Sleep Training (From No Cry to Cry) Series – Part 1 – Bedtime Routines

Sleep Training Series, Part 1: Bedtime Routines

Today I will start a series of posts outlining the variety of sleep training methods that I recommend. I will post them in order (as I interpret them) from no (or very little) crying to the most (potential) crying. There are many variations of these methods, so I am only going to highlight the main gist of each method. Every parent can add tweaks here and there to accommodate their unique style and situation. At the end of the series, I will tell my story of my first son and, eventually, my second. So, let’s get started! I’m anxious to share this information!

Why Sleep Train?

The primary goal of sleep training is to help your baby learn how to fall asleep on his or her own. We often do not give babies enough credit that they can learn to do this when they are very young. Habits become harder and harder to break as they get older, and I have had people tell me that even waiting until 8 months has felt too late. It is also important to understand how sleep associations work and why it’s often the only thing standing in your and your baby’s way of getting a good night’s sleep. The same way sleep deprivation and sleep fragmentation are hard on you, it’s hard on your baby, too. Not enough sleep can lead to obesity and other problems, as well.

When Should You Start Sleep Training?

If you have an “easy” sleeper, you probably already had it done at just a few weeks old. Some babies simply start sleeping all night. I have said before, this website is not really geared towards parents of those babies. It’s simply not that easy for all of us.

For newborns, it never hurts to try to put down your baby when (s)he is still awake and see if (s)he will drift off unassisted, and we outline newborn-friendly sleep coaching approaches in our e-book, Essential Keys To Your Newborn’s Sleep. (We also offer special newborn-focused Personalized Sleep Plans® as well!). As always, this depends on the baby and thus, as usual, I urge you to decide for yourself when the “right” time is.

It has to be right for you and your baby and you know your baby best. You must be in a place that you can 100% stay consistent and stick with it. That is an important step in any and all methods you choose. I have seen some parents start as early as 8-10 weeks and I’ve helped others get their 3-7 year old sleeping all night.

That is an important item to note for those who believe that all kids will grow out of not sleeping all night. I’m sure you’ve seen commercials for drugs that help adults sleep such as Ambien or Lunesta. Your child may or may not outgrow these sleep problems and they become habits more than anything.

Although babies go through sleep regressions, I always urge parents to look at the habits they may or may not help foster. Sure, it might be normal for some nightwakings throughout babyhood, but when your baby is waking up every 1-2 hours for a bottle or rocking in a rocking chair, this is not normal and not good for them. We ALL feel better on as little sleep fragmentation as possible and that includes your baby.

What’s My First Step?

Your first step in sleep training is developing a bedtime routine. Children thrive on routine and it sets expectations so they know what’s going to come next. If every night is different, it does not cue them that the day is coming to a close and that their body should start to relax and get ready to go to sleep. When done right, part way into the routine, your child will probably start to get very sleepy because (s)he is associating certain actions with going to sleep. A routine also helps when you are away from home on vacation or special outing because the routine is the same.

What Does A Bedtime Routine Include?

The routine is up to you and your baby/toddler/child and what (s)he likes or dislikes, but a typical routine might include diaper and pajamas, a quiet game, teeth brushing, potty (if applicable), a book (or 2), singing and cuddling, and then lights out.

I purposely missed a bath in the routine. I did that for a couple of reasons. Some people don’t want to or can’t give a bath every day and the other reason is if you have a spirited child like mine, a bath might actually have the opposite effect and rile up your child. For many kids, though, the warm water is relaxing, but for others the warm water and then the cooling off actually hypes them up a bit. In that case, you might just have a longer routine than others.

Get Personalized Bedtime Routine Help

A bedtime routine is a key part of any good sleep training plan. Need help creating one? Our consultants at The Baby Sleep Site® are bedtime routine experts! When you work win t a consultant, she will create a Personalized Sleep Plans® for your family that includes a bedtime routine customized to your schedule. Even better, once you have your Personalized Sleep Plan®, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing it at home.

Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Sleep Resources That WORK

bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.

bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.

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You now have the first step in sleep training. Next in my series, Part 2, I will start with the first method for those who co-sleep.

But, first, do you have any special steps in your bedtime routine you’d like to share?

