When we were researching sleep training, one of our biggest concerns was how long it would take. We were exhausted and needed help – fast! We needed it to work last week. So how long does sleep training take?
Sleep training can be done in about 5-7 days, depending on the method being used. Some families may sleep train faster than the average, while others may opt to sleep train more slowly than that (sleep training over several weeks or longer) to eliminate the risk or necessity of using crying as a sleep training tool.
Ready to see how long your preferred sleep training method takes? Keep reading and let’s take a look.
Here’s How Long Sleep Training Takes
On average, the guideline is that sleep training can be done in 5-7 days. That’s what most doctors recommend using as your rule of thumb, anyway. If you plan things right, you can more than likely get one or multiple sleep issues resolved in that timeline. Or, if you’d like to make a slower sleep training plan, that’s a valid option, too. In that case, sleep training may take as long as you plan it to.
In fact, many families plan on slower than average sleep training so that there’s less chance (or requirement of crying). The general rule for sleep training, timing, and how much crying may be required is this: the slower you go, the fewer tears your child will have while sleep training. The opposite is also true – if you need faster or immediate results, you may have to allow for some crying. See our post on crying it out for more information.
As such, most gentler behavioral sleep training methods can take 1-2 weeks or longer, depending on how you plan things. Here it is broken down by the sleep training method.
|Sleep Training Method||Definition Or Methodology||Also Known As||Well Known Examples||Average Time to Complete Sleep Training|
|Pure Extinction||Letting a child cry themselves to sleep (while still remotely monitored for safety) for several nights.||Cry it Out||Cry it Out, CIO||5-7 Days|
|Graduated Extinction||Parents gradually delay their response to an infant’s cry.||Controlled Crying, Controlled Cry it Out||Ferber Method||5-7 Days|
|Bedtime Fading||A parent gradually delays an infant’s bedtime over time.||Adjusting bedtimes||Not commonly used||1-2+ Weeks|
|Controlled Comforting||Parents physically comfort a crying child, though the length and type of comfort gradually diminish.||Pick Up, Put Down||Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child||1-2+ Weeks|
|Adult Fading||A parent gradually stays less and less time with a child after putting them down for bed.||Camping Out||Fading||1-2+ Weeks|
|Camping Out||A parent “camps out” in the room after bedtime. Each night, the parent moves their chair one step further from the crib until the child graduates from needing a parent present to fall asleep.||The Chair Method||Camping Out, Fading||1-2+ Weeks|
|Pick Up, Put Down||Every time a child cries, the parent picks them up and comforts them until calm. Once calm, the baby is placed back in the crib.||Controlled Comforting||PU/PD||1-2+ Weeks|
Beyond just that, you may want to divide sleep training into an “acute” (immediate fix phase) and “chronic” (long-term) phases.
Acute Sleep Training May Take 5-7 Days
As you’re dealing with one specific sleep issue (like fixing one sleep association) at a time, you may find yourself in an acute sleep training stage. This is totally normal.
We tried to just focus on one issue at a time – that way, we could focus on it for 5-7 days and fix it. Then, we could focus on another problem – until all the sleep problems were fixed.
If a sleep issue takes longer than 5-7 days to address, you may want to talk to your doctor to make sure there’s not an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed.
Your doctor may or may not be concerned about how long it’s taking to sleep train your baby, depending on other factors like their age, how they’re sleeping (both during naps and at night), if they’re growing well, and other factors. Even so, 5-7 days is the general cutoff for making sure that there isn’t an underlying medical concern. So if it’s been longer than that, most doctors recommend that you consult your pediatrician.
Once that’s been ruled out, it may just be that your baby needs a more chronic or proactive approach to sleep training.
Proactive Sleep Training is a Lifestyle Choice, Not a Quick Fix
Some kids need a longer-term and proactive mindset when it comes to sleep training. Ours sure did! Remember how I mentioned that we worked through our problems? Yeah – that took time.
Our kids were anywhere from 12 months old to 18 months old before they were sleeping all night long. One of the biggest factors was when they decided to wean – my daughter took her sweet time weaning and she was the last to sleep through the night.
For more on sleep training and weaning, read my post on it here.
In any case, a proactive sleep training approach is simply knowing that for some kids (and families) sleep is a habit that deserves time and attention so that it becomes a reliable thing. As such, you focus on it and make it a priority.
And if that’s the case, it’s totally okay to plan on taking a lot longer to sleep train your children.
The easiest way to transition to a proactive sleep training mindset is to realize that sleep training is a normal part of growing up – and growing up takes time. Then, make a list of every sleep problem that you’re dealing with. Go ahead and prioritize them as best you can. Then, work on them one problem or concern at a time until you get to the end of your list.
As you’re making your list, you’ll want to read this post on how to sleep train your baby (it’s our complete and helpful guide) and have a plan written out. You’ll want to either have a sleep training book on hand – and/or some sort of sleep training planner and journal to keep track of everything. To see the best books (that we know, love, and recommend), click here.
In any case, sleep training can take as long as you plan it to – or can be done in as little as 5-7 days if you’re focused and following your plan. There’s no wrong answer – just what works (and what doesn’t).
So hang in there, friend. You can do this – and you can sleep through the night again!
How Long Do You Let a Baby Cry it Out? On average, a baby may need to cry it out for 1-2 hours the first night. Subsequent nights usually take less and less time, completing cry it out sleep training within 5-7 days. For more information on how long to let a baby cry it out, read our article on 25 things to know about crying it out. Or read our complete guide on cry it out here.
How Long Should You Try the Ferber Method? The Ferber Method should only take 5-7 days to complete – if it’s followed exactly as designed. For details on how to follow it or how to adjust it to better fit your needs, be sure to read our beginner’s guide to the Ferber method.
Should I Pick Baby Up When Sleep Training? Picking the baby up (and comforting them) will depend on your sleep training method of choice. Several methods allow you to pick up the baby and comfort them as needed. For details on which allow it, read our article on the best and most commonly used behavioral sleep training methods.