Sleep Training 101: A Guide to Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night

So you’ve put your bundle of joy down to sleep, fed and changed and all set for a good night.

You tip toe out and return to your bed only to be awakened by the cries of an unhappy baby a couple hours later. You repeat the routine, get them back down and then a few hours later, you’re up again.

While having a new baby fills your heart and homes with so much joy, those countless number of sleepless nights can sometimes be anything but… well… joyful.

But lucky for you, there are are ways to help your baby sleep through the night so that you and baby can wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day together.

I love seeing new moms in my office with a look of desperation after many nights of missed sleep that eventually turns into a sigh of relief as we discuss the ways that they can get their babies to sleep through the night (and regain a little bit of sanity).

Just like our babies who are beautiful and unique in their own ways, there is not necessarily a “one size fits all” when it comes to sleep training; however, there are many key tips that will help even the most rambunctious baby drift off into a peaceful night’s sleep, and stay asleep!

So, if you are interested in learning the keys to successful sleep training, keep reading!

Sleep Training Pro-Tip

Before we get into the keys, I want to start with 1 important thing to remember when you are considering sleep training. 

 Babies don’t generally begin sleeping through the night until they are about 4 months and 14 pounds (with few exceptions). 

This is when babies are big enough to have glucose stores that will maintain their blood sugar throughout the night, and are mentally mature enough to self soothe.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to help younger babies sleep for longer than that initial 3 to 4 hour stretch, but they really aren’t expected to go the full night.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s get started with the 6 key’s to sleep training!

Key #1: Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine

This first key is crucial!

Babies are smart, and just like us, they respond well to routines.

You should have a calming and soothing nightly routine that starts at about the same time every night.

It may include things like a soothing bath, a bedtime feed, reading or singing.

Remaining consistent with the routine allows your baby to connect the routine to going to sleep and those initial connections are really important!

Key #2: Put Your Baby to Bed Drowsy, NOT Asleep

While it’s very tempting to rock your baby in your arms until they drift off into sleep, then place them gently into bed, this can actually work against you.

The reason is that babies make what are called “sleep associations” or things that they associate with falling asleep.

They can also be easily distressed by a change in their environments.

So for instance, when you feed them until they fall asleep, and then put them in their bed, they make the connection between feeding and falling asleep.

Then, when they inadvertently wake themselves up in the middle of the night, they become distressed because now they’re in a new environment (their beds) instead of in mom’s or dad’s arms which is where they were when they fell asleep.

So they cry until they get the thing that initially put them to sleep (ie milk) and are back where they were when they fell asleep (in your arms).

So, while a feed before bed is okay for your little ones, you should avoid holding and feeding them until they are fully asleep.

Instead, make sure they are drowsy but still awake so that they know that they are falling asleep in their beds.

This will help them to no longer have the association between you or feeds and falling asleep.

Key #3: Cut Out Nighttime Feeds 

Yes, you heard me right!

Now, this tends to be the hardest part of sleep training for most of my patients’ families.

If you recall what I said earlier in the post, these tips don’t really apply until your baby is 4 months and 14 pounds.

That is because at that time they can maintain stable blood sugars overnight and no longer require those middle of the night feeds.

Now, that doesn’t mean that they don’t WANT those middle of the night feeds…. because they do.

They just no longer NEED them. But because they want them, taking them away can be hard at first.

But trust me it is not harmful to them and they will quickly get used to no longer having those feeds.

Now, how you cut out the feeds are up to you.

You can gradually cut down on the number or amount of feeds, or you can just cut them out altogether.

I’ll get into more specifics about this in a later post but either way works just fine. It just depends on what makes you most comfortable.

Whew! I know that last tip was a toughy, but I hope you guys are still with me….

Key #4: Provide Low Stimulation and Minimal Interaction

It’s no surprise that your baby loves you, like REALLY loves you.

And their favorite thing to do is interact with you. They love to smile, giggle cuddle and so on.

All of those things are amazing and beautiful but shouldn’t be done when you are trying to put your baby to sleep.

These activities can be very stimulating to babies and make it difficult for them to fall asleep.

So even when you go in to check on your baby in the middle of the night, you can provide low stimulation comfort such as patting them on the back to let them know that you are there.

But you should avoid picking them up or further interaction, as it will likely make it more difficult for them to fall asleep.

Key #5: Build Healthy Sleep Associations

Remember those sleep associations I talked about in Key #2?

Well, just like there are unhealthy sleep associations, there are healthy ones as well.

As a pediatrician, I LOVE pacifiers (although I know there are mixed opinions).

But I personally find them to be a great alternative to the bottle or breast when your baby needs to find a way to self soothe.

They also just so happen to have the added benefit of reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (also known as SIDS). You can find more details about that in the study linked here.

There are also positive external sleep associations such as white noise machines or lullabies playing in the background.

These things all help you baby to fall asleep without needing mom or dad’s presence.

Key #6: Be Consistent!

This last key is so important that it should probably be key 6 through 10! I cannot stress the importance of this enough.

Like I said before, babies are smart! If you start the sleep training process and give in after the first or loudest or strongest cry… your baby will learn that all they need to do is cry louder, stronger etc.

Remember, none of these methods are harmful to your baby and in the long run will be beneficial to them as you will help them lay the foundation for healthy sleep habits throughout life.

So there you have it! 

6 Simple keys to help your baby sleep through the night.

I’ve talked many patients through these exact steps and let me tell you YOU CAN DO THIS!

You are taking the first steps towards ensuring a healthy sleep foundation for your child and trust me, you and your own sleep will be more than grateful for it.

Until next time, happy sleeping!

5 thoughts on “Sleep Training 101: A Guide to Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night”

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