Knowing When You’re Done Sleep Training

Baby SleepIs it always clear when you are done sleep training? Not for everyone, unfortunately. Success in sleep training, like so many things, is on a continuum. What is success for you might not be for someone else.

It also depends on your expectations and what your goal is from sleep training.

For some parents, sleep training means allowing their baby to fuss a few minutes and voila, they start to sleep 10-12 hours a night. For other parents, it won’t be quite as smooth. They might take 2-3 weeks using a no-cry sleep training method and have a baby who sleeps 10-12 hours per night.

Or, parents might use acry it out method and in 2-3 nights, they are also sleeping through the night.

Still, there are the few of us who don’t fall into either camp. We struggle on and off for the better part of however much time it takes. We get on a path that starts to work and then baby gets sick. Perhaps we start seeing some improvement and baby gets teeth. Our toddler has a language explosion, starts to walk, or starts to have nightmares, and we fall back once again. We have a new baby and our toddler stops napping, becoming a mess before bedtime. The setbacks can be numerous.

How do you know when you’re done?

This is what “finished” looks like.

For many, it will be obvious when you are done because you will be well-rested and, most importantly, so will your baby. You may have temporary setbacks, but your baby bounces back to normal quickly. But, what if you’ve done cry-it-out and your baby is still crying every night? What do you do? Does that mean it didn’t work?

If your baby fusses or cries lightly for 5-10 minutes, drifts off to sleep and you don’t hear a peep for 10-12 hours except for feedings, you most likely just have a baby who unwinds a little before sleep. When my baby was in a good place, he would often unwind, almost moaning or humming himself to sleep.

I think it’s possible that a stranger might think he was crying or fussing, but I knew him best and I know he wasn’t crying. He would sleep well at night, and there was a time that I’d go in too early in the morning where he’d be “talking” and would fuss at me for coming in too soon! Most importantly, he was very happy in the morning with a good night’s rest.

If your baby is crying hard for 10 minutes, then settles down, it’s still possible that that’s going to be as good as it gets for the time being. We have been at this stage, too, unfortunately. We went through a time my son would cry hard for 5-10 minutes, we’d go in and re-settle him and he’d go right to sleep. It was a little frustrating, but fairly easy to deal with. Knowing him today, no doubt it was the same reason as now that he just didn’t want the day to end, even though he was exhausted.

This is what “still working” looks like.

If your baby is crying hard for over 10 minutes (I am generalizing — you know your baby best) and it’s been longer than a week of sleep training, most likely you have a lingering problem. In babies, this problem is probably over-tiredness and you need to bump bedtime EARLIER.

Even after sleep training, my son would get over-tired, over-stimulated, and cry at bedtime some nights “for no reason”. He was fed, dry, etc. and was just TIRED! It was very frustrating. We couldn’t soothe him all the way to sleep every time because that led to our 3 hour rocking marathons every night. Or, worse, waking every so many hours for re-rocking / re-soothing.

My husband and I were still basically at the best place we could be at the time. We tried with everything we had to keep bedtime early enough. Even now, he will get cranky when he’s tired, but insists “I’m not tired!” and then promptly falls asleep 5 minutes later, literally.

For toddlers, crying at bedtime or resisting bedtime could be over or under-tired, depending on the schedule and temperament. Without knowing the specific details, it’s difficult to know which one it is. In general, if your toddler was going to bed fine and all of a sudden started fighting the routine, she may need a longer wake-time before bedtime. If she recently transitioned naps, you might need to consider less.

There are many times you might have setbacks. If things haven’t improved in 2-3 weeks, regardless of the method, you might want to re-evaluate your chosen method to get your baby or toddler to sleep.

How did you know when you were done?

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31 thoughts on “Knowing When You’re Done Sleep Training”

  1. Hello!

    We started sleep training (CIO) our 6 month old a week and a half ago. He did fantastic and slept through the night after 2 days. He’s been great since. However, last night he just suddenly started crying in the middle of the night for hours! We eventually picked him up and rocked him to sleep, but he’d wake up crying again. This went on all night. I don’t think he was in any sort of pain or discomfort.

    We thought sleep training was over. So in this case, do we resume the CIO method or is it okay to pick him up and rock him back to sleep?

    I also wonder if it’s because we haven’t nap trained him. Maybe he’s expecting the nap-time treatment of being held and rocked to sleep. Is it best to nap train and night train at the same time?


    • Hi @Chloe – Thanks for writing, and sorry that things were going smooth and are no longer! Regarding working on naps and nights, you do not have to work on these at the same time. It’s okay to continue to hold him and rock him to sleep for naps while you work on night sleep if you’d like! The night waking and crying is a tough one! If you continue to rock him back to sleep, he may continue to wake and want/need that help. You may want to resume the sleep training that you did for bedtime, or work on soothing him when he wakes, but allowing him to fall back to sleep on his own.
      I hope things smooth out quickly Chloe! if you need more help, please contact us at any time!

