When can you begin sleep training ?
True sleep training should never take place before the adjusted age of 4 months old. Adjusted age refers to when your baby was born, if they were born early, you have to adjust their age and account for the early birth. Ie. If your child was born two weeks early, you will have to wait until they are 4.5 months old to begin training. But there are some things you can do to prepare them for sleep training, you can prime them with some sleep shaping techniques so they will be ahead of the game and have a much easier time when you begin formal sleep training.
Sleep Shaping- Newborn- 8 weeks
0-8 weeks. The best news about this age group is that you absolutely can not establish any bad habits. Nothing you do sleep wise will create a negative pattern. This is an awesome time to bond with your baby and help them sleep however and wherever they are comfortable.
Some babies experience day/night confusion. This is completely normal and will sort itself out on its own. To help expedite that sorting out process you can expose them to natural light during the day. Daylight helps babies regulate their sleep cycles. So opening the blinds, going for walks etc., will all help them assimilate to daylight and will help end the day/night confusion.
Sleep Shaping- 6-8 weeks
Night sleep will start to become more organized and your baby will reach their first sleep milestone- the social smile. This indicates that your baby is connecting and will be able to start making associations from cues. This is also when day/night confusion has completely ended and they are sleeping their longest stretch at night. Here’s how you can use these things to sleep shape…
Introduce the crib: If they haven’t been sleeping in it already, now is a good time to get them accustomed to their crib. A big part of sleep training is establishing and maintaining a consistent sleeping space/place. The earlier you get that started, the better.
Sleepy Cues: Start watching your baby after they are awake for close to an hour, at this age this is when they should start showing their sleepy cues. Pay attention and you will quickly learn which ones your baby displays. They may begin to display a zoned out look, rub their eyes, or begin to lightly fuss. This is the best indicator that it is time for sleep. Since you are also introducing the crib, when you see the sleepy signs, place your baby in their crib. If they start to fuss and have trouble falling asleep, begin a soothing routine, pick them up, rock them and help them fall to sleep before placing them back in their crib. At this young age they will more often than not need you to help them get to sleep.
Bedtime Routine: You can start practicing your bedtime routine early on and it will become a staple for years to come. This routine can be a combination of rocking, lullabies, and bottle/breastfeeding, make it a combination of logical things that you do before bed as well as some relaxing activities. It doesn’t need to take very long and is meant to serve as a cue and to help relax them.