How to Sleep Train Your Baby
Also commonly referred to as Ferber-izing, sleep training involves letting your baby cry it out in their crib alone for longer and longer intervals until they fall asleep on their own. After one or more nights of doing this, your baby typically will get used to the idea of falling asleep on their own and quit crying when you put them to bed—leading to better sleep for parents and baby.
The ProHowNow Way: Tough-it-Out for a Few Nights with the Ferber Method and Sleep Better in the Long-Term
The steps to sleep training your baby are pretty straight forward. Put your baby in their crib, say good night, and walk away. Assuming your baby cries (why else would you be reading this article, right?), then come back and check on the baby after 1 minute—say something short and reassuring, then walk right back out.
Now, wait 2 minutes as your baby cries before going back in and doing the same thing: reassure your baby, and walk back out the door.
Wait 3 minutes, and if your baby is still crying, repeat. Lengthen the interval to 5 minutes and do the same, and then repeat with 5 minute intervals in between until your baby cries it out and falls asleep. That’s it. The next night, do the same thing and your baby should fall asleep quicker. Within a couple of nights, your baby should go down for bed without any fuss at all.
This method is called “graduated extinction” in technical terms. It’s simple in theory, but often way tougher in implementation, particularly if you’re sensitive to your baby crying or if you have a really stubborn baby. That first night, it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour or more of crying before your baby finally falls asleep. It can be tough to handle and requires a lot of self-discipline. If you have a partner or live-in family, it also requires them being on the same page and supporting you.
Is Sleep Training Worth It?
In our experience, yes, it’s well worth it. It took us two hours to get our baby to go to sleep that first night of Ferber-izing and she wasn’t just crying, but screaming at the top of her lungs. In the moment, we felt helpless, like were were making a mistake (and that we would never get a moment to sleep ourselves ever again), but the next night we stuck to the plan and she fell asleep in 15 minutes. By night three she barely fussed before falling asleep in 5 minutes, and it stayed that way for several months, until she hit her first sleep regression when her first molars started coming in. At that point, we had to start over and sleep train her again. Be ready to do the same.
When to Start Sleep Training Your Baby
Always talk to your baby’s pediatrician to get specific recommendations for your individual circumstance, but most experts recommend waiting until your baby is at least 6 months old and able to sleep through most of the night without feeding before attempting to sleep train. For more details on when and when not to sleep train your baby, read this great sleep training article from a sleep specialist.
ProHowNow Tip: Establish a Good Bedtime Routine
The key to success for sleep training your baby and getting lasting results often is dependent on having a consistent bedtime routine. This can include:
Starting at the same time every night
Feeding your baby beforehand without letting them fall asleep with a baby bottle or at the breast
Bathing, reading, or any other quiet activity that helps you and your baby relax
Turning on a white noise machine or shusher to create ambient background noise in your baby’s room
Keeping what you say to your baby before walking out short and repetitive, something like, “Good night, I love you”
Staying as calm and patient as you can, since your baby picks up on your emotions
Cover photo courtesy of @fujikama