Having a baby is one of the most overwhelming moments of our lives; it is when another chapter of our life starts and a new one begins with our children. A new part of our life where we experience happiness, sadness, and a lot of frustration, fatigue, and of course all of those sleepless nights. But do all babies need to be sleep trained?
While not every baby requires formal sleep training, babies can all benefit from sleep training tactics and a healthy focus on sleep hygiene. Every baby can be taught to self-soothe and sleep independently with sleep training methods that are selected and match a family’s goals and needs.
Sleep training can be overwhelming especially for new parents, no matter their previous knowledge level about what’s to come and the sleepless nights that await them. But, there are some key long-term practices of sleep training that are going to help you and your babies sleep better. Keep reading – and let’s get things improved for your family!
Can All Babies Be Sleep Trained?
All babies can benefit from a healthy and balanced focus on positive sleep habits and a healthy sleeping environment (or sleep hygiene). If “sleep training” simply means improving sleep by focusing on sleep hygiene rather than a specific methodology, then all babies can benefit from sleep training.
Semantics and words matter, right? So here’s what that means.
All babies will sleep better if you focus on helping them have better sleep, even if you don’t commit to a single sleep training method.
Sleep plays a huge role when it comes to the development of all babies – it does have a lot of effects when it comes to their emotional growth, learning, and memory. For a baby to wake up in the middle of the night is completely normal, because it is considered a part of their transitional period or development period.
Sleep training is actually good, but it needs a lot of observation, supervision, and a lot of patience. If your baby is ok with the sleep training method that you chose, then it is a good sign. But, sometimes it takes a lot of time and effort to know the right method that is good for your baby. You may even need to change methods a few times to find the “right” one for your family.
But don’t worry – if you need help picking a good method to start with, make sure you read this article I wrote on the best methods to use for babies under 6 months.
Or, if your baby is already past 6 months, then you’ll need to start by deciding how many tears you’re okay with at bedtime. If none? Go read this article next. Or if you’re okay with a few tears, read this article I wrote next instead.
Do All Babies Need to Be Sleep Trained?
Not all babies require formal sleep training, as long as they are able to settle into a healthy, sustainable, and reliable sleeping pattern when their parents focus on creating a routine that encourages restful sleeping.
I have many friends who didn’t need to sleep train their babies with any formal methodology. Not only did they naturally focus on building a healthy schedule with their children, but their children went for it with no fuss.
However, if either the parents or the babies have issues with a more natural settling into a schedule (or it’s just taking too darn long and so everyone’s exhausted), then sleep training becomes an important option, as it can help everyone get back to sleep already.
Can Babies Learn to Sleep on Their Own without Sleep Training?
Not all babies require dedicated sleep training. Many babies become great sleepers naturally with a focus on healthy sleep habits and sleep hygiene.
Sleeping is already programmed deep in our brains. We don’t need a fancy set of rules or programs to learn to sleep. Sometimes, we need to get out of our baby’s way and just let them sleep. Once your baby gets tired, they will eventually fall asleep. What you can do to make it easier for them is to help them adjust to the environment they are in; like dimming down the lights, playing some soft music, swaying with them a little, and avoiding unnecessary noise. That way, your baby will feel cozy enough to sleep on their own.
Create a flow. Establish a pattern or a flow of activities that your baby can get used to. For example, before you put your baby to bed you will feed him or her first, then change their diaper, then sway them a little or read a short story then put them in their crib, and let them sleep. Do it again the next day so your baby can get used to it. Once they do, it will become easier for them to fall asleep.
At night, there should be a consistent follow-up of activities that lead up to bedtime. Bedtime may look something like this (or however works best for your family).
- Feed your baby.
- Change your baby’s diaper.
- Put on jammies (or sleeping gear).
- Go to bed.
- Keep the environment simple and dark to encourage sleep.
Need more help with bedtime routines? Read this article we wrote next: Baby’s Bedtime: What’s too early, what’s too late and what’s just right?
