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When to Start Sleep Training? An Age Specific Guide

Updated: Apr 25

There are two things I can pretty much guarantee you when it comes to teaching your child to sleep through the night.

  1. It’s going to be a challenge

  2. It’s going to be eminently worth it.

I’ve rarely worked with a family whose baby went right down on the first night and just magically slept through from then on. A few more have slept through the night on night two, and most of them start seeing results on night three or four, but I won’t kid you, night one can be a trial.

I’ve also never worked with a family who didn’t feel like they had made a tremendous decision once their baby had learned to sleep through the night. The benefits to the whole family are almost indescribable.

Like many big decisions though, there are times that are ideal and times that may be less so. Today, I’d like to offer some sleep training tips for deciding whether or not it’s the right time to take this challenging, but oh-so-rewarding journey.

Table of Contents:

Availability: Are you going to be around?

mum with newborn baby reading guide on when is the right time tostart sleep training

I’m not attempting to find a silver lining in this post-Covid-19 situation, but many parents are still either fully or partly working from home, which does present the opportunity to be at home while you teach your little one how to sleep independently.

I usually recommend that you're able to prioritize sleep for the first three weeks while you’re sleep training (ie home for naps and bedtime and only sleep away from home if your child regularly attends daycare), so this might be a great opportunity to take the plunge.

I don’t advise parents to start sleep training less than one month before traveling. I know we all want a sleeping child on vacation, but I promise in the long run it will be better to wait until you return from your trip. 

Is the time right for baby?

The best chance for a quick and effective solution to your baby’s sleep issues is to implement the changes when they’re healthy and thriving. If baby’s dealing with (unmanaged) reflux or colic, you’ll want to get that remedied before you start sleep training. There’s going to be some fussing and protest in the first few nights, and we want to make sure it’s only due to the change in their routine, not because of actual discomfort, and if they’re healthy, it’s much easier to pinpoint the reasons for their fussing.

Is your partner on board?

couple sit on bed discussing whether now is the right time to start sleep training

If you’re raising your baby with a partner, it’s important that both of you are committed to the process. This can be a trying ordeal for the first couple of nights and if your partner thinks it’s not a good idea, there’s likely going to be a point where they manage to convince you to give in and resort to whatever “sleep prop” you usually use to get your baby to sleep. So before you get started, make sure you and your partner have both signed on and can rely on one another for support. I'm more than happy to answer questions that come up for the partner before getting started and do ask that both parents (when applicable) be on our consultation call.

Can you stand a couple of nights without a lot of sleep?

I won’t sugar-coat it. Changing up someone’s sleep habits is almost never met with a lot of enthusiasm for the first night or two, so nobody’s likely to get a lot of rest for the first 48 hours. If you have an important meeting or a major event coming up in the next few days that you need to be in peak condition for, you might want to wait until next weekend to get things underway. I always tell my clients, however, that while you are likely to be “even more tired” than you are now those first couple of nights, I promise it is the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Are the symptoms of sleep deprivation starting to show?

Are you starting to feel depressed, moody, forgetful, unmotivated, clumsy, or unfocused? Is your sex drive starting to wane? Have you noticed an increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings?

young mum struggles with tiredness as she thinks about sleep training her baby

These are all symptoms of sleep deprivation and they’re no laughing matter. Society tends to make light of the whole, “exhausted new parent” persona, but the more we learn about the health effects of sleep deprivation, the less of a joke it becomes. If you’re sleep-deprived or feel like you’re on the verge, now’s the time to take action.

The same is true for your child. Are they fussy or grumpy most of the day? Not eating well, because they fall asleep every time they are fed? Do they catch colds more than other children at daycare? These are also all signs of sleep deprivation to pay attention to in your little one.

Lack of sleep = not good for anyone in the family.

Are their accommodations ready?

minimalist baby room example for a sleep training space

Exceptions can be made in certain situations (particularly age), but I really do find that putting baby into their own room is the best way to help them learn to fall asleep independently, and there are a few decorating guidelines to help baby get the hang of this thing as quickly as possible.

Their room should be as dark as you can possibly get it. Put up some blackout blinds or, barring that, tape up some black garbage bags over the windows. It’s not pretty but 100% darkness will really help with daytime naps, falling asleep at bedtime while the sun is still up, and to help prevent early morning wakings.

Get rid of any mobiles, crib aquariums, or light-emitting devices that claim to help your baby fall asleep. (I can assure you, they don’t.) An ideal nursery is flat-out boring. Baby should recognize it as a place to do nothing but sleep, so keep their toys and stuffies in another room.

Don’t wait for the “perfect” moment

mum hold baby, both are smiling after a good nights sleep

Like I said earlier, now might not be the ideal time to take the initiative to help your baby sleep through the night.

Getting started and having to stop because of some bad planning is likely going to cause some confusion and minimize your chances for success.

But remember, there’s always going to be something that isn’t exactly ideal. Teething, crawling, rolling over, and other developmental milestones, shouldn’t impede baby’s ability to sleep through the night, and they’re not going to stop popping up until your little one’s about ready to graduate from high school.

Schedule a complimentary Sleep Evaluation Call to learn how we can get your little one sleeping through the night in as little as a week or two.

