Sleep training can begin anytime a child is 16 weeks of age or older, counting from their due date. However, many families wonder about baby sleep training for newborns. Over the years, I’ve given parents tips about how to get their newborn sleeping longer stretches at night, and on how to establish better sleep habits with their newborn from the start. Baby Sleep Trainer even has a robust and affordable online Newborn Sleep Program to ensure families can learn everything I’ve learned over the years about this period of sleep in a child’s life. And yet, the question still remains how parents can sleep train a newborn.
Why Wait Until 16 Weeks
As any parent can attest to, newborns can come into the world needing to work out any number of issues. Even a perfectly healthy baby may have issues nursing, latching, or digesting breast milk. They may have painful reflux or colic, or perhaps they are jaundiced. Their chemical processes are not fully established when they’re born, and it takes time for their brain to regulate hormonal outputs. Newborns do not have regular excretions of melatonin (the sleep hormone), especially during the day, until somewhere between the 3rd and 4th month of life. Once the milestone of regular melatonin output is reached, it can take still take a few weeks beyond that for baby’s ability to establish a regular sleep pattern. Generally speaking, this evens out for all babies around 16 weeks of age from birth, which is why we wait until that time to sleep train. While you can establish some great sleep habits as a newborn, you shouldn’t worry too much about putting your newborn on a schedule during the first weeks of life.
Why Attempting Early Sleep Training is Hard on Mom
Regardless of my recommendation, many parents will ignore my expertise and attempt to sleep train early anyway. While families may experience some success in teaching their child to fall asleep without help they will also notice that in many cases their child will need multiple naps each day. Most often when babies take 4-5 naps each day, they are not able to sleep long stretches overnight. This is not the case for every baby, but for most. Because newborns genuinely need to fall asleep that many times each day, and thus cannot reliably sleep long stretches at night, Mom can feel like a failure. I believe sleep coaches with much less personal hands-on experience than me have written books that make families think early sleep training is the way to go. In my extensive experience, early sleep training places undue stress on Mom, and she typically exerts an enormous amount of energy trying to get her baby to do something baby is not biologically ready to do.
Why Attempting Early Sleep Training is Hard on Baby
Can you imagine how hard it must be for a child to be asked over and over again to learn to ride a two wheel bike when they are only 2 years old? While it may be possible in some very rare cases, most toddlers are too cognitively immature to learn to ride a two wheel bike at such a young age. Even if they figured out how to ride their bike, could they be trusted to follow you down a busy street and remain in the bike lane? There is so much more to sleep training beyond learning to sleep without sleep props. A proper and age-appropriate nap schedule is vital as well. Newborns, when asked to adopt a sleep training program that is not appropriate for their age, can produce a lot of stress, crying, and often not a lot of positive results.
What Can I do Right Now?
And yet, you may find yourself wondering, “What can I do right now?” Perhaps your newborn is waking often at night, or will only sleep in your arms, or perhaps won’t really nap well at all! Sprinkled throughout this blog post are various links to other articles to help you work through whatever is happening with your baby, and remember the Newborn Sleep Program has helped hundreds of families establish excellent sleep habits early on. It is not uncommon for younger infants to sleep 5, 6 or even 8-10 hours overnight! Not all babies may be capable of that, but many are. Also, newborns are capable of accepting a daily pattern of eating and sleeping, even if they’re not ready for a schedule.
When it comes to baby sleep training for newborns, remember:
- Infants can be sleep trained any time 16 weeks of age or older.
- Trying to start sleep training early can backfire because young infants may not be able to do what is needed in order to be successfully sleep trained.
- Early sleep training can cause a ton of stress for mom, including feeling like a failure.
- Early sleep training for infants is possibly like asking them to do something they physically and cognitively are incapable of doing.
- But! There are various online resources to help your newborn establish great habits early on, and sleep as long as possible overnight.