newborn sleep training

Newborn Sleep Training

Is newborn sleep training possible?

Before we address the topic of newborn sleep training, it is important to clarify what sleep training actually means.

Sleep training is the process of teaching a child to fall asleep independently, and to fall back asleep independently as long as their basic needs are met.

In order to achieve this, you would select a sleep training method that would help equip your child with the ability to fall asleep without relying on a caregiver.

Sounds simple enough right? The problem for me is that brand-new babies have a lot of variables that make this challenging. A newborn’s primary goal is learning to eat and bonding with its mother. They need a level of physical closeness that even the “gentlest” sleep training method would not permit. In addition, you are also still learning your baby. It takes time to know what different cries mean, how often they like to be fed, and whether or not a certain sound means that they are awake.

Before any successful sleep training can happen, you need to be very informed on what your baby’s unique patterns and cues look like. During the first 2-3 months, paying attention is the most important thing you can do to set up your baby for great sleep. Pay attention to their different cries, to how much they eat, their sleep cues…everything.

Back to the question at hand, “is newborn sleep training a thing?” The answer is, it’s complicated. Some people say that it’s possible right away, and many say to wait until at least 4 or even 6 months. When I work with families, I suggest waiting until at least 3.5 months old to begin using any formal sleep training method. However, it is possible to begin gently shaping your newborn’s sleep foundations before that time.

What is sleep shaping?

Sleep shaping is simply laying down appropriate sleep foundations by providing opportunities to start practicing independent sleep skills without any expectations of your newborn.

You would begin to periodically place them in their bassinet fully awake for naps and at bedtime. You would then comfort them in their sleep space and help them to sleep if they needed it. If they can’t be helped to sleep that way, that’s ok! Pick them up, and try again later.

The reason this isn’t considered newborn sleep training is that we are not holding any type of boundary or “rule” when it comes to them falling asleep independently. We are just practicing and allowing them the opportunity to try.

Sleep shaping also involves making sure that baby is getting full feeds during the day and providing age-appropriate wake windows.

A great way to do this is to follow an eat, play, sleep routine. To do this, you would start by feeding your baby right away when they wake up from a nap. Then, offer “play”, or some awake time, and then another nap. For newborns, an ideal wake window for the first 6-8 weeks is about 40-60 minutes including the feeding. This means that most times, they will only be “playing” for 15-20 minutes before they need another nap.

The eat, play, sleep routine won’t always work out perfectly. But it can be a useful tool in helping your newborn fall asleep without always needing to feed.

If you’re looking for even more strategies to help your baby sleep longer stretches at night, grab the Free Guide to End Night Wakings.


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