Menu

How to Prep for Sleep Training

Sleep expert Dr. Harvey Karp shares how to create good sleep habits from Day 1.

How to Prep for Sleep Training

*In celebration of World Sleep Day, we've partnered with SNOO to help you get a little more sleep.

I was determined to be the model parent when my daughter was born. I was going to do everything right, and that meant no sleeping in Mommy’s bed. I bought everything I could get my hands on—when she was born I had a bassinet, a travel bassinet, a cosleeper, a crib and a pack n’ play. From day one, though, she slept in my bed. I couldn’t figure out any other way to get some rest. She stayed there (somewhat against my will) until 18 months old, when she fell out of bed. We started sleep training that day, and it made a huge difference. My husband and I asked each other, “Could we have done this sooner?”

FEATURED VIDEO

I loved cosleeping with my daughter, but I love having my bed back now. My husband and I were curious to know whether or not we could start creating good sleep habits with baby number two (somewhere in the future) even sooner. So we reached out to Dr. Harvey Karp and the team at Happiest Baby to learn more about the science behind the SNOO, and how families can create good sleep habits starting from day one.

What age is best for families to begin sleep training and why?

I recommend training your baby to sleep from Day 1—but I’m not talking about cry it out, which is what comes to mind when most parents think of sleep training. Can you make a baby cry so much she gives up any hope that you will answer her cries? Yes. But that never feels right for a parent…and certainly not to a child. It is much better to train an infant to be a better sleeper using the natural cues that worked so well to keep her soothed before she was born.

I recommend you provide her with these womb sensations: snug holding, rumbly sound and gentle motion. To do that you want to swaddle your baby well, use a white noise CD or app and rock your baby in your arms, or a fully flat swing (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies not sleep upright, like in a swing, car seat or other little baby device).

In fact, to keep babies safe – and help boost their sleep – I worked with some of the best engineers and designers in the world to create SNOO, a smart sleeper that improves sleep by giving babies the soothing rhythms of the womb all night long. It also responds automatically to a baby’s crying with louder shushing and tiny bouncy jiggles – just like an experienced grandma or night nurse – to turn on a baby’s calming reflex and lull the baby back to sleep. These familiar sensations soothe babies, and as the nights go on, they get practice falling asleep on their own, also known as self-soothing. (Happily, most SNOO babies sleep well automatically and don’t need traditional “sleep training.”)

Do you ever recommend the “cry it out” method?

I have used cry it out with some desperate families of older infants who urgently need sleep. I consider it a last resort. The timing is usually around 3 or 4 months when many babies have a sleep regression—that often also lines up with the end maternity/parental leave, when moms and dads can’t function at work if they don’t get more rest. If you decide to sleep train, there are a few things to make it go a bit easier. First, give your baby plenty of outdoor time. Fresh air and sunlight exposure will help your little one recognize the difference between day and night. Try a dream feed around 11 pm or midnight, to help your baby sleep in longer stretches. Darken the house and turn on white noise an hour before bedtime. I give step by step instructions on sleep training in The Happiest Baby Guide to Sleep: Birth to 5 years.

What are some of the bad sleep habits parents start early that they just can't recover from?

Babies are learning all the time, so they can definitely learn “bad habits,” but the good news is that they can unlearn them, too. By bad habits, I mean learning that they always get rocked to sleep or nursed to sleep. In truth, rocking your sleeping baby in your arms or nursing your baby to sleep is one of the most beautiful things you ever do as a mom or dad. But if you do it every night, and then ease your sleeping baby into the bassinet, they become dependent on you to put them to sleep.

You can let your baby fall asleep in your arms and help her learn to be an independent sleeper with the wake and sleep method. It is simple and gentle and effective. After you rock your newborn to sleep, all you have to do is jostle her when you lay her down, so she wakes ever so slightly…and then falls asleep on her own. In those few seconds of wakefulness, your baby learns to self-soothe. The earlier you start—and the more consistent you are—the better it works.

There’s no way I can do “cry it out.” Anything gentler?

Ignoring your baby’s nighttime cries goes against every parental instinct we have. That’s why I recommend establishing healthy sleep habits early on…it’s easier on the baby, it’s easier on you. But if you’re hearing about these gentler methods too late and you feel you need to sleep train, I can tell you about 2 gentler options than going “Cold Turkey” – the most extreme sleep training you put your infant in bed, say “good-night,” and then leave, ignoring all cries until the morning.

You might consider a variation called longer-and-longer, or Ferberization, named for Dr. Richard Ferber who popularized the method in the ‘80s. The goal of this method is to teach your baby that you love her and care about her feelings, but that you’ve made a clear decision not to relent to her demands at bedtime. To do it, put your baby in bed, turn on the white noise, say “Night-night” and leave the room. Then if she persists in crying, you check on her, in increasing intervals (after 3 minutes, then 5, 10, 15, etc.) Each time say something sweet and loving, like “Night-night, night-night. I’ll kiss you in the morning light,” then leave.

For parents who want to avoid any bedtime crying, I recommend the Pick Up/Put Down method, also called the No-Tears Solution: It takes longer (30 to 90 minutes per night) and more days (4 to 14), but it can be very effective and less traumatic.

To do it, place your little one in the crib…but if she cries, pick her up and comfort her. Acknowledge her feelings in quiet tones: “I know, I know, honey. You say, ‘Mommy, pick me up now!’ It’s hard falling asleep, huh, sweet pea?” Once she calms, put her down again. If she cries, pick her up…and repeat this cycle over and over. Do as little rocking, patting, talking, or feeding as you can, to reduce her dependence on these more demanding cues.

*This post was sponsored by SNOO. Thinking about buying a SNOO? Sign up here and receive $125 off your purchase!

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Tenth & Pine: Gender-neutral and butter-soft basics for littles + bigs

In 2016, after a stage four endometriosis diagnosis and a 10 year battle with infertility, Tenth & Pine founder Kerynn got her miracle baby, Ezra Jade. As a SAHM with a Masters in Business, she wanted to create a brand that focused on premium quality, function, comfort, and simplicity.

She sought out premium, all natural fabrics and factories that shared her core values, practicing environmentally friendly manufacturing methods with fair and safe working conditions for employees. As a result, her made in the USA, gender-neutral designs check all the boxes. The sustainable, organic basics are perfect for everyday wear, family photos and any adventure in between.

Lucy Lue Organics: Sustainably and ethically-produced modern baby clothes

This family-owned and operated business was started by a mama who wanted out of corporate America after the birth of her son. Thoughtfully designed to mix-and-match, Lucy Lue's sustainably and ethically produced collection of modern organic baby clothes only uses fabrics that are "environmentally friendly from seed to seam." Their gorgeous, earthy tones and comfy, minimalist styles make the perfect addition to first wardrobes from birth through the first years.

Sontakey: Simple bracelets that speak your mind

Sontakey has been such a hit in the Motherly Shop that we knew it was time to expand the line. And since these beautiful mantra bands look so stunning stacked, more options = more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

FEATURED VIDEO

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less
Life
Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

FEATURED VIDEO

"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

Keep reading Show less
News