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Sleep Training: What You Need to Know Before You Begin

December 6, 2019

Right now you’re in the fog of sleep deprivation, and it may feel like you’ll never sleep again. But good sleep for you and your baby is possible.

Preparing for sleep training is just as important as the actual training itself. Before you begin sleep training, consider these questions:

Is my household completely healthy?

Tackling nighttime sleep is a big undertaking, and one best done while everyone is feeling their best. This means no one is fighting a cold, and baby isn’t cutting a tooth or recovering from any sort of physical ailment. If you have questions about the health of your child consult their pediatrician.

Has my child reached a weight where they can sleep through the night with reduced feedings?

Your child’s pediatrician may have specific recommendations for your family based on your baby’s developmental needs and progress, but as long as your child is at least four months old and 14 pounds they can begin the sleep learning process. As you start teaching your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night you may need to offer a dream feed once during the night, and work on slowly dropping night feedings altogether.

Is my child going through a major transition or learning a new skill?

If your child is just starting to roll, crawl, stand, or walk, now is not the time to sleep train. Learning to sleep is a skill, just like learning to walk. And just like you, children need some time to adjust to learning new skills. Don’t overwhelm your baby by asking her to learn too many new skills at once. Learning new skills is exciting and fun, and your baby will be filling her day practicing her new skills and may have a harder time settling down for sleep at night. It’s best to wait until baby has mastered her new daytime skill before asking her to work on a nighttime skill.

Additionally, if your child is adjusting to a major transition, like starting daycare or moving to a new home, you should hold off on sleep training until your family has a chance to adjust to this change.

Does my schedule for the next week allow you to focus on sleep training?

Consistency is key when learning any new skill, so both you and your partner need to commit a chunk of time to teaching your baby to sleep. And while your baby is likely to learn to sleep in a few days, you still need to dedicate time to helping her master her new skills. The old adage is true: practice makes perfect. To maximize your time together, consider starting the sleep training process on a weekend when schedules are usually more flexible.

Is my child’s regular daytime caregiver onboard to help your child learn to sleep?

Everyone in your child’s life should be on the same page when it comes to sleep training. You want to avoid sending mixed signals to your baby when it comes to sleep. Start by having a conversation with your child’s caregiver, and providing them with detailed instructions on routines and sleep schedules. Ask your child’s caregiver to stay as consistent as possible with your sleep schedule, and plan to check-in frequently, especially during the early days of sleep learning.

Have you just returned to work or are you returning to work soon?

When the primary caregiver has just returned to work or is about to, baby may need some time to adjust to the change. Your household is likely learning to adapt to a new schedule and attempting to sleep train during this time is too much for all involved. Instead, wait until your family has fallen into a new routine and everyone feels comfortable tackling a new challenge head on.