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What age is the best age to do sleep training?

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
What age is the best age to do sleep training?
After 17 years and a lot of baby sleep training I think it's timely that I shared my innermost secrets. One of the big ones is knowing when is a good age to do sleep training. And yes there is a better age than others.

I get many phone calls asking about sleep training and I think it would help so many parents if they could make an informed decision based on some facts.


You may recall a blog I'd written a few months ago about why 6 out of 7 of the babies and children I help with their sleep are boys. Gender really comes into this sleep training thing in a big way. My hardest cases are 7.5 month old boys. That 6-8 month wonder week is one that boys really struggle with compared to girls. Add sleep training and stress into the mix. And maybe a dummy falling out and bed sharing/co-sleeping. And you've got a perfect mix for a very challenging sleep training situation. I'm not saying that I'd not sleep train a boy whom is 6-8 months old. But I'd maybe try and do it either side of that window i.e. 6 months or 9 months. It's just a lot easier for all concerned.

Wonder weeks

Developmental changes can really impact sleep training and how easy it is or isn't. However what I do find is, a baby who can self settle and therefore resettle navigates those wonder weeks without any big issues. Babies who I help with this skill at 3 months rarely if never come undone with that pesky 4 month sleep regression. Once you can self settle it means that you cope with stress. That's what developmental changes aka wonder weeks are, potentially stressful life events.

Critical age

The critical age for sleep training, to achieve the best results, is 6-12 months. The research backs this up. And from what I know, with over 17 years of helping babies learn to sleep, I'd agree. Certainly mastering this skill of self settling before the age of one. Give this gift before 12 months and you've got a good chance of giving your baby good sleep for life. And certainly before the age of 3. Once you get past 3 years it's very difficult to teach. And the chance of getting a good night's sleep for your little one is very uncertain. However I do help families with kids over 3 years. And it's something that can always be worked upon and helped.

Baby sleep learning vs. sleep training

What happens if you leave it till toddler age?

It's much harder to achieve great results as there has been a lot of learned behaviour and strong sleep associations. The big reason that sleep training is so important is that they're also acquiring the skill of emotional and physical self regulation. The earlier they learn this the easier it is to teach. Toddlers often get very angry and distressed with sleep training and it's really not nice to observe. I'd much rather help a 2-3 month old baby with prevention and baby sleep learning than try and get a 2.5 year old out of his parent's bed because he has to go to daycare. And to go to daycare he needs to be able to sleep separately in his own sleep space.

Emotional and physical self regulation

This is the big reason for baby sleep learning and sleep training full stop. Once a baby or child acquires the skill of being able to put themselves to sleep, i.e. self settling and then resettling then they are able to self regulate. Being able to emotionally and physically self regulate means that they can cope with the ups and downs of life and so have more confidence and resilience. I think this is one of the most essential emotional skills that needs to be taught and doesn't happen just by chance. This is the main reason I feel very strongly about what it is I ma teaching as a baby whisperer.

Is there an age I'd not consider sleep training?

In short, no. A baby and child of any age can be taught how to sleep and despite gender, wonder weeks and all the things I've just discussed I'd still help a parent to help their child. I just thought it was a good blog to write and a way of passing on my knowledge to help you, as a parent make an informed decision as to how you manage your baby or child's' sleep. You may recall I wrote a blog in January about never accepting bad toddler sleep. As a parent you just need to make the decisions about what it right for you and your little one.

? Now that I've given you a good look inside this baby whisperer's brain you want to know there's more

You'll want to know about my online Nurture Sleep Program.

You can access my 3 decades of experience as a registered midwife and child and family health nurse via the Nurture Sleep Program.

You can take your baby from sleepless to slumber in up to 7 easy lessons across 3 age groups once you join.

? FOODS that promote baby sleep
ROUTINE: easy, flexible, sleep-ready
? ENVIRONMENT: getting it right
?? DEVELOPMENT: changes, how these affect sleep
? SLEEP METHODS: secret tips that will change your life

It will stop the guesswork and give you:

A tried and tested approach (20 years of helping families with baby & toddler sleep)
Gentle baby sleep methods
Holistic assessment
Nurture & Nourish nutrition program – all recipes have sleep-inducing ingredients and a perfect balance for a good nights sleep
Access to a closed Facebook group for one on one support from Karen and 90+ timecoded Facebook Live videos
Prevention for under 4 months so no need to do sleep training ever
And all at a low $97 for a very limited time

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