To sleep train or not to sleep train

I know this can be a hot button issue so ground rules -

  • Personal experiences ok
  • Links to research ok
  • Name calling/personal attacks/general character attacks on what may be on the “other” side from you not ok

I have read a lot of books and even bought a course or two on both sides of the baby sleep issue. And I’m flip flopping hard on what to do, which is doing no one any good.

It seems like studies that exist are not sizeable or well controlled. And sometimes it seems like each “side” (the sleep training advocates vs the no sleep training advocates) says directly conflicting things as if they are fact. Or even contradicts themselves!

Can anyone help me sort through the claims?

(Let’s call ST sleep training advocates, and NST no-sleep-training advocates)

  • ST says babies need to be taught to self-soothe. NST says babies are not developmentally capable of self-soothing until age 2.
  • ST says you need to get rid of unhelpful sleep associations (feed to sleep, rock to sleep, pat to sleep, whatever) and that baby needs to fall asleep in their crib alone from wide awake. NST says that sleep associations of feeding and rocking to sleep or sleeping with mom nearby are natural and should be done as long as baby wants to.
  • Both say the 4 month regression is a permanent change… But ST says the situation will never improve without help, NST says it will but if it doesn’t something is medically wrong.
  • ST says there is no evidence of harm for ferber/extinction methods. NST says no evidence of harm does not equal evidence of no harm (ok this isn’t a contradiction but I don’t know what side to lean towards here).
  • Both say getting good schedule and routine is important. NST says that’s enough. ST says it’s not, they will wake you up every cycle unless you sleep train.

I spent quite a while gently sleep training, felt like we almost had he falling asleep independently in her crib, then she had a few bad nights where it wasn’t working and I read something and decided to go the more non sleep training route, and now I’m regretting it but can’t even seem to get back to rocking/bouncing to sleep rather than feeding to sleep for the start of naps and I’m just TIRED. Even though my husband has been stepping up more for nights it’s just gone on so long and I’m tired of waking up 5 times in a 5 hour period or spending half of that awake and I can’t decide what to do.

I don’t quite feel like bedsharing or cry it out is right for me, but I feel stuck in a place where I took a giant leap back from the process I had been following and am back at square 1 with gentle sleep training but now my little one is older than when I started this last time and is like… Um, no, we don’t go to sleep without boobies in a dark room thanks. Even though I only backpedaled and started doing that like 2 weeks ago?

Heeeeelp. Or commiserate.


I have a lot of thoughts about this:

First: a lot of the arguments about pro- vs against- sleep training discuss impacts to the baby, but parents matter too!

If doing CIO is bad for your mental health and what you’re doing is working (I.e co-sleeping, etc), keep doing it! If what you’re currently doing isn’t working, and sleep training helps your physical and mental health, then that’s something to consider.

Personal experience: neither of my kids slept well, and the snoo was the only thing that helped in the newborn days. Once they aged out of the snoo, I sleep trained for bedtime. My 1st decided that he needed to cry 5-10 minutes at bedtime until he was 2, when he had enough words to whine about it instead of crying. We did the taking Cara babies method to mostly nightwean, and then he would mostly sleep from ~8 pm to 3-4 am, then require intervention to go back to sleep.

Cosleeping was out of the question for him because he found our presence way too stimulating and wouldn’t sleep. Eventually we went back to room-sharing with him, in separate beds, and he sleeps through the night (he’s 4).

With the baby, I started sleep training around 3 months, but with some interventions (snoo, pacifier, etc), and she’s never cried for more than 20 min max. She goes to bed independently now, crying for less than 5 min at bedtime. I know some sleep trained babies can go to sleep without crying but that’s not my kids. When I go to sleep, she comes into bed with me, and most nights she only wakes up once for feeding and then again in the morning. If this changes maybe I consider nightweaning but right now co-sleeping is working.


We did three days of CIO when he was around 4 months that’s all it took to take Ravioli from only contact napping to taking all of his naps in the crib. I knew he could do it because he was able to sleep pretty well at night in the crib.

For night sleep, we used the Taking Cara Babies method of gently lengthening the amount of time we let him fuss in the bassinet between resettling. The resettling itself also got less and less involved—from picking up and rocking to just a hand rested on him. It worked great for us but isn’t for everyone.

Good luck trying things out and I hope y’all get some more sleep soon.


Did you do CIO for naps or night sleep? I can transfer baby to crib for naps and night sleep but she is basically falling asleep on boob every time lately.


I am a huge advocate that if what you are doing works for you, keep doing it. If not, try new things, but maybe not so often that baby can’t keep up (think of an authority figure, maybe a boss, changing things up every week. How many changes can you cope with).

I am kind of against all the courses, but that’s a me thing. I think with books I do a better job of taking what works for me and leaving the rest. It’s probably where my deep intolerance for Emily Oster figures in.


We did ST with D1 and it worked amazingly well. Like, it took 2 nights and she was only left crying for 5 minutes max before putting her thumb in her mouth and going to sleep. Around 12 months old she completely slept through the night and did a wonderful job of sleeping all around. We have tried to ST D2 and she is completely capable of falling asleep alone. Naps and bedtime, we give her a hug and tuck her in and she just rolls over and goes back to sleep. What we have not been able to ST out of her is needing a snuggle every single time she wakes up in the night. The whole extinction/cry it out thing just doesn’t seem to work. If I give her a hug she once again just rolls over and goes back to sleep, calm and serene. If I don’t or if we lock her door and refuse to go into the room, she will cry for an hour, screaming harder and harder the whole time. CIO doesn’t work well because after I go in the first time, she is happy that she got her mama contact and goes to sleep. If I don’t then no one in the house ever gets any sleep.

