When I first started sleep training my kids, I read everything I could find. That new knowledge would make the difference, right? What are the best sleep training tips – and how can they help now?
Even after reading all of the best sleep training advice, sleep training will be work. The best tip to remember is that you are your child’s parent, advocate, and expert on their needs and behavior. You can figure this out with time, practice, and patience.
Even so, seeing others’ experiences helps a ton. That’s why I asked hundreds of other moms and dads what advice they’d go back and give themselves (if they could!).
Here are the best 40 sleep training tips you didn’t know – tips hundreds of parents just like us have learned from experience sleep training.
Sleep Training Isn’t Easy for Everyone
Some sleep training gurus and experts will tell you it’s easy if you follow their exact steps. Sure, that’ll usually help for a while – until you hit another roadblock that sends you scrambling back to the books and research.
That’s totally normal for many of us – so don’t feel like you’re doing it wrong. This is a parenting and life skill that takes time and energy to learn and perfect.
Even so, there are ways to help sleep training become easier – including coaches, pediatric sleep specialists, and books.
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The easiest way to get help is by combining a book program with a sleep training planner – like this one we made for you (available on Amazon).
No Two Children Sleep Train the Same Way
Because each child is different, sleep training each child will be different, too.
Lean into your instincts as a mom. Each child is unique and requires different methods. Trust yourself and your own judgment.a friend of mine and mom to four awesome kids
Consistency isn’t Just a Buzzword
Stick with it. Don’t give in. It will work. It just takes time. Normal time to sleep train is up to six weeks!
Oh, and make sure that both you and your partner are on the same page – or things will take longer and be harder.
Distraction Works for Everyone (including you!)
When you’re sleep training, do something to distract yourself, too. Don’t just sit there and listen to the crying. It won’t help your baby – and it definitely doesn’t help you.
Instead, set a timer and lose yourself in a favorite distraction for a few minutes – like a book you’ve been meaning to read since before your child was even born.
Never Guess on Time – Use a Timer
When you’re using set times to sleep train, don’t guess on how long it’s been since you last checked on your child.
Listening to a crying child makes time slow down like crazy. What feels like six hours may only have been 25 seconds.
Use a timer if you are doing Ferber – because it feels a heck of a lot longer than it really is.A reader and sleep training mom who’s been there – and speaks from experience
Not Every Noise is a Cry for Help
Newborn babies aren’t silent, quiet little things who only cry when they need help. In fact, they make all sorts of weird sounds – both while awake and asleep. And as they grow, that doesn’t change.
Your baby doesn’t need you to rush in to check in on them with every little noise they make.
I was racing to my daughter with every grunt, groan and squeak and in hindsight, I was keeping her up when the noises were just natural, not actually a call for me!! Once I backed off a bit and waited to see if she really needed something she started sleeping a lot better.A reader and mom who figured her baby’s noises out
So if your baby is making noises, give them a moment before you rush to their rescue. This is a skill that takes a lot of new parents time to figure out. That’s okay, it’s normal – especially right after bringing a new baby home.
But rushing to the rescue actually wakes up your baby – and that rush of adrenaline wakes you up, too. So chill out for a moment. Doing so will help them sleep better – and it’ll help you sleep better, too.
Books Don’t Know Everything
Just because the book says so, doesn’t mean that’s the way it will happen.
Books hold a lot of knowledge, but they aren’t omniscient. Same with the internet.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize: Sleep!
It’s important to keep your eye on the end goal: getting enough sleep. Then remember that sleep training, while hard, is a way to give everyone in your family that precious gift of sleep.
Here’s what one mom had to say about keeping your eye on the prize:
Letting your children learn to sleep and get themselves back to sleep on their own is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your child. If they learn to sleep, then when they cry in the night you know it is really something important such as they are ill or have had a nightmare.
It’s Okay to Check Your Baby for Your Sanity
Look, if it’ll help your sanity (and/or anxiety), go ahead and check on the baby. It’s okay to check on them – just do it as quietly as possible and build it into your sleep training plan.
Here’s another tip from a mom I surveyed:
When they are learning, check quietly once to see that they are okay and don’t give them any more stimulation from you. Walk away and let them figure it out.
We ended up installing a video camera to monitor our children. That way, I could check in on them via the camera and not risk waking them up.
Don’t Wait and Hope Things Improve
Hope for change and improvement is an amazing thing. But if it’s your only plan of action, it may prove disheartening as you watch things keep staying the same.
Here’s what one mom had to say about waiting for things to improve:
Sleep train earlier than 10 months! The earlier the better. Be very consistent with your routine and work on the consistency of routine for a week or so before beginning the actual sleep training.
