5 Steps To Help Your Baby or Toddler Learn To Fall Asleep Alone

5 Steps To Help Your Baby Fall Asleep Alone

“Baby Falls Asleep Alone! Parents Overjoyed!”

Okay, so maybe the general public wouldn’t consider that the most amazing news headline in the world, but I’ll bet that for all of you sleep-deprived parents out there who are working on sleep training (and that’s pretty much all of you 🙂 ), you would LOVE to apply that headline to your story.

Good news – you can. And we can help.

Why Does Your Baby or Toddler Need To Learn To Fall Asleep Alone?

To put it simply, your baby or toddler needs to learn to fall asleep alone so that he can eventually (when he is developmentally ready) sleep through the night. There is no magical age at which all babies can sleep through the night, of course – that is dependent on so many factors. But until your baby knows how to fall asleep alone, without your help, he will struggle to sleep through the night (or to take long, restorative naps, for that matter).

5 Steps To Help Your Baby or Toddler Learn To Fall Asleep Alone

It isn’t exactly a small thing to teach your baby a brand new skill like falling asleep without help. That’s why we try to break the process down into manageable steps for the families with whom we work. Obviously, we can’t give all of you a consultation in blog article form, but we can give you an overview of what the 5 step process to helping your baby or toddler fall asleep alone looks like.

So, without further ado…here it is!

  1. Identify your baby or toddler’s sleep associations. Does your baby or toddler need to be rocked to sleep? Fed to sleep? Held to sleep? These are your little one’s sleep associations. Sleep training is simply the process of changing your baby or toddler’s sleep associations. Once you know the sleep associations, you know what to focus on while you sleep train.

  3. Wean from the swaddle and/or pacifier (if applicable, and if necessary). If your baby is heavily dependent on being swaddled for sleep, you will want to work on weaning her away from the swaddle before you start working on sleep training. Check out this article on how and when to stop swaddling for tips on how to do that. If your baby or toddler needs a pacifier to sleep, you might want to try weaning from it. This is only necessary for babies and toddlers who have a really strong dependency on the pacifier, though, and whose pacifier use is interfering with sleep. If you decide to wean from the pacifier, browse this article on how to stop pacifier use for tips.

  5. Create a sleep routine. Bedtime routines, and pre-nap routines, are great for promoting sleep. If you don’t already have one, create a consistent pre-sleep routine. You can read this article for bedtime routine tips, and this article about common bedtime routine mistakes you will want to avoid.

  7. Create a sleep training plan. All your hard work has led up to this point – time to create your own, personal sleep plan! Decide which sleep training method you want to use (you can look at a ‘cheat sheet’ of common sleep training methods, or download our free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night here – both will give you the info you need to get started.) Next, decide how you want to approach sleep training. It is generally best to start with bedtime and then move to naps, although that’s not true in every case.
  8. Hey membersdid you know you can download a workbook designed to help you create your very own Personalized Sleep Plan™? Log in and take a look!


  9. Implement your plan with confidence and consistency for 2-4 weeks (depending on the method you choose). This is where the hard work comes in. Once you have your plan on paper, you need to implement it and then stick to it. We usually recommend that parents stick with a plan for at least a week (2 is better) before making any changes. Remember, your goal in sleep training is to teach your baby or toddler to fall asleep alone. This is a new skill for your little one – and new skills aren’t learned overnight! So stay consistent in your sleep training, and give your baby or toddler time to learn a new way to sleep.

Parents, if you follow these steps, you CAN teach your baby or toddler to fall asleep alone, without your help. And that will be the first step on the journey to rested nights and peaceful naps!

How did you teach your baby or toddler to fall asleep alone? Scroll down to share your tips with the rest of us, to ask questions, and to hear from parents just like you!

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39 thoughts on “5 Steps To Help Your Baby or Toddler Learn To Fall Asleep Alone”

  1. My baby girl is almost 1. I haven’t really tried anything to get her to sleep on her own, but I’m ready. We tried the cry it out method when she was about 8 months old, defiantly not for me or hubby. Her biggest sleep association thing is breastfeeding, she nurses to sleep daytime naps and nights. This is becoming difficult for me. I need to get her to sleep by herself! Please help!

