Sometimes baby sleep training gets a bad rap. There are countless misconceptions about what baby sleep training really involves, and readers frequently are ask questions about first steps to take and overall sleep goals for baby. I relate so much to that feeling…
How do you know which baby sleep tips are best for healthy sleep habits?
How do you know what you should or shouldn’t do?
Well friends…there isn’t a clear cut answer here. I wish there were. But there are several goals we prioritized when helping our son sleep better. Goals that can really make all the difference in the world when it comes to sleep.
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So today I wanted to talk a little bit about what baby sleep training really means, along with a few realistic long term goals to help your baby sleep better in the long run. I say long run because guiding and teaching a child takes time and diligence. It’s okay if things don’t automatically fall into place. I promise. So long as you keep gentle, responsible and safe methods in mind, you will start to see improvements overtime.
Always remember, the foundation you lay in the early months will have a dramatic effect on sleep in the years to come.
So what does baby sleep training really mean anyway?
I remember when we first started on our new adventure as parents. I felt so lost as a new mom. I wanted everything to go well, and my son was far from ‘by the book.’ Looking back now, it’s easy for me to realize that I really needed to let things go. To allow things to fall into place overtime and not count and compare the success and failures.
For most families, sleep training is teaching your child to fall asleep independently in a way that makes you and your child feel comfortable. This can be accomplished in many gentle ways without using extremes.
It means helping your baby get very sleepy and laying him down awake if possible. It means offering comfort and additional soothing and TLC when your baby needs it. It also means offering your baby the opportunity to do things on their own when he can. Babies were born to sleep. It’s natural to all species. So when you allow your baby to fuss for a short period of time before falling asleep—that is teaching independent sleep.
Baby sleep training shouldn’t be confused with laying your baby down to cry themselves to sleep only to return in the morning. Far from it actually. Teaching independent sleep means allowing your baby the opportunity to learn to fall asleep alone, helping him along when needed, and returning to the baby after he wakes.
When your baby wakes up or if he cannot fall asleep, go to your baby. Nurture him. Love him. And help him along if he truly needs it. The ultimate goal is to guide your baby towards independent sleep over a period of months.
3 Important Baby Sleep Training Goals to Consider
1. Baby sleeps when it’s time to sleep.
This means starting your baby on an approximate schedule when you feel the time is right. We started at 6 weeks and still follow an approximate schedule over 18 months later. There is no need to start a schedule until a baby is a minimum of 4 weeks old. After the initial newborn month, feel confident starting an approximate schedule if you think your baby will tolerate it.
Implementing a successful sleep schedule and routine is a major component when developing a sleep plan. Quality sleep schedules and routines incorporate several vital components:
- Consistently following a flexible schedule.
- Wind down time in which activities before sleep are low key.
- Dim the room by turning off lights and closing the curtains
- Get your child into comfortable attire, which could include a clean diaper, pajamas and a wearable blanket or swaddle.
- Settle your child to a calm and sleepy state of mind.
- Say a sleepy phrase (for example, “I love you. I hope you have a good sleep. I will see you when you wake up.”)
- Lay your child down for sleep.
Those are the general basics to keep in mind when creating a newborn routine or baby routine. Beyond these basic components, you can use your creativity to tailor a sleep routine to your child’s needs.
One simple thing you can do to help your baby wind down for sleep is to use a set of routine cards like these.
Once the baby is on a schedule for a few weeks, the best goal is to have the baby sleep when you want. This means that they baby regularly sleeps according to the approximate schedule. Be flexible of course, but overall be consistent with sleeping times. When you are working on this first goal, the baby can still be rocked to sleep or sleep in places besides a crib.
Simply try to keep the baby on a good schedule.
2. Baby sleeps when it’s time to sleep and where you want.
The next step here is to keep the baby on the schedule and get the baby to sleep in their own room in a crib. The ultimate goal is to help the baby get used to his room and surroundings, and avoid the use of the sleep props if possible.
So if you are using a swing, bouncer, pacifier, rock ‘n play, and beyond, simply try to minimize the use. You don’t have to give it up altogether. Simply try to use it only when you need to—perhaps only 2 times a day. Then only 1 time per day. Until you eliminate it completely.
3. Baby sleeps when it’s time, where you want, and he falls asleep on his own.
This is what most would call baby sleep training. I prefer to call it, teaching independent sleep since sleep training often comes across as rigid and extreme. Teaching independent sleep is guiding your child towards sleep via approximate schedules, routines, consistency, and finally laying your child down awake but drowsy.
For some babies this works very well; for others, it doesn’t. Don’t stress. Truly. Don’t stress.
If it isn’t going well, feel confident reverting back to the previous goal and try again at a later time. Simply keep a good schedule and try your best to have baby sleep in the crib. Those are TWO great accomplishments on their own!
If independent sleep doesn’t happen right away that’s okay. All babies are different and sleeping independently takes time. Don’t feel discouraged that you aren’t doing it correctly. You are doing an amazing job. Listen to your baby and your gut. Things often start to fall into place when you least expect it.
Print your free baby sleep checklist!
This post comes with a free printable baby sleep checklist to help you support longer stretches of sleep for your baby! Plus, when you grab this printable, you’ll get instant access to my free 3-day baby sleep eCourse.
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable straight to your inbox, plus get my Free 3-Day Baby Sleep eCourse!
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Use it as a quick reference and don’t forget a thing!
Want more on baby sleep?
- My Top 10 Newborn Baby Sleep Tips To Help You Get More Sleep
- The Newborn Routine That Will Help Your Baby Fall Asleep Faster
- Top 7 Challenges + Solutions for Parenting a Newborn and Toddler
- 8 Infant Sleep Facts Every Parent Should Know
Resources for baby sleep:
I've created a free email series just for you! If you are struggling with finding a routine, rhythm or schedule, this email series will help you find one that will work for YOUR family. Yes, really. I've seen my sample routines work time and time again for parents. I know it can work for you too.
This free email series will help you:
- Free sample routines for your child
- Best morning routine tips and tricks your kids will actually follow
- All-time favorite parenting hacks for getting more cooperation at bedtime
- Step-by-step guide for using a printable daily schedule with kids