Sleep training toddler

Sleep Training Your Toddler: 5 Gentle Techniques To Help You Both Get Some Much Needed Rest

All expectant parents will have been asked the question: are you planning on sleep training? Whether you are a stay at home mom or a working mom, sleep is important for everyone! This article aims to give a thorough overview of what sleep training is, the different methods, safe sleep and much more!

What are the best sleep training toddler techniques and why should I use them?

For parents of toddlers, getting enough sleep can seem like an impossible dream.

Whether your toddler is experiencing a growth spurt or is going through a rebellious phase, you can feel helpless and exhausted as you try to encourage better sleep habits. Fortunately, there are some gentle sleep training toddler techniques you can use to help you and your child get some much-needed rest.

From establishing a bedtime routine to understanding the difference between “sleep coaching” and “sleep training”, this guide will provide parents with the information and tools needed to help them and their little one get the rest they need.

With a bit of patience, practice, and perseverance, you can find the sleep solution that works best for your family.

Better Sleep Increases Cognitive Function

Sleep is the magical place in which we grow physically and mentally. While the body rests, the brain processes the new things your newborn learned during the day to allow more room to grow when awake. Getting adequate rest increases brain development, as well as immune function.

What is sleep training?

Sleep training is a term to describe a range of techniques that are used to help infants and young children learn to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get back to sleep if they wake up during the night.

Essentially the main goal is to teach the child to self-settle so that they can happily sleep through the night.

Sleep training is not recommended for newborns nor is it recommended for children who have special needs or are experiencing other forms of trauma. Your baby will probably start sleeping in a bedside bassinet and then be ready to move to a crib. Many parents choose a gentle sleep training method when their child is around 4-6 months old and as a baby’s sleep patterns change so should your approach to sleep training.

If your child is 12 months or older, gentle sleep training methods are still an option – it’s not too late! You may like to explore the different sleep training techniques below if you’re feeling sleep deprived, your child isn’t able to self-soothe, and still has night wakings.

Sleep coaching versus sleep training

Sleep coaching refers to the process of talking to your child about sleep, sharing expectations, and gently guiding him or her to sleep. This is done without setting any rules or expectations that your child will “earn” a certain amount of sleep.

This approach is very different from sleep training, where you set clear rules and expectations. While sleep coaching takes a more “let it happen” approach, sleep training is considered a more “push it to happen” approach.

There are many misconceptions about sleep training and what it actually entails.

Some people believe that sleep training only involves the cry-it-out method (CIO) which can cause separation anxiety. This approach is no longer recommended as it doesn’t reflect the true definition of sleep training.

If you’re interested in teaching your child to sleep through the night and fall asleep independently then there are many other sleep training methods that not only teach good sleep habits but crucially guide the child towards being able to begin falling asleep independently. Choose the sleep training method that works best for your child and family.

Benefits of sleep training

There are several benefits to sleep training your child. When properly rested, he/she is more likely to be happy, cooperative, and engaged. Toddlers need plenty of good quality sleep in order to get a healthy amount of exercise, learn about the world and understand their emotions.

In addition, sleep training can help parents who are experiencing postpartum depression (PPD) by reducing sleep-related stress and increasing the amount of sleep that both parents and their children are getting. Often mistaken for sleep deprivation, PPD is a serious and often undiagnosed condition that can impact the health and well-being of both mother and baby. Recognizing the signs of PPD is vital in order to get professional help as soon as possible.

While sleep training may seem like an extreme measure, it can be a helpful way to reset sleep patterns for the entire family. Sleep training can also help you avoid sleep-related health problems in the long term, including obesity, diabetes, and depression.

When children don’t receive enough sleep, they are much more likely to gain weight and develop behavioral issues.

When parents don’t get enough sleep, they are more likely to be irritable, moody, and engage in anti-social behavior, which can lead to depression.

Creating a safe and comfortable sleeping environment

Parents often think they have to sleep train their children as soon as they start having sleep issues. Others have a gentle sleep training plan already planned out from birth. In reality, sleep training is never an “all-or-nothing” approach. Depending on your child’s age and temperament, you may be able to gently introduce a few sleep training techniques.

One of the most important things you can do to facilitate better sleep is to create a safe and comfortable sleeping environment for your child. This can often be as simple as regulating the temperature in your child’s room, removing excess clutter and toys, and using a sleep sack or wearable blanket to regulate your child’s temperature and help him/her stay covered throughout the night.

