My 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.
33 thoughts on “The 10-point Checklist You and Your Baby Are Ready For Sleep Training”
I *never* thought I’d try CIO, but I’m exhausted and at my wits end! I thought this was my last best hope (even though I hate letting her cry – she’s never cried this much in her whole life), but now I’m not sure whether it’s even working and I just don’t know what else to do. HELP!
I co-slept with my baby until about a week ago, and though I love those sweet snuggles, it just wasn’t working for me anymore — I wasn’t getting any evening time for myself or with my husband (as I’m always watching the baby monitor after her bedtime and feeling anxious, especially now that she’s mobile). Bedtime was taking up to 3 hours (because she wants to practice crawling and pulling herself up on me when I’m there with her, and she has become hyper-vigilant at bedtime because she knows I’ll sneak out when she drifts off), and I was nervous about sneaking out and leaving her only to find her awake and crawling around later (it’s a mattress on the floor, but still).
Pick-up/put-down just seems to frustrate her more than anything.
Naps have been a struggle, too. She naps just fine if I lie down with her or if she’s in a baby wrap, but that leaves me with very little time to myself.
So here we are. We have a great and consistent bedtime routine that leaves her very peaceful and ready for sleep, and then as soon as I put her in the crib she flips out. We started about a week ago – the first night she cried a little over an hour. Nights 2 and 3 were more like 15-20 minutes. Night 4 she cried an hour again. Tonight is Night 5 and she’s been crying 40 minutes so far with no sign of settling. She’s puffy and mottled in the mornings, and her voice has been very hoarse all week. I feel terrible!
I don’t want to change it up now if it’s only going to confuse her, but I’m concerned that maybe our timing is off (she just got through popping out 4 new teeth and seems to be going through a major developmental leap this week, and in the last 15 days has started clapping, waving, pointing, and using baby sign language, and crawling up on all fours after months of army-crawling only) or maybe this just isn’t the best method for my sweet, sensitive, and very strong-willed girl.
Thanks in advance for any insight or tips. I’m so grateful for this site!
Hi @Angela – Thank you for writing, and I’m sorry that sleep training is not going well! Hang in there mama! You’re right in that you don’t want to give up completely, but you can slow things down a bit if you’re feeling very overwhelmed! I’m not sure if you’re working on both naps and nights right now? If so, feel free to stop working on naps for a while, and just focus on bedtime until things smooth out! This way, she’s still moving towards falling asleep at bedtime, and you can snuggle with her for naps!
We’d love to help you through this if things do not smooth out quickly! I’d recommend one on one email or phone + email consultations for the best help and support! You can read about all of our sleep consultation packages here:
Hang in there Angela – I hope that tonight goes better, and every night after too! : )
Hello. I have 7 month old twins. They sleep in the same room they go down at around 8 pm and one wants to eat at around 11 pm and 3 am. The second likes 1 am and maybe 4 or 5 am. They both eat really well but because of medical conditions at birth, the second is still at the 7th percentile of growth. I’m struggling with sleep training where we’re up for 2 hours trying not to give milk, only water. The first is doing better but it’s still a struggle. Is it too soon for them?
Hi @Valentine – Thanks for writing to us, and congrats on your two bundles of joy! I’d recommend speaking to your babies’ doctor regarding if it is time to wean the night feeds. Especially when there have been growth concerns, checking with your pediatrician is important before starting any changes to feeds, and it helps to get a “green light” on starting sleep coaching too! We can certainly help smooth out the schedule concerns and help get both of those boys on the same schedule when the doctor says they are ready! We have tons of experience helping families with twins/multiples! Please contact us if you have any questions!
My daughter is 8 months she doesn’t self soothe but has slept through the night. She won’t nap more than 30 min in her crib but will nap an hour or more in her play pen.
She doesn’t sleep in her crib until after 10 but now she’s waking in the middle of the night.