Keep it Simple – the Basic Suggestions Work!
That’s right – the basic suggestions work! In fact, they’re basic for a reason – they work!
So go ahead and try them out before you try the fancier suggestions. You may not end up needing the instructions for the special cases and exceptions to the rule.
The Eat, Play, Sleep Model is Amazing
For many kids, this is all you need to know. You won’t need to know any special timing – just watch for the baby’s cues and follow this pattern. Things will settle down and into a regular routine with enough time and patience using this model.
Skip FOMO – Get the White Noise Going
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a real problem for small children, especially at naptime and bedtime. And it doesn’t much go away, at least not for my kids.
So help them quit worrying about what’s going on in the rest of the house by using white noise to drown everything else out. It’ll help them focus on the task at hand: sleeping.
For our kids, the white noise helps mask out sounds from the rest of the house – making sure our kids aren’t terrified of missing out on the fun. That way, they sleep instead of worry.
Could white noise become a crutch at some point? Sure. But it’s such a widely-accepted and helpful item that works. So if it helps your child fall into a regular sleep pattern, wouldn’t that be worth it?
It is – for reals. There’s always a way to set up some white noise no matter where you go. Even a basic box fan supplies the soothing sounds of white noise.
Use a Fan
Keep the bedroom temperature comfortable and use a fan. Oh, and here’s a fun fact: ceiling fans have two modes. They can pull air up or send it down. Translation: winter mode and summer mode. There’s usually a switch on the base to flip between the two.
So use that fan to keep the room comfortable for your child – because a comfortable child will sleep better.
Keep Bedrooms Dark
It’s much easier to sleep in a dark, boring, quiet, and comfortable room. So if your child’s sleeping area is full of light, go ahead and install some blackout curtains.
Our kids sleep better (both naps and at night) in a dark room. So we ended up using blackout curtains for all sleep. That ended up being a big help at naptime.
Having a set family schedule helps a ton – and it makes remembering when naps and bedtimes are supposed to happen a lot easier.
Plus, kids do a lot better with schedules. So go ahead and use them to your advantage – and to help everyone sleep better.
Even if your schedule changes regularly, that’s still a schedule. Just make it as reliable and regular as you can.
Use a Basic Bedtime Routine that Works
Using a bedtime routine is a common, basic sleep training suggestion because it works. However, make sure you’re using a bedtime routine that works.
For us, we found that having bath time and reading just before bed usually winds our kids up too much to sleep. So we moved those to another part of the day and kept bedtime routines much simpler.
So if your kids do better with a basic bedtime routine that isn’t full of fun, that’s okay. Or if your kids do better with the baths and reading and singing songs, that’s okay, too.
Find the bedtime routine that works for your family – and go with it.
Sleep Aids and Resources May Help
There are some awesome sleep aids and resources out there. And, in some cases, they may greatly benefit your child.
Some of these resources may be medical. Be sure to talk to your doctor about those. Some will be alternative or over-the-counter. Those you’ll want to research and talk to your doctor about, too.
Others will be external sleep associations like white noise, blackout curtains, and other things. Click here to see which resources I recommend and use.
There is No Magic Cure-All
Not-so-fun fact about humans: not every answer will help every person.
There’s always an exception to the rule. There’s no magic cure-all to anything, even sleep training.
Sing Lullabies at Bedtime
Some kids need a lullaby at bedtime. Go ahead and sing.
Don’t Sing Lullabies at Bedtime.
Some kids hate it when you sing. Go ahead and skip the lullaby.
My daughter will put her hand over my mouth when I try to sing. Pretty much any time I try, really. It’s especially awkward at church when we’re singing a congregational hymn. But at bedtime, I respect her desire for no singing.
Awake but Drowsy is Important but Hard
Seriously – learn to put your children down to sleep when awake (but drowsy). It’s a difficult skill to learn. You have to learn to gauge when, exactly, that perfect moment is.
But it’s okay – give yourself the time to figure it out. Be patient with both yourself and your baby. You’ll get it. Just know it’ll take time.
It’s okay to consider cosleeping. It’s not for every family, but it’s something worth considering.
Don’t ever feel bad choosing something that works for your family.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about your specific cosleeping plan and make sure you do so safely.
Co-sleeping definitely isn’t for everyone. So if it’s not for your family and situation, feel free to skip it.
Don’t ever feel bad for choosing to skip something that’s not right for your family.
Have Children in their Own Room
Some kids sleep better in their own rooms. Or maybe you sleep better when your children are in their own bedroom.
