Our kids are doing much better now (unless I just jinxed myself), but when they were young they were horrible sleepers. As in, birth to 12 months of age (or sometimes later than that!) was just one long sleep regression. So, my husband and I did a lot of reading on sleep training. A LOT. We read everything we could find – that also fit with our style of parenting. And then we tried all sorts of methods. Finally, after four kids, we are experts at sleep training and rocking all sorts of sleep regressions.
But what’s interesting is how much getting children to sleep at night isn’t as universally easy as I once thought. Because, a lot of you struggle with it, too. That’s why I’m sharing what’s worked for us – as well as our favorite sleep related resources – both for general sleep training and for surviving those awful sleep regressions.
Sleep Training Methods
Sleep training is the process of helping a baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
Some babies do this quickly and easily. But many others have trouble settling down to sleep – or getting back to sleep when they’ve wakened – and they need help along the way.
When it came to sleep training, we finally turned to some more drastic measures. Why? Because we were exhausted – and unable to keep functioning. We finally realized that, at least in our case, a night or two of tears was what it took to get us all sleeping better.
And our kids must have been exhausted, too, because none of them have suffered any ill effects from using a minimized cry-it-out method. That being said, that particular method is not for everyone. That’s why later we’ve got a wide variety of our favorite sleep training methods right here for you to look through.
In the meantime, though, here are the basic sleep training methods, with links to fantastic descriptions of each.
- Cry it out just means you acknowledge that your baby is going to have to cry (even a little bit) along the path to sleeping better.
- The no-tear method involves consistently using bedtime as a way to bond with your child – and it involves a lot of soothing. (Hint: this one didn’t work for us)
- Update to add: I just found this awesome no-cry sleep training resource thanks to Carly of Mommy on Purpose – be sure to check it out if you want to go tear-free!
- Fading programs are a gentler version of cry-it-out. In fact, it’s more of a blend of cry-it-out and no-tear sleep training. This is what worked best for us!
Which method do you think will work best for your family?
Thankfully, there’s not a “wrong” answer. There’s just what works for your family – and what doesn’t. So if one method doesn’t work, don’t stress. Try another one.
Creating a Sleep Training Plan
Once you’ve figured out which method you’ll use, then you can write your own sleep training plan.
But if you’d like some help with that, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered!
Here’s how to make a sleep training plan for your kids – complete with sample and a downloadable template.
How to Survive Sleep Training
This aspect of parenting is NOT for the faint of heart. It’s hard work! Trust me – I know. After sleep training four kids, there’s no faster way to make you feel like a lousy parent than sleep training.
In the moment, it can pull all the parenting confidence you’ve gained right out from under your feet, leaving you second-guessing everything while exhausted and overtired yourself.
So, how do you survive it?
You keep trying. Find support, help, and friends who can support you. And you keep trying to sleep train so that everyone is rested, happier, and functional. Because mombies aren’t helping anyone.
The best way to do all of that is to look at where you need help. If it means:
- Asking a friend to watch your baby so you can take a 30-minute nap, do it.
- Finding a new plan to sleep train, find it.
- Implementing and evaluating something slightly different
thatyou think will work, try it.
My two best resources for surviving sleep training are these:
- Find a support group of like-minded parents. Here’s my favorite online one.
- Learn about a better way to implement your favorite sleep training method – so that it actually works. Want my method? It’s in my 30-day sleep training challenge – and it’s totally free.
Our Favorite Sleep Training Tips
When it came to sleep training our kids, we did find that a couple of tricks really saved our bacon – and everyone’s sleep! Okay, and all of our sanity, too, because we needed more sleep!
- How to Finally Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
- How to Get an Overtired
11 month Oldto Sleep
- How to Sleep Train Twins
- How to Survive A Baby Sleep Regression (Even When You Share a Room)
Y’all, a quick heads up: affiliate links are headed your way. Learn what that means.
- Our first step to better sleep was acknowledging that crying might happen. And, we had to be okay with that.
- Next, we read the most amazing sleep books, like the one that finally helped things click into place for us.
- Finally, we had to just TRY it for ourselves. A theory is fantastic, but getting actual sleep is even better.
Once we’d started sleep training our babies, we realized another sad truth. Mentally, I was on-board with some minimal crying. Emotionally, however, I was unable to handle it. Probably because I was nursing, full of hormones, and sleep deprived.
Whatever the case, we soon realized I could not help sleep train our children. Which meant my husband did it. And boy – did he step up to the plate.
He re-read all of the books. Then, he set a time to do it. Finally, he locked me in our bedroom with the white noise machine cranked to maximum and forbade me from coming out until at least 2 AM. That way, I could still feed our growing, very-hungry babies.
And, wouldn’t you know it? Two nights of that and our babies settled right into a much better, much healthier, and more sustainable sleep pattern.
So, here are more articles to help you get your baby sleeping already.
Our Favorite Tricks to Sleep Train Toddlers
- How to Set the Right Sleep Schedule for your Kids
- Science Says an Early Bedtime is Good for Mom’s Health
As our kids got older, we found that they, on occasion, had to be re-trained to sleep. And that it was usually because we went on a trip, got hit by daylight savings, or they hit a developmental milestone.
In other words, sleep regressions began to hit us. And those are rough, because if it gets bad enough, you have to sleep-train all over again.
So here’s what helped us:
- Knowing what a sleep regression is. We’ll talk about this more in a second!
- Simplifying our bedtime routine to be more peaceful and sleep promoting.
- Using an earlier bedtime to reset the sleep schedule – especially when naps are skipped or kids are too cranky.
Also, we found we had to be super strict about our bedtimes. To the point that I had to write an open letter to other parents asking them to be patient with our kids’ crazy sleep schedules.
When Sleep Training Doesn’t Work: How to Tell if it’s a Sleep Regression – or Something Else
Remember how I said that we got dang good at recognizing sleep regressions? We had lots of practice.
Even so, sometimes it got hard – like when we wondered if it was teething pain or an actual regression. That’s why we came up with a really cool sleep regression flowchart – and it’s coming soon so stay tuned!
In any case, sleep training your child
More on Sleep Training:
Need some more reading on sleep training? Here’s some more great stuff for you.
- 5 Things to Remember When Sleep Training Your Child
- 12 Steps to Sleep Training Success
- Baby Sleep Training: the Basics
My Must-Have Sleep Training Resources:
Having the right resources definitely makes a big difference in sleep training! Especially when it comes to the books. Make sure you read them a couple of times.
- We all sleep easier with this amazing white noise machine – and because it doesn’t loop there are no weird jumps that that wake you up.
- As our babies grow into toddlers, they become afraid of the dark. But with this cozy constellation turtle light, they are just fine in their own room.
- See all of my favorite sleep resources right in one spot – and on Amazon, no less!
You’ll Also Love:
- Is a sleep regression throwing sleep training for a loop? Here’s How to Manage a Sleep Regression at Any Age
- How to Finally Get your Baby to Sleep through the Night
- Worried it’s a sickness causing that sleep regression? Get my health tips here!
- Want more parenting advice, tips
andtricks? You’re welcome.