Can You Really Sleep Train a Newborn?

Can You Really Sleep Train a Newborn

Yes, you can sleep train a newborn but it is not recommended. It is safe to start after the infant is 6 months old. Infants naturally sleep longer and it is better to let them stay in their natural rhythm of sleep. 

Newborns have a different sleep pattern compared to older infants and adults. This is because they have an underdeveloped circadian rhythm, which means they don’t yet have a well-established day-night sleep cycle. 

As a result, they often sleep in short bursts throughout the day and night or may even have their days and nights reversed.

Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

Newborns’ plenty of sleep according to age is important for their growth and overall health. 14 to 18 hours of newborn sleep is considered to be normal and healthy. So, parents mostly need to understand the newborn sleeping pattern and cycle to track the baby’s sleeping habits.

However, the sleeping habits can vary because each baby is an individual. Their sleeping habits change every day from the time they are born. Most babies stay confused about day and night. There is no fixed sleeping schedule for them. This mainly depends on,

  • Metabolism
  • Stomach Size
  • Brain Growth Rate

But this does not depend on the sex of the baby, nor the feeding type.

Sleep Needs

A newborn should sleep around 18 hours in a 24-hour period. This time can vary for infants ranging from 14 to 18, which is normal. 

During the sleeping hour, they wake up every 1 to 3 hours when they are hungry. The waking-up time depends mostly on the stomach size of the infant. The day infants are born do not understand the difference between day and night. They do not respond to light and dark. They start responding to these factors from age 4 weeks to 8 weeks. As they get older, they tend to sleep longer.

Also, there is no schedule about how much they sleep during the day or night. But some babies take naps up to two hours or more during that time.

Patterns Of Newborn’s Sleep

Newborns have a sleeping cycle like adults. Their sleeping cycles are often short bursts and the average sleeping time is 40 minutes. Sometimes they sleep very deeply or lightly. The parent mainly depends on the feeding needs of a newborn. According to this tendency, their sleeping pattern is categorized into two types.

REM Sleep ( Rapid Eye Movement): This kind of sleep is also known as ‘active sleep’, or ‘light sleep’. Newborns from 0 to 3 months spend most of their sleep in active sleeping about 50%. During their light sleeping phase, they may,

  • Move slightly
  • Groan or cry
  • Stretch their arms or legs
  • Open their eyes
  • Breathe noisily or irregularly

Non-REM Sleep: This can be called ‘deep sleep’ or ‘quiet sleep’. This phase normally starts from the 3 month age. Babies start sleeping deeply and getting familiarized about day and night. During their deep sleep, they start breathing more, thus creating some noise. They do not move often and stay still.

Considerations Before Sleep Training A Newborn

Some babies tend to have unusual sleeping habits. In such cases, there is a lot of sleeping training that can help track newborns’ sleeping patterns. Before you start, consider some factors so you can move with the right approach.

A. Age-Appropriate Sleep Expectations

Babies sleep more the first three months after they are born. Their sleeping time keeps changing as they grow up. Here is a timetable of sleeping according to the newborn’s age. This can help you understand better whether your baby’s sleeping hour is normal or not.

Age Hours of Sleep In A Day
0 – 3 Months Old 16 – 20 Hours
3 – 6 Months Old 14 Hours
6 Month – 1 Year Old 14 Hours

B. Health And Development Factors To Consider

Babies can sleep even 20 hours a day sometimes. But this continues, it can be a concern. This mismatch of sleeping can be related to health or growth issues. If the baby is sick or unhealthy it may sleep less or more. If their growth rate is not normal, then it can affect their sleep also. Read the article in detail for physical development milestones 0 to 5 years.

C. Consulting With Pediatricians Or Sleep Specialists

Before you start the sleeping training for your baby it is best to consult with a pediatrician or sleep specialist. Initially, you may notice changes in your baby’s sleeping cycle. It can be normal as it differs from baby to baby. Only a specialist can better figure out the issues and suggest the best way.

When You Can Start Sleep Training For Your Baby

Dr. Schwartz suggests waiting until the baby is about four to six months old before starting sleep training. By this age, most babies are developmentally ready to learn the skill of falling asleep on their own.

Sleep training for your baby can be better after nine months since they no longer need to eat during the night at this age.

The most important thing is to follow your baby’s cues and your instincts. Some signs that your baby may be ready for sleep training include:

  • They can sleep for at least five hours at a stretch at night without feeding
  • They can follow a consistent and predictable sleep schedule
  • They show signs of drowsiness, such as rubbing their eyes, yawning, or fussing
  • They can fall asleep on their own or with minimal assistance
  • They show interest and curiosity in their surroundings

If your baby shows most of these signs, it means that they are developmentally and emotionally ready to learn how to sleep independently. But, if your baby does not show these signs, it means that they are not ready yet, and you should wait a little longer.

4 Approaches To Sleep Training For Your Baby

There are many different ways to sleep-train your baby, and you may have to try a few before you find the one that suits you and your baby. Here are four common approaches to sleep training that you can consider.

1. Gentle Sleep Training Methods

Gentle sleep training methods are based on the idea of gradually reducing your involvement in your baby’s sleep process while still providing comfort and reassurance.

You can gradually decrease the amount of time you spend soothing your baby before bedtime until they can fall asleep on their own. For example, you may start by rocking your baby for 20 minutes, then 15, then 10, and so on, until you can just put them down in their crib and leave the room.

Additionally, you can sit in a chair next to your baby’s crib and offer verbal or physical comfort, such as patting their back or singing a lullaby. You gradually move the chair further away from the crib until you can leave the room.

2. Ferber Method

The Ferber method, also known as the check-and-console method, is a form of controlled crying where you let your baby cry for a predetermined amount of time before checking on them and soothing them. The idea is to teach your baby to self-soothe and associate their crib with sleep.

For example, you put your baby down in their crib when they are sleepy but not asleep and leave the room. If they cry, you wait for a specific amount of time, such as three minutes, before going back to check on them and comfort them for a few minutes.

3. Consistency In Sleep Routines

Consistency in sleep routines means that you follow the same steps and rituals every time you put your baby to sleep, such as bathing them, reading them a story, or singing them a song. It helps your baby recognize the cues that signal bedtime, relax, and wind down.

Consistency in sleep routines also means that you stick to a regular schedule for your baby’s bedtime. You should also avoid any changes or disruptions that may interfere with their sleep.

4. Observing And Responding To Sleep Cues

Sleep cues are the signs that your baby shows when they are tired and ready for sleep, such as rubbing their eyes, yawning, fussing, or losing interest in their surroundings. By paying attention to these cues, you can put your baby to sleep at the optimal time, when they are sleepy but not overtired.

When your baby is overtired, they may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or transitioning between sleep cycles. To avoid overtiredness, you should follow your baby’s natural sleep rhythm and put them to sleep when they show signs of sleepiness.

Final Thoughts

Sleep training your baby should start after four to six months as most babies learn to sleep on their own by this age. There is no fixed way to sleep-train your baby. So, choose the method that works best for your baby and start sleep training your baby.

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Emily Pham

Infant Teacher

My name is Emily and I am an infant teacher. My aim with this position is to learn how children develop as unique individuals and learn how to support their holistic growth. I am currently a student at San Francisco
State University majoring in Child and Adolescent Development. With this experience, I am hoping to get a sense on whether I want to continue to work in the classroom or if I want to learn the administrative side of education. The experience of working directly with children is gratifying and I wish to create a safe space for children to explore with all of their senses as they develop their own personalities. I hope to be able to help build a strong foundation so that the children can have the confidence and ability to express themselves.