5 Easy Ways To Start Sleep Training TONIGHT. (You Can Do #1 Right Now!)

Start Sleep Training Tonight

If you have been working on your baby or toddler’s sleep for any length of time, then you know that sleep coaching tends to take time. Sure, some parents see miraculous results overnight, but that’s the exception – it’s not the norm! For most of us, sleep coaching involves days or weeks of work before we see real, meaningful results. The work is worth it, of course – the payoff of a full night’s sleep is worth anything!

But sometimes, starting can just seem so daunting. What do you do first? Should you start with a nap, or with bedtime? Lots for an exhausted, sleep-deprived parent to consider!

As always, we are here to help. We know that sleep coaching can be an intimidating process to start, so we thought we’d help make it easier. Below are 5 things you can do tonight that will help kick off the sleep coaching process for you and your baby, and start your whole family on the road to better sleep. Think of this as your ‘quick win’ – you can put each of these strategies to work tonight – no waiting necessary!

5 Easy Ways To Start Sleep Training TONIGHT

  1. Identify your baby’s sleep associations. This is easy – you an do this right now, in just a few minutes! Think about how your baby or toddler typically falls asleep. Does she fall asleep while nursing, or drinking her bottle? Does she fall asleep while you rock her? Does she fall asleep on you, or in your arms? All of these are sleep associations – they are things your baby needs in order to fall asleep. The process of sleep training is simply weaning your baby away from her sleep associations, so that she can learn to fall asleep on her own, without outside help. Once you have identified your baby or toddler’s sleep associations, you have identified the problems that need fixing. That’s step one!
  2. Start a bedtime routine. If you haven’t already, start a bedtime routine tonight with your baby or toddler. It doesn’t have to be long (it shouldn’t be, actually – 15 minutes is sufficient!), and it doesn’t have to be complicated (again, it shouldn’t be – you want straightforward and simple). Read a few books, sing a lullaby, give kisses and cuddles, and then its lights out. Pledge to do this routine every night; that’s what puts the “routine” in bedtime routine. Once you have instituted a strong routine, it will help your baby or toddler better understand what’s expected of him at bedtime.
  3. Shorten your baby or toddler’s time spent with a particular sleep association. Now that you know how your baby or toddler falls asleep, work to shorten whatever association she has. For instance, if your baby needs to be rocked to sleep, try to cut back a little on the time you spend rocking her. If you typically rock her for 30 minutes, try rocking her for 20 and then holding her without any movement for 10. If you do this gradually, you will eventually (and gently!) wean your baby away from the nursing. Same with feeding your baby or toddler to sleep, or holding her until she falls asleep – slightly reduce the time you spend doing these things. This is the first step towards changing your baby or toddler’s sleep associations.
  4. Don’t race in when your baby or toddler starts crying after a night waking. I’m not telling you to let your baby cry-it-out. You may choose that method if you feel it’s best for you situation, but know that I’m not instructing you to do that, necessarily! Rather, I’m encouraging you to wait a few moments between the time you hear your baby or toddler cry and the time you pick him up. Remember, not every cry is truly a cry for help – some cries are simply noises that our babies or toddlers make as they briefly wake between sleep cycles. In those cases, if you were to wait a few minutes, you might find that your baby or toddler settles himself, without your help. So when you hear a cry tonight – just give it a minute. See if your baby or toddler can re-settle without you.
  5. Track the times of all night wakings. You can’t really know what you’re working towards, in terms of your baby nighttime sleep or daytime schedule, until you know what the current situation looks like. So tonight, and over the next few days, track the timing of everything. Make note of all night wakings. Write down bedtimes and wake times. Note all naps, including when they start and finish. Same with feedings. What you are doing here is starting your sleep log; that will become important as you continue to work on sleep training. A sleep log will show you any patterns or trends that may be happening in your baby or toddler’s sleep, and it will also help show you where you are making progress and where you need to continue to focus your efforts.

You Don’t Have To Sleep Train Alone

Remember that, while you certainly can sleep train your baby or toddler on your own, you don’t have to. That’s what we are here for! Sleep training can be tough, and hundreds of parents turn to us for sleep coaching help every month. We can help you, too! Take a look at our consultation packages, and see which one looks like a good fit for you.

Click here to see all our personalized consultation packages.

