The 10-point Checklist You and Your Baby Are Ready For Sleep Training

Baby Sleep Training ChecklistMy team and I do quite a few Personalized Sleep Plans® every week, but we can give you the best of plans and it doesn’t mean anything if you and your baby are not ready for it. Here is a 10-point checklist to determine if you and your baby or toddler are ready for sleep training.

1. Your baby has preferences. Babies will learn early that some things feel good (e.g. being in mommy or daddy’s arms) and what doesn’t (e.g. dirty diaper). They instinctively learn to cry to get a clean diaper or be held, if they need the comfort. At some point, though, a need can become a want. Your newborn will likely have limited self-soothing abilities or she will be great at sleeping, but then has her 4 month old sleep regression and suddenly has sleep problems. At some point you will be convinced your every-two-hour-eater is genuinely hungry or needs the comfort. Eventually, you will start to wonder if she really needs it as much as wants it. After all, maybe the only reason she “needs” it is because that’s all she’s ever known, not that she can’t sleep without it.

2. Your baby has the ability to learn a new way to sleep. There is a difference between babies who can and can’t learn to self-soothe. Experts will disagree far and wide at the “right” age, but all situations are different. The key here is whether you believe that your baby has the ability to learn a new way to sleep.

3. The timing is right for your baby. Many will agree that a 6 month old can learn to self-soothe, but does that mean it wouldn’t be better for YOUR family to wait until she’s more like 12 months? Maybe. It depends on the baby, their temperament, what they’re going through and a whole host of other factors. You know your baby best and need to figure out the right time for your baby. And, keep in mind that you can always try, take a break, and try again, if you doubt your timing after you start.

4. The timing is right for you. There is a big difference between hearing your 16-week old or 6-month old fussing or crying versus hearing your 11-month old. Even still, it is different hearing a baby cry or your toddler saying “Mama!” or “Dada!” Whether you use a no-cry method or a crying one, there is bound to be some uncomfortable moments. Are YOU ready for some rough days and/or nights? Are you able to deal with it getting harder for a few days before it gets easier?

5. Does your baby actually have a sleep problem? Sometimes, expectations are actually to blame for a baby’s “sleep problem.” Is your 8-month old breastfed baby still waking up once a night to eat? For many, that is A-OK and age-appropriate. My boys nursed once a night for their first year. All babies are different and sometimes you just have to adjust your expectations. Once you lower your expectations and stop comparing to your baby to your neighbor’s, it does wonders for your outlook.

6. Decide you need to sleep train. Maybe you can’t go on waking up every hour to put a pacifier in the baby’s mouth or even if you have appropriate expectations and you don’t have a true “baby sleep problem,” you need to decide that you need to sleep train. I’ve had clients who are surgeons and getting up once a night is just brutal months and months later, so maybe you need to sleep train to get a full night’s sleep. Similarly, some clients experience more health problems, difficulty functioning, or post-postpartum depression. I recently had a client tell me she didn’t understand how sleep deprivation could be used as a form of torture until she had a baby. I totally relate!

7. Do you have the time and commitment? One thing that’s difficult about my job is setting appropriate expectations about how long sleep training will take. Some are frustrated three days later that changes aren’t happening fast enough. I thank the books for that who make you think that it’s a “3 days and you’re done…FOREVER” type of process. For some babies and toddlers, sleep training means you are changing habits as long as two or three years old! Results are simply not always over night (though some are!). Granted, most will have at least some success within 1-2 weeks that helps give you the boost you need for the long haul.

8. Are you ready to be consistent? Along the same lines, you need to be ready to be 100% consistent. Waffling or changing strategies hourly or daily can lead to more crying and frustration on both you and your baby’s parts. Similar to how diets don’t work, because you need a “lifestyle change,” sleep training should not be seen as a crash diet. You need to be consistent both short-term and long-term. Are you ready?

9. Can you be patient? Particularly if you are using a no-cry sleep training method, you need to be prepared to be patient. Just like your baby won’t learn to walk or talk in a day, you can’t expect him to learn any new skill in one day.

