If you are consistent and follow best practices sleep training generally takes about 1 to 3 weeks to complete. Most parents see results within 3 nights at bedtime, while sleep training for naps usually takes 1 to 3 weeks.
Many factors affect how long sleep training will take including baby’s age, temperament, sleep training method used, and parental consistency. Keep reading to see all the variables that determine how long sleep training takes.
How long will sleep training take? If you are considering sleep training, you have almost certainly asked yourself this question.
Having realistic expectations about how long sleep training takes can really make or break your experience.
Keep reading to learn just how long you should expect sleep training to take and what you can do to speed up the process.
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What is Sleep Training?
The most basic answer is that sleep training is teaching your baby to fall asleep on his or her own instead of with parental assistance.
To some people, it is synonymous with cry it out, or CIO, but in reality there are many sleep training methods and CIO is only one of them.
You can choose to cry it out, or you can choose a much more hands on method. The choice is up to you and which method you think is the best fit for your baby.
If you are wondering when to start sleep training, the answer is most babies are ready at 4 months of age. While formal sleep training is not recommended before then, there are steps you can take to help promote great sleep even with the youngest of babies.
How Long Does It Take For Sleep Training To Work?
There are four main factors that impact how long it takes for sleep training to work.
Sleep Training Method
One is the sleep training method that you choose. Some methods are designed to move more gradually than others, so they naturally take longer to work.
“No cry” sleep training methods generally take weeks to even months to arrive at the end goal, because they are designed to slowly remove sleep associations and replace them with new ones.
If your baby isn’t tired enough at bedtime, that’s going to prolong their sleep and make sleep training even harder.
If you have an overtired baby, that can also lead to bedtime battles and make it more difficult for your baby to fall asleep.
One of the biggest indicators of success with sleep training is consistency.
It can be really confusing for babies or toddlers to get mixed messaging around sleep. The parents who are the most consistent, tend to see the greatest success.
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page with your sleep training method and how you will respond to wake ups.
Also plan to sleep train during a period where your family will have your normal routine for at least 2 weeks.
If there are out-of-the-norm things happening like moving to a new room at daycare, traveling, or other events that make it hard to stay consistent, sleep training will take longer than it otherwise would.
Baby’s Temperament and Age
Another factor is your baby’s personality, temperament, and their age when you start sleep training.
Some babies are very easygoing and adapt quickly to change. Other babies are more sensitive to change and take longer to adjust.
Babies typically learn new sleep associations quicker than older kids. Toddler sleep training can take longer, because toddlers can be more set in their ways and resistant to change.
What Day of Sleep Training Is the Hardest?
There are typically two days of sleep training that are the hardest.
One is the very first night. This night is usually emotionally hard for parents. For babies, it is the first night of learning a new habit, and learning a new habit is hard.
The good news is that there is only one very first night.
The other day that is usually the hardest is usually the fourth or fifth day. This is when what is commonly called the “extinction burst” happens.
It is often the fourth or fifth night, but can happen as early as the third night and as late as the ninth night.
The extinction burst is best described as a very hard night after a few nights of improvement. You will likely feel like everything is going backwards and wonder if you have made any progress at all.
Typically, the following night will be much better!
When you start sleep training, make a note on your calendar for 4 or 5 days later so that if the extinction burst happens, you can remember it is normal and not be discouraged.
It can also be helpful to track your child’s sleep so you can really measure progress.
How Long Is Too Long For A Baby To Cry During Sleep Training?
Wondering how long is too long for a baby to cry during sleep training?
This is such a personal decision and how long you can listen to your baby cry will vary.
On the first night of sleep training babies typically fall asleep within 90 minutes. And most of the time it’s much quicker.
What also typically happens is that one parent is able to handle baby’s crying more than the other.
If that’s the case, I recommend the parent who is okay with the crying (it’s typically dad), be the one to do the checks and tackle those first three nights of sleep training.
If mom is on board with sleep training, but can’t hear baby cry, I advise her to take a walk while dad handles bedtime.
After three nights, the tears usually lessen and mom can help out with baby’s bedtime routine again.
If your baby is crying much more than 90 minutes, something else may be going on.
This is where sleep training is about so much more than choosing a method and there are multiple factors that go into it.
How Long Does The Cry It Out Method Take?
The cry it out method typically takes roughly a week, though often a big improvement is noted over the first few days.
As far as how long your baby will cry on the first night? That is a hard question to answer. It may be as little as 20 or 30 minutes or a long as an hour or more.
What do you do when you are sleep training and your baby won’t stop crying?
There are a few things you can check: is it time for a feeding? Is a diaper change needed? Did baby get to bed on time or later than usual? Is baby’s room too warm or cool?
Lastly, listen to your parental instinct. Choose to sleep train because you believe it is best for your baby, not because it is what someone else says you should do.
If your instinct says “too much”, it is okay to change your mind and stop sleep training. If your instinct says “this is hard, but we can do it and the benefits will make the hard worth it”, that is great too.
Of course, it should go without saying, but sleep training does not mean ignoring real felt needs like hunger or dirty diapers. Please, feed hungry babies and change those diapers.
Get Better Sleep with The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System
If you want someone to walk you through the process of sleep training, let me help. The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System is for babies 4 months through 2.5 years old. I’ll walk you through how to establish daily routines, sleep schedules, and sleep training techniques to help you break the sleep associations you no longer find beneficial! Check it out here.