Sleep training for 6 month olds and older babies: How to, methods and tips
It’s true. Parents are required to make an enormous amount of choices on behalf of their children. Even something as seemingly simple as how a child falls asleep involves a wide variety of options and opinions. Sleep training in particular often stirs up different views among parents.
When it comes to sleep training, we don't take sides. It's up to you if it's the right fit for you and your family! We won't be making that call for you, but we can give you the information you need to make the best decision for your baby's sleep. Read more for sleep training tips for 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 month old babies.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
Can you sleep train 6 month olds and older babies?
In short — yes you can. After 4 months of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics  (AAP) recommends putting your baby in their sleep space when they are drowsy, but not already asleep. And for good reason: Once children learn to fall asleep independently they tend to fall asleep easier and have fewer night wakings . This generally means that there are fewer disruptions to sleep and more rest for the entire family.
However, “drowsy but awake” isn’t always straightforward. Many infants are used to being rocked, held, or fed to help them drift off to sleep. Making the switch to a routine where they are left to sleep on their own can be tricky, especially if a strong sleep association has been formed. Depending on their personality, they may struggle with the new routine, causing stress for both the baby and their caregiver.
Not sure what to do? Sleep training methods can provide a framework for how to help your baby learn this new skill of falling asleep on their own. Some techniques are more gradual than others and are designed to limit tears as much as possible. Other strategies prioritize speed and may allow for more crying.
It's ultimately up to you to decide if sleep training is right for your family. If you decide to move forward with sleep training, you can find a method that works well for you and your baby which will guide you through the process. On the other hand, some families might find that they already have adequate sleep or that sleep training is not a good fit for them, and that's okay too!
Sleep training methods for babies between 6 to 11 months
|Sleep training method||Does it work for babies 6 months and older?|
|Gentle methods||Yes, however, these methods take longer.|
|Chair method||Yes, this method can help parents transition out of the room as their baby falls asleep.|
|Ferber method or gradual extinction||Yes, these methods are faster but typically involve more crying in the short term.|
|Cry it out or total extinction||Yes, this method can be a good fit for babies who get more upset with frequent check-ins. However, we recommend a video monitor and hourly safety checks.|
While each method has many possible variations, here’s the basic idea behind each of these popular sleep training strategies:
Gentle sleep training methods focus on gradually weaning the baby from needing help to fall asleep. These include techniques like “fading” and “pick up put down,” where you actively attempt to calm your baby down as they learn a new way of falling asleep. This approach is preferred by parents who want to try to keep tears to a minimum and don't mind the process taking longer.
For example, say your baby typically falls asleep while feeding. The process begins by introducing rocking instead of feeding, then reducing movement and eventually putting your baby in the crib while awake. You’d stay close by for support. Eventually, you work on removing your touch, and eventually your presence, as a sleep association.
The chair method is another gradual approach to sleep training. You sit in a chair next to the child's crib while they learn to fall asleep independently. Over time, the chair is moved further away from the crib and closer to the door so that you’re staying in the room with the child — but not necessarily in contact with them.
The goal of this sleep training method is to stay in the room with your baby until they fall asleep until eventually, your presence is no longer necessary for them to drift off. This method is often used as a follow-up to the fading method. It's considered a gentle way to get to the point where you can leave the room before your little one is fully asleep.
The popular Ferber method is a “graduated extinction” technique. This strategy involves gradually increasing the length of time between visits, starting from 3 minutes on the first night, and getting longer from there. Other variations may use a static interval of 10 - 15 minutes, and parents may pick up their baby or stay in the room to calm them. This method is preferred by parents who want faster results and are comfortable with allowing their baby to cry for defined periods.
The Ferber method is viewed by some as a variation of "cry-it-out" (CIO) since it involves leaving the baby in their sleep space and allowing them to cry for certain periods of time. However, unlike total extinction “cry-it-out,” the parent will typically come back at regular intervals to attempt to soothe the baby before leaving again.
Cry it out
CIO is a total extinction method of sleep training that involves leaving a baby to fall asleep on their own, without any interventions to soothe them. In other words, you put your baby down in their crib awake after their bedtime routine and leave the room so they fall asleep on their own. This method is often chosen by parents who want a fast solution, but find that check-ins for calming are actually more upsetting to the baby than leaving them alone.
Some babies may fall asleep within 10 minutes with this method, others may cry for long periods. While this goes for all sleep training strategies, it’s especially important to make sure that your baby's needs are met before beginning this method (ie. they are fed, dry, not in physical discomfort), and developmentally able to fall asleep without help. We recommend using a video monitor and hourly safety check-ins to ensure your baby remains safe.
How many nights does it take to sleep train 6+ months old babies?
It may take a few days or a few weeks. How long it takes before you see improvement is largely dependent upon the chosen method and your child's temperament. Generally, progress is seen after 3 to 4 nights when using gradual or total extinction techniques. However, gentle methods tend to take longer. When trying any sleep training technique, it's important to remember that consistency is essential.
Gaining the ability to drift off to sleep alone is similar to mastering any other new skill; it is normal to experience a few bumps in the road before any progress is made. If the initial attempt is not successful, don't be disheartened — try switching to another technique or combining approaches until the right one is found. The main objective is to ensure your child has enough opportunities to practice and master the art of falling asleep independently.
Sleep training tips for 6 month olds and older babies
Tip #1: Set the stage for sleep with a consistent routine
If you haven't done it already, we highly suggest putting a bedtime routine in place for your tiny human. Bedtime routines are like a sleep-time secret handshake to kids, letting them know that it's time to end their day and drift off to dreamland. When done consistently, these routines can help your baby get better sleep and make your family function more smoothly. It’s worth the investment!