White noise can be an excellent tool for parents to use when setting up a desirable sleep environment. Likewise, a low-level light or nightlight can be ideal when you start sleep training, especially for toddlers.

Many parents love using a baby monitor – I recommend the CuboAi Plus Smart Baby Monitor. Read my CuboAi Plus Smart Baby Monitor review here.

Sleep environment checklist:

  • White noise
  • Minimal toy distractions – one favorite toy is plenty
  • A dark room – black-out blinds are ideal for summer months and daytime naps
  • Comfortable room temperature
  • Appropriate sleep clothes
  • Sleeping bag/sack
  • Sleep clock with night light
  • Baby monitor
  • Properly fitted crib sheets

Establishing a sleep routine

One of the most effective sleep training techniques is to establish a predictable, consistent sleep routine.

A good rule of thumb is to start your child’s bedtime routine at least one hour before she actually goes to bed. This gives you and your child plenty of time to wind down and transition into a calming and relaxing state of mind.

Here are a few tips for creating a sleep routine:

  • Start the routine at the same time every day. Consistency is key when it comes to sleep training, and having a routine is a great way to help your child understand when it’s time to go to sleep.
  • You don’t want to create an all-day event when it comes to bedtime. Keep your routine short and sweet, and make sure all major activities happen earlier in the day.
  • Include calming activities. These can include baths, reading time, singing, and other activities that help your child relax.
  • Invest in a good quality chair for the nursery – a nursery chair has multiple uses: as a breastfeeding chair, storytime, rocking to soothe a fussy baby – the list is endless! Check out my post: The Best Breastfeeding Chair: Top 5 for 2023
  • Repeating the routine every night for about a week is a great way to begin sleep training and teach your children important sleep cues.


Careful attention to napping is essential to prepare your toddler for night time sleep. After all, night wakings can be directly related to your toddler sleeping too much during the day. Baby sleep requirements are very different from that of toddlers so many parents follow a napping schedule along with gentle sleep training.

Think of it like this: fine-tuning daytime sleep can have a huge impact on night sleeping.

Practicing self-settling and sleep associations at naptime means that you are consistently teaching your toddler self soothing skills and therefore encouraging independent sleep.

Choosing a sleep training method

Before embarking on a sleep training journey with your toddler, it is important to understand the different methods available. Knowing which method will work best for you and your toddler will help you to find success.

The two main types of sleep training are the ‘cry-it-out’ and ‘no cry’ methods. Cry-it-out involves allowing your toddler to cry until they fall asleep, while no-cry methods involve comforting or distracting strategies that can help your toddler learn to settle themselves.

As mentioned above, cry-it-out methods are not recommended anymore as they do not gently sleep train your child. Also an excessively crying baby can be very distressing for some parents.

It is important to also consider the temperament of your child as some children may be more suited for certain methods than others.

Note: there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to sleep.

Gentle sleep training techniques

There are many different gentle sleep training techniques you can try. Keep in mind that the best sleep training techniques are those that work with your child’s unique temperament and personality. Therefore, it’s important to experiment with different techniques and see what works best for your family.

Here are a few of the most common sleep-training techniques for toddlers:

  • Ferber method
  • Fed to sleep method
  • Rocked to sleep
  • Co-sleeping
  • Parent touch method

Ferber method

This is a modified version of the cry-it-out method (CIO) that involves increasing the amount of time your child is put in the crib every few days until he/she eventually spends the entire night in the crib. Also known as ‘graduated extinction’, it is not the most popular sleep training method as parents don’t like to listen to their baby cry and find it very distressing. Also, not all babies respond quickly to this technique and can take longer periods than others to learn to fall asleep alone.

Fed to sleep method

This method is often used by parents who may have helped their baby fall asleep with either a bottle or breastfeeding. This association is very strong and disrupting the habit can be challenging for both parent and child.

Using milk to help your baby to fall asleep may appear a simple and effective way of gently helping your baby to fall asleep. However, when your baby becomes a toddler the night wakings requesting milk can become very disruptive. It is often at this point that parents seek some help.

The goal is to feed after sleep and not allow the child to fall asleep when feeding.

  • Set up the sleep environment and ensure they have a full tummy before getting into bed.
  • Settle into their bed then say a sleep phrase like “It’s time to go to sleep darling”.
  • If really struggling then give a feed but do not allow them to fall asleep while feeding.
  • Repeat this method and replace the feed with a different sleep cue such as a song or phrase.
  • Eventually your child will no longer associate naps/night time sleep with a feed and will learn to self settle.