Either way, it’s okay to have your children sleep in a separate bedroom. Having a baby monitor may help you keep an eye (or ear) on your baby safely – while also helping everyone get their best sleep possible.
Sharing bedrooms is also a totally valid option. You can consider sharing a bedroom with your children or have your kids share rooms.
Maybe that means bunk beds. Or maybe it means multiple cribs in a bedroom. Perhaps it means a bassinet next to your bed.
They’re all okay as long as they’re used safely. Do what works.
Pick a Sleep Training Method (that jives with your parenting style)
There isn’t just one way to sleep train your children. There are at least a half-dozen totally distinct methods to sleep train your child. And that’s only if you’re looking at behavior-based sleep training methodology.
So if the one you picked just feels wrong, quit using it. Pick a different method – one that meshes better with your preferred parenting style. Not only will it feel better to you, but it will be far more likely to work. Mostly because you’ll actually use and stick to it – because it jives with how you work as a parent.
For more information on the different types of behavior-based sleep training methods, be sure to read my article on it here.
Try a Sleep Program
If the sleep training programs don’t offer you the kind of support and feedback you would really like to see, it’s okay to try a sleep program. Or even hire a sleep consultant!
You’ll get a lot more support and feedback from a coach, program, or specialized sleep consultant than you will a book or even a super-helpful, amazing website.
Try a Different Sleep Training Method (or none!)
You aren’t stuck with just one sleep training method (or even program). So if your first choice of sleep training method isn’t working for you, change methods!
It’s also okay to use no sleep training methodology. Or even to quit sleep training (here is when you should quit sleep training).
The simple fact, however, is that sleep training isn’t necessary for every child. And it’s not necessary for every parenting style or even every parent.
So if you need to change methods – or even quit – that’s okay. Do what works.
Play Calming Music Before Bedtime
Music has power. And I’ve found that if we cut out the fun dance music for at least a few minutes before bedtime – and replace it with some calming music – things do go better at bedtime.
Just be careful in which music you select – I like to play some classical music for the kids, but I can’t play specific Mozart songs because it was used in some incredible, animated movies. Then, my kids are acting out that movie and pretending they’ve got superpowers.
So try adding in some classical music. Not only will it expand your child’s music repertoire, but it may also help them get ready for bed better.
Bedrooms are for Sleeping
In this 2014 study on the correlation between screens, fat tissue, and sleep quality, researchers found that having 2 or more screens in a bedroom did affect total sleep quality and efficiency but not the quantity. There was also an increased correlation of adipose (or fat tissue).
In other words, having screens (like tablets, TVs, or other devices) in bedrooms does affect both sleep and our level of health.
So keeping screens out of bedrooms (as much as possible) may help protect sleep quality.
For us, I’ve also found that keeping toys, distractions, and multiple books out of the bedroom also helps my children get better quality and quantity of sleep. That includes screens – we do not allow devices or screens in bedrooms.
Keeping bedrooms for sleeping will help your children create a positive, external sleep association that will help them get better sleep. Especially if it’s designed to encourage quality sleep! Here is the bedroom gear I recommend to make that happen.
Set Firm (but flexible) Bedtimes
Look, having a set bedtime can seem to be a limiting factor. And when there are social events we’d really like to go to, it can be.
But with a firm bedtime, your children’s sleep will always be protected – and they’ll always be able to rely on quality nighttime sleep.
Now, if your child is sick or overtired from other events, go ahead and be a little bit flexible on that bedtime. Feel free to move it up as much as needed in 15-minute increments.
And, as your child is able to get into a reliable sleep pattern, that will give you more flexibility to say yes to some of those social events you’d like to go to – and you’ll be able to use flexible bedtimes on the days around the social event to help your child get all the sleep they need.
Set Firm but Realistic Wake-Up Times (with some wiggle room)
Most children will naturally wake up sometime between 6 and 7 AM. Part of that will depend on the amount of sunlight where you live, your child’s natural circadian rhythm, and what time your household gets up and the daily noise starts kicking up.
But anywhere in there is normal. So if you’re frustrated because your baby isn’t “sleeping in” until almost noon, know that you may need to adjust your expectations. In fact, I’ve only ever had one child sleep past 9 AM – and they were quite ill.
Some kids will be naturally later risers – and they may also go to bed much later. In any case, find a wake-up time that works for your family. Then, use it.
Allow for some wiggle room as needed.
Example: our wake-up time is 7 AM. Our kids are often up a few minutes earlier than that – but they use that in-between time as rest time. They’re welcome to play quietly in their rooms, look at a book in bed, or rest in bed. Once it’s 7, we’ll start the day with some breakfast.
