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Baby Sleep Training Tips: Catch more Zs with our helpful guide


- Reviewed by Sarah Eustace, Pediatric Nurse

It's no secret that a night of solid sleep can be a thing of the past once you bring your new bundle of joy home. While every parent’s day-to-day life is different, there’s one thing we can almost guarantee is the same for all of you: by the end of the day, you’re exhausted and sleep-deprived.

Babies need plenty of sleep to help them grow and develop, and parents need enough sleep to be able to function during the day. This is why some parents turn to sleep training to help their little one – and themselves – get enough shut-eye.

In this guide, we've compiled a range of baby sleep tips. So, if you’re concerned about infant night terrors or your newborn gagging in their sleep, you’ve come to the right place.

We consider how much sleep babies need, suggest some bedtime routines, and provide helpful tips for moms and dads on how to sleep train, to help them catch some Zzzs.

  1. What is sleep training?

  2. How much sleep do babies need?

  3. How to sleep train: Establish a bedtime routine

  4. Sleep training techniques to try

  5. Does swaddling help?

  6. Explaining infant night terrors

  7. What do I do if my newborn is gagging in their sleep?

  8. Baby sleep training tips: Sleep-deprived parents edition

  9. Setbacks to sleep training

  10. Baby Sleep Training FAQs

What is sleep training?

Sleep training is the name given to a set of techniques that can help parents teach their baby to sleep longer during the night.

Sleep training aims to enable your baby to feel comfortable sleeping on their own, without the need for a parent or caregiver to soothe them.

Various sleep training methods aim to help babies learn to self-soothe. This means if they wake at night, they can fall back to sleep on their own. It helps the baby, as well as parents, get more sleep and feel more rested, which is beneficial for the whole family.

How long does sleep training take?

The process of sleep training can take anywhere from a few days to several months, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Every baby is different, but with consistency and patience, most babies will learn to sleep better with sleep training.

When should I start sleep training my baby?

In their first few months, babies don’t have a circadian rhythm and will need regular night feeds, so sleep training is not advised. Babies should be ready to start sleep training around four-six months old. If you’re unsure whether your baby is ready for sleep training, a good sign is when they start to fall asleep by themselves at night.

How much sleep do babies need?

As parents, we have it drummed into us just how important sleep is for our baby’s well-being and development.

Exactly how much they need differs depending on your baby or toddler’s age. Premature babies for example need more sleep than full-term babies, as they still have lots of developing to do.

Every child is different, and some develop at slower or faster rates – so you shouldn’t panic if your baby doesn’t conform to these exact timeframes.

(If you’re in doubt, you can always speak with a doctor or baby sleep specialist.)

How many hours should a newborn baby be sleeping?

From birth to one month old, your baby will usually sleep for 8 ½ hours every night, as well as around 8 ½ hours during the day, with naps of varying length. That’s 17 hours of sleep on average every day (sounds blissful, doesn’t it?).

How much sleep do one-month-old babies need?

Your baby may still be sleeping for around 17 hours a day, but they are likely to sleep a little more at night (9 hours) and a little less during the day (8 hours).

How much sleep do three-month-old babies need?

By the time your baby is three months old, they should be getting around ten hours’ sleep a night, and around six during the day, spread across three naps.

Some parents might wonder if their baby is ready to start sleep training from three months old, but it’s advisable to wait a little longer. Most babies will be ready to start sleep training when they are between four and six months old.

How many hours should I expect my six-month-old baby to sleep?

Your baby will now be sleeping around 15 hours a day – ten hours at night, and five during the day, spread across two or three naps.

How many hours of sleep does my nine-month-old baby need?

By nine months, your baby’s daytime naps will be decreasing to around three and a half hours, while they might be sleeping for ten to 11 hours at night.

How long should my baby be sleeping at one-year-old?

By now (hopefully) your child will be sleeping 11 hours a night and getting three hours of sleep a day across two naps.

What can I expect in terms of sleep for an 18-month-old baby?

Your baby’s daytime naps should be further decreasing to around two and a half hours a day over two nap periods. They should still be sleeping 11 hours at night.

Of course, these are all ideal-world scenarios. We know that every baby is different, with different needs.

How to put your newborn baby to sleep: Establish a bedtime routine

A baby bedtime routine can help if your newborn baby's not sleeping. Indeed, it’s beneficial because it gives your baby ‘cues’ that sleep-time is coming and helps them wind down and relax.

"I couldn’t face reading up on what I was “supposed” to be doing at bedtime,” says mom Laura, “so I just let Eddie fall asleep on me, then would ease him into his crib before going to bed myself. But I definitely wouldn’t recommend it! I had no evening to myself, and Eddie got used to being 'cuddled' to sleep, which was really difficult to stop."

  • Don't try to keep them awake for longer – it's tempting to try and keep your baby awake in the hopes that this will encourage them to sleep for longer, but usually this just results in an overtired and grumpy baby that won't fall asleep easily.

