What Are the Benefits of Sleep Training?

What Are the Benefits of Sleep Training? How sleep training can help your baby sleep and prevent sleep problems from building up.

baby sleeping in bed

Some infants are born great sleepers. They fall asleep easily on their own and sleep well. They just seem to love sleeping

Most, however, are not like this. They need some help learning to sleep and need their parents to help them in this department.

Enter sleep training.

What Is Sleep Training

Sleep training is teaching your baby to be able to fall asleep independently.

This means baby can fall asleep without a certain person, certain prop, or certain item.

You will put baby down for a nap or down for bedtime while your baby is fully awake. Your baby will be in her own bed and will fall asleep alone!

To get to that end-goal, you have to teach baby to be able fall asleep independently.

The term “sleep-training” is used to refer to a wide array of sleep training methods.

Sleep Training Benefits

There are so many benefits to sleep training.

Your baby will get more sleep.

As your baby grows to be a toddler, preschooler, tween, teen, and adult, they will get more sleep.

All people wake as they transition between sleep cycles. A baby does this about every 45 minutes. If your baby cannot put herself to sleep, she is more likely to fully wake at these transitions rather than move into the next sleep cycle.

>>>Read: What is a Sleep Transition (and How Does It Impact Naps)

If your baby can sleep independently, you will get more sleep.

You will have more time to do anything from the dishes to hobbies you enjoy.

Mentally and physically, it benefits the entire family.

Studies show that mothers who get enough sleep have lower incidences of maternal depression. Maternal depression has as a negative affect on baby and on the attachment between mother and baby.

Imagine going out of town or to visit a friend or family and you can just easily put your baby in bed for naps and nighttime as you do at home.

Being an independent sleeper is also a good step toward developing self-control. This is a HUGE life skill.

There is so much you are going to want to teach your child, and a person who has control over their appetites and temper and impulses is going to have an easier time getting through life.

The Importance of Sleep

We all know we feel better when we get enough sleep. Do we know that it is incredibly vital?

Sleep benefits baby’s brain development and physical development. Sleep helps the brain grow and mature. Sleep helps memory.

Sleep helps with learning. The brain processes what it learned while the body sleeps.

Sleep also helps with babies’ development and growing a healthy body. Children who get enough sleep are less likely to be obese. Getting enough sleep protects against illness. Sleep improves immune systems.

Sleep also improves overall mood, the ability to function and complete tasks, and the likelihood of obedience to rules. Daytime behavior will be more pleasant if your kiddo is well-rested. Baby’s temperament will be improved by healthy sleep.

>>>Read: 5 Vital Reasons to Establish Good Sleep Habits

If you need more convincing, a great book on the topic is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

When to Start Sleep Training

There is no right one age for sleep training. Most people who do Babywise intend to do some form of sleep training, but many wonder what age to start.

With my oldest, we started around 9 weeks old (so just over two months of age). With my second, Kailtyn, we started at 5 days. With my third and fourth, I started right as soon as we came home from the hospital.

The short answer is you want to start when your baby is ready and when you are ready.

There are many different sleep training methods (discussed below). The method you choose might affect what age you want to start (but it doesn’t have to).

What you want to avoid is starting sleep training, then quitting because you can’t handle it, then starting again, then quitting, etc. That isn’t fair to baby.

So as you decide if it is time to sleep train or not, consider this list:

  • Is baby ready? Start when you think your baby is ready for it. Not when you think they won’t cry at all (that day won’t come), but when you think they were ready. You will know. I sensed Brayden was ready at 3 weeks, but I wasn’t ready. This brings me to my second point.
  • Are you ready? Start when you are ready. You need to be committed and ready to endure crying for some methods. You have to be consistent with your sleep schedule and routine during sleep training. It isn’t easy. If you can’t, don’t do it.
  • Is baby healthy and pain free? Don’t start if your baby is sick, don’t start if your baby is teething, don’t start if you are moving, don’t start if you are about to travel….etc.

