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At what age should I start to "sleep train" my child?

I know, sleep training often gets a bad rep. A lot of people still seem to think sleep training equals putting your child to bed, shutting the door on them and letting them "cry it out" until they fall into an exhausted slumber. But that's actually far from what sleep training can look like. I like to view sleep training or coaching more as a teaching your child a skill for life and I like to approach it in a way that aligns with your and your family's values.

Not getting enough sleep can be as bad for your body as eating junk food, and as a mother myself, I know that feeding my children junk food every day would turn them into unhappy, energy-less, grumpy little dictators. So I make sure they get fed a balanced diet (trust me, I often have to resort to the good ol' hiding-the-veg-in-bolognese-sauce-trick) and they get an age-appropriate amount of sleep. They're still little dictators but at least they're happy and full of energy. But what age do I think is best for starting sleep training? Well, it depends on your expectations and goals. As a general rule of thumb I always say, go easy during the newborn stage, the so-called "fourth trimester". Your baby needs time to adjust to life earthside and it's completely normal for them wanting to be held or rocked to sleep. During this time you can start to implement a loose routine, keeping in mind an age-appropriate awake time and making sure your baby doesn't get overwhelmed (which is super easy at this age). Once your baby hits the twelve week mark, you can start paying closer attention to a proper routine with a set time when you start and finish the day. Aim for the good old "Eat - Play - Sleep" routine, meaning you feed your baby when they wake up, instead of feeding them to sleep. Your baby will soon be able to predict what comes next, which will make their life (and YOUR life) soo much easier! Getting your baby into a solid routine from this age can also reduce the chances of the 4-month sleep regression throwing you off balance, as your baby hopefully already has good sleep hygiene and is able to link sleep cycles. From about six months onwards your baby is undergoing lots of gross motor development, they're definitely not a newborn anymore but instead are rolling around, exploring the world, some are trying to sit or even crawl. It's often this age when parents have reached peak-exhaustion, their broken sleep has accumulated to an unbearable level and they reach out for help. At this age, your baby will have the cognitive ability to quickly learn how to go to sleep independently, which makes it a great age for "sleep training".

And is it ever too late for teaching your child to sleep? Absolutely not! As I said, it's a skill for life, so even if you're struggling with your four-year-old's bedtime, it's not too late to get into healthy sleep habits (and I personally love working with toddlers and pre-schoolers)!

If you're still on the fence and unsure whether it's the right time to start sleep training, book in for a free chat with me to discuss where you and your baby are at.

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