Tip #2 Follow an age-appropriate schedule
Babies who are overtired tend to cry a lot more at bedtime and sleep less soundly. On the flip side, "under-tired" babies may have a hard time nodding off because they don't quite have enough sleep pressure. That's why it's important to find the optimal time to put your little one to bed; it can make sleep training a whole lot easier.
Tip #3: Break sleep training into stages
If your baby has been having sleep issues at night and during the day, we know it's tempting to work on every sleep period, all at once. But that can backfire by being overwhelming and causing a lot of overtiredness (cue the additional crying and resulting night wakings). Kinda like drinking water from a firehose! Instead, try breaking it down into smaller steps.
Start with bedtime only. Nailing bedtime usually cuts down on night waking without directly tackling them. Once you've achieved success at night, you can move on to naps. It might take more time, but it's worth it in the long run if it keeps the process more manageable, as that usually leads to more consistency!
Tip #4: Stick with it
Teaching healthy sleep habits is like a long-term commitment. Once your little one has learned how to put themselves to sleep, you'll need to consistently make sure they keep it up in order to maintain their sleep patterns. It's totally understandable if you find yourself rocking or feeding your baby to sleep when they're feeling under the weather or when you're on vacation. Just keep in mind that your baby's sleep might take a few steps back as a result.
Can you sleep train babies aged 6+ months for naps?
Yes! Many babies have a harder time making changes to their routine during the day, and you can tackle one nap at a time or go all in with all the naps. If you're using a gradual approach, start with the first nap of the day. For babies taking three naps, we usually suggest sleep training for the first two only, since the last one can be difficult and result in a lot of frustration without any sleep.
As you work on sleep training during the day, give it an hour. If your little one still hasn't dozed off, take a break for 30 - 60 minutes. Don't forget to do the nap routine again to signal that it's time to snooze. If your baby still won't nap after the second try, just skip it for the day and move on. You'll probably need to move bedtime up a bit if naps are shorter or skipped.
How to sleep train 6+ months old twins?
Separating twins for 3 - 4 nights can help them make faster progress with sleep training and reduce the chances of their cries waking each other up. For two-parent households, each parent can take on an "assigned" twin at bedtime and during the night. An alternative is to work on one twin's sleep at a time, starting with the "easier" one, and possibly separating them for a week or so.
What to do if sleep training your 6 to 11 month old baby is not working
First, you'll need to make sure that your baby is consistently falling asleep independently each night before deciding if the technique is working or not.
Next, if you get stuck in the process, it can be helpful to put your baby in their bed a bit more awake. That way, they won't associate their parent's help with falling asleep. This is especially useful if your little one wakes up often in the middle of the night, even though they start off the night without any help falling asleep.
If you're still having trouble with your baby's sleep, consider expert help. You should reach out to your pediatrician to rule out any medical issues that could be causing sleep troubles. Once that check-up is complete, you have the option to get a customized sleep plan through Huckleberry Premium.
Takeaway: Sleep training babies 6 month old and older
If your baby falls asleep with help and you feel like it’s impacting your family’s ability to get enough rest, sleep training may be the right answer for you. Studies have proven it's an effective way to improve sleep. Plus once your baby is over 6 months old, they should be able to consistently fall asleep on their own — no need for parental intervention!
However, there is no one "right" method for sleep training or helping your baby sleep better. While there are many different sleep training methods, the best one for your family depends on your family's situation, parenting style, and your child's sleep patterns and temperament.
Sleep training babies aged 6+ months FAQ
Q: How to sleep train a baby 6 months old and older?
Help your baby learn the skill of self-soothing by establishing a sleep training routine. There are multiple methods available to parents, some of which are more gradual and strive to reduce crying, while others are faster and may involve more tears. Regardless of which approach you take, you can use it as a framework for teaching your infant how to fall asleep without any help from you.
Q: Is 6 month olds too late to sleep train?
Nope! This is a good age to sleep train, as most babies are physiologically capable of falling asleep without parental intervention. Younger babies may not be able to consistently fall to sleep and back to sleep on their own each time.
Q: How to sleep train 6 month olds and older babies without crying?
Parents who wish to limit tears as much as possible may prefer a gentle sleep training method that gradually weans a child away from help falling asleep at bedtime. However, some babies will protest changes to their sleep routine no matter how gradual the process is.
Q: Should 6 month olds and older babies fall asleep on their own?
While most babies that are 6 months and older are capable of falling asleep independently, it is up to the family to decide whether independent sleep is necessary in order to ensure their child is well rested.
Q: Which sleep training method is best for 6 month olds and older babies?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to sleep training. The best method will be one that the family can stay consistent with, which will differ according to the child’s temperament and parenting style.
Q: Is it harder to sleep train 6 month olds and older babies?
This is a good age for babies to learn the fine art of snoozing solo since the majority of babies have the biological capacity to do so. Younger infants may have trouble nodding off and staying asleep without some assistance. On the flip side, the fact that toddlers are often looking to do their own thing can make sleep training a bit more of a challenge in that age group.
Q: Can you let 6 month old babies cry it out?
No evidence suggests that sleep training is harmful — in fact, research indicates that graduated extinction can increase security and attachment in babies. However, if you choose to use the cry-it-out method, video monitoring may be necessary to ensure your child is safe.
Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2023). Getting Your Baby to Sleep. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/getting-your-baby-to-sleep.aspx
A Review by Mindell JA, Kuhn B, Lewin DS et al. (2006) Behavioral treatment of bedtime problems and night wakings in infants and young children. SLEEP 2006;29(10):1263-1276. https://aasm.org/resources/practiceparameters/review_nightwakingschildren.pdf