Sleep Training for Infants

Also: Infant Sleep Training

From first day home from the hospital try to put your infant down drowsy but awake – swaddling is recommended for the first few months, later you can try a Magic Merlin Sleepsuit for stubborn sleepers. 

After 2 months of age when your infant wakes at night wait a few minutes to see if there is a chance they will settle on their own (especially if it is less than 4 hours after the last feeding) – try re-swaddling or patting to help get back to sleep. 

After 4 months of age, infants will hopefully be down to 0-2 feedings at night. 

Encourage them to have a small blanket/lovey to hold in their hand starting at 4 months (when the swaddling naturally stops)

Once your infant is awake for longer stretches look for the very natural nap time of 1.25 hours after they are awake in the am. Lay them down awake and go take a shower, do the dishes, etc. They are typically VERY tired at this point, and may fuss briefly after being put down but will learn to settle if left be. 

By 3-4 months have a very predictable bedtime routine: Bath, pajamas, feed/relax, lay infant down sleepy but awake (again, some infants always fuss a bit when settling, but will learn to fall asleep and stay asleep better if left be.)

Transitioning to crib 3-4 months is a good idea.

By 4-6 months be prepared to leave infant in crib after bedtime routine with transitional object in hand, leave dim light on and close door.

  • Expect crying- do not go back in right away and try to soothe or lie down (If  older child is standing) 
  • Don’t go in for 5 minutes- some infants will go to sleep by this point but many may still be crying. if you choose to go back in, be brief, say “you are ok” and leave.  After that let him/her cry as long as it takes to go to sleep 
  • For night time awakenings, after 5-10 minutes go in briefly, say “it’s ok, see you when it’s light” and immediately leave or don’t go in at all unless the baby has been ill.
  • The process is usually complete in 2-5 days but hang in there if it takes up to 2 weeks (typically longer for babies over 1 year of age.)

The first morning nap should be established by 2 months, earlier if possible. Lay your infant down to sleep after being awake for approximately 1.25 hrs.  By 4 months most infants develop a pattern of 3 naps/day. This continues until 9-12 months when they go to 2 naps/day. Have naptime routines. Make room dark, give transitional object, relax- lay down infant and leave. If protests (over 6 months) give 30-45 minutes to cry before ending the nap.

For early am awakenings (before 6 am)- just go in, quietly reassure and leave .  It is ok to change poopy diapers, clean up vomit, etc. but then leave.  Pick your wake up time and stick to it (6 am is reasonable). 

Key Points:

  • 95% of children will learn to self soothe within 7 days 
  • Days 1 & 2 can typically have 30-90 minutes of crying and disruptions (use a timer on your smart phone to prove to yourself it’s not really all night)
  • Starting on weekends or holidays helps
  • Is one spouse just can’t do it, have them leave (for a walk, a meal, or even an evening or two away)

Here are some popular sleep strategists:

Ferber : An expert in the field from Boston Children’s Hospital. His cry-it out theory has saved many families priceless sleep hours.

Weissbluth – He helps you understand how to initiate sleep BEFORE your child is overtired. Below is a summary of how to implement his theories:

NIH: Here is a link to an informative sleep document:

Dr Craig Canapari  director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep center, with a wonderful blog on sleep issues here

Kim West, LCSW-C “The Sleep Lady”– another fantastic sleep Web site covering infant/child sleep issues at