When is the Best Time to Sleep Train?


What is sleep training?

Sleep training means to teach your child the ability to get from the awake state to the sleep state without assistance.
That should be the goal for each child. This ability is a necessary skill for life.

Does the thought of sleep training fill you with fear? You might have friends who love to share their horror sleep training stories with you. If you look on the Internet you will quickly find a lot of scary stories about sleep training. Some articles say you will permanently damage your child if you attempt to sleep train. There are other studies which show no long term stress from sleep training.  There are various opinions about the value of sleep training and how to do it.

This will confuse and frighten any parent. It is difficult to know what to believe. But at the same time you may be feeling like you cannot continue with your own sleepless nights or frequent interruptions to sleep. I want to help you sort through all the mixed messages.

Children have many skills to learn.  In the first year we watch for certain milestones such as sitting or walking. Sleep is another necessary skill for a child to learn. Many developmental skills the child will learn no matter what we as parents do. Unless there is a medical problem, your child will sit and walk. Sleep, however, is a skill that most children need help from their parents to learn. Sometimes as parents we can accidentally interfere with our children learning the skill of sleep. If we try to do the job of putting our child to sleep each night, we prevent the child learning to do it by themselves.

Each time the child wakes during the night, the child will need to call for their parents because the child does not know how to get to sleep without adult assistance.
We all wake several times during the night as we progress through the sleep cycles. A child without skills will cry for their parent many times each night for help to get back to sleep. Sometimes the child may wake every 60-90 minutes.
That makes an exhausting night for the parent and child. 

Sleep training so that a child has the skills to get from the awake state to the sleep state without assistance leads to longer and better sleep for parent and child.

Rock a child to sleep and they will sleep for an hour. Teach a child to sleep and they will sleep all night!

When is the best time to sleep train?
Here are five tips to help you decide if this is a good time to teach your child the skill of getting to sleep without assistance.


1. You should sleep train when you  are ready

I have worked with over a hundred families to support them as they sleep train their child. Each child looks to their parents for encouragement and confidence to learn every new skill, especially for the skill of sleep.
When  children are born they have lot of things to learn. Everything in their world  is new and the child does not know how to respond. In a healthy parent-child relationship, the child learns to read their parents like a “how to” book. When the child falls down or meets a new person; he/she will look to a  parent’s face for how to handle that situation. In the same way, your child will be looking to you to teach them how to sleep.
During sleep training, if the parents are fearful or scared, the child will read those emotions. The child will also become fearful or scared and have a difficult time learning their new skill. On the other hand, when parents are confident that their child is capable and able to learn the skill of getting to sleep without assistance, the learning process goes much easier for the child. The child reads that confidence in their parents and uses that confidence to work at learning.

2. The age of the child determines the best time to sleep train

Start teaching your child healthy sleep habits from the time they are born.
Keep your newborn well-rested by limiting their awake time to 45 minutes. Put your baby into their bed awake some of the time so the child can practice getting to sleep without your assistance.

The best age to start structured and planned sleep training is after your child has turned 16 weeks. Major sleep development happens at that age enabling your child to learn their own skills of getting to sleep. They can learn to go to sleep on their own at bedtime and how to return to sleep without assistance when they awaken during the night.

If your child is over 4 months of age, the sooner you start to sleep train the better. Habits, good or bad, begin to develop after only three days. As a parent, teach healthy habits. Bad habits get in the way of sound sleep and can be difficult to change.

Rock your child to sleep and they will sleep an hour. Teach your child to sleep and they will sleep all night.  

3. Have a plan to follow before you sleep train

The key to success in sleep training is consistency. It is important to know what your goal is when you sleep train. Then you need a plan on how to get to that goal. There are several different methods you can read about through books or on the internet. The important part is to find a method that will work for your child. It can get overwhelming or confusing when you do all that reading. A sleep consultant (like me) can help you sort through all that sometimes conflicting information and find the correct fit for your child’s temperament and your parenting style. I write a very clear individualized sleep plan for each family to follow in their situation. I help and coach each parent or caregiver to stay consistent. It is much easier for the child to learn when everyone is doing the same thing each day.

4. Before you start sleep training have a support system in place.

Don’t try to sleep train without the support of someone. It is very easy to question or doubt yourself if the process does not work the way you planned. Every child responds differently. We cannot predict how a particular child will react or how long it will take to learn.
It can be difficult and challenging to sleep train. It is emotional for parents to watch their child trying so hard to learn a new skill. The first instinct of  loving parents is to help their struggling child. The problem is that when the parents try to help their child by picking  them up, rocking or patting, the parents are interfering with the child’s learning process.
The parents needs someone to help them see the whole picture of what their child is learning. As a sleep consultant, I am not as emotionally involved as the parents are. I am able to support and help them see beyond the moment so they can support and help their child.

5. Schedule the sleep training when you can be consistent for at least two weeks

I prefer three weeks because it takes three weeks to form a secure habit.
Look at your calendar and find two or three weeks where you are not going out of town or have a lot of activities scheduled. It becomes much easier for your child to learn when you expect the same thing and respond the same way every day.
Once your child has learned the skill of being able to get to sleep on their own, you have room for some flexibility in their schedule. During the training period it is easier on the child if you stay very consistent.

