“When is it the best time to start sleep training my baby?” is probably one of the most common questions I have heard over the years from new parents I worked with, family and friends. With so much misinformation on the Internet these days, it does not take long to feel confused and/or overwhelmed! I feel like that when it comes to nutrition. Even though it is a very dynamic field and more research is done, there is a lot of contradictory information that would drive anyone crazy, and social media does not help.
It is my soul’s desire to serve and help parents all over the world to remove the overwhelm and worry of their shoulders when it comes to baby sleep. There is a whole lot to deal with when you are a parent & I would love to make your lives easier in that area because, frankly, I do believe when you and your baby are rested, you can experience this parenting journey in a completely different way – from a centered, balanced and more harmonious place.
Today, I am happy to pour my heart out to offer you a better understanding of baby sleep & support so you may sail through the first weeks as smoothly as possible. Let’s enter the realm of sleep training once again, because with a holistic approach, you can navigate this journey gently and effectively, fostering healthy sleep habits that will benefit both you and your baby.
✨ WHAT REALLY IS SLEEP TRAINING?
Sleep training is simply helping a baby learn to sleep well by brining together various components, such as: daytime schedule, sleep environment, bedtime routine and addressing night wakings, accompanied by a proper sleep training method. Because babies go through a lot of major developmental changes in the first months of their lives, it is recommended to wait with ‘proper’ sleep training. Until when? I will explain below.
✨ NEWBORN SLEEP vs. INFANT SLEEP
✔️ SLEEP CYCLES
One of the very first reasons to hold off on sleep training are the differences in newborn and infant sleep. Newborns alternate between 2 sleep stages only – ACTIVE (REM) & QUIET (NON-REM) until they develop all 5 sleep stages between 4-6 months.
Newborn sleep cycles are shorter, typically lasting around 30 to 50 minutes. They spend a significant portion (50%) of their sleep time in REM (rapid eye movement, light sleep) sleep, which is essential for brain development.
By the time infants reach 3-4 months, their sleep cycles extend to approximately 90 minutes (same as adults). They still experience REM sleep, but the proportion decreases slightly compared to newborns by 3 months, and by 6 moths all distinct sleep stages develop.
✔️ NIGHT WAKINGS & FEEDINGS
Nighttime wakings are common in newborns due to their small stomachs and the need for frequent feedings. It’s normal for newborns to wake up every 2-3 hours to feed. As infants grow older and their stomachs can hold more milk, they may sleep for longer stretches at night without needing to feed. However, occasional night wakings may still occur due to growth spurts, teething, or other developmental milestones.
✔️ DAY & NIGHT CONFUSION
Newborns are not born with a set circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles in humans and their bodies do not produce cortisol nor melatonin until about 3 months. (They have never been exposed to light!). Instead, they have irregular and erratic sleep patterns and spend much of their time sleeping (14h-17h in 24h). Therefore, it will take a while (up to 6 weeks) for this day-night confusion to resolve. Some babies may have problems staying awake during the day, for some daylight may be too stimulating.
Understanding these key differences between newborn and infant sleep can assist parents and caregivers in providing appropriate support but also in managing their own expectations and let’s not forget: e v e r y child is different. The first few weeks might feel like survival which is often a shock to new parents because of the fact how romanticized having a newborn is by family, friends, strangers and especially social media while everyone should just make this experience their own, and that also concerns the dilemma of when it is the best time to start sleep training.
For the reasons above, it is best to hold off on sleep training until your baby is at least 4 months old which can be a lot smoother if parent decide on implementing proper sleep hygiene from the earliest days.
✨ WHAT TO DO I DO BEFORE MY BABY TURNS 4 MONTHS?
Even though I wrote it lol, it is a great question I know many parents ask themselves. And, there is plenty you can do to gently navigate through these first weeks to establish a solid foundation for your little one’s healthy sleep habits which can make a significant difference in both your baby’s rest and your own well-being.
