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Sleep Training Basics

Today this little miss (ok, mostly me) celebrates one week of sleeping through the night! I want to take the time to share how we went about sleep training our two littles so they slept through the night at 6 and 4 months old.sleep training basics

*Note: I personally ‘define’ sleep training as: a process that begins at birth and culminates, at an appropriate time, in letting them cry it out.*

This was taken after she made it to 640 in the morning! I startled awake at 6:30 and jumped out of bed to make sure everything was alright. It was and I was shocked, happy, and still curiously tired…

{I’ll be inserting cute sleepy/cuddly baby pictures throughout this post to keep it interesting!}

Babies and sleep can be the most discouraging, anxiety inducing, hair pulling process. You haven’t slept well since BEFORE you were pregnant with this little munchkin and now that they are out of the womb you have more responsibilities and even less sleep. What do you do? Firstly, there are so many websites and books dedicated to sleep training, you really just need to find what resonates with you and your goals and give it a solid try.

Firstly, there are so many websites and books dedicated to sleep training, you really just need to find what resonates with YOU and YOUR goals and give it a solid try.

My Sleep Training Goals for Both my Babies:

Goal: That they could fall asleep on their own without my help or intervention. That they would start sleep through the night between 3 and 7 months old.

Setting goals for you and baby will make a big difference in moving forward in sleep training. Talk to your spouse, be realistic together about what your vision is and how you’re going to go about it. For example, I’ve told my husband at night, “Just a heads up, when Ava wakes up in the middle of the night, I’m going to let her fuss for 5 minutes before getting up.” He’s always ok with it, but it makes me feel better about the situation!

sleep training basics

See my baby accessory loves here.

Where I Sought Sleep Training Help:

  1. Precious Little Sleep: Alexis Dubief is a hilariously insightful sleep instructor. She’ll make you laugh even while you’re crying about not sleeping. She even has a much anticipated book out now that you should probably just pick up.
  2. Chronicles of a Babywise Mom: Another great instructor that uses the babywise approach. Remember, you can use parts of all sorts of methods to help you accomplish your sleep goals. Be open minded, but graceful to yourself with what feels right to you.
  3. Likeminded Friends: I have two friends that have the same sleep goals, parenting goals/styles and sense of humor as me. They are SAINTS in the crazy realm of sleep training. I can text them anytime for advice without feeling like I’m going to feel dumb or get some inapplicable response. You need encouragement and help from someone in real life. Can you think of anyone?

See my nursery reveal here.

Newborn Sleep Training:

The first month of sleep with a newborn is really just survival mode. Find whatever means to get those babies to sleep. Baby wearing (ergobaby, sling, wrap), baby swing (360 swing, small swing, mamaroo), baby rocker (auto, manual), or baby bouncer.

But even in survival mode I started making patterns with my babies. After being awake 30-45 minutes I would swaddle them (in this swaddle), turn on white noise, nurse, and lay them down wherever they were to fall asleep. You can help them get their nights and days straight by not letting them nap for more than 2-3 hours during the day. Use a pacifier to give them a soothing option that isn’t nursing! (I introduce the pacifier after they’ve proven to latch well after 3 days post birth.)

At night for the first couple weeks I’d keep them in my room to nurse them easily when they’d wake. And, though it’s not recommended, I’d let them sleep on me or next to me at some feedings to let us both sleep more. Sometimes I would put them in the swing if they needed help getting back to sleep and I didn’t want to sit rocking them.

sleep training basics

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Sleep Training One-Two Months Old

Set sleep patterns.

Around one month old, I started having my babies sleep in their own beds at night, outside of my room.  I’d still let them nap wherever worked best during the day (rocker for baby number one, swing for baby number 2). Keeping them well rested during the day will help a lot with nighttime sleep. Follow this sleep chart for how long your baby should stay awake. Some babies really need help being PUT to sleep for naps. Don’t overlook this.

Let them fuss a little. Fussing isn’t screaming. It’s the sleepy whimpering that precedes the full out screaming. I’d put my babies down for their naps changed, nursed, and AWAKE, and let them fuss for 3 minutes before going in and giving them a binky and shushing. Then let them fuss for 5 minutes before going in again to do the same. Usually they fall asleep on their own after just that first time! Doing this early helps so incredibly much for down the road sleeping through the night. It gives YOU confidence and the baby tools to sleep on their own.

