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The ABCs of sleep training: Let’s talk myths, tips and what ’sleeping through the night’ really means

Baby sleeping in a crib

Parenthood can feel like a rollercoaster in the first few months with broken sleep, learning your baby’s cries and cues and navigating your new role as a parent. One of the most common struggles new parents face is getting their baby to sleep! The value of sleep becomes priceless as you navigate weeks of broken sleep with your new baby. Enter the realm of sleep training - a term that might evoke various opinions and myths. In this blog, we’ll explore what sleep training is, debunk some common myths surrounding it and provide 5 essential steps to help new parents set the stage for successful sleep training.  

What is sleep training? 

Sleep training is the process of teaching your baby healthy sleep habits and helping them learn to self soothe, ultimately leading to more restful nights for both parents and baby. The need to sleep is biological, but the way we sleep is learned. Yes! It’s a skill, just like rolling over, crawling, walking and talking. It takes time, practice and consistency. It involves establishing a consistent bedtime routine, teaching your baby to fall asleep independently and creating an environment that is conducive to sleep. It’s more than a method! 

What’s the deal with sleeping through the night?

This is the ultimate goal for new parents. A full night of uninterrupted sleep! Many babies are ready to reach this coveted milestone between 4 to 6 months of age. Babies from 4-24 months of age need 11to 12 hours of sleep overnight, but getting to this milestone takes time. Some babies will continue to need one overnight feed until 4 to 6 months of age.  

If they can sleep a long stretch of 5 to 8 hours, take one feed, and then continue to sleep a long stretch until close to your desired wake time, this is sleeping through the night!  

By 6 months, the majority of babies are capable of sleeping 11 to 12 hours overnight without needing a feed.  

Debunking common myths 

Over 50 studies have been conducted and published looking at the effects of sleep training on both parents and children. The good news is that 94% of them found multiple positive impacts from sleep training. Yes, it’s normal for your newborn to wake overnight! But as you get out of the newborn phase your baby needs and wants a full night of sleep. We may just have to teach and guide them how to get there. The internet is full of opinions on sleep training. To help you, here are a few common myths: 

Myth: Sleep training only works for some babies. 

Truth: Sleep training can be adapted to suit various parenting styles and baby temperaments. It is a versatile approach that can be customized to fit the unique needs of each family. 

Myth: Babies should sleep through the night from day one. 

Truth: Newborns have small stomachs and need frequent feedings day and night in the first 2 to 3 months. Sleep training is about gradually teaching them to self soothe and sleep for longer stretches as they grow. 

Myth: Sleep training has a negative effect on the parent-child bond. 

Truth: Sleep training fosters a positive environment for both parents and babies. Well rested parents can engage more fully with their children during waking hours, strengthening the parent-child bond. 

Myth: Sleep training has a strict, one size fits all approach. 

Truth: There are various sleep training methods and parents can choose one that aligns with their parenting philosophy. There are many hands-on methods to help guide your baby to independent sleep. The key is finding a method that you can be consistent with. 

Setting parents up for success: 5 essential steps 

1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine. 

Create a calming routine before bedtime, including activities like a warm bath, reading a bedtime story, rock to one song or lullaby with the goal that your baby stays AWAKE during the entire routine. Offering a bedtime feed at the beginning of the routine helps to keep babies awake. A bedtime routine should last an average of 15 to 30 minutes and should be something that anyone can replicate if they are watching your baby! 

2. Create a comfortable sleep environment. 

Ensure the sleep space is conducive to rest. Make your baby’s room dark for both overnight sleep and naps, maintain a comfortable temperature between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit and use a sound machine that plays white, pink, or brown noise. A consistent sleep environment helps cue your baby that it’s time for sleep. 

3. Recognize sleep cues. 

Learn to identify your baby’s sleep cues. Following an eat, play, sleep routine helps you differentiate hunger from sleep cues which can look VERY similar! Losing interest in activities, gazing off, bringing their hands to their face, rubbing their eyes and redness around eyebrows are all early sleep cues and a way of your baby telling you it’s nap time! 

4. Gradual independence. 

Gradually encourage your baby to self soothe by putting them down drowsy but awake as a newborn. Use hands-on soothing techniques to guide them to fully fall asleep by picking them up, keeping a hand on their chest, shushing or rubbing their forehead. The more they practice this skill the easier it will be to lay them down completely awake at 3-4 months and be able to initiate sleep independently. 

5. Stay consistent. 

Consistency is key in sleep training. Stick to the established routine and approach, even if there are occasional setbacks. Consistency helps your baby understand what to expect and builds trust in the sleep process.  

Sleep training is a valuable tool for parents seeking a more restful night’s sleep while fostering healthy sleep habits in their baby. By debunking common myths and following these five essential steps, new parents can approach sleep training with confidence, creating a positive sleep environment for both themselves and their babies. Remember, every baby is unique, so be patient, stay consistent and enjoy the benefits of a well rested family! 


Katy Bourzikas is the founder and lead sleep consultant of Well Rested Wee Ones. She is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, certified lactation counselor and certified pediatric sleep consultant. She has worked with thousands of families providing sleep support worldwide since 2019. Well Rested Wee Ones provides 1:1 sleep coaching support and online sleep training courses to help families establish healthy sleep habits and improve their baby’s sleep from newborn to age 4.


Founder and Lead Sleep Consultant - Well Rested Wee Ones