Can You Sleep Train a Newborn?

Struggling as a Parent with a Newborn.

It is no secret that every newborn is a unique one. Without a doubt, this remark is accurate for their sleep schedules as well. Although we may wish for our little ones to have the ideal sleep schedules: 16 to 17 hours of total sleep a day, a consistent nap schedule, and sleeping through the night, this is just wishful thinking. There are many challenges that a newborn faces with the action of falling asleep; some of these challenges include separation anxiety from parent(s), where the baby should sleep, overstimulation, overtiredness, hunger before/in between naps, etc. But, don’t fear, the help is here!

So…Can You Sleep Train a Newborn?

The short answer is, no! This is mainly because very young babies, typically up to the age of 4 months, don’t have a clear concept of night and day. Because of this, it is almost impossible for newborn babies to have a defined “sleep schedule.” However, there are a multitude of options and solutions that can help your little one improve their sleep habits, without forcing the idea of a sleep schedule onto them before their bodies are naturally ready!

One way to improve your child’s sleep habit is to follow a common bedtime routine; as we all know consistency is key! Although your baby does not yet know the difference between night and day, having a consistent bedtime routine will give your little one a sense of predictability throughout the first few months of their lives. The repetitiveness of a consistent bedtime routine will not only help with current sleep habits, but it is the first step into setting up a successful sleep schedule for your newborn in the future. A few examples of consistent bedtime routine habits are: turning on a sound machine each night, ensuring the room is dark enough, swaddling your newborn before bedtime, singing a lullaby or reading a book and feeding your little one (15 minutes before bedtime). A calming bedtime routine will allow for your baby to fall asleep quicker; when calming mechanisms are put into place during bedtime routines, your newborn’s melatonin levels will increase, which will result in better sleep. It is never too early to start teaching your little one excellent sleeping skills!

An excellent way to improve sleeping habits within infants is to put your child into their crib or bassinet when they are still awake but also tired. It is extremely important to develop this habit because this will help your little one associate the feeling of drowsiness with the feeling of being tired, so your child will know when it is time for them to sleep. Starting to develop these skills will help prevent the formation of bad habits in the future; I always say it is better to be proactive than reactive.

Learning to spot signs of fatigue in your newborn is another effective skill to learn in the journey to helping them develop strong sleeping habits! Because newborns can only tolerate about 45 minutes of activity time, it is important for their caretakers to know when they are tired.  Often, parents believe that when their children are cranky, they are hungry; a lot of the time, hunger and fatigue look exactly alike, so it is crucial to be able to make the distinction between the two. Other things to look out for when your little one is tired are: rimmed eyes, arching back/twisting, and moving the head side to side in an effort to find a comfortable position to sleep. Spotting these signs when they occur will lead to better sleeping habits for your newborn, and better sleep for you.

Wrapping it Up!

So…we have learned that although newborns’ have a tough sleep schedule, it is not recommended to sleep train them. However, we can change their sleep habits. It is never too early to start thinking about what strong sleeping skills you will teach your little ones. Some sleep habits you should focus on instilling within your child is following a common bedtime routine, putting your child in their sleeping location when they are drowsy but not yet tired, and most importantly, making sure to differentiate between signs of fatigue and hunger in your newborn. Although this may seem overwhelming, there are always resources around you: whether it be scouring the internet for options, or reaching out to a sleep consultant. You got this!