when i mentioned that we were working with a sleep trainer for arlo, you guys asked me SO many questions — so then i decided it would be fun to ask natalie some questions directly, which you guys then sent even more to answer. she was so great to work with, and as i said — i’m so happy to report arlo is doing great with sleep training! (ps you can read about our sleep training here)
so for all of you sleepy parents who are unsure or have questions about sleep training and it’s benefits, read on for my interview with natalie, the baby sleep trainer!
To say sleep (and sleep training) is my passion would be an understatement. I have dedicated my life to helping children get the sleep they need, while helping Mom and Dad finally be able to sleep through the night again as well. I’m happy to say that to date, I’ve worked with about 3,500 families, and look forward to helping many more babies and toddlers get to sleep in the future.
why do you think sleep training is crucial?
I am not sure sleep training is necessarily crucial. I think each family is it’s own world, and families need to decide for themselves what is the appropriate way to deal with issues that arise surrounding sleeping, eating, and discipline. However, if a family is suffering because the child is not sleeping properly, I believe sleep training is crucial in order to help all members of the family be as healthy as possible, and thrive as much as possible.
would you describe your method as CIO?
I believe all methods of sleep training are cry it out. Generally speaking, all methods involve putting a baby down awake, and allowing them to take all the time that they need in order to fall asleep on their own. While parents can check in on their children, often in order for a child to successfully know how to fall asleep independently for naps and bedtime, and thus successfully put themselves back to sleep overnight without assistance, they need to be allowed to express their frustration at having to fall asleep on their own for as long as they need to.
whats the right age/time to sleep train a baby?
Children can be sleep trained anytime 16 weeks or older, counting from their estimated due date. Also, children should not be sleep trained without the approval of their pediatrician. Families should feel comfortable in knowing that sleep training does not necessarily need to occur as early as 16 weeks, and that children can be successfully sleep trained all the way through toddlerhood.
how do you know when your babe has “graduated”, or is officially sleep trained? is sleep training something you do once, or is it a continual thing?
This is a great question! Sleep training is basically a lifestyle change. It involves initially teaching a child how to fall asleep 100% independently of all sleep prompts for naps, bedtime, and overnight sleep. However, even after the initial days and weeks of training, disruptions in sleep are normal. For example, I didn’t sleep well the night before last, for reasons I’m unable to identify. So, just as we struggle with sleep sometimes, so will our children. The important thing for parents to remember after they have initially sleep trained their children, is that it is important that they not revert to assisting their children to sleep when sleep disruptions, such as illness arise.
how do you prevent/stop/change those early 4-530am wake ups?
Early morning wakings are extremely common, and generally do not resolve themselves without first making sure that a child is generally sleep trained, in that they are falling asleep independently for naps and bedtime sleep, and second, that parents are not doing a lot of interaction with their baby during that time. The baby sleep trainer method discusses how to deal with early-morning wakings, but generally speaking they happen intermittently throughout the first year of life, and generally resolve with time.
is there an alternative for parents who are afraid of their baby crying?
I do not believe there is an alternative sleep training method that doesn’t involve cry it out. Parents do not need to do extinction style training, where they don’t interact with their child for 12 hours overnight, but they do need to be prepared to allow their children to work through their feelings for as long as they need to, in order to figure out how to fall asleep independently.
is it possible to sleep train while room sharing?
Technically, yes it is possible. It just generally involves a lot more crying, and anguish on the part of the parents. Also, children who room share with their parents tend to wake up a lot more frequently throughout the night, even after sleep training is done.
what do you do when babe is clearly tired in the evening but its too early to go to bed and too close to bedtime to nap?
You work as hard as you can to distract them and keep them awake until bedtime :-) remember, this is only advice that I would give to families who are currently sleep training.
do you think parents could sleep train without help?
Sure! There just may be a lot more trial and error, and a lot more crying on the part of the child and perhaps even mom. But, yes it is possible! I successfully sleep trained both of my children on my own, but knowing what I know now, I wish I would’ve reached out to someone for help.
how do you sleep train when their sibling is in earshot?
