Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
“Sleep Training”: When to Start
October 18, 2021

Found in age groups

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Blog 49“Sleep Training”: When to Start

History of “Sleep Training”

I finished my pediatric training in 1973 and began to practice general pediatrics in Chicago’s Chinatown. In 1978, I was recruited to join the full-time faculty of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago (now Lurie Children’s Hospital). A third of my time was devoted each to patient care, teaching medical students and residents, and research. My research interests were infant colic and sleeping difficulties. I founded the first Sleep Disorders Center in the Hospital and began counseling parents on how to help their child sleep better. The program involved a variety of strategies but primarily focused on using the child’s natural sleep rhythms as an aid to help the child sleep better. I had no name for this program.

My first son was born in 1967, and also as a practicing pediatrician, I was aware of the different approaches currently and historically to the subject of toilet training. In 1973, my wife and I participated, with our German Shepard, in a course called obedience training, so our dog would respond to our commands and accompany us safely without the need for a leash. A few years later, we enrolled in in a P.E.T. course to help us become better parents. P.E.T. stand for Parent Effectiveness Training. Whether it be toilet training, obedience training, or Parent Effectiveness Training, there is not just one way or one strategy to achieve the desired goal. 

Sleep training” is the term I eventually coined to describe the variety of ways that I taught parents how they might help their child sleep better. This phrase, “sleep training”, first appeared in print in the first edition of my book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, published in 1987, on page 96. However, in the popular mind, “sleep training” has become to mean only Extinction or Graduated Extinction (Blog Post 25).

When to Start “Sleep Training”

In the popular mind, and without any scientific support, Extinction or Graduated Extinction is thought to be never attempted under 4 months of age. Thus, it is commonplace for the general public and some professionals, especially in Australia, to state that sleep training should not begin until the child is at least 4 months old.

To help your child sleep better, please review ‘What A Parent Can Do’ and, if possible, start when you come home from the hospital with your newborn baby. The earlier you start to teach self-soothing, the better. It is never too early to start—but it is also never too late to begin. For example, it is never too late to help your child sleep better by encouraging earlier bedtimes or establishing bedtime routines. A result of your effort to help your child sleep better might be that she develops an easier temperament (Blog Post 48).   

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