From the moment they bring their newborn home, one of the most pressing things new moms think about is sleep training. Or perhaps more accurately, they begin to think about when their baby will begin sleeping through the night.
When you are in the newborn stage, it’s easy for things to feel pretty overwhelming. New moms typically have a pretty sharp learning curve, after all!
Combine that with postpartum hormones, and a still healing postpartum body, and it’s easy to not feel like yourself. But that’s not all new moms have to deal with. Oh no, that is not all.
On top of all that, newborns typically wake up to feed every 2-3 hours. It’s pretty inevitable that within just a few days new moms are more sleep deprived than they’ve ever been in their life.
Which can quickly get you thinking about just how fast you can sleep train your new baby. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about sleep training a newborn, and what you can do instead to get more sleep.
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Should I Be Sleep Training My Newborn?
You might be hesitant to start sleep training your newborn, even if you do desperately need more sleep. After all, your newborn is still so little and needs you so much. You may also be feeling your first bit of mom guilt just from considering it.
Before we go any deeper on whether or not to train a newborn, let’s talk about sleep training in general for a minute.
Why is there a push to sleep train asap?
You don’t have to be a mom for very long to realize that there’s a huge push to get babies sleeping through the night as soon as possible.
Even if you don’t personally feel the need, you’re more than likely asked about your baby’s sleeping patterns often. Okay, more like every time you see another living soul.
But why is your baby’s sleep everyone’s favorite topic all of a sudden?
I think probably the biggest reason a newborn’s sleep is often asked about is because of sleep deprivation. Your sleep deprivation, that is.
Often, people ask out of genuine love and concern for you and your well being. If they’ve been parents themselves, they know personally how draining it can when the baby doesn’t sleep long stretches.
Of course, there are also people who like to just rub it in the faces of new parents. They like to offer their unsolicited advice, make you feel like you’re going to feel like crap forever, and then leave without being helpful to you at all. I wish this type of person wasn’t a real thing, but it is, though in smaller groups than we tend to think.
And then you have your own personal sleep deprivation driving you toward the idea. With everyone else suggesting it and implying your baby ought to be sleeping more, it’s not a far stretch for your own mind to go there earlier than you every thought.
I already touched on this a bit, but we often start thinking about sleep training early due to the expectations around us. When we’re asked frequently about it, it quickly begins to feel like we ought to be teaching our newborns to sleep through the night.
At least in America, it’s become the norm to push for sleep training as soon as possible. And sometimes we jump on the bandwagon simply because we’re made to feel like it’s what we should be doing.
It you think this is the real reason you want to sleep train your newborn, I’d encourage you to pause. Take a step back and listen to your own intuition.
Is this something you actually want to do, or are you being pressured into it? Do you honestly think it’s in your newborn’s best interest? Or do you feel trapped in a no win situation where either way you feel guilty?
Give yourself permission to follow your intuition, even if it ends up going against what everyone else seems to think. More often than not, your intuition is more reliable than whatever parenting tactic is currently trending. Trust yourself to do what is best for your child.
What is sleep training?
You may also be wondering exactly what sleep training entails. The most basic explanation is that sleep training teaches your baby to sleep through the night. Which on the surface sounds pretty freakin’ good!
Like most things, there’s more than one way to sleep train a baby.
Sleep Training Methods
While there are many sleep training methods out there, the two major camps are the “cry it out” and “gentle sleep training” methods.
Cry It Out
Cry it out (CIO) is often what we think of when we hear sleep training. CIO involves allowing your baby to cry itself to sleep, rather than soothing it in any way.
Typically a baby will learn to go to sleep on it’s own after a few days of crying it out. However, it can be very hard parents. New moms often struggle with the thought of allowing their baby to cry it out. And that’s because it goes against our natural intuition.
Gentle Sleep Training
Gentle sleep training can be in a variety of forms. But at it’s root, gentle sleep training does not involve your baby crying it out.
If you gentle sleep train, you might allow your baby to fuss or cry for just a few minutes before going in and comforting. Or, you might slowly work your way to independent sleeping by sitting next to the crib. The next night sit a little farther away, until eventually you don’t need to be in the room at all.
Gentle sleep training is a good method for anyone uncomfortable with allowing their baby to cry. There are a lot of varieties of gentle sleep training, making it worth looking into if you are set on training.
Should newborns be sleep training?
We’ve covered why new moms feel they need to sleep train their newborn, and what exactly sleep training involves. So here’s the real question: should newborns be sleep trained?
To answer that question, let’s start by thinking about why they wake up in the first place.
Why do newborns wake up through the night?
When babies are born, they have very small stomachs. Think marble sized—and not the big marbles. Over the first week or two, their stomachs grow quite a bit.
Your baby’s small stomach size is important to remember, because it means they can’t eat much at one time. To compensate, most newborns need to eat frequently in order to get enough over a 24 hour period. Which in turn leads to lots of waking up at night.