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23 thoughts on “Sleep Training (From No Cry to Cry) Series – Part 1 – Bedtime Routines”

  1. Hi! Here goes the age old question, I am trying to sleep train and nap train my 5 month old son at the same time. Sleep training is going fairly well, but naps are a whole other story. Today, he only napped for 30 minutes in the morning, otherwise, NO other naps. Is there a point in which I give in and hold him so he is getting sleep? it doesn’t seem to disrupt his bedtime, once he cry himself to sleep to bed, he is out for the night, but I still dont like that he is not getting any sleep during the day. I am putting him down drowsy, but awake, and then leaving him. He cries and I go in and hush him at 10 minutes then 15 minutes for about 45 minutes (he doesn’t really hush) and then finally I go in and turn on the lights and “wake” him up. Should I not check on him and just let him cry for 45 minutes? should I stay in the room for a gradual release of not rocking him to sleep? he seems worse when I am there, well, not worse, but not prone to sleep. he starts smiling and wants to play if I stick around from the start.
    I guess I want to make sure that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, or if I am doing this all wrong and he is crying needlessly. Any suggestions are welcome!
    Thank you!

    • @Nicole – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. Sleep training can be quite the challenge – and when you tackle both day and night sleep at once it can seem doubly so! Great news that his nights are going well. Having more trouble with day time sleep is fairly common. You can definitely consider a different method after you’ve tried what you’re doing for a week or so with no progress. There is always light at the end of the tunnel and we’re always here to help if you need it. If you find you’d like more support, please consider connecting with one of our lovely sleep consultants who regularly help parents through nap and night training at the same time. Hang in there, Nicole!

  2. Hello! I have a beautiful daughter who is now 15 months old. She has until recently co slept with me as I am still bf (I am trying to wean her but it is proving impossible – this is another issue in itself ) she is very clingy with me and always has been – if I leave the room she cries etc so knew this was going to be a challenge ( I know now that I should have started this when she was younger!) So I have a good bedtime routine I think she has her tea, bath time, pjs, feed, story and then when she is nearly asleep/asleep I put her in her cot. She always wakes up straight away and screams/shakes its horrid. She doesn’t cry for that long though maybe 10/15 mins. The problem I am having is that she wakes up at least every hour. It is sometimes littles whines or full blown crying. I have tried going into console her but found that this makes her worse and it is best if I leave her. I have been giving up at around 5ish I really struggle when she is upset – I know this is giving her mixed messages! 🙁

    • Hi @Becky – Thank you for writing to us! I am sorry to hear that your daughter is struggling with sleep, but please know that you are not alone and it is never too late to start working on new sleep habits! This sounds so tough and waking every hour is brutal! Hang in there Becky! Being as consistent as you can is the best thing, and we would love to virtually hold your hand and help you through this. We will really need a full sleep history to advise how to proceed, and please consider one of our sleep consultation packages if things do not smooth out. You can check those options out here:
      Please let us know if you need anything at any time!

  3. I am struggling with establishing a bedtime for my 6 month old. Wake time is at 630 am so I would expect bedtime to be at 630 pm. She naps around 415-440 pm and does go down again around 630 pm but wakes after just 30 minutes and won’t go back down until 830 pm. Yesterday I had an event in the morning so I let her wake in her own, which she did at 830 am (after about 7 nighttime wakings/feedings which is a whole other issue) so I know she needs the 12 hours. Her 630 “nap” is in her crib but I move her to her cosleeper by our bed when I put her down at 830. Thoughts?

    • Hi @Dana, thanks for sharing a little bit of what’s going on. I am sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with multiple night wakings and your daughter fighting her 6:30 bedtime. It takes time to establish a schedule, so give it some time and hopefully soon she will catch on. Here is a link to a sample schedule for a 6 month old for you to use as a reference (and of course you can make tweaks to it if your daughter has to be up by 6:30 each morning because of your family’s schedule):
      You will see on the schedule that some night wakings are normal at this age, but anything beyond 1-2 is likely a bad habit which could be affecting the rest of your day as well. There are links to other articles about sleep associations and what to do if your baby has them in the scheduling article so feel free to click around! If you need more specific information, let us know as well. We have a team of sleep consultants that would love to help you through this. For more information on working with a sleep consultant you can read about the options here:
      I hope this helps!

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