Your Sleep Evaluation Call is a 30 minute 1x1 online meeting with me where we'll talk through what's going on for your family, I'll share with you how I help families like yours, and answer any questions about the process. It's completely FREE and no obligation to book a service with me!"

Email me at and we can start putting together a plan for your baby right away.

What Age is Best to Start Sleep Training?

Here's the lowdown on what it's like to begin sleep training at different ages.

Sleep Training Newborns

Newborn parents, let’s talk about WHY this age is a great time to start working on sleep training! I always applaud parents who think about sleep from the start. It’s a great time to start working on infant sleep training, so that you and your baby can both get the rest you need to THRIVE. Yes, newborns have to eat in the night. Yes, newborn sleep work uses different strategies than we’d use even with a 3-4 month old baby. But, you can 100% encourage independent sleep skills and healthy sleep habits around those needed feeds!

Plus, when you do this work from the start, you can avoid the need to do formal sleep training down the road! Let’s just avoid the need for that and get your little one to LOVE sleep from the start!If you’re a newborn parent who’s ready to start get the sleep training process rolling, click the link in my bio to schedule a free sleep evaluation call!

Sleep Training Baby at 3-5 Months

Parents, let’s talk about WHY 3-5 months is a great age to start working on sleep training!

The 3-5 month age range is a fantastic time to sleep train because if you start early enough, you can get those skills developed before the “4-month regression” hits and move through it more smoothly / not let it destroy any form of sleep that was happening previously.

It’s also a great time to sleep train baby because it’s the first age range where you can do more formal sleep teaching… so why wait?! Let’s get you all sleeping better, STAT!

Sleep Training at 6 months

I give 6 months old babies their own highlight for a few reasons. 6 months is also a great time to sleep train, because they can learn so much, so fast, but there are some things to consider (of which many of my clients of 6 months old babies say they're glad they hired me to help!).

Some 6 months need a feed in the night if they are on the smaller side, and some don’t! Some 6-month-olds need 3 naps and some need 2 naps. Some 6 month olds are still mastering rolling and others are already crawling (or beyond!). Some 6 month olds have teeth and others don’t.

So, while it's still an amazing time to teach a baby to sleep well, it can be helpful to first sort out where your baby is in this transitional period of growth and development. 

Sleep Training at 7-9 Months

Parents, let’s talk about WHY 7-9 months is a great age to start working on sleep training!I LOVE working with this age group! Not needing to work around a middle-of-the-night feed and being on two naps a day are two GREAT reasons to sleep train at this age.While we can do this work at any age, the fewer times a baby naps during the day, well quite frankly, the fewer times you are implementing your sleep plan throughout the day.And parents LOVE when they can truly accomplish sleeping through the night without waking for feedings!

Sleep Training at 10-12 Months

10-12 months can be a great time to sleep train as you are typically on a solid two nap/day schedule. While some 12-month-olds are ready to transition to one/nap a day, the most common is 13-14 months. And nap transitions go way smoother for children with solid independent sleep skills! Also, while we can do this work at any age, if your baby has had their current sleep habits their entire life, then the sooner the better! Research shows that kids this age THRIVE with 11-12 hours of consolidated overnight sleep and sleep debt accumulates.

If your child is only getting 10 hours of sleep each night, that’s 1-2 hours of missed sleep each night which accumulates every day. That’s 7-14 hours in just ONE week (more than an entire night’s sleep missed!).  So, 10-12 months of broken and missed sleep can really start to add up and impact your baby (and YOU!).

Sleep Training at 18 Months - 2 Years

18 months - 2 years is a great time to sleep train, because I promise you if you have a child that isn't sleeping well in their crib, they aren’t going to sleep well in a toddler or big kid bed, either!I highly recommend you resolve the sleeping issues in the crib FIRST, when possible. Tthe transition to a big kid bed will go SO MUCH smoother.

Sleep Training at 3 years Old

3 years is a great age to start a sleep training program, because here’s the deal: Research shows that sleeping problems in children left unresolved, will persist. The research actually shows that 84% of those children not sleeping well will continue to have sleeping problems more than 3 years later! That’s a long time to go without a good night's sleep and if you’ve already gone 3 years with broken sleep, why wait any longer?

Sleeping problems don’t tend to go away. Even if your little one starts sleeping through the night, it can turn into bedtime antics, bedtime routines turning into hours of requests from your child, or sleep fears and anxiety from becoming a school aged kid pouring over into sleep.

Sleep Training at 4 Years Old

Even if you don't sleep train your child in the first 3 years of life, it does not mean it's too late! It's never too late to get your child's sleep on track. I work with children up to 10-11 years of age.

The issues causing sleep issues may be similar to earlier ages, but can also come from increase in screens, social/peer relationship stress, school anxiety and so on. Identifying the root of your older child's sleeping problems and then creating a plan that addresses that specifically, will teach your child to be a confident, peaceful, and independent sleeper for good.

If you'd like some help, I'd love to support you with gentle sleep training methods that will ensure a good night's sleep for the whole family.

Are you ready to begin sleep training work?

If you'd like some help, I'd love to support you with gentle sleep training methods that will ensure a good night's sleep for the whole family. As a professional sleep coach, I can start putting a plan in place for your baby straight away.

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