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‘Sleep train’ or gently ‘coach’ your baby to sleep through the night?

Updated: Apr 26

If you’re a new parent, you’ll know first-hand how difficult it is to soothe a baby to sleep when you yourself are feeling sleep-deprived.

Sleep is essential for human development. During sleep the brain experiences intense activity, building the foundations for how we learn and grow, including the development of our behaviour, emotions, and immune system.

sleep training

There's more than one way to improve your child's sleep.

You can read on below or if you would prefer to speak to a live expert, we can now help you do that too!

What’s ‘your way’??

There are different methods for how to get your baby to sleep through the night.

Some experts believe in “gentle sleep weaning” a method whereby the baby is encouraged to sleep long periods of time through environmental factors like lighting, sound, scheduling, and feeding.

Other consultants coach parents on various levels of self-soothing techniques. In today's scientific literature, the term "sleep training" is an umbrella term that refers to a spectrum of approaches to help babies learn to fall asleep by themselves. It also includes much gentler methods than cry-it-out or the so-called Ferber method. For example, some sleep training starts off by having the parent sleep next to the baby's crib (a method called camping out) or simply involves educating parents about baby sleep.

Frequently asked questions:

When to start?

Here is a simple checklist for deciding if you are ready to get your child to sleep through the night:

  • Baby is older than 4 months

  • Baby weighs >13 pounds

  • Baby is not sick or teething

  • Baby has a dry diaper and no rash

  • Parents are ready

Is your child old enough to sleep through the night?

The exact age depends on your child but most doctors and sleep consultants will say that you should wait until your child is 4 to 5 months old before they can sleep through the night without a feeding. Sleep Consultant Alana McGinn says that: “Biologically it can be difficult to put a baby on a set sleep routine in the 4th trimester so it’s important to first factor the correct age of your baby. If your child was born premature we need to make sure we are basing our start time around their biological age. So not when they were born but what their estimated due date was.”

How long is ‘through the night’?

Keep in mind the definition of ’through the night’ also varies and does not always mean a blissful 7 pm to 7 am. A 6 to 8-hour window without feeding can be defined as ‘through the night’.

Do they weigh enough?

Some physicians recommend that a baby weigh at least 13 pounds before they can sleep 6 to 8 hours straight.

Do they need to be fed at night?

Since feeding can be a driver of weight, it is recommended that you consider their milk or formula intake before you decide to sleep train. At 5 months of age, the average infant drinks 7 ounces of formula and has 5 to 6 breast or formula feedings per 24 hours for a total of 32 ounces. So this is a good guideline.

To ensure that your child is at the optimal weight to be sleep trained, first ensure that they are consuming the appropriate amount of milk or formula for their age. Introducing gentle weaning (shifting the consumption from night to daytime) is a great way to naturally encourage the baby to sleep through the night.

What are my baby’s sleep needs?

Sleep needs for babies vary depending on their age. Newborns do sleep much of the time. But their sleep is in very short segments. As a baby grows, the total amount of sleep slowly decreases. But the length of nighttime sleep increases.

Babies also have different sleep cycles than adults. Babies spend much less time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (which is dream time sleep). And the cycles are shorter. The following are the usual nighttime and daytime sleep needs for newborns through 5 years

baby's sleep needs table

Are YOU ready?

Baby sleep training (depending on the method you choose) can often result in allowing your baby to cry and self sooth. If your baby is fed, dry, and well (not sick or teething) then you will be more likely to have the confidence to help your baby sleep through the night. This is especially true for parents using methods that involve a degree of baby crying like the ‘cry it out’ sleep training. Sleep training is not generally recommended for mothers wanting to breastfeed who are at risk of compromising their supply. Instead, you might decide or introduce a “dream feed” whereby you wake the baby to feed before you go to sleep (at 11 pm) to increase the chance of the baby sleeping through your own sleep period.

Come up with your plan including which method you are going to use and ensure that you and your partner are on the same page if you co-parent. You may also decide you need the support of a sleep consultant to hold you accountable for your plan as it can be hard to stay dedicated in the middle of the night when you are tired and desperate yourself to get back to bed.


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