Sleep training is the process of helping a baby learn to get to sleep and stay asleep through the night. Some babies seem to develop a regular sleep routine quickly and easily. But many others have trouble settling down to sleep — or getting back to sleep when they've been wakened — and they need help and guidance along the way.
Beginning at about 6 weeks, you can reinforce your child's biological rhythms by establishing a regular bedtime routine. At about the same time every night, for instance, give him a warm bath, read him a book, and then feed him before putting him to bed. (For more ideas, see our article on bedtime routines
.) Try to get your baby up at around the same time every morning and put him down for naps
at the same point in the day.
At this stage, consider your routine and your baby's sleep schedule as a work in progress: During the first three months of life, your baby will gradually sleep more at night and less during the day. You'll need to keep adjusting the schedule as your baby matures and develops.
4 to 6 months and beyond
Typically, by age 3 months or so, babies have started to develop more of a regular sleep/wake pattern and have dropped most of their night feedings
. And somewhere between 4 and 6 months, experts say, most babies are ready for sleep training and are capable of sleeping through the night for a stretch of 8 to 12 hours.
Of course, every baby is different: Some may be ready earlier, others later. And some will sleep seven hours or longer at an early age while others won't do so until they're much older.
Before starting sleep training, make sure your baby doesn't have any medical conditions that affect his sleep. Then be flexible about how you apply your chosen program and carefully observe how your baby reacts. If he's very resistant or you see a change for the worse in his overall mood and behavior, stop and wait a few weeks before trying again.
If you're not sure whether your baby's ready for sleep training, ask your doctor.