Once you purchase, you will immediately receive access to the Helpdesk, and you can set up your account, fill out your Family Sleep History form, submit it to a consultant, and get started on the journey to better sleep!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Ready to start sleep coaching? What are your plans? Have you sleep trained before? How did you begin? Share your tips!

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  1. Stefanie Byrd says

    So, just to clarify…our bedtime routine right now is bath, diaper/jammies, lights off w/ white noise, give bottle & rock. Then, I lay her in her crib shortly after she finishes her bottle (giving a little bit of time for it to settle in her tummy). Sometimes she falls asleep while I’m giving her the bottle. Is that bad? I’ve considered doing the bottle before the bath. And we don’t do a bath every night anymore, but I do think it helps relax her. Just curious.

  2. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Stefanie — good question! First, how old is your baby? Second, re: whether it’s bad that your daughter falls asleep with the bottle – we always say that something isn’t a problem until it’s a problem. If you think that the falling-asleep-while-feeding is becoming a sleep association, and is interfering with your daughter’s sleep,t hen yes, it may be a problem. And your idea of doing the bottle before bath would be a really good fix for that. But if this is just an occasional thing that isn’t affecting her sleep in a noticeable way, then it likely isn’t something to worry about. Hope that helps!

    Best of luck to you, Stefanie – and thanks for commenting! :)

  3. Grainne says

    My baby is usually a good sleeper but I always give him a bottle at bed time, he is only 6 months ! Is this not normal for his age ? Sometimes he is asleep before feed is over but even if not he knows its sleep time.

  4. sarah says

    We are finally ready to start moving our 4.5-month-old from cosleeping to the crib, using a Ferber-style checking method.

    However, for the past month, she’s been rolling from back to tummy…and freaking out. This only happens during the day (because of the cosleeping, my body prevents her from rolling). But if we put her in the crib, I’m afraid she’ll roll and cry all night. I’m not worried about her sleeping on her tummy because she has excellent head control, but so far she just seems frustrated there and I’m not sure how to handle the rolling during sleep training. Any thoughts?

    We were hoping she’d have learned to roll back before starting sleep training, but the lack of sleep is making us desperate to start!

  5. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Grainne – yes, it is, so no worries about that! If it helps, you can take a look at a sample 6 month old schedule here: http://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/6-month-old-baby-schedule/

    Hope that’s helpful! Thanks for commenting.

    @ sarah – This is totally normal! This is one of those developmental milestones that messes with sleep – the same thing may happen when your daughter learns to sit up, to pull up to standing, to crawl, etc. All of those tend to mess with sleep.

    In terms of what to do – good question! We don’t typically advise that parents put anything in the crib, so I wouldn’t recommend those infant positioners designed to prevent rolling. You may consider flipping her over a lot at first, and then gradually trying to lengthen the time between when she rolls/starts to cry and when you rescue her.

    Best of luck to you, Sarah! Hope this helps. Thanks for commenting. :)

  6. sarah says

    Just a follow up. We decided to roll our baby onto her back when we did our checks. We rolled her after 5 minutes, 10 minutes…and before our next check she was asleep — on her tummy! We discovered that she slept really well on her tummy, and 4 nights later she’s only waking once per night to eat. She used to wake hourly when we were cosleeping.

    Interestingly, she has also gotten more comfortable on her tummy during the day (after about a month of crying every time she rolled over). It feels like a miracle!

  7. Emily DeJeu says

    @ sarah – great! So glad this has gone well for all of you. Thanks for the update – and happy sleeping! :)

  8. seipati says

    My baby sleeps very late and during that time he cries a lot,I don’t know why,how can I make him stop crying

  9. Chris Murphy says

    Hi. My four month old is driving me crazy waking every sleep cycle for her dummy over night. I really rely on her dummy during the day to resettle her quickly because i have a 20 month old that i can’t leave for long periods. So i don’t want to get rid of the dummy entirely but is causing a problem. Any suggestions?

  10. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Chris Murphy – well, in these cases, we usually recommend that parents start weaning away from the pacifier, as it causes more problems than it solves. You could still offer it during non-sleep times, but maybe stop giving it when you put your baby down for naps and at bedtime. And since your baby is young, the weaning process really shouldn’t be tough. Just be sure that if you’re taking away the pacifier, you leave your baby’s hands free so that she can learn to self-soothe.

    Hope this helps, Chris! Best of luck to you :)