What Is Sleep Training and How Do You Do It?


If you’re like most new parents, you’re learning that sleep is a rare commodity with a baby. This is totally normal – in fact, 75% of babies experience disjointed sleep in their first few months. Luckily, there’s a way to reduce your baby’s wake ups and help them sleep longer at night – sleep training. This simple, safe process helps lay the foundations for restful nights and healthy years ahead. Here we’ll explain why sleep training is important, how it works, and briefly outline some methods. If you’re looking for help with sleep, take this FREE Sleep assessment and get a personalized sleep plan to combat your baby’s sleep challenges.

Why Your Baby – and You – Need Sleep.

Sleep is fundamentally important to your baby’s healthy development. It’s during sleep that their brains and bodies grow and develop. Mood: Studies – and life experience – show that babies who are well-rested are more even-keeled. They’re happier and less moody than overtired babies. Weight: Again, sleeping helps your baby grow, which means they’ll put on weight faster, something that both makes them healthier in general but also helps them sleep longer at night. Brain Development: Studies show that babies who sleep well have improved cognitive abilities, including memory retention. You’re Better Rested: Well-rested babies make well-rested parents, which in turn makes you healthier, happier, and a better parent: it’s true – studies show that parents or caretakers who sleep well are more attentive and alert.

How Does Sleep Training Work?

You’re probably wondering “What is sleep training?” Sleep training involves tuning a number of factors that work together to help foster healthy sleep habits for your baby. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  1. Respecting your baby’s need to sleep (flexible bedtimes)

  2. Acting on sleepy cues (timing your baby’s sleeps to align with their natural sleep rhythm)

  3. Developing sleep soothing routines (that cue your baby it is time for sleep)

  4. Providing a sleep nourishing environment (completely dark, white noise etc)

  5. Teaching your baby to self-soothe (fall asleep independently) by putting them down drowsy but awake.

Together, these things are the foundation of healthy sleep and will ultimately help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Put simply, sleep training works with and nurtures your baby’s natural sleep cycles to help them become strong independent sleeper by:

  1. Strengthening Circadian Rhythms: By following a developmentally appropriate schedule that is in line with your baby’s biological rhythms.

  2. Establishing Sleep Nourishing Routines and Environments: Where your baby sleeps and the steps before they fall asleep play an important role in ensuring they are set up for sleep success.

  3. Teaching Self-Soothing: Actually, the act of falling asleep is a learned skill and sleep training gives your baby the space and time they need to master it!

While sleep training does take time, remember that the work you do now creates life-long habits that will keep your baby growing well for years to come.

When Can I Start Sleep Training?

The foundations for sleep training can be set as soon as your baby is born, but proper sleep training won’t happen until your baby is at least 3-4 months, old, weighs at least 12lbs and you have the all clear from your pediatrician.

The Five Fundamentals of Sleep Coaching:

Wake Windows: How long your baby is awake is just as important as how long they sleep, so watching awake intervals, or wake windows, let’s you know when to start looking for sleepy cues. The Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers has a smart schedule which will notify you when it is time for the next nap and guide you step by step through the sleep training process. Sleepy Cues: These are the things your baby does when they’re tired – like yawning, rubbing their eyes, or becoming fussy. When you see these signs, your baby’s wake window is closing and it’s time to pivot toward your bedtime routine. Consistent Bedtime Routines: A consistent, calming bedtime routine helps soothe your baby before bed and teaches them when it’s time for sleep. Shorter versions can also be performed prior to daytime naps. These structured events are key to teaching your baby healthy sleep habits. Sleep-Nurturing Environment: Something you can do from the day you bring your baby home from the hospital is create an ideal sleep environment that is dark, quiet, and temperature controlled. Achieve this with the following:

  • Blackout Curtains: Darkness helps babies sleep. Even a little light can counteract this natural process, so blackout curtains are essential for sleep training.

  • Sound machines: Playing white noise goes a long way in soothing a baby to sleep and blocking out outside noise.

  • Perfect Temperature: Babies – and adults – sleep best in rooms that are 68-72°F.

  • Calming Scents: Lavender, jasmine, and chamomile are all great options to create a relaxing, soothing environment.

Track Your Baby’s Sleep: Your baby’s sleep cycle and patterns shift as they age. Tracking when they wake, nap, and go down at night provides the most comprehensive guide to your baby’s progress. You can do this easily by using the 1-click sleep tracking function in the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. Unlearn Crutches: When your baby is very little, like newborn-3 months, it’s totally fine to cuddle and snuggle before bed, sometimes even letting them fall asleep in your arms. But as they get older and in order to sleep train, you need to slowly transition away from these habits. When sleep training, it’s important you put your baby down before they’re asleep, because that gives them the space they need to practice how to self-soothe themselves. Yes, this can be hard for many of us, but just remember that this is all for your baby’s long-term health, and yours: once your baby is sleeping well, you’ll be sleeping well, too!

When Is It Too Late to Sleep Train?

Never. While we suggest sleep training starts at 4 months, it’s never too late to get started, but it’s important to keep in mind that the longer you wait, the longer it may take to successfully sleep coach as habits may be harder to break.

What do naps have to do with Sleep Training?

Your baby’s sleep cycle is a 24-hour period, so their daytime sleeps are just as important as nighttime sleeps. In fact it’s what happens during the day that will dictate bedtime and how overnight may go. For naps: Watch For Sleepy Cues: Sleepy cues appear before naptime, too, so keep an eye out for them about 20-30mins before nap time to gauge when your baby is ready to go down to sleep. [Fear not, you’ll learn your baby’s natural sleepy cues quickly.] Keep Wake Time Light, Literally: Exposing your baby to natural light during the day reinforces their natural circadian rhythm, so be sure to keep blinds open or go for a walk each day. But keep it pitch dark for naps. Note: Be sure to use SPF when you go for outside walks, even on cloudy days. That goes for you, too.

How Much Should My Baby Be Sleeping?

While each baby is unique and has their own sleep pattern, there are some general guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation. Newborns (0-3 months): The recommended amount of sleep for newborns is 14-17 hours over 24-hours, though it could be as little as 11 or up to 19. Keep in mind your baby’s sleep is super disorganized now, they don’t yet understand the difference between day and night, and they need to feed often, so typically they sleep for 2-3 hours before waking again for food, changes, or cuddles before going back to sleep about 30-45 minutes later. 4-11 Months: Babies typically sleep 12-15 hours a day at this age, though it can be 10-18 in some cases. 12+ Months: By one year, most babies sleep 11-14 hours a day, including 1-2 naps, but sometimes it can be 9 hours or up to 16. Again, each baby is different. We understand this can be a frustrating experience, but trust that if you keep going, you and your baby will both grow and thrive through this experience. And, once you do, your entire family will be happier, healthier, and well-rested for years to come. To get things started, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. Honestly, it’s a game changer. We worked with some of the world’s best pediatric sleep experts to create an app that blends science and technology to help you succeed with as little stress as possible. From 1-click sleep tracking to an automatic sleep schedule to bite-sized articles explaining it all, this one little app will have a hugely positive impact on your baby’s sleep in as little as 7-days.

About Mandy Treeby | Co-founder of the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™Read More