all sleep times. So blackout shades are highly recommended. A white noise machine is also a foundational element of baby sleep. Have them sleep in their bed for as many naps and nights as possible. In the first 6 months it’s recommended they be in a basinet in the parents room, so you will never be too far from you.


Another way to set up the foundations once baby is born is to try to keep feedings at regular intervals as much as possible. Every 2-3 hours is recommended. This will help with avoiding nursing becoming a sleep association. That being said, it’s not a negative thing to nurse a baby to sleep. Some baby’s really thrive with that connection. And it’s also good for mommas to feel useful in that way. Keeping the feeds at regular intervals will also help baby to become full at each feed, which will definitely help them to sleep longer.

Awake windows:

Awake windows should also be something to work on right away. This will help to keep the baby from entering an overtired cycle. Newborns should have pretty short awake windows, 60-90 min. As they grow that window will also grow. Once it’s time to start sleep training the window will be 1.5-2.5 hours.

baby sleep awake windows


While keeping awake windows and feeding intervals in mind, starting a bedtime/nap time routine with baby right away is a great way to set you up for success. Since baby is napping all the time in the beginning, focus on getting a solid bedtime routine going. Since it might just feel like chaos with timing at first, try putting the routine before a sleep period that would fall around evening. Read a little book, sing a song, give baby a bath, nurse, etc.

The foundations will help the baby to feel a rhythm in their life, even from day one.

How to start sleep training

Now that you’ve discovered what your why is, and when, choosing which method fits best with you and your baby is the next step. This is when you might scour the internet, read every book, and hope for a baby who can understand what’s going on easily. Or, you could hire a sleep consultant to help support you, and educate you throughout the whole process.

Whichever way you choose to go about doing it, the key things to remember are:

  • Your baby is going to cry if they are being put into a new experience. If sleep training means this is their first time sleeping alone, it won’t be easy.
  • You know your baby, so trust your instincts. If something isn’t feeling right with the method, change it up. You can expect tweaking here and there.
  • Nothing happens right away. Sometimes sleep training can take 10+ days to really see progress. So be patient, and give yourself grace.
  • The goal is healthy sleep for everyone.

If you’d like to chat, please book a 20 minute discovery call! I’d love to answer questions, and help you figure out if sleep training is right for you and your baby. Click here to visit my website.

Sleep Training




What is sleep training? Should I do it?

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