🌙 PRIORITIZE SAFE SLEEP PRACTICES:
Always place your baby on their back to sleep, on a firm and flat sleep surface, such as a crib or bassinet. Keep soft bedding, toys, and loose blankets out of the sleep area to reduce the risk of suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Avoid overheating your baby by dressing them in lightweight clothing and keeping the room temperature comfortable (68F-70F)
🌙 EMBRACE NEWBORN SLEEP PATTERNS:
Be prepared for frequent nighttime awakenings for feedings, as newborns have small stomachs and need to eat every few hours. If you bottle feed, take turns with your partner. If you exclusively breastfeed, have your partner help with burping and changing after the feeding.
Accept that your baby’s sleep patterns will gradually evolve and become more predictable as they grow older. IT WILL NOT ALWAYS BE THIS HARD <3
🌙 ESTABLISH A CONSISTENT BEDTIME ROUTINE:
Create a soothing bedtime routine to signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Include calming activities such as a warm bath, gentle massage, lullabies, or reading a short bedtime story. Keeping the bedtime routine consistent each night will be very important to help your baby associate these cues with sleep.
🌙 ENCOURAGE DAYTIME WAKEFULNESS
– Expose your baby to natural daylight and engage in stimulating activities during the day to help regulate their circadian rhythm. Turn the TV on, carry on normal conversations.
– Limit long naps (2h+) to ensure that your baby gets enough feedings and is more likely to sleep longer stretches at night.
🌙 WAKE WINDOWS
Wake window is a period of time a baby can stake awake for. While newborn’s sleep is irregular and erratic, knowing how long can a baby stay awake may help parent create some daytime structure.
Newborn wake windows are about 35-60 minutes for babies 0-4 weeks and about 60-90 minutes for babies 4-12 weeks. Their total sleep requirement is 14h-17h. Daytime sleep should not exceed 5h-6h.
🌙 PRACTICE TIME OUTSIDE PARENTS ARMS
By that I mean, have moments throughout the day where your baby (0-2 months) can spent a few minutes, few times a day outside your arms. It can be supervised swing time, tummy time etc. You may attempt also to lay your baby down awake in their crib or bassinet when their are sleepy to give them a chance to practice being in their sleep space on their own, or maybe even falling asleep on their own. However, if you lay them down awake and they cry, pick them up and comfort them – things should be pretty lenient with a baby this young.
🌙 OBSERVE AND BE RESPONSIVE TO YOUR BABY’S CUES:
I know some parents may be freaked out by this and think “how the hell am I supposed to know their cues when they just arrived?!”. Welcoming a newborn is a huge adjustment period, but this baby chose you for their parents and you have ALL you need to take the best care of them. Trust me, it is there but the sleep deprivation and overwhelm are making it hard to tap into your inner truth.
– Pay attention to your baby’s signals of hunger, discomfort, or tiredness, and respond promptly – you will learn over time what those are. Here is my post on sleep cues in young babies that may be helpful:
– Offer comfort and reassurance during nighttime wake-ups without immediately resorting to feeding, especially if your baby has recently eaten.
🌙 TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF:
– Remember to prioritize your own sleep and nutrition. Enlist the help of your partner, family members, or friends to share nighttime responsibilities.
– Nap when your baby naps to catch up on sleep and recharge your energy levels. Take it s l o w l y – your body just want through something very major.
Below, I am sharing my free guide for parents who may have concerns or fears about sleep training their baby. It is my passion and mission to help parents bring the balance back to their families so their babies can thrive and they can enjoy this wonderful journey, which is why in this guide I put all sleep training stereotypes to sleep 😴
Establishing healthy sleep habits with a newborn requires patience, consistency, and flexibility. While it may take time for your baby to settle into a predictable sleep routine, implementing these strategies can help lay the groundwork for better sleep patterns in the months ahead. I hope this article gave you a better understanding on when to start sleep training. By creating a nurturing sleep environment, following a consistent bedtime routine, and being responsive to your baby’s needs, you can promote healthy sleep habits that benefit both you and your little one. Remember, every baby is unique, so don’t hesitate to adapt these tips to suit your family’s needs and preferences. With time, you’ll find a rhythm that works for everyone, allowing you to enjoy those precious moments of rest and relaxation together.
To the balance your family deserves,