10 Signs It’s Time To Sleep Train

sleep training checklist

Our team does quite a few Personalized Sleep Plans® every week, but while we can give you the best of plans, it doesn’t mean anything if you and your baby are not ready for it.

So how do you know you’re ready to sleep train? Glad you asked!

Below is a 10-point checklist designed to help you determine if you and your baby or toddler are ready for sleep training.

10-Point Checklist To Help You Determine If It’s Time To Sleep Train

? 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 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.
? 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.
? 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.
? 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 are 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 before it gets easier?
? Your baby actually has 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 your baby to your neighbor’s, it does wonders for your outlook.
? You know that 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!
? You have the time to commit to sleep training. 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 that have been there for as long as two or three years! Results are simply not always overnight (though some are!). Granted, most will have at least some success within 1-2 weeks. These successes can help give you the boost you need for the long haul.
? You are ready to be consistent and patient. 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? Patience is a key part of sleep coaching, too. 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.
? You are ready to create (or invest in) a sleep coaching 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.
? You have some measure of support to help you through the process. 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.

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12 thoughts on “10 Signs It’s Time To Sleep Train”

  1. Hi I’m just looking for some advice or help. I have a 8month old boy who used to fall asleep at the boon between 11-11:30 at night and sleep right through till 7 or 8 in the morning. Now since about a month ago I’ll sit down with him same time every night which is about 830 -9 and he will nurse for 3-4 hours and then once hes done I’ll put him in his crib and he might sleep for 2hrs then be awake again. So I just bring him into my bed whip out a boob and let him est so I can sleep and he goes back to sleep. I just need help or somewhere to start. I need some me time. And he rarely will nap during the day

    • Hi @Jessica – Thank you for writing to us about your 8 month old! It may indeed be time to sleep coach / sleep train your little guy, and start working on teaching him that he can fall asleep on his own, and back to sleep on his own! To start, I’d recommend reading this article, so that you can better understand his sleep:
      If you’d like help with this, please contact us for more information on our offerings, and we’d be happy to help you find assistance that will be the perfect fit!

  2. I’m a first time mom and trying to decide whether we are ready to sleep train my 4 month old. I don’t know how to tell if he is capable of self soothing yet. He doesn’t know how to fall asleep without nursing and being held, day or night. I believe he is going through the 4 month regression because he used to sleep one 6-7 hour stretch at night and have 1-2 hour naps, but now only takes 20-45 minute naps and wakes every 1-3 hours at night. We struggle with having any sort of schedule and although I believe he could probably go 2-3 hours between nursing now, I end up nursing him every 1-1.5 hours just to keep him fed and rested during the day. He struggled with weight gain in the beginning and is in the lower percentiles, so I’ve just been doing anything to feed him, but now I’m thinking he will probably eat even better if we could establish a better feeding/sleeping routine. My boobs and I are exhausted! He is nearly impossible to keep awake while nursing (has been since day 1) and even refuses to nurse sometimes without first being swaddled! He is moderately intense and very persistent. I’m not sure how much crying we can handle because he is a purple-faced screamer once he gets worked up. Also I’m a “gentle” parent and have been fighting sleep deprivation and postpartum depression. I know we have to do something soon, but just because I am ready, does that mean he is ready? How do I know if he can handle it or if he’s developmentally ready?

    • @Jessica – Thank you for stopping by our sleepy little village and for sharing with us. Your persistent, intense little guy sounds like an absolute treat, but I’m sorry you guys are having some difficulties with his sleep. We’d love to help you all through this. The answer to this question is not a simple one, unfortunately. We do find that moms very frequently (quite often actually) have a little niggling like this when they’re ready for some sleep coaching and they are right on that their babies are also ready. There’s rarely a “best” time or “righter” time to start the sleep training journey in all honesty – it’s more a matter of making the decision and commitment to start, getting a good plan of action in place that you can turn to and depend on, setting yourself up with some good support before you get started, planning the day, then getting started with day 1. You should also run the idea of getting started with some sleep coaching by his healthcare provider to ensure he’s clear on that front as well.

      And, no worries at all – gentle sleep coaching is effective and possible though it’s often not 100% tear-free. Please consider connecting with one of our expert sleep consultants who have walked many, many mamas through this process and supported them straight through it to see a better sleeping family at the end of it all. You can read more about them here:https://www.babysleepsite.com/about And, if you’re interested in a consultation package or plan, you can read about those here:https://www.babysleepsite.com/services We would welcome the opportunity to serve you and your family, Jessica. Hang in there!

  3. I downloaded the free e book, but there is nothing on it, can I re down load it or does it not work for phones? Also I’m just looking to create a rough draft routine for my 6 week old and when it’s best to feed and sleep.

  4. My baby girls is 7 months old… she wakes up always between 7-8 a.m. She has 3 naps a day, going to bed between 8:30-9:30 pm… wakes up twice a night… but she can never falls asleep by herself… daytime or evening… any help please?… 🙂

  5. We are on night two of sleep training…where we stay in the room with her. Tonight got completely messed up! After her routine,….bath, nurse, lullaby, down in the crib, we had 30 minutes of crying then a variety of disruptions! Dog, doorbell, sibling coming in room, husband picking baby! She eventually fell asleep without a tear but I think she was worn out from the show she was getting! Please tell me that we don’t have to go back to square one! Tomorrow do we just continue like we did from day 1 with the original routine? Could this have confused her? Wonder if tomorrow will be worse than the past two nights…(I was really looking forward to a minimum tear night).

    • @ Lindsay – Your instincts are right on! Continue as normal even in the face of disruptions; that’s the consistency piece of our ‘stay consistent’ advice. You can’t prevent disruptions like doorbell-ringing, dob barking, etc. – but you can stay consistent with your sleep coaching.

      Hope this helps! Keeps us posted on your progress 🙂

  6. Nicole- im a first time mom to a 11 week baby. He had really bad gases at birth and since 2 weeks my husband and ive started holding him and rocking him to sleep and sometimes he falls asleep at the breast. Its getting to the point where im exhausted rocking him for hours. Is it too early to sleep train? I was thinking of trying the method of little cry where you cut back on rocking each time, but my thing is when i put him down drowsy but awake and he wakes up, do i rock him back and then try it again? How long do i keep doing this? That method seems confusing to me. I want some advise and want to try things on my own first.

    • @ Irena – sorry you’re struggling with this! At 11 weeks, it’s a bit early for any formal sleep training, but the method you are describing (which is called the fading method) is gentle enough that you could use it now. With this method, you would do as you say – you would cut back on rocking. If your baby wakes after you lay him down drowsy, you’d just rock more, but not until he is all the way to sleep – just until he is drowsy again. Then, after a few nights of this, you’d trim the rocking even more. Again, every time he woke, you’d rock him for a bit, but not until he was asleep. Eventually, you’d get to the point where you could cut out the rocking altogether and just soothe him back to sleep while he’s lying in his crib or sleeping area, by patting or rubbing him, or something like that.

      Does that make sense? Hope this info helps! If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you download our free sleep through the night guide, found here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/

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