Use a Wake-Up Clock
Now, most babies and toddlers aren’t going to be able to know when wake-up time is without some help. That’s where a wake-up clock can be a huge help.
A wake-up clock is an alarm clock with several extra features. It uses colors, images, or pictures to help kids know if it’s daytime or sleeping time. When the morning alarm goes off, it changes from “night” mode to “day” mode. Some also have a “sunset” mode to help at bedtime.
We’ve got one in each kids’ bedroom. They have big, bright colors and pictures that help our kids quickly determine (from their beds) if it’s time to get up yet or not.
To see which wake-up clocks I recommend, click here.
Ask for Help (and accept it)
Just because you’re exhausted doesn’t mean you’re failing as a parent or in your sleep training process. What it means is that you’re tired – and that you should ask someone for help.
You can ask for whatever help you need, whether it’s to take a nap or with help cleaning or to get out of the house for a few minutes by yourself.
Ask your partner, spouse, family, neighbors, and community for help. Be sure to ask people you trust – and follow your instincts if they voice any concerns.
Then, accept that help. Get out for a few minutes, even if it’s to go grocery shopping alone. Let your friend mop your floor for you. Accept the help. Let your loved ones support you – and know that you are supported.
Having that support will make sleep training easier – and give you the confidence you need that things will work out.
Take a Nap
Sometimes the only difference between a bad day and a great one is a nap. So if you need a short power nap to survive the day? Take one!
Maybe you’ll be able to get one in while the baby is sleeping. Perhaps you’ll have to cosleep to get a nap. Or maybe your friend can come to watch the children so that you can take a quick nap.
In any case, getting a quick nap (or even just resting) can help restore your whole body so that you’ve got the physical and emotional ability to keep going.
Take the nap.
Take a Day Off of Sleep Training
When things aren’t going well, it’s okay to take a day off. It’s totally fine!
This is especially true if your baby is teething, ill, or you’re just not up to things. Go ahead – take a day off. Take several days off if needed.
You can always start things over again. So take time to snuggle that sick or teething baby. Give them the comfort they need – and you need, too.
You can go back to sleep training tomorrow.
Sleep Training is a Process (not a one-and-done thing)
That’s right: sleep training isn’t a one-and-done kind of deal. In fact, most families sleep train multiple times.
You may need to sleep train once upfront – and then have a quick refresher course every time your child has sleep regressions. Or sleep training may just be an ongoing thing until your child finally gets it.
That’s why it’s important to learn the skills behind sleep training – because it’s a great step into parenting. Of course, parenting isn’t a one-and-done deal, either. It’s going to be an ongoing thing from here on out.
So remember that sleep training is a process. It’s moving towards a very achievable goal. But it is a process – not an event. Knowing this makes a world of difference, trust me!
With our oldest, I was devastated to learn that the first round of sleep training wasn’t permanent. For our second boy, I expected the process. With our third, sleep training was almost easy. And for our fourth child? It’s been a very natural process.
It’s not that my children were easier sleepers – they’ve all been difficult sleepers. But just knowing that sleep training is a process helped me do so much better. And as I got better at the process, it made things a lot easier for everyone else, too.
So hang in there – because this process does work. It just takes some time, a lot of effort, and even more patience.
Keep Calm and Parent On
Speaking of time, patience, and effort, keep going. This can work. It just needs more time, more patience, and some more effort.
One thing that’s really helped me is mindfulness. Perhaps you know mindfulness as deep breathing, meditation, or guided imagery. Whatever you call it, these techniques will help you to stay calm as you keep on parenting and sleep training.
To read my favorite mindfulness techniques, check out my personal blog post on it over at KimberlyCStarr.com. Click here to see it now.
There’s No Right or Wrong Answer – Just What Works
Sleep training is a highly personal and family-based process. There’s not going to be one right way – or even one wrong way – to do things.
Instead, there’s going to be just one way you need to learn: the way things work.
- What works for your family may or may not work for other families.
- What works for this child may or may not work for the next child.
- What doesn’t work for one person may work for you.
- What doesn’t work for one of your children may work for another one.
So remember that there isn’t some universal truth or magical way to sleep training. It’s a messy process – full of discovery.
Sleep training is figuring out what works by first discovering what doesn’t work.
Now, sometimes you’ll stumble onto what works best (and works!) the first time. That’s amazing. Just remember that what worked best this time may or may not work for everyone else. Likewise, remember that what works for others may not work for you.
Finally, remember that all that sleep training advice is well-intentioned. Even so, it doesn’t mean you have to take and use every piece of advice. Feel free to pick and choose who you listen to – and find what works for your family.
You’ve got this. You’ll find what works.
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