Be aware that it won’t get easier to sleep train as your baby gets older.

Your baby will start to be able to wiggle around the crib, potentially getting him/herself stuck in a corner. Your baby will eventually be able to sit up and stand up.

Your baby will get more stubborn. Your baby will learn to talk and yell “Mama!” Also, the older they get the louder their cry is. Keep these things in mind when deciding what age to start. You also will be breaking habits while starting new habits.

I like starting young because there are fewer factors to consider. Older babies getting into toddlerhood start to have nightmares and have fears.

How to Sleep Train Your Baby

Many parents also wonder what sleep training methods to use.

There are many options. This is a parenting situation when the HOW does not matter. Your WHY (end-goal) is to get baby sleeping independently. It doesn’t matter what path you take to get there. So figure out what sounds best for your baby and your family.

People find success with all of the different approaches.

You will need to choose the method you think suits your baby the best.

Make sure it is about your baby.

Some methods might seem easier to you (they hurt your heart less), but they are harder on baby.

Some babies are okay with a parent being in the room while they fall asleep while it is upsetting for other babies. What was best for your sister’s baby might not be what is best for your baby.

And what was best for your oldest might not be the best method for your youngest.

The bottom line is this is for baby, make it about baby.

Cry It Out

One of the best known sleep training methods is cry it out.

Under the term cry it out are several different methods.

Essentially, cry it out means you put baby to sleep awake. Baby might cry. Baby stays in bed until baby falls asleep.

Cry it out is not easy, but it is effective and typically very fast.

>>>Read: Everything You Need to Know About Cry It Out

Because we started so much sooner, CIO was faster for Kaitlyn (started at 5 days) than it was Brayden (started at 9 weeks). I really think most babies are born knowing how to soothe themselves, then we teach them to be dependent upon us soothing them in some way.

For help with the cry it out method, see:

Extinction Method

The Extinction Method is another form of cry-it-out. I would describe this one as more intense. This basically involves ignoring all crying. You can read How to Use the Extinction Method for Sleep Training for more.

Controlled Crying or Ferber Method

The controlled crying, or Ferber method, uses a graduated cry it out. With this method, you gradually increase the length of time you wait before checking on your baby.

You increase the intervals between check-ins.

So you might start by waiting 5 minutes before going in and comforting baby. Then you wait 10 minutes. Then you wait 15, etc. Interventions become more infrequent as time goes on.

This method can be easier on parents and cause less stress for them. It can be easier on some babies, but it can be confusing for others. Be mindful if it seems to benefit your baby or not.

4 S’s

This is my favorite sleep training method and the one I most recommend. This was created by the Baby Whisperer.

With my youngest two, we did the Four S’s for sleep training, which involved little to no crying. With my first two, I didn’t know about the Four S’s, so we did Cry It Out (CIO).

The 4 S’s is best when used from birth or at a very young age. It will work best if your baby is a newborn. This method really trains you to time baby’s naps correctly and helps set up baby for success.

Pick/Up Put Down

This is another no-cry sleep training method created by Tracy Hogg, the Baby Whisperer. This is intended for older babies who need to learn to fall asleep independently. Read more about it here.

Camping Out Method

With this method, you essentially stay in your baby’s room (camp out). You try to not talk and you do not pick baby up. Your presence should calm baby. You sleep in the room.

Over time, you will move further away from your baby until baby doesn’t need you there to fall asleep anymore.

Chair Method

This is very similar to the gaming out method. This is a gradual sleep training method.

You put your baby down awake, but drowsy. Then you sit in a chair next to the crib until baby is asleep.

You just sit. You do not talk to baby, touch baby, or make eye contact with baby.

Every few days, you move the chair close to the door until you are out of the room.