Best part? You can do this at any stage! Just start <3

With baby number two I started keep her up just a little longer in the evenings before “bed time” at 7pm. That’s when my son goes to bed so it started working naturally for her to follow suit too. If you can, keep them up from 530-7pm. At 630 give them a bath (if possible), swaddle them, nurse them and lay them down at 7pm in their room.  Do the fuss method above. If they can’t sooth after 5 minutes of fussing. Go in and hold, bounce, and shush and put them down awake again. Allow the fuss method to happen again. If possible, try not to nurse and rock to sleep. Or, don’t mind if they do fall asleep nursing and you lay them down with their eyes startling open. Just say “it’s night night time. Goodnight sweetie.” And shut the door.

sleep training basics

Night Wakeups

If your baby is gaining appropriate weight, as stated by your doctor at the 2 month checkup, you can start forming confidence that they probably don’t need an all night nursing buffet. This is when I’d start setting mini goals like: “I’ll only feed you after 1 AM,” or “I’ll only fee you twice before 6 AM.” Other wakeups would get a binky re-insertion instead of nursing. It’s tiring and you keep questioning “if I just fed you now, you might sleep for 3 hours.. If I just put in the binky, you might only sleep for 1 hour..” That’s why you set mini goals for a few days. Think of your big picture goal and you can do it and see progress.

That’s why you set mini goals for a few days. Think of your big picture goal and you can do it and see progress!

At every feeding I’d keep the lights low or off, the sound machine on, and no talking. If I could handle it, I’d start letting them fuss for a couple minutes before going in to feed them. That gave them “a chance” to fall back asleep without my help. It will shock and awe you when they do!

After they stop/slow nursing I’d burp them and lay them right back down, even if eyes are open, (with or without a binky in) and go back to my bed. They can usually put themselves back to sleep. This is when it’s easier to not have them in your room where you can hear every squak and squeak as they fall back to sleep.

Choose a time, usually between 6 and 7 am to be “up for the day.” Meaning you can start talking and playing!

sleep training basics

Sleep Training Three to Six Months Old:

With my firstborn: I decided I would stop nighttime feedings and let him cry it out at 6 months old after he had started solids. We had our nighttime pattern down, he had no health issues, and that was time I felt comfortable with. When he’d wake up I’d put the monitor on silent and turn on my phone’s stopwatch and wait. The longest I felt comfortable letting him cry was one hour. Sounds awful, it was. Most kids don’t cry that long at all, he did. If he went for an hour I’d go in, give him his binky, shush, and leave again. But he was fine. I was fine. And I set my goal for a week of doing this. He started sleeping through the night in that week. He’s slept 7pm to 7am ever since.

With my second:  She is a — healthy sized girl — to put it lightly! (17 pounds at 4 months!!) This made me personally more confident in sleep training her earlier than I did my first. I also knew (goals remember!) before having her, that I wanted to have her sleep trained between three and four months. By three months she could fall asleep by herself in her bed most every nap and evening.  When I took her arms out of the swaddle she started self soothing by sucking her thumb! (I’d rather a pacifier, but I’ll take what I can get!) She wasn’t nursing long at night and had even gone one night of not waking up.

THEN she had a week of terrible sleep regression that my first never had! I was terrified that it was the end!!

So I worked on making sure she was sleeping enough during the day and awake for TWO whole hours before bed. I cluster fed/offered her nursing sessions often through the day and especially those last two awake hours.

After the week of sleep regression, there was a night where I knew she was dry, well fed (she doesn’t linger when she’s done eating), and probably a little over tired from keeping her up two hours. I was confident that there was NOTHING else she needed but sleep. So we laid her down and let her cry herself to sleep. It lasted about 30 minutes. She screamed a little in the beginning, but then it was mostly soft crying, almost asleep, crying hard, soft crying, etc. until she fell asleep.

I was confident that there was NOTHING else she needed but sleep.

And she’s slept till at least 530 am ever since! I get up, nurse her, and lay her back down. Then she gets up with the rest of us around 7am.

sleep training basics

Sleep Training Basics Summary:

  • Set goals that you work with your sleep desires.
  • Put your baby down sleep awake.
  • Try letting them fuss 3-5 min (check on them, shush/pacify without picking them up), 6-10 min (same), 12-20 minutes (same). *The reason why you increase or change the amount of time until you go in is so the baby doesn’t think “I only have to fuss ____ long until mom comes in.”
  • Set small goals for trying something new! “We’re going to try ____ for three days and see how it goes.”
  • Get help/encouragement from a friend or website that has the same goals as you!
  • Know that [healthy] babies are different, but they WILL all sleep and you can too! With a little sleep training.
  • Find confidence in sleep training knowing your baby is well fed, has a dry diaper, and really does need to sleep.

sleep training basics

My style and desires for sleep training might not be for you. My encouragement is that you just keep reading and seeking the help you need and want for your family’s sleep! That’s the beauty of parenting, you get to CHOOSE what is the best for you. And I fully support that.

I’d love to try and answer any questions you have below. Sometimes the best way to go about sleep training is just bouncing ideas off other mamas of similar mindsets. So bounce away mamas.

(One last baby picture for good measure)

sleep training basics

*This post may contain affiliate links to products I use and love. Read more on my FAQ page.*

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