    • Hello @Mimi –
      Thank you for writing to us. I’m sorry to hear your family is having sleep problems and your daughter is struggling with sleeping on her own. You’re not alone, and not alone in trying Cry It Out and things not going smoothly.
      We welcome you to continue peruse our blog with over 300 articles or, if you prefer to bypass some of that, we have E-books and premium resources available where the research has been done for you. Or, for the fastest service, we have expert sleep consultants who can help you determine why your baby is not sleeping well if you’re interested. We are able to tap into our 10+ years of experience with thousands of families to quickly diagnose your sleep problems.

      In our consultation packages, we will work with you on a step-by-step plan that you can commit and feel good about. All of our email consultation packages for new clients include a Personalized Sleep Plan, which is a detailed guide customized just for your family given your specific sleep history, which you will share via an online questionnaire that takes just about 15-20 minutes (not necessarily all in one sitting).

      You can read about all of our sleep consultation packages and purchase directly online here:

      Hang in there Mimi! And if you need any assistance, please contact us any time!

  2. My 6 week old really struggles with going down for naps. I put him down within 60-90 minutes after he wakes up but can stir/cry for an hour or more in his dock a tot. I started using the pacifier which calms him but now the moment it falls out, he tends to cry. I don’t want to create too many sleep associations/props but do you have any other suggestions to help him go down more easily so he doesn’t just stir for long periods of time? He has a swaddle, white noise machine, darkened room (although not super super night time dark). Any suggestions would be great! Thank you!!

    • Hi @Debbie, thanks for writing to us and congratulations on your new baby boy! I know these early weeks can be such a blur and it can be so frustrating when they don’t nap when we know they are tired. You are doing great by watching the clock and making sure he is down every 60-90 minutes so he doesn’t get overtired, sometimes it may even be sooner than that so if you see signs earlier, then go for it. I’d make sure he’s still being fed every 2 hours (or whatever your doctor has said), so while I know the concern of not feeding to sleep and that becoming something he NEEDS, I personally always found a fill up right before the nap was helpful and paid closer attention to not letting that become a bad habit once the baby was a little older. Here is a link to download a free guide with tips for parents of newborns that you can download here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/15-free-baby-sleep-facts-new-parents-must-know/
      I hope that helps!

  3. My 13 month old won’t fall asleep on her own (motion association) and I have to put her in her crib basically fast asleep. Once she’s down she sleeps through the night and I’ve seen her on the monitor sitting up in the crib and then she just lies back down and goes to sleep. But at night if i put her in the crib “sleepy but awake” she immediately stands up crying and wanting me to hold her. What do you suggest? I can’t stand listening to her just cry and since it’s quicker for me to just pick her up and bounce or rock her to sleep I do. Bad habit, I know. Where do I start though?

  4. Hi,
    Our almost 6 month old struggles with going to sleep at night and for naps, but at night, once she’s off (often breastfed to sleep but not always) only wakes once or twice to feed and is otherwise able to link her sleep cycles unaided.
    We put her down between 6.30-7.30 pm, and she wakes up sometime between 5.30 and 7.30. She usually gets 12-13.5 hours sleep day and night.

    For her morning nap I have tried putting her down 2 hours after waking up, but that doesn’t work for her. Neither does 2.5 hours.

    We are struggling with creating a bedtime routine as both reading with her or a bath get her excited rather than help her relax.

    Do you have any suggestions regarding schedule and activities and how to help her nap?

    • Hi @Kat – Thank you for writing! This article will give you great tips on crafting a bedtime routine that will be a good fit for your family:
      Regarding schedule, it sounds like you are on the right track in trying different awake periods before her nap. Give her a bit more time to master this, and for you to find the right timing!
      Thank you again for visiting our sleepy little village. Good luck!

  5. My baby is 4mo old now and I’ve decided to try the sleeping training and we are at the creating a sleep routine stage now. For the method I feel like I couldn’t use Cry it out method, so I chose Hold with love method, that my friend talked me into. She showed me this ebook by Susan Urban from wwwdotparental-lovedotcom. I am a little afraid of all the crying anyway but want to try. This friend says it took her just few night of crying. Will see how it goes.

      • It really worked! This method is amazing, basically no crying at all and baby self-sleeping in just 4 nights! First two night were pretty long with a lot of work but it is totally worth it.

