First of all make sure you follow a regular schedule before you even start thinking about “training” your baby to fall asleep on their own and put them to bed at a consistent time each night (around 7PM or 8PM). Begin at about two months old. It is ideal to try to put them down sleepy but awake whenever you can, even if they get a little fidgety. Also make do not put them to sleep if you think they are not tired enough, since that way they are going to have troubles falling asleep. As a plus, try to establish a calming and consistent bedtime routine, like bath or massage followed by a nice story or song.
The best time to start sleep training is usually somewhere between four and six months, when your baby is not so used to sucking or rocking to sleep. This is the best time for most babies to learn the skill of falling asleep on their own. When they are four months of age, some infants go through a sleep regression since their sleep cycles change due to longer periods of lighter sleep per cycle.
If your baby is older than six months, don’t worry, it’s never too late to develop good sleeping habits. Nine month old seems to be a bit of a sweet spot for parents in terms of getting babies to sleep through the night. They are at a good age for understanding routines and don’t need to eat during the night.
It’s always good to be reminded that most babies either do not fall asleep without being held or do not sleep all night long in their own crib. It’s just not a "normal" thing for babies to do. But if you're up for teaching, all babies can learn to sleep alone.
A very important thing to remember is that we all slightly wake up many times during the night, as we go through the sleep cycles. So the real key is for the baby to learn to fall back asleep when they wake up, by their own.
Fortunately, this can be done without harming or traumatizing your child at all! No need to drive yourself crazy. You can easily teach your infant to fall asleep without associations such as sucking or rocking, and without leaving them to cry all night long. Now, this is not some magical spell that works overnight, it could actually take months, but it does work. And once your baby learns how to fall asleep without you giving them a breast, bottle, pacifier or your arms to rock them, they are more likely to go back to sleep when they wake up at night, rather than crying for your help. So finally, here’s how to put your baby to sleep on their own in 5 steps.
Generally, all of the newborns, sooner or later, will cry if they wake up alone in the crib. There's a simple reason for it. They can only fall asleep if they think they are in a safe place. And the only place that can provide that safety, they believe is in your arms. It’s a primordial habit after all. Back in the old ages, babies who were put down in a jungle to sleep were probably eaten by wild animals. The babies who cried their lungs out until their parents picked them up and held them into their arms were more likely to survive and pass their genes on to us. So work with Mother Nature, not against her. Cuddle your baby to sleep. But once she's sleeping and you put her down in her crib shake her a bit just enough to wake her up slightly. It all sounds inhuman, I get it, you've spent hours to get her to sleep so this will take real courage on your part. But just make sure that you'll always include this little “slight-wake-up” as part of your habit.
You're getting your baby used to something priceless, so that when she wakes up alone in her crib, she feels safe to go back to sleep. Once again, this is not some magical spell so she won't do this the first fifty times you try it, of course. She'll cry for your help and you'll come back and do all the necessary to calm her. But trust the process because after awhile, she'll learn that she's safe. She may moan for a moment, but she won't go into full panic mode. Sooner or later, she’ll simply shut her eyes again and fall back to sleep all by herself. And that will be the real moment of magic.
If your baby is used to getting fed or have something to suck before falling asleep, then you’ll be stuck with him calling for help to fall back asleep. So then next step is to gradually interrupt the association between sucking/nursing/eating and sleep.
Normally, infants get knocked to sleep if you start by rocking them. Unfortunately, this might feel like a winning strategy, but it is actually another sleep "crutch."
Same thing for feeding. If you can, try to feed your baby when he first wakes up from sleep, and again a bit later if he is awake and still hungry. But if he is about to drift to sleep, maybe try with walking or rocking him instead of feeding him. This way, he learns to fall asleep without sucking.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT starve your baby if he’s hungry. Infants need to eat very often, so you will often find that your baby is hungry and tired at the same time. If you walk or rock your baby and he continues to cry and protest, then he may very well be hungry as well as tired. In that case, feed him right away.
The goal is to gently break the old association by helping your baby fall asleep with a new one. Slowly but surely, he will fall asleep without sucking. If he’s just hungry, you’ll know.
After breaking the feeding-sleeping pattern, the next step is to get her to fall asleep without rocking. It’s pretty easy. You start with rocking, but then, before she is actually about to fall asleep, you stop rocking and just sit still. If she begins fermenting, rock again. Keep repeating, don’t give up. It may take forever, but eventually she will begin falling asleep even though you have stopped rocking. Another moment of magic for you.
Repeat this for a week or so until she's used to it as her new routine: getting sleepy while rocking and then falling asleep in your arms lying still.
All you need to do is to wait for your baby to almost fall asleep in the chair with you holding him still. After that, stand up and get him comfortable in your arms until he accepts the stillness again. If he starts protesting, rock him a little. Again, do this for a week until he is used to this routine.
Once he’s settled, begin lowering him into the crib, making sure he’s not sleeping. Every time he protests, because he will, pick him up again, rock a little, then stop. Don’t give up! It may well take 30 attempts, but eventually he will allow you put him into the crib without any argue. Be patient. You've almost made it!
Here’s the final step! You’ve managed to get your baby into the crib. Now she feels comfortable to fall asleep there without you holding her in your arms. She doesn’t need rocking anymore, just the feeling of your presence. Eventually, she will be able to fall asleep with you simply holding her hand. Keep doing this until she accepts it as the new routine: getting sleepy by rocking, but then being put into her bed lying on her back and falling asleep there, holding your hand. At some point, you can substitute a toy instead of your finger.
Congratulations! Now you’ve made it! You have taught your baby how to fall asleep on her own!
Get your baby into a sleeping routine from day one.
Rise her at the same time every day, place her crib near a window and keep the blinds up. Studies show that natural light helps babies organize their circadian rhythms. Letting her nap with the blinds up also promotes this process. If she wake from a nap in the daylight, she understands it's time to get up. If she wakes at night in the dark, she’ll learn to go back to sleep.
At nighttime, begin some “quiet rituals”. Dress your child in her pjs and put her down in her crib for the night with the lights out. Just prior to tucking her in, read a story or sing a song.Check and console.
After going through your bedtime routine, put your baby in their crib, leave the room and wait a specific amount of time. Begin with one minute. Then go back in and reassure your baby with words, a rub or a pat. Continue to leave and then check on him, increasing the amount of time between visits until you’ve reached about 10 or 15 minutes, and then just keep at it until he falls asleep. When he wakes up, you start the check-and-console intervals all over again.
This technique could take up to a week to work, but you should start seeing some progress after a few nights. We recommend keeping a sleep-training log to help reassure yourself. Some parents find that going in to the room aggravates the baby even more and might consider a more direct method, like full extinction.
We really hope these 5 steps can be of great help!
Let us know how it works out for you and feel free to share your personal tricks in the comments below.