All that to say, every child is different and what words with one child doesn’t work with another. We literally started the same way with both children, but some children are more stubborn than others. In many different situations, D2 has shown herself to be much more stubborn than the average child (like almost getting a feeding tube instead of just eating from the f’ing bottle. She never once ate from a bottle the entire time she was on a liquid diet.)


Unpopular Opinion: there are no facts? The points are made up and the only winners are the people selling the books and the courses to exhausted parents.

But I definitely commiserate with the feeling of flip flopping on what’s best and being too exhausted to make a decision especially in the night. I think a written, or at least mentally planned plan is good for this reason.

That said, we had reasonable success with modified sleep training around 10 months with both kids. Beware If they get sick or have a ‘sleep regression’ (whatever the fuck that is) the entire process starts over from scratch, it just does.

I was bfing but I always bf to sleep because it worked for me. Kid would fall asleep on boob in dark room (diaper already clean etc), I burp if needed and then plop them in crib. Crying for a while, sure but you’re fed clean and dry…eventually they got it. Did that every feed through the night, only when I wanted to feed them depending on age (by 10 months just twice, once in middle of night, and once in early am/5ish but your schedule may vary). If they woke up other times I’d ignore, eventually they wouldn’t wake or would self soothe. BUT like Econ said this is very kid dependent. Some ladies here have kids who scream cry until they puke, obv that wouldn’t work for them. So you have to go with your gut and your own kid and what you’re willing to tolerate. The first night we did cry it out I told DH I absolutely would not go beyond an hour. She fell asleep at 55 minutes (it wasn’t screaming or hysterical though, just…upset). The next night - 2 minutes.

FWIW though most kids do eventually sleep. Mostly.


It’s been a while and I further the terminology, but we did “cry it out” with intervals at first. I forget the intervals so I’ll make up numbers, but like five minutes, then seven minutes, then ten minutes, then fifteen minutes, etc. But with our kid he just became deeply offended that we were checking but not doing anything. Then we tried cry it out without checking in and it went better! Again, this is specific to our kid, your mileage my vary, please see nonexistent baby instructions for details.

But you better believe I stared down the timer. The timer said it had been, say, ten minutes but it felt like it had to be more than fifteen. Sometimes I went to the garage for no reason except that it was farther from baby crying and I needed a break.

Eventually something worked, then baby got sick and we had to start over. Then it got better, then some urge cold rampaged through the household and we had to start over. But! It wasn’t starting from scratch each time. Think of it like waves and a tide - each wave comes and goes but eventually the tide changes and the waterline moves, it’s just hard to see in the moment or in a series of moments. You just have to see it after the fact.


Totally fake. I should make my own version of sleep regressions and leaps and sell it to parents so they can be like “oh johnny boi is fussy because he’s 7.5 days early for his mod autumn leap and it’s causing a sleep regression. When we practice diurnal counterclockwise antiweaning we’ll notice improvements within 2 months. Although then it’s just 17 days till his wonderwall which can come early if your boi is extra advanced”. Course costs $329.78’on sale this week for $178 and you get a 2 month calendar, 3 youtube videos and a loving sales pitch email every Monday!

ETA if these courses comfort you I support and love you


I mean - isn’t that what wonder weeks is? :joy:


:laughing: I love you. Also I’m a sucker for a course. So I’m a sucker lol.


And then I’m like, because to do a randomized controlled trial of ways to make baby sleep with both absolute parental conformity to their assigned method, accurate reporting on results, and an acceptable dropout rate would be freaking impossible?


The thing that makes me mad about courses is like, I cannot sit through videos so I just read the PDF. And then I’m like… I just spent $150 on a short book. Fuck me sideways.


We primarily did it for naps because that was his trouble time. He’s always been good at bedtime for night sleep (don’t worry! Not bragging! He loves to wake up at 4am lol)


Relatable. It always felt way longer than it was.


Duckling magically started sleeping through at 15 months and my mum had been getting him to fall asleep for naps without me by lying down and watching her ipad until he fell asleep since he was 11 months. Pumpkin didn’t sleep through until we gave her substantial midnight snacks, which she still has 1-2 nights a week. She was 2yo when we finally figured it out. Both kids did a lot of falling asleep on boob until they reached a point where they just couldn’t fall asleep that way any more. Definitely did the “keep it if it’s working, occasionally try a new thing if it isn’t” approach.


Honestly I wonder sometimes if she’s waking up on the hour and a half increments because she needs the food. She eats super frequently alllll daaay. Maybe if I give her a huge bottle of formula before bed? Though getting her to take bottles is still a fight.


I don’t think there is any One Right Way. If there was, babies would be sleeping a lot better.

I had one kid who NEVER ONCE slept through the night until she was 2yo, and then she did, always.

I had one kid who did not nurse to sleep, was very sleepy overall, but who did need to fuss for 5 minutes before she slept and delaying that just made it worse, but who did have periods of waking up in the night.

I had one kid who slept through the night early but who woke up every night after she was 6 months old even though I did not nurse her at night and she was in her own room.

So I think you just try things. I don’t think a modest amount of sleep training will hurt her, though.


Obviously anecdotal, but everyone I know who uses formula has a baby who sleeps through the night. I really think the formula fills them up more and for longer than BM.


I think more volume helps too: anecdotally, in my local due date group, the babies who rarely or never get 5 hour stretches at night are exclusively nursed. It seems like the babies who get pumped milk in bottles tend to sleep longer stretches too.


I just haaaate pumping.