    • I used this method too, this Susan Urban is amazing! I got it recommended online and was a bit sceptic but bought the book (since it was pretty cheap – worth trying) and I cannot believe how easy it was to apply! Seriously, I cannot think of a better option.

      • I decided for sleep training at 6 months. Earlier I didn’t even have sleep routine, so there was some work to do. I chose Susan’s HWL method too. I am very glad, it turned out to work very fast! Should have used this sooner.

    • No crying, seriously! I mean… it does depend on the baby I guess. But there was no crying for my girl while sleep training with Susan Urban. This book was great!

    • I know the Urban’s guide from a few years back, it is fantastic. I’m six months pregnant now and going to use it again for sure 🙂

  6. My baby is about to be 7 months but she doesn’t sleep through the night she wakes up about 3 times and wants her bottle. I don’t know what to do, I tried co sleeping she sleeps perfectly fine but I don’t want her to become so used to sleeping with us that she doesn’t sleep at all when I put her in her crib

    • @Joanne – Thank you for stopping in and for sharing with us. I completely understand about not wanting to create the co-sleeping association if that’s not your goal long-term. If you haven’t yet taken the first step of considering some formal sleep coaching, that’s a suggestion I would make for you at this stage. I invite you to read this series of articles for tips on how to teach her the skills that she needs to be able to learn how to sleep on her own. It will also give you an overview of sleep training techniques:
      https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-training-from-no-cry-to-cry-series-part-1/ Once you’ve read this, you can see what type of sleep training (if any) you would like to try to help her sleep better for you.

      If you would like additional support, consider using our Express Sleep Plan which will give you a detailed plan of action immediately upon completing a brief questionnaire. You can read more about it here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/express-sleep-plan/

      Hang in there, Joanne!

  7. I have 8 month old twins. A boy and girl. Hannah sleeps fairly well. Been going through a sleep regression though. Used to fall asleep on her own, but now needs her bum patted. She usually wakes up once around 3 for a bottle.

    Spencer on the other hand, won’t fall asleep unless I’m bouncing him in his bouncy chair or his rocking chair. Then when I pick him up to take him to bed he wakes up once I lay him down. Or he rolls over onto his tummy immediately and is wide awake again. After trying a few times, I often put him in swing to sleep. He is going to be too big for it soon though. I don’t know how to get them to fall asleep on their own. I’m exhausted all the time.

    • @Jessica I’m sorry your twins are having a hard time sleeping, especially Spencer. You’re not alone and we know twins are doubly exhausting when they aren’t sleeping! Have you downloaded our free e-Book, 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night? I think that would be your best next step. Here is the link: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook And, please feel free to contact us any time. Hang in there!

  8. Hi, I have a 3.5 month baby that is used to being held & rocked to sleep since birth. Recently, he started fighting his sleep pretty badly, both at night and for naps. He starts crying and becomes hysterical, and no matter how much we rock and shush, he still screams. It takes a good half hour until he starts to drift off, and only with his pacifier on. Now he’s also waking up during the night wanting this pacifier back.
    He used to relax and sleep on my breast while he was breastfed. Now he’s on bottles only.
    How can I teach him to relax and sleep on his own and stop this hysterical sleep crying? Should I try the CIO?

  9. Hi there! Any specific tips on weaning from breastfeeding as a sleep association? My daughter is almost 2 and I’ll still nurse her for a bit before bedtime only. I put her down awake still but it’s just been routine for so long I don’t know how to change it. When daddy puts her to sleep very rarely, he just holds her for a bit and then she’s able to lay down fine. I was thinking of making a big deal about changing everything up when she changes to a toddler bed soon. Would that be a good opportunity?

    • @Nicole Hi there and thank you for stopping into our sleepy little village! Just like many things, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to take the next step in your weaning journey. Sometimes you just have to take the step. 🙂 With weaning, you will want to reassure her, but as with any transition, it will just take some time. We don’t recommend moving to a toddler bed until 3-4 years, on average, so I don’t recommend you doing that anytime soon, though, unless you absolutely have to. Good luck!

  10. My granddaughter was a premi and has never slept thru the night. She does not suck a pacifier nor take a bottle anymore. But will wake up from a sound sleep crying. After changing her diaper and rocking her back to sleep, she will sleep a few more hours. Any advice?

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