Surprisingly, older siblings tend to almost never wake during sleep training. Making sure that the older sibling sleeps with their door closed and with a white noise machine or fan generally prevents any wake ups.
how many times should a healthy, normal weight baby need to feed during the night if they only eat breastmilk?
That is a question for a baby‘s pediatrician. Only a child’s doctor can advise a parent on their weight gain, growth, and age, and come up with the appropriate number of overnight feedings.
how many naps should babies take and how long should they be?
This has everything to do with how old a child is, but generally speaking babies between four and seven months of age nap three times a day, babies between seven months and somewhere between 14 and 18 months of age nap twice a day, and children 18 months of age and older typically only nap once a day. Naps can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 and a half hours, and generally speaking daytime sleep ranges between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 hours per day regardless of a child’s age, counting after four months. Children who take more than one nap a day should not nap for longer than 2 hours at a single stretch.
how can you sleep train if you live in an apartment where you can’t really have your baby crying for long periods of time?
I would suggest chatting with your neighbors and letting them know what’s happening, and then do what is necessary in order to sleep train your child. If you find you are unable to allow them to cry for long periods of time because it disrupts your neighbors, it may be best to wait to train until you were in a different living situation, or perhaps if you were visiting a family member who lives in a home and not in an apartment.
do all sleep trained babies cry when they wake up? why?
I don’t think all babies necessarily cry when they wake up or go to sleep, but I think generally speaking, babies are frustrated that they have to stop playing and have to go to sleep instead. Frankly I don’t enjoy the feeling of waking up in the morning, and I think a lot of babies don’t enjoy the feeling of waking up either, and express themselves by crying.
i hope natalie covered your questions, and that you’ll reach out to her if you too need help sleep training, we felt so overwhelmed by all the info we got from all the books and websites, so it was so nice to just have a clear cut regimen to follow. you can check out her website here! thank you natalie!
12 comments on “Q&A with a sleep train expert”
We didn’t sleep train our son but I know lots of mums who have, and I have no judgement – if Mum is suffering then family suffers too! I definitely discovered though around 4 months when he transitioned into his cot that the less interference from us the easier it was for him to fall asleep. We were so used to having to hold him, rock and shush him to sleep when he was newborn that we thought we’d need to carry on doing that but he soon let us know that actually no, see you later Mum I got this. The times we did try to “help” him or go in if he was fussing and not going straight to sleep ended up being way worse. Like Natalie said, they need heir own space to learn how to sleep independently :)
Thank you! This was so helpful, I’m not yet sure if I will go down this road with my little one but information is power and I love the sound of Natalie’s thoughtful approach.
Should I tackle night time and naps at the same time or separately?
Articles like this one are great! Parents need some support! I used “How to teach a baby to fall asleep alone” guide by Susan Urban ( found it here http://www.parental-love.com ). The author knows exactly what to do and WHEN! The two parts of the book are for parents with children aged from 0 to 3 months and from 3 months onwards. The author says exactly what to do with babies to make them sleep better since they were born.
She describes what and how to use (like swaddling, rocking white noise etc) and when and how to stop using them.
I tried it with both of my kids so I can recommend it.
Excellently written. Extremely valuable advice. Thanks for sharing the link!
The technique in this book gave my family desperately needed sleep in just 3 nights. I’m so happy!
I’m with you girls! This guide made my life easier :) Awesome!
I’m a little bit surprised but YES! This guide WORKS!! Thanks so much for sharing :-)
I will say briefly: the HWL method from Susan Urban’s guide works and it works fast! I’m so glad I stopped by to read the article and the comments and that I purchased the guide! Life is beautiful when your baby sleeps :)
Until 4 months I believed no sleep training will be needed for us. Could have I been more wrong?! They say sleep regression is a myth, for me – it was very real. No falling asleep at all, waking up after half hour every single time, cry, cry and more cry. Total mess. I googled a bit and desperately purchased Susan Urban’s guide. It occurred to be the perfect choice! And there was just a tiny tiny crying.
Hi, I’m just about to start the training with Susan’s book. I hope there is not much crying, cause I wouldn’t handle it!
although thank you for clearing some things out! :)
How did that go Amanda? For me it was brilliant! I’ve read Susan’s book in one day, the next day we started acting! After a week it was just done. Perfect method!