Rocked to sleep

If you rocked or cuddled your baby to sleep as a baby then this gentle method can be used to help an older child sleep alone.

  • Set up the sleep environment and ensure your child has a full tummy before getting into bed.
  • Put your baby into their bed then say a sleep phrase.
  • Leave the room and allow him/her to try to self-settle alone.
  • Set a timer for a length of time you feel comfortable with (this is usually between 4 and 7 minutes).
  • If your child is still crying go in and use your voice to settle.
  • If this works and they quieten then leave the room and repeat the process.
  • If your voice alone does not soothe your toddler then gently rock him/her until calm but not to sleep. Place back into the bed.
  • Repeat this process.
  • Each time you hear your baby become upset add an extra 30 seconds to the timer before going in to help settle.


The goal here is to teach your toddler to sleep independently.

Often parents choose this method of they have co-slept with the baby since birth.

Encouraging a toddler to sleep in their own bed can be very challenging if he/she has always slept in the parental bed. However many parents find that the quality of their relationship and health can become compromised by consistently poor sleep sharing their bed with a wriggly toddler.

  • If possible put your toddler’s bed in your bedroom. Start the method by putting him/her in their own bed in your room for naps only. Feed or touch to soothe to sleep if needed. Remember to create a good sleep environment with blackout curtains, white noise and minimal toy distractions. See ‘Sleep environment checklist’ above.
  • After a few days your toddler will understand the sleep associations at naptime and will be ready for the same at night time. Use the same methods of setting up the sleep environment at night time too and put them to sleep in their own bed in your room.
  • When your child has learned to sleep all of his/her naps in their own bed for naps and night time it is time to move to their own room. Expect a slight setback here but be consistent. Reversing your decision will confuse your child and send mixed messages.

Parent touch method

  • Sit on a chair next to your infant’s bed.
  • If/when your child gets upset gently sing or talk to him/her and pat if needed.
  • Stop when your child settles.
  • The first night you wait until your child falls asleep. Then gradually move your chair away each night using your voice and touch to soothe when needed.
  • Eventually move the chair to the door then onto the other side of the doorway.

Tips for managing sleep regressions

If you decide to sleep train your child, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience some sleep regressions.

A sleep regression is a sudden and significant decrease in sleep that happens in response to a major developmental or environmental change in a child’s life.

Typically sleep regressions are understood to occur at:

  • 4 months
  • 8-10 months
  • 18 months

These can vary from child to child of course.

Many regressions happen when a child is transitioning to a new sleep environment, such as transitioning to her own room or transitioning to a bed. If you notice that your child’s sleep has regressed, you can follow these tips to get him/her sleeping more soundly again:

  • Take a step back. If your child’s sleep has regressed, don’t try to push it back towards normal immediately.
  • Give him/her the time and space needed to adjust to a new sleep routine.
  • Be consistent. Once your child’s sleep has regressed, it’s critical to be consistent. Any changes in your child’s sleep routine can make things even worse.
  • Be patient. It may take several days or even weeks for your child’s sleep to return to normal. Allow plenty of time to adjust to a new sleep environment.
  • Know when to seek help. If your child’s sleep has regressed and your family is struggling, it’s never a bad idea to seek professional help from a sleep consultant.

Sleep tracking tools

If you’re trying to get a better understanding of your child’s sleep patterns and habits, you may want to consider using a sleep-tracking tool.

Sleep tracking tools are used to track your child’s sleep patterns and habits, such as the amount of time spent in bed each night, how often your child gets out of bed, how many nighttime wake ups, etc.

Some sleep tracking tools are apps you can download on your phone, while others are wearable devices that track your child’s sleep patterns throughout the night.

There are many different sleep tracking tools available, so you’ll want to choose one that best fits your family’s needs and sleep habits.

Sleep training courses and coaches

If you’ve tried everything but feel like you’re still struggling to get your child to sleep, it may be time to consider hiring a sleep coach or sleep consultant. Sleep coaches are trained professionals who can help you create a personalized sleep plan for your child and provide guidance and support throughout the process.

Sleep training courses are also available online, and they can be a great way to learn more about sleep training techniques and strategies that can help your child get better quality sleep. Many of these courses also offer helpful tools, such as sleep logs and charts to help you track your child’s progress.