We cannot predict how a child will respond to sleep training because each child is different. My goal is to set the child up for success. A well-rested child is a happier child. That makes happier parents too.
If you are ready to start sleep training and want some coaching and encouragement through the process, contact me to get started today. 

Helping Babies Sleep

Arlene Fryling

Arlene is a registered nurse and certified sleep consultant for children 0-5 years. She has cared for premature, sick, and many healthy babies. For over 15 years she has taught expectant parents how to care for their newborns through classes teaching basic baby care, infant massage classes, and moderating support groups for new moms as they deal with parenting issues.

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Alix Kron
Alix Kron
4 months ago
We cannot say enough positive things about our experience working with Arlene!! We were desperate for sleep, going almost 5.5 months with frequent wake ups, nursing back to sleep, nonstop crying during the day, screaming in the car and becoming more and more hopeless as time went on without having success … Arlene changed all of that within no time. She listened to exactly what was going on for us, developed a sleep plan specific to our daughter’s needs/our goals and was so supportive and answered all of our questions along the way. It was very easy to follow the plan that she developed and it included naps and weaning off of night feedings. We saw a difference in our daughter almost immediately! Arlene has absolutely transformed our lives and given us the ability to enjoy each other and feel so much better getting the sleep we all want and NEED! Our daughter is now sleeping 11-12 hours per night, eating only once overnight as opposed to every 1-2 hours, is on a great nap schedule and is so much happier!!! It’s the best money we’ve spent.
Adrienne G.
Adrienne G.
2 years ago
We worked with Arlene to sleep train our 22 month old son who had been bed sharing and nursing to sleep. She helped us develop a sleep plan that was specific to our son's needs. It addressed both his nighttime sleep and his naps. It really took the guess work out of the endeavor, because as a parent, even if you read all the sleep books, there are many different opinions and it is hard to know what is right. Arlene was attentive, flexible and available to answer all of our questions and concerns. I would highly recommend working with her! Our son now sleeps 11-12 hours a night and put himself to sleep on his own. Sleep training him has been a game changer for me (I sleep now too!) and for him. He seems well rested and his development seems to be progressing faster now too. His language skills are flourishing since he is getting better rest.
Amanda C
Amanda C
4 years ago
We just wrapped up our second time working with Arlene, and had another great experience! Arlene helped us sleep train our first baby a few years ago when she was 4 months old at the time. She was a terrible sleeper, waking up once every hour and needing to be rocked to sleep for what felt like hours and hours each day. I was a stressed, exhausted, and worried first time mom, and I was drawn to Arlene’s calm and experienced approach. She gave us an option for a gentler strategy that worked for us at the time, and was detailed and responsive in her sleep plan and attentiveness. Our daughter just turned 2.5 years old and is still a great sleeper. So once our second baby turned 4 months recently, we did not hesitate to work with Arlene again. We now have two rockstar sleepers in our household, thanks to Arlene! It means the world to us that she was there to help guide us, instill confidence, and most importantly, help teach our children such a valuable skill they will undoubtedly benefit from for the rest of their lives.
Begoña Cirera
Begoña Cirera
2 years ago
Arlene helped me first with my first son who was 2.5 year old when I hired her. He slept with me during breastfeeding. He never wanted to sleep in his crib. I was due with my second, and I needed better rest, and had no clue how to get him to sleep away from my bed. I even had to sleep w him during naps, or he wouldn’t sleep. I had to walk him for hours to fall asleep every night. It was awful. Two weeks after Arlene helped us create a program for him, he was done!!! He was sleeping in his own room, all night (12+ hours) and he was SO HAPPY during the day. We learned so much, and all made so much sense. After trying methods and books, nothing worked. My son is almost 6, and he falls asleep at 7:30pm every evening, until 7:00am. As a parent, you know how precious those hours are. With my second one, I didn’t make the mistake of waiting until he was two to train him to sleep. By 3 months, we slowly started, with Arlene’s help. I never had to walk him or be there for him to fall asleep. He’s now 3, and he is a great sleeper, much better than his big brother ever was, still takes 90-min naps, and sleeps 11 hours a night. Every penny I spent to hire Arlene’s expertise is worth it. My only regret was not to look for her sooner. Lifesaver, 100%.
Abbey Stidam
Abbey Stidam
6 years ago
Arlene Fryling at Gentle Touch Sleep Time helped our son sleep, which helped us sleep! We were having trouble transitioning our son (4 months at the time) from his rock-n-play to the crib and our amazing sleeper since birth was all of a sudden not sleeping very much. Arlene talked with us about what was going on with his sleep and why the change in his sleep pattern. She answered all our questions and calmed our worries and frustrations. She came up with a sleep plan that worked for our family. She guided us every step of the way. He is now an amazing sleeper again! He is 18 months old and sleeps 12 hours at night and takes a 1 1/2 - 2 hour nap. He loves to sleep and never fights sleeping. I am so thankful we had Arlene Fryling help us and we were able to teach our son to sleep.