Can Newborns Be Sleep Trained?

Jun 10, 2023

As a sleep consultant, I receive numerous inquiries from exhausted parents seeking sleep training for their babies. Recently, I received a call from a distressed mother of 2-month-old newborn twins who was desperate for some decent night sleep. While each of her babies were capable of sleeping in 3-4 hour stretches, their staggered waking times left her completely sleep-deprived. She wanted her babies to sleep through the night. I could really feel her pain as it is humanly impossible to be rationale and in a decent state of mind when you haven't slept in months.

That got me thinking that we should explore the question: "Can newborns be sleep trained?" to educate new parents about the myths and realistic expectations about newborn sleep.

Debunking the Myths of Sleep Training Newborns:

Myth 1: Newborns can be sleep trained like older infants
Fact: Newborns have unique needs and developmental characteristics that make traditional sleep training methods ineffective and inappropriate. Their neurological maturity and self-settling abilities are still developing, and attempting to sleep train them can cause unnecessary distress.

Myth 2: Newborns should sleep through the night
Fact: It is important to understand that newborns are biologically programmed to wake frequently for feeding. Their tiny stomachs and rapid growth require regular nourishment, making it unrealistic to expect them to sleep through the night without waking. It is essential to prioritize their nutritional needs during this phase. It is actually unsafe for newborns too sleep too deeply as that could possibly cause SIDS. Waking for overnight feeds (or otherwise) has a protective function too.

Myth 3: Leaving newborns to cry alone helps them learn to sleep independently
Fact: Newborns depend on their caregivers for comfort, security, and meeting their basic needs. Leaving a newborn to cry alone contradicts their innate instinct for connection and can lead to increased stress levels and negative consequences for their overall well-being.

While several studies did not find any negative long term impact of crying during sleep training, those studies studied babies that were sleep trained at the age of 6 months or older. There is no evidence of the impact of sleep training on newborns. 

Setting Realistic Expectations for Newborn Sleep:

While formal sleep training may not be suitable for newborns, there are steps parents can take to improve their sleep hygiene and establish healthy sleep habits to get longer stretches of sleep:

1. Establish a Consistent Sleep Environment:
Create a soothing sleep environment that promotes relaxation and signals to your newborn that it is time to rest. Dim the lights, maintain a cool room temperature, and introduce calming elements such as gentle music or white noise.

2. Implement a Gentle Bedtime Routine:
Develop a predictable bedtime routine that includes soothing activities such as a warm bath, gentle massage, and lullabies. This routine helps signal to your newborn that it is time to wind down and prepares them for sleep. You can start this routine as early as 4 weeks old (or even earlier if you're able to). This can be absolutely magical in getting longer stretches of sleep in the first half of the night. 

3. Foster Healthy Sleep Associations:
Encourage positive sleep associations by incorporating gentle rocking, swaddling, or using a pacifier if appropriate for your baby. These associations can help soothe your newborn and create a sense of security during sleep. Don't worry about creating bad habits just as yet.

4. Promote Daytime Sleep:
Encourage regular daytime naps in a bright and stimulating environment to avoid overtiredness. Sleep begets sleep i.e. the better they sleep in the day, the better they'll sleep at night. Little newborns can get overtired very easily if they get overstimulated or are awake for too long. This causes their little bodies to get flushed with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline making them fight sleep even if they are really really tired. 

5. Seek Support and Guidance:
Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Reach out to healthcare professionals, parenting support groups, or sleep consultants experienced in working with newborns. They can provide guidance, answer your questions, and offer reassurance during this challenging phase.


In conclusion, attempting formal sleep training with newborns is not recommended or supported by research. Newborns have unique sleep patterns and developmental needs that necessitate frequent waking and feeding. Instead of focusing on sleep training, parents should prioritize creating a safe and soothing sleep environment, establishing healthy sleep routines, and seeking support from professionals and support networks.

Remember, the newborn phase is temporary, and sleep patterns will naturally evolve as your baby grows. By understanding and respecting the needs of your newborn, you can navigate this phase with patience, love, and support, ensuring that both you and your precious baby receive the rest you need to thrive.

So if anyone tells you that they can help to sleep train your newborn baby to help them sleep through the night, RUN THE OTHER WAY!! 🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