Great Sleep Training Books

The Contented Little Baby
Mom’s On Call
Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems
The Wonder Weeks
The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Chronicles of a Babywise Mom Book of Logs
The Babywise Mom Nap Guide
On Becoming Babywise
The Contented Little Baby
Mom’s On Call
Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems
The Wonder Weeks
The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Chronicles of a Babywise Mom Book of Logs
The Babywise Mom Nap Guide
On Becoming Babywise

Poll Results: What age did you start CIO (approximate)?
1 Week: 4 votes (13%)
1 Month: 6 votes (20%)
2 Months: 7 votes (24%)
3 Months: 5 votes (17%)
4 Months: 1 vote (3%)
5 Months: 2 votes (6%)
6-12 Months: 4 votes (13%)
1 year or older: NO votes
Total of 29 votes

Other Cry It Out Sleep Training Posts on This Blog

Cry It Out Sleep Training Experiences:

  • kindra said…
    In response to your post: I started with my baby girl at 5 weeks. I had been reading the book when I was pregnant, and loved how the parenting philosophy and strategies fit in with my own. When my daughter was born, my husband asked our lactation consultant nurse about schedules and she had terrible things to say about schedules and in particular BW. This scared my husband and myself off, since we were first time parents and wanted to make sure we did everything right. By 5 weeks I was EXHAUSTED and sick of the unpredictability. I would rock her to sleep and lay her in her crib thinking “okay I can FINALLY sleep now, and she will PROBABLY sleep for 2 hours”…20 min later as I was just nicely dozing she was waking up! A friend at church that week suggested BW, and they are the parents of 5 amazing kids and then I remembered all the other amazing parents and kids we knew who had used BW and I picked it up again, and from that day on, my baby started crying it out. By 5 weeks, she was very used to me rocking her to sleep and being held as she fell asleep, so she would cry for up to 45 minutes sometimes, but by week 2 that had shortened to 30 minutes, and each successive week it was shorter still. She now no longer cries, or if she does it is only a bit of a whine for 5 minutes. Even though the nurse had “scared” us off of it at first, it was almost kind of a blessing in disguise. My baby had problems nursing (which we didn’t know about) and she was feeding for up to an hour and a half and still screaming. I assumed she was colicky, but by 2 weeks I had had enough and saw a lactation consultant. We figured out our nursing problem and started supplementing her with formula. Suddenly we had a happy baby on our hands! I think if I had tried to do BW at this time, not knowing what was going on I would have been very frustrated (I already was)…so definitely if you have feeding problems it is NOT the time to start crying it out. You want to make sure you have all that other stuff under control first. Anyways, I love BW and have no regrets about using it! Thanks again for your awesome blog!
    BabywiseMom said…
    Thanks Kindra! Thanks for sharing your experience. I am glad you found us.

Reader Sleep Training Questions:

  • Melissa said…
    i have a question. my daughter is 8 weeks old. she only naps in her swing (moving) and sleeps through the night in her swing (unmoving). she hates the crib, seems like she hates being flat on her back. my doctor seems to think it is too early to start letting her CIO. any advice?
    BabywiseMom said…
    Strange. Does she have any heartburn or reflux? I wonder what she likes about the swing. They do sell things to put the crib mattress at an incline. You could try that. Do you have a bassinet? If she likes the smaller space, you could put her in one of those, and can also incline those.I don’t think 8 weeks is too young to CIO. I started my first at 9 weeks and my second at 1 week. I think the longer you wait, the harder and longer the road. But I also think you need to be ready for it. You need to decide when baby is ready, and when you are ready. It is not an easy emotional journey. I personally will always start my children as early as I think they are ready for it.
    Melissa said…
    Thanks – I appreciate your comment especially how you need to be ready. I think she likes the swing because it is a papasan, so it cradles her. She will sleep through the night in the crib but continually wakes herself *and us* up in the crib because she knocks herself in the face. Swaddling just makes her mad. In time it will be ok. Thanks for your comment.F
  • Catherine said…
    Thanks Valerie. Any ideas on how to CIO at night if necessary?
    BabywiseMom said…
    To CIO at night, you just do it. I haven’t ever done CIO in the middle of the night, and I wouldn’t recommend it until baby is sleeping well in the day. Your nerves will be shot if you try it all at once. I always just fed my kids when they woke in the middle of the night. Then they slept through and all was fine. Some do need CIO in the night, though. I would just wait until day is getting better before you move on to the night.
    Catherine said…
    Hi Valerie, I’m glad to hear you had a similar experience! Usually when he hits the crib and jostles, then eventually starts crying, I just feed him again until he is so asleep that he doesn’t wake up again when he hits the crib. But I don’t want nursing to become a sleep prop for him in the middle of the night when he wakes up and can’t fall back asleep right away. I want to be able to put him right down after I know he’s gotten a full feed and walk away, knowing he can get himself back to sleep if he has been woken up a little bit by the transfer. Anyway, my husband and I really need some more sleep, though, so I think your idea is a good one- we’re still trying to get his days down so his nights have been so messed up anyway. He’s been up every 3 hours just like it’s daytime. Last night we just put him straight in the swing after the feeding, he jostled there too but he went right to sleep the first two feedings, the third he cried very loudly for like 20 minutes, was quiet for about 15, then cried again or about 5 before finally falling asleep- to wake up 1 hr. 25 min. later. Also I am definitely doing my best to make sure he gets a full feeding- and I should mention that he’s 6 weeks today, is the potential growth spurt just a double whammy with the fact that his days have been so wacky lately?Any thoughts on a good strategy for us?
    BabywiseMom said…
    Yes, six weeks is a very difficult time, especially for breastfeeding moms. Your prolactin levels drop, which help make breastmilk. You definitely want to make sure you nurse as often as he needs to ensure the needs of the growth spurt are met and you maintain a good milk supply. Remember, you always feed baby when he is hungry. Then you try to figure out why he is hungry early. If it is a growth spurt, you just feed away until he is out of it. If it is something else, you try to solve problems that way.
    Nicole Flowers said…
    Have a CIO question: when you decide to start letting the baby CIO, do you do it every single time you put them down, both day naps and night sleeps? I assume consistency is important. Also related — we will be traveling in about 10 days.. I want to start now but would you recommend we wait? The good news is that he will be sleeping in the same pack and play no matter where we are. Thank you for all your advice. You already have been very helpful!
    Babywise Mom said…
    Nicole, Yes, every time. Consistency is the main ingredient for success.Tricky timing. By now you are a week away. It is long enough to get started and possibly have success. If you won’t continue CIO there, I think I would just wait. If you start it, stop it, then start it again, it might be too confusing for him.
  • Stephanie said…
    It is 2 am and I’m really desperate. My 5.5 old son was sleeping great through the night until we went on vacation and then started getting up 1-2 times. We have been back for 2 weeks now and he is still getting up. To get him to sleep through the night before I started him on solids and was able to go in and slowly nurse him less and less (5 min, 4 min, 3min, ect) and this work but it is not working at all now. He has started getting up consistently every 5 hours from when we put him to bed and all he wants to do is nurse for like 2 minutes and then he is fine. Tonight we decided to just let him cry it out (he gets 10x worse when we interfere) but it has been an hour. Is this too long? When do I go in and just rock him to sleep? I really have no idea what to do anymore? Can he really be hungry????? He is currently breast feeding 5 times with 3 solid feedings a day ( 2 2oz of thick cereal and then a veggie at night). I know he can sleep through the night but how long should I let him cry, I”m just confused and tired. Please help 🙁