  • Start early – this allows enough time to do everything in a slow and a relaxed manner.

  • Wash your baby – bathe your baby in a warm bath, or just give them a light wash with a warm washcloth if you don’t want to bathe them every night.

  • Clean their teeth – as soon as your baby’s first tooth breaks through, start cleaning their teeth at night. Use a clean, damp washcloth, a gauze pad, or a finger brush to gently clean the teeth and the front of the tongue with a low-fluoride toothpaste.

  • Dim the lights – keep lighting low and try not to let them play with noisy toys, so as not to overstimulate them.

  • Read a story – babies are never too young to start having a story read to them! This is lovely bonding time as well and great for getting them to wind down.

  • Be agile and respond to their changing sleep patterns – as children get older, they might want a nightlight on, for instance, to help them settle.

Sleep training techniques to try: how to sleep train

Experts have come up with several techniques that parents can try out that may encourage their little one to learn to sleep better through the night. We've detailed some of these sleep training techniques for babies and what they involve, so you can try them out.

The chair method

The chair method sleep training technique involves the parent or caregiver sitting by the baby's crib each night, but not soothing the baby if it starts to cry or fuss. Instead, each night, they move the chair a little further across the room until they're out of view, encouraging the baby to start sleeping alone.

This can help your baby to overcome any separation anxiety gradually, with the parent’s presence there to reassure them without directly soothing them to sleep.

A variation of the sleep training chair method is the ‘camp bed’ method, where a parent sleeps in the baby’s room for a few nights. This can be effective if you’re transitioning your baby from sleeping in your room to their nursery, as your presence can help to make the new place feel familiar. You can then gradually transition to the chair method until the baby is comfortable sleeping alone.

The fading method

While your baby is very young, it will often be the norm to rock, cuddle, or otherwise hold them to help them drift off to sleep. However, once your baby is ready to start falling asleep in their crib, they may be so used to drifting off in your arms that they struggle on their own.

The fading sleep training method involves gradually fading out 'soothing' techniques such as rocking, talking, and feeding as the baby falls asleep. Here’s how to do it:

  • When it’s bedtime and your baby is asleep but drowsy in your arms, gently put them into their crib.

  • Leave the room quietly and close the door behind you.

  • If they fuss at first, wait before entering the room again. If after five minutes they’re still not drifting off, enter the room and soothe them while rubbing their back while they’re still in the crib, until they calm down. Then leave the room again.

  • Repeat the process until they manage to fall asleep.

The fading method teaches your baby to self-soothe without them feeling abandoned. They will learn that you will come if they need you, but that it’s normal to fall asleep without you there.

The Ferber method

The Ferber sleeping technique helps your baby fall asleep independently and was created by pediatrician Richard Ferber. It involves putting your baby into their crib while they are still awake, leaving the room, then waiting a few minutes – three minutes is the recommended amount of time – before going back to soothe them.

However, soothing them shouldn't involve picking your baby up, feeding them, or turning on the light, but instead patting them or talking in a calm voice. The Ferber technique trains your baby to understand that every time they cry, mom or dad won't be there to pick them up, and eventually they'll fall asleep independently.

Does swaddling help?

There is no evidence that swaddling helps babies sleep, but it can comfort them, as the enclosed feeling reminds them of being cocooned in the womb.

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) notes that swaddling is safe for your baby but they must be placed on their back. You should stop swaddling them when they show signs that they can roll over.

Learn how to safely swaddle your baby in our guide.

Explaining infant night terrors

A night terror is different from a nightmare, as it is when someone wakes from sleep in a terrified state but does not remember anything the next day. For example, babies may cry, or be frightened, confused or panicked, or have a fast heart rate.

Thankfully, infant night terrors are more common in young children and not in babies. Doctors do not know what causes them, and unfortunately, there is no treatment for them. Babies usually grow out of infant night terrors, as they normally go away on their one.

If your bub is suffering from them you should try soothing them and adjusting their bedtime routine to reduce stress. You should also modify the baby’s diet to see if any particular food is a trigger, try to create a stress-free environment for them and keep to a regular sleep schedule.

What to do if my newborn is gagging in their sleep?

Gagging in babies is common and usually nothing to worry about. Sometimes they have a gagging cough while they sleep because of sleep apnea. If your baby is coughing or gagging while sleeping due to apnea, it is best to see a doctor.

They may evaluate their adenoids and tonsils, as if these are enlarged they can make breathing difficult by blocking their upper respiratory passages. Basic outpatient surgery to remove these glands may solve it.

Baby sleep training tips: Sleep deprived parents edition

We know that when your newborn baby's not sleeping, sleep deprivation can feel isolating, but as much as we’d love to give you the secret to getting your baby to sleep – there’s no silver bullet.

