6 months is a perfect age to help baby start sleeping training and helping babe sleep independently. Here are some reasons why and some strategies.
There is no bad time to help your little one get the restorative rest they need.
It’s like the old saying…
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Well, of course the best time to sleep train your baby was not 20 years ago, but you get the idea.
Here, I want to make the case for why the 5-6 month mark might be the best time to get started. So, if you’re considering taking the plunge and your baby is around this age, read on to see why I say GO FOR IT NOW.
1) Babies aren’t very mobile yet
Some little ninjas will start cruising and crawling at crazy young ages. Like my friend Natalie who’s little guy was climbing stairs before 6 months! However, most babies are still pretty immobile at this age.
This can make a big difference. Especially when you’re implementing changes to their sleep routine. If they’re already starting to roll both ways, sitting up on their own, or even starting to crawl, it’s more difficult.
Then you have to worry more about them getting stuck in the crib rails, or wanting to practice their new skill. All. Night. Long.
Who wants to sleep when you’re discovering that you can move yourself all over your crib?
Trust me when I say you’re avoiding a lot of extra stress if you help them learn these new sleep skills before mobility bursts onto the scene.
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2) Sleep pressure will work in our favor.
Something crazy happens around the 8 month mark where babies can start fighting sleep like you wouldn’t believe.
They can stay up half the night and then still fight their nap the next morning. But most babies around the 5-6 month mark are still quite sleepy and can’t fight sleep as much as they will be able to in just another couple months. This is why we typically think 6 months is the best age to sleep train.
Sleep pressure will win out. And if you’re saying “My baby already fights sleep like crazy”, well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
This crazy sleep-fighting ability only gets stronger as they get older.
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3) They don’t tend to be quite so strong willed…yet.
Along with babies getting more energy to fight sleep, they also start to show their very “determined” personalities a lot more around the 8-12 month mark.
This age group has earned quite the reputation among my sleep consultant colleagues. Around the 5 month mark, you may still be watching and waiting to see exactly what kind of temperament your baby has.
But by 8 months, they will be making it very clear, especially if this is the first time you start to impose some boundaries around their sleep.
Best to start before this age or, if it’s already too late, prepare yourself for this.
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4) We can have confidence in their ability to self-soothe
Although many babies even younger than 6 months can develop self-soothing skills, not all can.
By 6 months, a normally developing baby will have good control of their arms, hands, and head. This makes it easier for them to get comfortable and find ways to settle themselves to sleep.
Whether it’s using their own fingers to suck, or a small, breathable lovey. You can be confident by this age that they are ready to learn this new skill, assuming that you’re setting them up for success.
This is a big reason we like the 6 ish month mark and think it’s the best age to sleep train.
5) We can get you all get more sleep BEFORE you hit your breaking point.
6 months is a very long time to go without good sleep, for your baby and for you.
As bad as this is though, many moms are still hanging on to some semblance of sanity. Even with repeated night wakings.
But, we know from research on chronic sleep deprivation, the effects only get worse with time.
Cognitive ability, reaction time, and memory all continue to worsen, even when a mom feels she is “getting used to it”.
My strong encouragement is to get on top of the sleep issues now, and don’t wait for things to get so bad that you’re grouchy, emotionally reactive, and feeling depressed most days.
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Common questions about sleep training
It depends on what you mean by “sleep train.” You can establish healthy sleep routines with your routine, sleep environment, and settling strategies from the very beginning.
However, if you find yourself in a situation where baby isn’t sleeping well at all and you know you need to make significant changes, then we typically suggest 4 months and up as good time to formally sleep train.
Most babies will protest significant changes in their daily sleep routines. Some babies do not.
It will depend on your baby’s personality, what habits they have now that are preventing them from sleeping well and how significant the changes you need to make are.
All that said, you can choose an in-room settling technique where you are with baby the whole time assisting them through this change. It may still result in tears, but you know that’ll soon pass and your little one will begin getting the sleep they need to develop in a healthy way.
This will depend on the method you choose to sleep train with.
If you choose a cry-based method then it will likely be done and dusted in 3 to 5 days, with babe going to sleep on their own and zero protests at that point. Sometimes, after a week, babe will go back to some crying for a night or two, but then you’re smooth sailing.
If you choose an in room method or hands on method of settling then it can take up to 2 weeks. This is the route most gentle mamas take. It can actually result in more tears for a longer duration at times, but depending on your personality and your child’s, may be a good fit.