I’ve tried a couple no cry sleep training methods but it only resulted in her crying. One pick up put down she cried so much she ended up falling asleep in my arms and ended up sleeping in her crib from 8 pm until 1am. We plan to do some more training after she’s turns 9 months. Our training will be a little more difficult due to us having to share a room right now. Any advice?
We will be camping in the living room.
Hi @Amy – Thank you for visiting, and it sounds like you are taking the time and getting ready and prepared for sleep training! Your camping in the living room plan is a good one! We do find that “pick up put down” does not work for all babies! If it increased frustration for your baby, you may want to try changing things up. I think that this article and video will be helpful for you as you plan:
If you find that you would like one on one help, please consider one of our consultation packages, and contact us at any time! Good luck!
It’s hard to know when to start sleep training! We unfortunately got our son used to being bounced and held while he falls asleep and then we put him in his crib for all naps and night time sleep. Sometimes he stays asleep and sometimes he’ll wake in a few minutes and need to be bounced back to sleep. He most often does around 3 hours at the start of the night and then sleeps in 1-2.5 hr chunks. I nurse him each time he wakes. On great nights (rarely) he will sleep around 5 hours and then up to 3 hrs after. I wonder why the length is so inconsistent and if he needs night feeds being 4.5 months old or if it’s a habit. He doesn’t seem to be able to self soothe yet…he enjoys sucking on his fingers but he has worked up to like hyperventilating when he cries for too long. I’m thinking we may need to just work on getting him out of a sleep sack into something like a zipadee bag and then after some more weeks do sleep training.
Hi @Laura – Thank you for your comment! I am sorry you’ve been experiencing frequent night wakings from you son. It sounds like he has a couple of sleep associations that keep him from sleeping in longer stretches. You will want to slowly help him fall asleep without those associations when you are ready to begin some gentle training. Here is an article about sleep associations for some more info: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-association/ You may also like this article series that takes you through various sleep training techniques: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-training-from-no-cry-to-cry-series-part-1/
At 4.5 months old we would consider a few night wakings ok – some babies need one feeding until around a year old. Here is a link to a sample schedule for a 4 month old so you can get an idea: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/4-month-old-schedule/
I hope some of these resources help! Good luck and let us know if you need anything else!
I need help! My son will be 5 months old in a few days. He is able to get himself to sleep for naps and night, but the naps are only 30-40 minutes and he is up to eat at night twice at different times. His schedule is not consistent because of the short naps, but he ususally wakes between 6-7 am and goes to bed between 6:30-7 pm. I’m wondering if he is ready for sleep training during the night or if he’s still too little. I don’t want to deprive him if he needs to eat in the middle of the night but he is so crabby with only 1.5 hours of sleep during the day and so am I!!! Also, he can get to sleep within a minute when the pacifier doesn’t fall out, when it does he goes crazy, but I’m trying not to replace it. After he eats in the middle of the night he doesn’t need the pacifier, because he falls asleep eating and wakes up to eat again not for he pacifier (at least I think). I’m frustrated and torn. Any advice would be great!!!
Hi @Jill, thank you for commenting! I am sorry to hear you are struggling with your little guy’s sleep. At this age we would consider 1-2 night wakings totally normal, so keep in mind that even if sleep training, you are teaching him to go to sleep on his own and back to sleep as he goes through a light sleep cycle without your help, but at this age, some babies still need a feeding or two. It can definitely be a challenge to determine if he is waking out of habit or because he actually needs to eat. This article is a great help you determine what kind of night waking is happening: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/baby-night-feedings-when-necessary/
And here is a link to a 5 month old schedule for you to use as a general reference if you need: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/5-month-old-baby-schedule/
You may also want to read through this article as it outlines ideal windows for beginning the sleep training process: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/baby-sleep-training-best-time/
Let us know if you need any more help! Thanks for using the Baby Sleep Site as a resource!
Great news!!! Thank you for sharing and I hope you and your family continue to sleep well! 🙂
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