How to Start Sleep Training

by | Apr 21, 2020

If you’ve decided to sleep train, you might be wondering where the heck to start. With Google at our fingertips and sleep classes only a click away, information is endless. But how do you know which method to choose? Once you choose a method, what else do you need to know? How can you make sure this works and your baby actually learns to sleep?

If sleeping better is on your to-do list, making sure you have a plan is imperative. Here are my top tips to set you up for sleep training success.

1. Have a solid understanding of what sleep training means.

Sleep training – also known as sleep coaching – revolves around education and support in pursuit of a good night’s sleep. This includes following an age-appropriate schedule, maintaining a good sleep environment, establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine, and promoting independent sleep skills.

When I work with families, my goal – aside from helping your family sleep better – is to build positive sleep associations and to help your little one learn to self-soothe – a skill that is going to come in handy for the rest of their lives, even outside of the bedroom. Learning to sleep, like any other developmental skill, takes practice. So, consider sleep training yet another important parenting decision to help your tired little one get the rest they need to grow and develop.

2. Make sure your baby is at an appropriate age and developmental stage

In general, healthy babies with no underlying medical issues can be sleep trained around 16 weeks adjusted age. (But the best time to start has actually nothing to do with age!)

Please consult with your pediatrician prior to beginning any form of sleep training.

3. Choose a method (or coach!) that you feel comfortable with.

Here’s where you have a ton of options. Are you a DIY-er ready to source information youself? Would you feel better having an expert help you create a sleep plan for your family? Do you want someone to come to your home and be by your side through the process? How much crying can you tolerate? 

There are a ton of sleep training methods out there ranging from very hands-on to absolutely no interaction. I personally stick to methods in the middle of these extremes and frequently blend techniques to create something that will work effectively for your family.

If you are planning to DIY, a quick Google search will yield a ton of options, but the biggest mistake you can make here is being unclear about the parameters of the method you choose or how to implement it properly. If you’re looking to make this experience as painless as possible, a clear understanding of methods is critical.

Which leads me to my next point…

4. Ensure you have a detailed plan in place before starting

…and one that you feel comfortable implementing both at bedtime and again during any night wake ups.

The last thing you want is to be doing is flipping through pages of a book, scrolling through blog posts, or trying to index problems when your baby is screaming at 3 a.m. Make sure you are very clear with how to handle bedtime routines & protests, night wakes & feedings, and nap refusals & short naps. Showing up for your baby with consistent responses is the number one way to ensure there is no unnecessary crying involved and your baby learns this new skill quickly and effectively.

5. Surround yourself with support

Sleep training is hard (as all change is.) There are going to be moments when you’re questioning yourself and wondering whether you’re making the right choice. Sometimes you’ll need a shoulder to lean on or someone to keep you accountable. And you’ll definitely want someone to celebrate with the first time your baby sleeps through the night or takes a 2-hour nap on their own. If you’re not working 1:1 with a sleep coach make sure your partner is on board and keep a close friend on speed-dial (bonus points if they’ve “been there done that” with sleep training)

6. Block out 2 weeks to maintain 100% consistency

New skills take practice; learning the skill of sleep is no different. The more you give your baby the opportunity to practice sleeping independently, the quicker they will become a sleep champ!

You have your marching orders, now go forth & sleep train! But if it all feels too overwhelming or you’d like a hand to hold throughout the process, I’m here for you. Armed with a personalized plan and me as your sleep guide, we can make your dreams come true (literally!)

If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!