10. Make a plan. Whether it’s one of our personalized sleep plans or you make on your own, have a plan. Decide what your goals are and how you will achieve them. Monitor progress and tweak the plan. You don’t just decide to be a doctor one day, it takes planning. Sometimes a curve ball is thrown that you didn’t anticipate, so you’ll tweak the plan. If your first plan doesn’t succeed, try try again.

Bonus: Do you have support? Sleep training can be very emotional and draining and, if you lack confidence, the best of plans will fail. It really does help to have support whether it’s a spouse, friend, message board, or us, having someone you feel accountable to “check in” with can help keep you going. I have one client now who simply lacks the support at home, so we are her support, and happy to do it.

I hope this article has helped you decide whether you are ready to tackle the sometimes very emotional task of sleep training or has given you the “ok” to wait. Only you know what you live day in and day out. Trust your instincts and they will take you far.

If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan® you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

How did you know you were ready for sleep training?

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33 thoughts on “The 10-point Checklist You and Your Baby Are Ready For Sleep Training”

  1. Hi Debbye,
    You are totally right. It was a temporary set back. Teething I suspect, but it finished in a week. I had to re-train but it was much faster this time around and now she sleeps 11hrs straight!!! If she wakes up in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t know as she doesn’t make a single sound. And now she is the happiest little baby with all that good sleep.

    Thank you so much for the inspiration to help my daughter sleep well.

  2. Hi Kris,
    Sorry about your son’s cold. Not fun. 🙁
    When you do work on the night weaning, that may actually help with the night waking(s) too. As he is used to waking for milk, whether or not he is hungry, once there is no feed to wake for, things may improve greatly. You are right, and I would recommend that you hold on to the 2 naps as long as possible, as that can help him get through the day without getting over tired.
    He may be getting overtired as it is, and you can also try to get him to nap after 3.5 hours awake time instead of 4 hours and see if that helps.
    Here is a link to a sample schedule to use as a reference, just in case you have not seen it:
    I wish you the best! Good luck!

  3. A quick question about night wakings…not sure if my son’s long wakings lately (1-1.5 hrs sometimes) are due to being UNDERtired or OVERtired. I am more inclined to say overtired….but I read some comments about the 11 month age and many people seemed to have the same issue. He can go 4 hrs between naps happily many days. I think he’s on the young side for only 1 nap so I am holding on to two until the 2nd nap gets too late (starting past 2:30-3 pm) because he falls asleep easily at 7pm, on his own (unless he is very overtired). I am confused as I thought that once he started falling asleep without being held/nursed would improve things. Is the habit just so ingrained that he feels compelled to wake looking for milk? He’s not hungry, just looking to get back to sleep. Is it because he is overtired then? He naps usually about 2 hrs a day but sometimes less…and his night sleep is from 7pm (always) to 5:45-6:45 am (varies).

  4. Hi Debbye,
    Actually we’re back to 2 night wakings after a bad cold recently, where I nursed on demand because he wasn’t well…but I feel confident that with some more schedule tweaking, and an attempt to night wean as soon as he starts on whole milk in a few weeks, that things will improve. I can tell the past several nights that he is not really nursing much, so even though it will be a few tearful nights, I think I am soon going to try and go *most* of the night without a feeding.

  5. @ Kris- I’m so glad that things have improved! Yay! I hope you are both still sleeping well. Keep it up, and that last night feeding will be history soon!

    @ Jackson- Thanks for writing! We are so happy that the information has been helpful!

    @ Ashneet- Sleep in the early morning hours proves trickiest for many families. Babies tend to sleep lightly at this time, and may wake up when really they need more sleep. If he is only sleeping 8-9 hours, and is clearly still tired, you may need to intervene by teaching him that it is not time to get up yet. There are different methods of sleep training that you can use to help teach him this including no cry and limited crying methods. Here is an article outlining different methods:
    Good luck!

