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Is It Too Late to Sleep Train My Baby?

…and other common sleep training misconceptions

The short answer to your question is: NO! But, this wouldn’t be a very informative article if I didn’t get into specifics.

Baby Sleep Training

If your child is younger than 8 years old, it is not too late to teach them to sleep independently. I was talking to a mom recently who said she believed that you fall into one of two buckets in the sleep lottery from a young age: naturally good sleeper OR terrible sleeper. She then informed me that she fell into Bucket #2 with Baby #2 after having a naturally good sleeper.

Once 6 months hit, she resigned herself to “just having to deal with” sleeplessness until her child “outgrew” the bad sleep OR forever- whichever came first. It was her impression that if you don’t sleep train at 4-6 months old (which she wasn’t comfortable with), you are doomed to deal with whatever cards you are dealt.

This mom was surprised to hear that you can, in fact, sleep train up to the age of 8 and it’s never too late to start. While sleep training is not the best choice for every family, if your sleep situation is no longer working for you and you are looking for a change, now is the best time to start.

What Is “Sleep Training”? and is to too late to sleep train my baby?

Social media has made sleep training controversial and it sometimes receives such a bad reputation, so let’s talk about what it isn’t first.

While some people choose a method formally called “full extinction”, (otherwise known as “cry it out”), this is not the only way to train a baby, toddler, pre-schooler, or school-aged child to sleep independently. Sleep training is not simply “cry it out.” Sleep training also does not mean abandoning your child and their needs.

Plus, you can still have a secure attachment to your child and choose to prioritize healthy sleep habits.

So what is sleep training?

In the fewest amount of words, sleep training involves using behavioral modification techniques to teach your child a different way of sleeping. Usually the goals with most parents are for their child to fall asleep independently at bedtime, sleep through the night, and take predictable naps.

All of these are accomplished by using various methods that teach a new way of falling asleep.

For example, if your 9 month old needs to be rocked to sleep every night before going into their crib, sleep training will help to teach them to fall asleep on their own, from an awake state.

Similarly, if your 6 year old needs you to lay down next to them for 2 hours before going to bed, sleep training will teach your child that they are able to fall asleep independently in their own bed.

Because we are working with behavior modification, researchers have found that children up to age 8 have positive success rates when being taught a new way of sleeping. Children are smart and resilient little beings and can learn new ways of doing things when they have the right teacher.

The most important piece is for parents to be consistent in their approach and maintain their expectations, even through rough nights.

The best part about sleep training (aside from a full night of sleep) is that there are several different ways to accomplish these goals. In my own practice, I believe that every child and family learns and teaches differently. Therefore, I provide a range of sleep training methods and modify them to the needs of each family. The methods my families choose most often are chair method and timed checks.

Sleep Training: The Bigger Picture

In addition to teaching a new way of falling asleep, sleep training also looks at sleep schedules and sleep environment. We need all of the pieces of the puzzle to be in place in order to sleep training to be successful.

Following an age appropriate schedule is key to maintaining a well-rested child during the day, which directly translates to longer stretches of sleep at night.

After about 4-6 months old, I recommend following biologically appropriate nap times and not wake times. Bio times are well-researched and are shown to be at times when we know the body is ready to be in deep sleep.

This deep sleep during the day helps with extending nighttime sleep and reduces bedtime battles.

Another important element of sleep training is the sleep environment. This will look a little different depending on the age of your child, so follow recommendations according to age:

4 months – 3 years old: Children should be in their crib. Depending on sleep space, this crib may either be in their parents’ room or their own room. Their room should be cave-like dark and you should be using a white noise machine. This one is my go-to (not an affiliate link).

3 – 7 years old: Children begin to make the transition to the big kid bed after 3 years old. At this point, it can be helpful to introduce an okay-to-wake clock that prompts your child when it is time to sleep and when it is time to be awake. This one is our favorite (not an affiliate link). Because of bedtime fears, it’s appropriate to introduce a nightlight (avoid bright or blue lights).

Common Sleep Training Misconceptions

Along with the idea that sleep training means “cry it out”, there are other misconceptions that parents are misinformed about when it comes to teaching healthy sleep habits.

Sleep training does NOT mean:

Giving up all night feedings. Depending on your child’s age, you can still incorporate 1 or 2 night feedings. We want to make sure that they are well-fed and well-rested.

Leaving your child to cry.

Although we touched on this already, it’s worth a repeat. Your child will likely cry in protest of this new way of learning, but you will be supporting them 100% of the time

You can never be off-schedule, at the risk of messing up your progress.

In fact, the opposite is true. Since sleep-trained babies are so well-rested, they are often more flexible and can handle changes with more grace than children who are overtired. I encourage my families to follow their schedule and sleep space 80% of the time and then feel free to be off track the other 20% with the confidence that their little one will not unlearn everything they have been taught.

Once you start, you are always sleep training.

No way! I help families accomplish their goals in 2-3 weeks. After that, you will be following the fundamentals, like sleep schedules and sleep space, 80% of the time. However, you will then be done with the teaching portion. And if you fall off-track for an extended period of time, you can always go back to basics and retrain for 2-3 nights.

Better Late than Never

The old adage says it best. It is never too late.

So if you're wondering if it's "too late to sleep train my baby" try to remember that you have found yourself in your current sleep situation because you were just doing what you thought was best, at the moment, for your family. However, if this is no longer serving you, I encourage you to look at ways to improve your sleep situation.

I am available to help with all sleep issues and am certified to work with babies and children through the age of 7.

If you would like more information about how I can help with your unique sleep situation, feel free to book a free 15 minute call below.

Rest Well,


(Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant)

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