Decide how you feel about letting your baby cry as they fall asleep. Some babies do better with no-tears sleep training practices, while other babies need a few minutes to cry before falling asleep. It’s going to depend on your child, your family, your parenting techniques, and what works.
- Tears at bedtime are a dealbreaker for some families. You can read more about tears-free, gentle sleep training methods here.
- Letting your baby cry for a few minutes ends up being a lifesaver for some families. Read more about the cry-it-out method here on this link.
- Just remember there’s not a “right” or “wrong” answer here (no matter what other parents say). There’s just “what didn’t work for us this time with this child” and “methods still to try.”
As parents, you also have to train yourself. You have to train yourself to not always respond every time your baby squirm, whine, and cries. It’s okay to let your baby handle it on his own (as long as they’re safe) for a few moments. It won’t make you a bad parent. Let your baby learn self-soothing skills for a few moments at a time. It’ll help in the long run.
Remember, too, that results don’t show up overnight. One tiny step at a time and your baby will surely be able to adjust and their sleep pattern will improve.
Does Sleep Training Work On All Babies?
Sleep training techniques, or a focus on healthy sleep habits, work on babies of every age, race, size, and gender. There is no exclusivity when it comes to sleep training, as focusing on healthy sleep habits (sleep training) works on all babies.
Perhaps your bundle of joy might seem a little difficult to put down when it comes to bedtime and that’s perfectly okay and normal. Sometimes babies just need help falling asleep on their own even as the sleep training is being put in place.
Here are sleep hygiene and sleep training tips to help ease your baby into sleep.
Tip #1: Keep a cool room temperature
Babies love when the room temperature is cool. They sleep well in rooms that are around mid-60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (which is about 19 to 22 degrees Celsius).
Also, dressing them appropriately for the weather will help them feel more cozy and comfortable. You can read more about pajamas for babies here in this article I wrote: Are Polyester Clothes and Pajamas Safe for Babies?
Tip #2: Use a regular feeding schedule
Babies need to be fed regularly during daylight hours. That way, they won’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Now, some younger babies especially will still need to be fed during the night.
But if you focus on helping your child get as many of their daily required calories as possible during the day, then you can minimize nighttime feeds and slowly phase those out.
Make sure you read this article about feeding babies during sleep training next. And then read this one about skipped and missed feedings, too.
Tip #3: Lights out
Babies sleep properly when the room is dark. This is because when they fall into light wake mode, they won’t be triggered to fully wake up. If it’s dark they’ll go right back to sleep if they are not hungry or uncomfortable.
Tip #4: Keep noises calm and in the background
Babies don’t like complete silence. They aren’t used to it. After all, they were nurtured in their mother’s womb, which is very noisy. The heart-pumping blood isn’t exactly the quietest and the babies are used to that.
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So, for you to put them in a quiet place throws them off and makes them very uncomfortable. Babies love white noises and a white noise machine would do you good. You can read about all of the best white noise machines I’ve found (complete with travel choices) here, or just go order the best one on Amazon by clicking this link.
Tip #5: Use a predictable routine
Babies sleep better when they know what’s to come. Following a routine helps them know when it’s time for bed and when it’s playtime. It’s always great for them when you do something nice or fun before bed like a bath after feeding, a massage after a bath, singing a song, and more.
Tip #6: Take advantage of night wake mode
Babies do this thing where their eyes are half open and they’re mumbling or crying softly and it may seem like they are awake but they are in light wake mode. When this happens, pat your baby softly and don’t pick her up. If you do, it’ll jolt her awake.
Tip #7: Choose a starting date and a sleep training method
Set the date where you will begin training your baby. If you feel like it’s ok to start training your baby now, then that’s ok as long as it is also okay with your schedule and you are not sleeping-deprived. If you have work then it will be a lot harder, that’s why some working parents choose to do it when their schedule is no longer hectic and they are already physically ready.
When setting the date, you also have to consider your baby. Choose the date carefully and don’t set it in major events in your baby’s life like when they are sick, teething, adjusting to a different bedroom, etc. because it has a big effect on the training you will give them.
