Put simply, sleep training is helping your baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep by him or herself.
There is no absolute yes or no when it comes to deciding whether or not to use sleep training methods with your child, and there is no absolute time when you should start it.
The age at which you should try sleep training completely depends on your child, but you can try towards the six-week mark by reinforcing your child’s biological rhythms. By 4 to 6 months your baby should be able to sleep 8 to 12 hours.
Crying It Out versus attachment/No Tears
There are several sleep training theories out there. The two main ones are the “Cry It Out” theory and the attachment theory.
The “Cry It Out” method, as introduced by Dr. Ferber, does not actually mean letting the baby cry on and on until he or she falls asleep, as many people believe. You can look at an example of a Cry It Out schedule here.
If he’s not going to sleep because of being separated from you, he should eventually settle. Some babies do it right away. Others take a few days.
The attachment or no-tears theory is, basically, do anything you need to, to settle your baby. That may include hugging, cuddling, sleeping next to and nursing your child.
Some babies really do need that extra reassurance, and connecting with you at bedtime is the perfect antidote for sleepiness.
Which one is right for my baby?
No one particular method is an ultimate guarantee. Each child’s personality is different and that certainly plays a role in the method you decide to try and use.
But here are some practical overall sleep tips from BabyCenter.com:
Sleep Tip #1
Making sure your baby eats well during the day will teach him that daytime is for eating and nighttime is for sleeping.
Sleep Tip #2
Keeping naptime consistent makes a huge difference in whether or not your baby falls asleep and stays asleep.
Sleep Tip #3
Avoid keeping your baby up. Overtired babies are harder to settle and don’t actually sleep better.
Sleep Tip #4
Establish a getting-ready-for-bedtime routine. Learn to read your baby and know when he’s getting sleepy and time your routine so that it’s just ending as he’s getting sleepy.
Sleep Tip #5
Create a sleep-inducing environment. Relaxing music. White noise. Try different things to see what your baby reacts best to.
Sleep Tip #6
Don’t respond to every noise. If you’re not sure, just listen at the baby monitor or stand outside the door for a moment before you respond. Your baby may be reacting to a dream.