You might be wondering if your baby can go all night without eating. We do after all, right? Unfortunately for our sleep, it isn’t that simple.
Newborns get their energy from the milk they drink at each nursing session. What you really need to know is that it’s possible for newborns to not have enough energy to wake up on their own.
That’s why you might have to wake your baby up to feed during the first few weeks. It’s important that your baby feed every 2-3 hours, allowing them the energy to wake up and function. So even though your baby might not be waking up on their own in the night, you may still need to wake them up anyway.
Can newborns sleep through the night?
Ironically, most of the sleep problems we had with Elijah were later on. As a newborn, he actually slept very well. After the first month and a half, he was sleeping 5-6 hour stretches in the night. It was’t too much longer before he was sleeping through the night.
While some newborns wake up a ton and struggle to sleep long stretches, others are on the other end and tend to not wake up on their own. Our pediatrician specifically asked us to wake him up every 3 hours to feed him because he wasn’t waking up on his own.
The danger with a newborn that isn’t waking up on their own is that their energy may be depleted to the point that they cannot wake up on their own. Before you try to get your baby sleeping longer, check with your pediatrician to make sure it’s healthy and safe for your baby to start sleeping longer.
Newborn sleep training: yea or nay?
There’s not really a right or wrong answer to this. Ultimately, it will depend on a lot on your individual newborn, and what your pediatrician says is safe and appropriate for your baby.
And of course, it also depends a lot on what you are personally comfortable with. Are you comfortable with the idea of sleep training at this age? Are you personally suffering from the lack of sleep in ways that are truly detrimental?
Personally, I’m not a big fan of sleep training newborns. Newborns wake up frequently for a reason. Often that reason is to feed, but it can also be because they need you to comfort them.
Remember, it’s going to take a while for a newborn to adjust to the world. It’s a lot different than what they were used to in your womb.
While I don’t like to advocate sleep training a newborn, I do think there are things you can do to help your newborn sleep better. Teaching your baby basic but important sleep foundations, such as falling asleep independently, can help in the long run.
And if you start laying the foundations of good sleep habits now, you may very well find that you never need to sleep train at all.
How can you get your newborn to sleep better without sleep training?
Good news—it is possible to get your baby to sleep better, and possibly even longer stretches, without actually sleep training.
Start with good sleep foundations
If you’re interested in starting good newborn sleep habits and laying the foundations for good sleep, I highly recommend taking the baby sleep course Baby, We’re Home. Now Let’s Sleep!
Taught by a baby sleep consultant, you’ll learn everything you need to know about newborn sleep. You’ll also learn how to lay good sleep foundations, how to get your baby to fall asleep independently, and much, much more.
Understand the basics of baby sleep
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, baby sleep is a bit different than adult sleep. And not just in how many hours we sleep at a time.
Newborns especially face unique challenges when it comes to sleeping. For example, a reflex called the Moro Reflex causes newborns to startle awake. But there are ways to reduce it, such as swaddling.
Understanding the challenges of newborn sleep and what’s normal can help you keep your baby comfortable and sleeping better. And all of this is taught in the baby sleep course!
Teach baby to fall asleep independently
I think one of the most valuable sections in Baby, We’re Home. Now Let’s Sleep! is the one in which Andrea shows you how to teach your baby to fall asleep independently.
Falling asleep independently is a key factor in getting your baby to sleep longer. Newborns naturally wake up frequently. But knowing how to fall asleep again without you allows them to get back to sleep, even when they do wake up.
Gently teaching your baby to fall asleep on his own as a newborn is a big step to skipping sleep training later. When your baby knows how to and consistently goes to sleep on his own, the need to sleep train is pretty much eliminated.
Get into a good routine
Another good way to teach your newborn to sleep better is to start a consistent bedtime and night routine. Bedtime routines help to give your baby sleep queues. Sleep queues are pretty much anything that your baby associates with sleep. Maybe it’s a bath, or bedtime story, or nursing.
When you begin your bedtime routine, it tips your baby off that it’s almost time to go to sleep. In turn, it can help your baby to start to feel sleepy and relax.
Having a good routine can also help your baby get back to sleep after a night feeding, for all the same reasons.
How does your newborn sleep?
Are you considering sleep training your newborn?
Personally, I would not recommend trying to sleep train, but instead focusing on instilling good routines and sleep foundations. Ultimately, this will be far more effective than trying to sleep train.
I also highly recommend taking the baby sleep course Baby, We’re Home. Now Let’s Sleep! I know you’ll learn a lot from it, and it will set you and your baby up for sleeping success. You’ll also get access to the private Facebook group, which will allow you to get individualized help and support as needed.
Comment below and let me know how your newborn is sleeping! Are you a fan of sleep training, or teaching good sleeping habits early on?