Choosing the right sleep training method can be a bit hard. If your baby can’t sleep with the first training method that you chose, moving to the next training method is your next option. Yes, it is a long process, but it is worth it once you already see improvement in your baby’s sleep flow.
Tip #8: Prepare your baby’s room and yourself
Nothing beats a comfortable room; a comfy room makes your baby sleep better. Babies are more sensitive to temperature because their body is still small and they are still growing so, choosing the right temperature is the first thing that you should do. Lightning is also a big factor, if it is too bright your baby will have a hard time sleeping so, installing night lamps or room shades can also be helpful.
Some parents get emotional and can’t help it once their baby goes out and make a full-on cry. Be emotionally ready and always make sure to get plenty of rest from time to time, if you are well rested then it will be easier for you to take care of your baby. And make sure your partner is on board for sleep training, too. If they aren’t, there can be issues (so make sure you read this article I wrote on that).
Tip #9: Know you may need to try several sleep training methods (but one at a time)
Different types of sleep training methods work differently for every baby, but at least there are a lot of methods to try. Just know that it is a trial and error process. It takes time to find the best method that will work on your baby, so sleep training needs a lot of patience.
Key Takeaways on Sleep Training All Kids
A 2008 study by the University of Montreal shows that mothers of infants with sleep problems, where no intervention was tried, were more likely to report symptoms of clinical depression when their child was two years old (source). Sleep problems lead to significant stress and can potentially lead to physical punishment for the children. It’s sad but true.
In any case, sleep training (and whether all children need it) actually reminds me a lot of a personal experience I had when we got our first dog. And yes, I know that dogs and children aren’t totally the same.
That being said, when we got our dog, he was 2 (I also had a 6-month-old, so I wasn’t about to get a puppy). Because it was my first dog, my husband wisely suggested I take the already-trained dog to obedience classes. And it was genius because I learned more than the dog did.
In fact, the dog didn’t change much. But the knowledge I gained was instrumental in helping me be a better dog owner. Sleep training can be just like that. Often, the parents learn more than the baby does, although the baby will at least start sleeping better.
But the parenting techniques learned by sleep training (coupled with the improved sleep schedule and quality) help parents everywhere become better, healthier, and happier parents. So don’t be afraid to give sleep training a go.
And if you need help tracking stuff? Make sure you grab the only sleep training journal and planner on the market – that I designed to help parents just like you. You can grab the sleep training planner on Amazon right here now.
Learning about parenting or sleep training techniques is important to learn from various reputable sources. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as parents.
- The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Baby Sleep Questions, Answered.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 26 Feb. 2021, www.chop.edu/news/health-tip/baby-sleep-questions-answered.
- Cleveland Clinic. “Sleep Basics: REM & NREM, Sleep STAGES, Good Sleep Habits & More.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics.
- Cleveland Clinic. “When and How to Sleep Train Your Baby.” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 3 May 2021, health.clevelandclinic.org/when-and-how-to-sleep-train-your-baby/.
- Doucleff, Michaeleen. “Sleep Training Truths: What Science Can (And Can’t) Tell Us About Crying It Out.” NPR, NPR, 15 July 2019, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/07/15/730339536/sleep-training-truths-what-science-can-and-cant-tell-us-about-crying-it-out.
- Gradisar, Michael, et al. “Behavioral Interventions for Infant Sleep Problems: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 June 2016, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/137/6/e20151486.
- Price, Anna M.H., et al. “Five-Year Follow-up of Harms and Benefits of BEHAVIORAL Infant Sleep INTERVENTION: Randomized Trial.” American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Oct. 2012, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/4/643.
- Sujay Kansagra, MD. “Sleep Training Your Child: Myths and Facts Every Parent Should Know.” Duke Department of Pediatrics, 1 June 2017, pediatrics.duke.edu/news/sleep-training-your-child-myths-and-facts-every-parent-should-know.
- The University of Montreal. “Sleep, Baby, Sleep: Parents’ Behavior Has Direct Impact On Children’s Sleep Problems.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080407160748.htm>.