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When is the Best Time to Sleep Train?


As sleep consultants we are often asked, when is the best time to sleep train? The answer to this question depends on a lot of factors, however any time after 16 weeks of age is fair game. The important thing to remember is that it is NEVER too late to sleep train! The right time to sleep train is whenever you feel that the current way you are approaching sleep is becoming unsustainable for your family and you want to make a change. At Tweet Dreamzz Sleep Consulting, we are here to support you and help you decide when is the best time to sleep train for you and your family.


What is Sleep Training?


Before we get into when the best time to sleep train is, let’s address what sleep training is. Sleep training is teaching your child independent sleep skills so that when they have a normal biological waking (in the middle of the night or during a nap) they are able to check in with their surroundings and put themselves back to sleep without needing an outside factor to assist them back to sleep (bottle, nursing, rocking, etc.).



Sleep Training a Baby (0-6 Months)

The earliest you can begin sleep training is 4 months old. Sleep training at this age can be very successful. However, it’s important to note that we are likely still keeping one overnight feeding at this age. Check out this article we wrote on sleep training and keeping one night feeding.


We love helping families sleep train their children at any age! However, one of my favorite ages to work with is babies between 5-6 months old. At this age, baby has likely gone through the 4-month sleep regression and there are less variables at play. Most babies are starting to roll at this age too which can aid in sleep. Many babies WANT to sleep on their bellies, but before they can get to that milestone, sleep is primarily on their backs (supine position).


As kids grow older, they start to become more mobile, they get more teeth, they have language explosions and they become toddlers who have tons of emotions and lots to say! These things can be distractions to sleep. I find that setting the foundation early can really help avoid many sleep regressions that children go through as they grow. I am also someone who just loves sleep and does not have a high threshold for lack of sleep, hence why I sleep trained all of my children on the earlier side.


  

Sleep Training a Baby (6-12 Months)


If you are someone who didn’t feel it right to sleep train on the earlier side, fear not! Beginning sleep training anywhere from 7-12 months old has its positives. Typically, we can get baby on a very easy to follow 2 nap schedule at this age. You get the dedicated breaks you need, and your child will be getting the appropriate amount of daytime rest-It’s a win-win! At this age, we can usually drop all night feedings if they are still present (pending any medical concerns) and truly achieve a full 10-12 hours of consolidated nighttime sleep. The sleep training process can be pretty seamless at this age assuming the timing of sleep is accurate, and a plan is being followed with consistency.



Sleep Training a Toddler (13-36 Months)


It is no secret that time FLIES when watching our children grow. If your child is a toddler and you are encountering bedtime battles, it is NOT too late to sleep train and achieve the peaceful nights rest your entire family deserves.  Sleep training a toddler is different than sleep training a baby. Sleep is a biological need. Children know how to sleep and eventually they will fall asleep. However, it is the things surrounding sleep that we typically need to work on when it comes to toddlers.


As always, a calming and predictable bedtime routine is a must as children thrive when consistency and routine are present. With toddlers, we can often introduce some other tools such as a color clock, bedtime chart and a comfort item into the plan to aid in the process. A lot of the time with toddlers we are working to break previous habits and behaviors. Although, it can be more difficult to sleep train a toddler as they have a voice and can get up and leave their bed if not in a crib, they DO understand rewards and positive reinforcement. Motivation and praise for accomplishing a task is very motivating to them.

You are not doomed if your toddler isn’t sleeping through the night. There is plenty that can be done to get them on the right track, sleeping independently and for the appropriate amount of time. At Tweet Dreamzz Sleep Consulting we’ve seen it all and we absolutely LOVE coaching toddler parents.



Sleep Training a Preschooler (3-6 Years)


When it comes to sleep training, there is nothing more rewarding than working with a family of a 3–6-year-old that has NEVER slept through the night. It requires perseverance and diligence, but it is extremely rewarding for all parties. When sleep training a preschooler, you need first need to acknowledge what your current reality is. Maybe your child is getting up 3-4 times in the night and coming into your room. Maybe you have co-slept from the beginning or perhaps stumbled into some unsustainable habits due to illness, travel or the introduction of a new sibling. Whatever it may be, we are NOT judging you. We get what it’s like to be in the trenches and doing whatever you feel is right in the moment in order to survive and get some rest.


Whatever your current reality is with your preschooler, it is important to acknowledge that they are more than capable of sleeping a full 10-12 hours at night. When sleep training a preschooler it often involves retraining the actions of the parents and caretakers as well as building confidence surrounding sleep for the child. It is important to expect protest at this age. Change is hard! Especially when you are radically changing the way things have been doing for months or years. Teaching new skills to our children can be challenging and frustrating at first. As parents, it’s not our job to remove them from these situations but instead to help them through these learning experiences whatever they may be. They are going to learn how to ride a bike, how to read, how to tie their shoes, use the potty and they can also learn how to sleep independently!


Additional Sleep Tips for your Preschooler


Similar to sleep training babies and toddlers, it is imperative that you always have a clear and consistent bedtime routine. It is CRUCIAL at this age to set certain boundaries and stick to them. Your preschooler deserves to know what to expect surrounding bedtime and what is expected of them. At this age, instilling confidence during the bedtime routine through words can really help build their confidence and help them BELIEVE they are able to sleep in their bed the whole night.


You should expect to offer physical and emotional support to your preschooler throughout the process. There are several strategies that can be used at this age and their progress will be unique to them! With that being said, we generally see immense success with consistency in a two-week time frame.

You shouldn’t feel pressure to sleep train early, late or at all if you don’t want to!


The success of sleep training often hinges on the parents' readiness to commit to the process consistently. Before embarking on sleep training, assess your own physical and emotional readiness. It's crucial to ensure that you can commit to a plan no matter the age of your child.

If you want to sleep train but don’t know where to begin, reach out to us a book a free discovery call! We’ll walk you through the process and help you decide if it’s a good time for your family to sleep train your child or twins!


Stellina Ferri is the author of this article. Stellina is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and mom of three.

She supports families through the journey of better sleep as a consultant with Tweet Dreamzz Sleep Consulting. She lives in the Boston, MA area with her family.

Learn more about Stellina!

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