    Babywise Mom said…
    This is one reason I don’t do CIO at night. We (as parents) always end up getting desperate for sleep and interfere, which only hinders CIO progress. For some it works out great, but I would only do it if you know for sure there is no reason for the waking.It could be a growth spurt, it could be teething…see this post for more ideas: 5-8 Month Sleep Disruptions It is best to find the reason for it and treat that. This post will give you guidance.
  • erin said…
    I have a 12, almost 13 week old baby boy who is still not sleeping through the night. He sleeps well during the day and on his own. We haven’t had to have any CIO times beyond on occasional 10 minutes. He really sleeps easily on his own, which is very different from his sister who had to CIO hard for a couple weeks, but slept through the night at 6 weeks old. I am not sure what to do about it for several reasons. The biggest of my reasons is that we will be moving sometime in the next 4 weeks to another house. Even though I feel ready to let him CIO and if feel he is ready too, I don’t know when it is appropriate to do it around a move. Also right now, he is sharing a room with his older sister who just turned two. I can let him fuss for 10 minutes or so, which I have done, and she isn’t bothered by it. Anyways we only have 2 bedrooms right now, so there is no other room for him to sleep in and I don’t want to put my daughter through a whole night of crying. Overall, the sharing a room thing is working out really well and I would like to continue it when we move, and use the pack and play in our large closet for him to sleep in while he has to CIO once we move. When would it be OK for me to start CIO with him. Should I wait potentially another month until we move before we CIO , and if so what is the best way to deal with the night wakings now without creating deeper habits. I have tried not feeding him when he wakes at first, to see if he is really hungry, and it usually works to just give him a pacifier to go back to sleep, and if he wakes again I usually feed him. However since I have started doing this, he is begining to wake up more frequently andI believe it is b/c he is wanting me to give him a pacifier everytime he wakes instead of going back to sleep himself. When he does feed at night it isn’t for long and when he wakes in the morning he isn’t very hungry. He actually wakes up more now than he did when he was younger. Overall, he is a good sleeper during the day and has always gone with a schedule very naturally. I am just not sure what to do.

    Babywise Mom said…
    Erin, If it were me, I would wait. With the move and the time change coming up, I think it would just be better to wait. However, if you really feel like he is ready, see if you can send your girl somewhere (grandmas?) to sleep over and try it. The difficulty would be if he is one that needs a few weeks of CIO rather than one night. But you could try it. Remember boys do statistically sleep through later than others. Good luck!
  • mshave said…
    Hi Val, I was just wondering…I have been letting my 3 week old son CIO for 5days now and it has been rough! Often times he cries for an hour and still doesn’t fall asleep so I end up putting him in his swing for the rest of his nap time. I know that I read that after 8 weeks you said Kaitlyn rarely cried at all…will it be this rough for 8 weeks? Or, does it progressively get better?? I just don’t think I can endure 1 hour crying sessions at every nap and bedtime for 8 weeks! Please help!

    mshave said…
    Hello! I just wanted to post a follow up to my previous post regarding CIO.I let my son (3 weeks old) CIO for 7 straight days for every nap and bedtime. I noticed some improvement but not anything to brag about. He is a very persistent little boy!(BTW-CIO worked in just 3 days with my daughter…so, if this is the way you want to go, please don’t let my post discourage you. Also, I think timing is very important. I didn’t do CIO with her until she was 3 months…so, timing may have been the problem here too) As I have to go back to work in Feb, I had to find another way to sleep train him. So, I picked up “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” and found that her sleep training technique worked better for me and my son. After three days, I can put him down with little to no fuss. I am an advocate for CIO in some situations and you have to do what is right for you and your family. In my case, I didn’t want to let my son CIO during the entire time I was off for maternity leave. I know that I may have to put in a little bit of extra work later, but I am willing to accept that as I have a very happy and well rested little boy on my hands now!

    Babywise Mom said…
    mshave, It gets better, but it isn’t necessarily a progressive step-by-step better. It is more like a two steps forward, one step back. But as time goes on, the steps back happen less frequently. I am glad that the Baby Whisperer has worked for you. It is perfectly acceptable; you are still teaching him to self-soothe.
Sleep Training Benefits

Sleep Training Tips and Info

These posts will help you sleep train your baby with confidence. Learn how to sleep train in the method that best suits you and your baby.

This post originally appeared on this blog in November 2007