Sleep training is the process of helping a baby learn to get to sleep and stay asleep through the night.
Some babies seem to develop a regular sleep routine quickly and easily. But many others have trouble
settling down to sleep — or getting back to sleep when they’ve been wakened — and they need help
and guidance along the way.
When can I start and what are the stages of sleep training?
The first three months
Don’t try to impose a sleep schedule or training program on a newborn. Your new baby will need to feed
every few hours, around the clock, so it’s normal and healthy for him to sleep for just a few hours at a
time. Respond promptly to his cries, feed and comfort him, and try to sleep when he does to minimize
your own sleep deprivation.
Beginning at about 6 weeks, you can reinforce your child’s biological rhythms by establishing a regular
bedtime routine. At about the same time every night, for instance, give him a warm bath, read him a
book, and then feed him before putting him to bed. (For more ideas, see our article on bedtime
routines.) Try to get your baby up at around the same time every morning and put him down for naps at
the same point in the day.
At this stage, consider your routine and your baby’s sleep schedule as a work in progress: During the first
three months of life, your baby will gradually sleep more at night and less during the day. You’ll need to
keep adjusting the schedule as your baby matures and develops.
4 to 6 months and beyond
Typically, by age 3 months or so, babies have started to develop more of a regular sleep/wake pattern
and have dropped most of their night feedings. And somewhere between 4 and 6 months, experts say,
most babies are ready for sleep training and are capable of sleeping through the night for a stretch of 8
to 12 hours.
Of course, every baby is different: Some may be ready earlier, others later. And some will sleep seven
hours or longer at an early age while others won’t do so until they’re much older.
Before starting sleep training, make sure your baby doesn’t have any medical conditions that affect his
sleep. Then be flexible about how you apply your chosen program and carefully observe how your baby
reacts. If he’s very resistant or you see a change for the worse in his overall mood and behavior, stop
and wait a few weeks before trying again.
If you’re not sure whether your baby’s ready for sleep training, ask your doctor.