What we can do is share a few tips that may just help alleviate some of the strain:

Work in shifts with your partner

Agreeing beforehand on how you will share the load at night can be a helpful way to avoid any 4am arguments. For instance, depending on how your baby is fed, you may try alternating nights (i.e one of you ‘does’ the whole night, so the other can sleep through, and then swap.)

Keep your baby’s bedroom sleep-ready

Create a dark, relaxing space to try and help your baby sleep. Blackout blinds are invaluable for helping with daytime naps, while relaxing sounds such as white noise or natural soundscapes that can block out noise from outside the room.

Not only can these help relax both baby and you, but they can ‘signal’ sleep time, which can be helpful.

Establish a routine

"I was against any kind of sleep training or fixed routine, as it seemed a bit unnatural," says Philippa, mom of two. "But when my first son was six months old, we were pulling our hair out with tiredness, so I followed a recommended routine of playing, sleeping, and feeding, and it did make a difference.

“He didn’t sleep through instantly but there was an improvement, and it was just easier for me to stick to a pattern than constantly wonder whether he was tired, hungry, or whatever."

  • It’s important to remember that what works for one baby won’t work for another, so what’s really important is to try different things, and see what suits you and your child.

  • While advice from friends is useful, try to avoid comparing your journey to anyone else’s – you will get there (and you will get your evenings back) even if it takes a little while.

Setbacks to sleep training

Sleep training may not be smooth sailing – and that’s OK. Babies can’t tell us when something is wrong, and parents can struggle to discern between a baby who is crying because they can’t settle and a baby who really needs something.

As part of your bedtime routine, make sure that your baby has no reason to feel uncomfortable before you put them down to bed. If they’re fed, have a clean nappy, and comfortable pajamas and bedding so that they’re not too hot or cold, you can rule these reasons out if the baby fusses before settling.

If you’ve done all of this and the baby is still struggling to settle, some other issues might be affecting your baby’s ability to go to sleep.


From head colds and coughs to more serious illnesses, babies can be prone to picking up germs. Their brand-new immune systems aren’t as strong as ours, and if they’re feeling poorly it can be difficult to encourage them to settle at night.


Baby teeth start to come through between four and seven months, so around the time you might be sleep training. Sore gums and other side effects from teething like a high temperature can all stop the baby from sleeping through.

Separation anxiety

Babies often cry when they’re left on their own. This is a normal stage in their development when they learn that they need their parents around and don’t feel safe without you. You might find that they cry to try and get you to come back once you put them down to sleep. It’s normal to feel distressed about leaving your baby alone, but they will grow out of it with time and learn that it’s okay to go to sleep without you there.


Bright lights, loud noises, or both at the same time can overstimulate your baby, meaning they’re less likely to be able to fall asleep once it's bedtime. Try to limit distractions during the bedtime routine and create a calming atmosphere to encourage your baby to drift off peacefully.

When it comes to sleeping and babies, the most important thing to do is hang in there. All babies (and parents) go through sleep struggles at some stage and they will settle down eventually.

We hope, for now, that these newborn baby sleep and bedtime routine tips help and that you can enjoy fewer disturbed nights in the future.

If you found our newborn baby sleep tips useful, then why not check out our other articles on our Parenting Community:

• Diaper changing tips

• Baby weaning tips

• Newborn baby eczema

• Teething rash

• Baby skin conditions

• How to swaddle newborn baby

• Skin to skin contact with baby

Fourth trimester

Bonding with baby

Baby growth spurts

• How to bathe a newborn baby

• Baby's first haircut

Baby starter kit

Baby Sleep Training FAQs

How long to let a baby cry it out?

The ‘cry it out method’ can be stressful and upsetting for both baby and parents. Before you try this sleep training method, it’s advisable to read about it and decide if it’s right for you and your baby. Other sleep training methods recommend only leaving your baby to cry for a few minutes before returning to the room to soothe them.

When should you start sleep training a baby?

Babies should be developmentally ready to start sleep training at around 4-6 months old. Before this, they still haven’t developed a circadian rhythm that tells them when it’s night and day and will still need several night feeds to help them grow.

Is sleep training with crying recommended?

Many health and medical bodies don’t recommend sleep training techniques that involve leaving your baby to cry, such as controlled crying. Usually, evidence highlights the importance of responding to their needs to achieve optimum health and emotional wellbeing.

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  2. Parents, Sleep Training Your Baby: 7 Tips for Success,, [Last accessed 22 May 2024]

  3. Kids Health by Nemours, Sleep and your newborn,, [Last accessed 22 May 2024]

  4. Sleep Foundation

  5. Massachusetts General Hospital

  6. Healthline

  7. NHS

  8. NCT

  9. Wirral Community Health and Care

  10. Medical News Today

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  12. What To Expect,has%20become%20a%20sleep%20association.

  13. What To Expect

  14. Kids Health,naps%20into%20one%20afternoon%20nap.

  15. NCT

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