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Sleep-Training Your Baby: 3 Tips

How To Sleep Train Your Baby

Rest assured, your baby is going to learn how to fall asleep on their own, and sleep training might just be the guidance they need to help themselves (and you) get some well-deserved rest.

Medically reviewed by a board-certified pediatrician

For the first few months, it’s natural for your little one to wake up every 2-4 hours around the clock to be fed. With each passing month, your baby will hopefully be spending more time awake during the day, and more time asleep at night.

To get to that point, it can help to establish a bedtime routine, which is fundamental to most sleep training techniques.

When to Start Sleep Training Your Baby

You can expect to start sleep training your baby at around 4-6 months (16-24 weeks) old. Many parents start sleep training babies around the time their babies are able to sleep through the night without needing to eat. For more insights, check out our guide to sleep patterns by age.

What are the Different Sleep Training Methods?

There are many different methods for sleep training, many of which are variations of what we’ll call the

  • Check-and-console
  • Cry-it-out
  • Fading routine

Since every baby is different, many parents find that a technique that works super well for their first child doesn’t work the same for their second! This is completely normal, and the trial-and-error of finding what works for your baby is just part of the bonding process.

3 Tips to Help Sleep Train Your Baby

Tip #1: Check-and-Console

The check and console method is meant to teach your baby that you’re always around and not abandoning them–even when you’re not in the same exact room.There are tons of variations, but the basic premise is reassurance.

After going through your normal bedtime routine, you lay your baby down in their crib and give them some sort of reassurance, which could be a goodnight kiss, saying “good night, I love you”, and/or some kind of soothing touch like a rub or pat.

Then you immediately leave the room for a short time–it can be as short as a minute at first. Then you come back in and do exactly what you did before–give them the same reassurance–and leave the room again, but this time for a slightly longer period of time. Repeat until your baby falls asleep.

Get more tips on how to help your baby sleep in a crib.

Tip #2: Cry-it-Out (CIO)

The cry-it-out technique is pretty much something parents either swear by or never want to try. Perhaps it’s controversial because of its other name, the “extinction method,” meaning its purpose is to “extinguish” the behavior of crying by not responding to it. It’s also good to remember that every baby is different–some babies crave all the attention they can get, while others prefer to have some space–and a baby could be crying because they want to sleep in privacy.

Much like the check-and-console technique, CIO involves following your usual routine and saying goodnight to your baby, but you do not return to the room (unless you think there could be an emergency of course). If all goes well, after a few nights, the amount of crying should become less and less.

Some say CIO teaches babies not to cry, others say it provides comfort for babies who might be feeling overstimulated. In any case, it’s fine to ease into this technique, especially for younger babies, and/or after trying other techniques. There are also variations of this technique where you return to the room if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, and/or if their crying intensifies.

Tip #3: Fading Routine

The idea behind the fading routine is to help your baby gradually rely less and less on you to put them to sleep.

There are countless variations of fading routine techniques, the fundamental concept is to gradually decrease the amount of time you spend putting your baby to bed each night until they don’t need to rely on you to fall asleep. For example, if you sing your baby to sleep for 2 minutes the first night, you might sing to them for 1 minute 45 seconds the following night, 1 minute 30 seconds the next night, and so forth.

One common variation is the “chair technique,” where you simply sit next to your baby’s crib after their bedtime routine, for decreasing amounts of time each night. Some parents also apply this technique to soothing touches like massages or back rubs, and find that eventually it takes very little time for that soothing touch to help their baby fall asleep.The key is to be as consistent and patient as you can.

How Long Does Sleep Training Take?

Every baby is different, but to get a general idea, expect to spend 3-7 days sleep training before you start seeing results. If you’re feeling like you’re not making any progress by day 4, it might be worth trying a different technique to see if your baby responds better.

Share Your Success!

Getting plenty of sleep is important for every child’s growth and development, and with all the sleep training methods there are to try, there’s a good chance you can find one or more of them useful. Our community loves hearing from other parents who share what they’ve tried and found successful–there are so many insightful tips and heartwarming stories we just can’t get enough of!

Join us on facebook to hear from other parents and help others learn from your experiences. Parenting certainly has its ups and downs, but we’re all in this together to help our children grow healthy and happy!

Experts have varying opinions about how long to let your baby cry for sleep training. Some say to reassure after every 5 minutes, others say as long as 10 or 20 minutes or longer. This is a good question to ask your pediatrician to help you decide what you’re comfortable with as their parent. Just be sure to hang in there and keep trying your best–it can take time to find the thing that works, and taking that time is what makes you a great parent.

Yes, you can include naps in sleep training! Consistency is key, so make sure you’re using the same techniques for bedtime as nap time.

If you’re having trouble with sleep training, you are not alone. While these techniques can be very helpful, there’s no magic solution and no one-size-fits all approach, so some of us have to embrace patience and remind ourselves that eventually, our children will find a way to fall asleep on their own. That said, there could be something else going on that’s making sleep training difficult for your baby, and it can’t hurt to look into that possibility with medical professionals. If you have any concerns about colic or underlying issues that might be making it difficult for your baby to fall asleep, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician.

All information on Enfamil, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge and is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment, care, or help because of information you have read on Enfamil.