    @ Zamina- It sounds like you have been working hard at helping your daughter sleep! Unfortunately, we all have bad nights, babies included, and as you have learned, it is quite easy to slip back into previous sleeping habits. Whether it is teething, or developmental milestones or any temporary setback, your best bet is to give her the support she needs, while trying not to introduce or reintroduce any sleep associations that will be hard to remove later. She may need a new “boot camp” session, but it will certainly be quicker and easier for you all this time around.
    Good luck!

  6. I can see similarities in my situation to Kris’. My daughter is a persistent tortoise (I think) and highly sensitive. What I don’t understand, is why when things are working that she wants to change them? After reading through your website Nicole, I got the courage to really go for a change in her sleep habits. She was 6 months at the time and I moved her into her room, got her to self settle for all naps and even for the night sleep in 3-4 days all with very little, to no crying. From there, in 1 night, we progressed to no feeds during the night until after 4am. This was a huge leap as the week before we were waking up every 1 to 1.5hrs!!

    We were ticking along nicely. She was getting her average of 11-11.5hrs at night and 3-ish hours during the day. Bedtime continued to be around 6/6.30pm and sometimes earlier. She was self settling through the night and sleeping nice long stretches of 5-6hrs. A few of the nights were even 7-8hrs. Then…. All of a sudden (only after about 10 days of good sleeping habits)…. She wakes up screaming blue murder and won’t go back to sleep at night without nursing. Then the frequency of these night wakings increased. All this even after she was put in bed awake and she settles herself to sleep.

    I am so confused?!! I thought that if they could self settle the first sleep then the rest would fall into place? Especially when she already knows how to do this and was doing so well. She is now just 6.5 months. What other tricks should I employ?

    I have “sleep trained” 3 times in her little life and the most recent boot camp was most successful. I just miss my sleep and I am such a grumpy mum during the day when she is not well rested, cos invariably I’m not rested either. Any suggestions from anyone would be so greatly appreciated.

  7. ur post has proved a boon to me .my problem is dat my 15 mnths baby sleeps at his usual tym bt wakes up early in the morning. He sleeps for 8-9 hours at nyt . When he wakes up in the morning he is sleepy bt even then he resists to sleep. Please help me.

  8. Thank you very much. I love this pieces of information I am receiving from you. It has help me with 1 & half month baby and now we can get a good night rest.

  9. Hi,
    I think Nicole was right about missing his sleep window. After several days of re-adjusting the nap schedule by shortening his wake times, and making sure he is well-fed in the daytime, my son appears much better rested and last night he woke only once to feed, after about 8 1/2 hours of sleep. He slept 11.5 hours overnight and had about 2 1/2 hours of naps. I had been trying to “schedule” his nursings in the daytime by feeding him after his meals and stretching him to 4 hrs sometimes (but always at least a 1/2 hour before naps) because that’s what ‘they say’ he should be able to do. My approach now is to feed when he wakes up, so he taking more milk, then have him eat his meals about an hour after that. I think my strategy to give him less milk so he’d eat more solids was not working. He is still less than 11 months so I guess nursing is a more important part of his diet (and an important emotional tie) than I thought. So, a better nap schedule (more daytime sleep) coupled with a few extra nursing sessions definitely seemed to help him. I hope this can continue. I can manage one night waking, for another little while anyway. 🙂

  10. My son is 15 and a half months now, he currently wakes up about twice a night. and he can not fall asleep without breast feeding, if am not their he will fall asleep feeding on the bottle. this is done in a dark room. he falls asleep just before we do at about 10:30pm. my husband and I both work and get home about 7pm so would like to spend some time with him each day before he sleeps. However the trouble is if we decide to stay up late say till 12pm, so will he! and the waking up in the middle of the night is such a hassle. he has also abandoned his bed and prefers ours. I would prefer he went to bed at about 9pm
    this is my first child, i have tried the cry it out by leaving him in his own bed but he knows we can hear his screams and wont let up till one of us goes to his rescue. I have tried to be brave but that method doesnt seem to be for us.
    please give me some advice am thinking about having another child but how will I handle a new born if I still have to wake up to take care of the older child.
    please give me some advice.

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