Sleep training apps

Every year there are new apps, such as Little Ones developed to help parents get some much needed rest. It is easy to spend hundreds of dollars on apps that don’t quite fit you, your child, or your family. Shop around and look at their social media presence for social proof before purchasing.

When to get outside help from a professional

  • You have consistently tried gentle sleep training methods but are seeing little to no improvement to the quality of sleep.
  • Your child becomes unwell for an extended period of time.
  • Unexplained excessive crying.
  • Your mother’s instinct is telling you something is not quite right.


Getting your child to sleep can be a difficult and frustrating process, but with the right tools and resources, you can help your child develop healthy sleep habits.

Top tip: carefully choose the sleep training method according to your toddlers current sleep habits. The stick to it. Remain consistent!

Consider using a sleep tracking tool to gain insight into your child’s sleep patterns and habits, try out one of the many sleep training courses available, or consult a qualified sleep coach if you feel like you need some extra help. With the right tools and resources, you can get your child on the path to better sleep in no time.


Q. Does gentle sleep training actually work?

It is possible that gentle sleep exercises work very effectively. Please keep in mind the gentle methods will need patience as it might take some time to achieve real results. However, although gentler techniques might require weeks of effort before you begin to see noticeable improvements, it’ll often be more enjoyable for everyone! Assuming you commit to your sleep training plan and have the time and energy to achieve your goal, gentle sleep training is the best and least expensive way to finally get babies and toddlers sleeping.

Q. When is the best time to start sleep training?

It is recommended that you start sleep training once your baby is at least four months old. This is because it takes time to develop the necessary skills and habits associated with sleep. At this age, they are able to understand basic sleep cues and can begin to learn healthy sleep habits. It’s important to remember that each child develops differently so if you feel ready to start later then that is fine too.

Q: What is the best sleep tracking tool for my child?

A: The best sleep tracking tool for your child will depend on your family’s needs and sleep habits. Consider looking into apps such as SleepScore, Sleep Cycle, and Bedtime which offer comprehensive sleep tracking tools.

Q: How do I know if I need to get outside help with my child’s sleep issues?

A: If you’ve been trying different techniques but still aren’t seeing any improvement in your child’s sleep habits, it may be time to consider consulting a qualified sleep coach. Additionally, if you feel like something else may be wrong or if your child is excessively crying during the night, it may be worth getting outside help.

Q. What if sleep training isn’t working?

If you’ve consistently tried different sleep training methods and techniques but still aren’t seeing any improvement, it may be time to consider consulting a qualified sleep coach. A sleep coach can help you pinpoint the root cause of your child’s sleep issues and provide personalized advice on how to address them. Additionally, if you feel like something else may be wrong or if your child is excessively crying during the night, it may be worth getting outside help from a doctor or other medical professional.

Here are some reasons that gentle sleep training may not be working:
  • Fever/illness – as parents we need to be more attentive to children when they are unwell depending on the nature of the illness and your baby’s age. Their sleep patterns may change and only sleep for a few hours at a time. The general advice is to manage this period of illness with consistency and when your child is recovered go back to the gentle sleep training method you were trying before they became unwell.
  • You are in a new home or on holiday – disruption to the usual sleep environment can affect your toddler falling asleep. Try to create the same routine at bedtime and stick to the same training method you were using before the holiday/house move.
  • A new baby in the family – an additional sibling can have a huge impact on sleep training for many families. Try to remain consistent if possible and flexible. Afterall mom and dad have a lot to cope with now!
  • Twins – If you have twins, it may be beneficial to use a combination of techniques to ensure both children get the sleep they need. In any case, it is important to remain consistent and trust the process when implementing any sleep training technique.

Final thoughts

When it comes to choosing the best sleep training method for your child, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It will depend on their age, temperament, and individual needs.

It is easy to become overwhelmed as a parent. Sleep is a crucial part of maintaining optimal mental health. Exhaustion can take its toll mentally and physically so try not to be too hard on yourself.

  • Choose a sleep training method that suits you and remain consistent (you will not see results overnight – no pun intended!).
  • Remain flexible and adapt the method if needed,
  • Trust the process,
  • Seek help and support when you feel you want to – there are no prizes for struggling alone!

Most importantly: trust your instincts. If you feel something isn’t right with your baby then seek help from a qualified professional.

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