  2. We are sleeping training our 7 month old and it has been 10 days of cio. Sometimes he will fall asleep under 5 minutes and other time sit still take 20-30 minutes. Our biggest problem is that he falls asleep sitting up and then jerks himself awake. This can be an hours long process before he decides to lay down. If we are doing CIO, is it wrong to go in and lay him down? I did that once and he just got right back up. Will he ever learn to just lay down to sleep?!

    • @Kim – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us! CIO sleep training can be a bit of a pickle – especially when combined with developmental milestones! If your little guy is just learning to sit up like this, time will definitely cure this as it’s no longer a fun and novel thing for him to do. Hang in there, Kim!

  3. Hi,

    We did the sleep training when our baby was 7 months he is now 9 months old. he did great and was sleeping from 7:00 pm to 5:30 Am or 6:00 AM. He got sick 3 week ago and started waking up twice per night, we have been trying to get back to normal but he keeps crying and crying and doesn’t settle until one of us pick him up, we are not sure if he is going through separation Anxiety or something else. Any recommendations will be really appreciated.

    Thank you

    • @Viviana – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. 9 months can definitely be a tough age for sleep – brutal even! We feel your pain. Many babies this age go through a common sleep regression triggered by growth, development, or acquisition of a new skill. This could be what you’re experiencing if you’ve ruled out medical or schedule issues. The good news, if so, is that this regression passes after a few weeks so try to hang in there and work not to develop any new habits or associations that you don’t want to stick around for the long-term. If you need or would like more support as you work through this, please just let us know. We would welcome the opportunity to serve your family!

  4. I’ve been sleep training my 7 month old for almost 2 weeks now and she still cries 30 minutes to an hour every night! Then she sleeps 11-12 hours straight, sometimes with one night feeding. So I know she’s getting sleep and she sleeps great… once she’s asleep. I don’t know how to make things easier and it’s breaking my heart to hear her scream and cry!

    • Hi @Sophie, thanks for writing! I am sorry she is crying so much. 🙁 My older son did that too, he was kind of always a crier, but then would sleep straight through. This article explains how crying can lead to sleep and may help you feel a little better:
      Hopefully things shorten soon (they did eventually with my son) and if you are frustrated and not seeing any changes, let us know and our sleep consultants may have some suggestions of what you can do to help. If you have questions about working with a sleep consultant for this, email us directly at [email protected] and we can give you more information!

  5. We’ve been working on sleep training for about 6 weeks (naps and bedtime), and I’m starting to really worry.. My daughter puts herself to sleep many nights with 5 minutes of crying or less, but in the last two weeks at bedtime she’s screamed/cried for 30 minutes twice, 25 minutes once, and 10 minutes twice. That means she’s done some significant screaming at bedtime 5 out of 14 nights. Should we give up on sleep training? Every other example I can find on the internet talks about sleep training working within a week. We have a solid bedtime routine and consistent bedtime, we are very consistent with how we respond (5 minute checks with no soothing), we don’t let her fall asleep on the bottle — in other words, I don’t think we are doing something that is *obviously* sabotaging our progress. I believe that my husband and I are both very calm when we’re in there with her, but I’m really worried about why it’s taking so long. Anybody have experience with it taking so long?

    • Hi @Lori, thanks for your comment! I am sorry to hear you have been struggling with your sleep training. All babies are very different and the promise of things happening in a week may be true for some babies but not all. 🙂 Just like it may take you longer to learn one skill than another, it is the same with the essential skill of falling to sleep you are working with your daughter on. Here is a link to an article that may help provide some help for your situation:
      If you find you need more help and she really is not getting it, let us know, we would love to help. We have a team of sleep consultants that has worked with families in all sorts of situations. You can check out our packages here:
      I hope this helps!

  6. My 6 month old usually goes to bed with no crying at all around 6:30pm. He’ll wake sometime between 10-11 and I usually feed him and he goes right back to sleep. However he’ll then wake up around 2am and cry for over an hour unless I pick him up and this will happen again sometime between 4 and 5 am. We’ve been doing this for a week now and everyone is exhausted including my 5 year old who gets woken up. I thought a week of crying we’d longer stretches of sleep.

  7. Hi there,

    We started to use the Ferber method to get our 4 month old to sleep (not through the night, but 7-8 hours, a quick feed, and then the rest of the night).

    It worked really well and once he’s asleep, he gives me those long stretches. He is able to self-soothe in the middle of the night no problem.

    The problem is that after 2-3 weeks of doing Ferber, he still cries HARD for 5-20 minutes before finally falling asleep with a few seconds here and there if silence where it looks like he’s done screaming. It breaks my heart to listen to it! I thought he would stop this by now.

    Am I doing him harm by letting him CIO for that long? Should I be going in to intervene? Please advise.

    • @Julia – Thank you for stopping by our sleepy little village and for sharing. We’re so glad to hear that things have gone well with sleep training so far for you guys! From our experiences, it’s not uncommon for some babies to cry some before falling asleep as a way to “unwind” even after they’ve started sleep training. Sometimes this goes away completely in time, decreases or continues/varies in form as babies get older. If his “cry” is concerning to you (we can sometimes tell what type of cry we’re hearing!), at any time, you should definitely check on him to be sure he’s okay. I hope this helps, Julia. Hang in there!

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