It’s January. It’s cold and dark outside. The holidays are over and you are done traveling. Perhaps, you are counting down the days until spring. I know I am. And all you want to do is hunker down and sleep. Oh wait, you can’t. You have a baby or toddler who doesn’t sleep well and wakes repeatedly throughout the night or refuses to nap. The good news is January is one of the best times of the year to start the process of sleep training. Granted, there is never an absolutely ideal time to train your baby to sleep better; babies will always get new teeth, or have the potential to catch a cold, or life will always seem to get in the way. At least, January offers a lot of benefits.
It is cold and dark outside. In January, the sun sets early in the late afternoon and doesn’t rise again until after 7am the next morning. Cool, quiet, dark room environments are a big part of successful sleep training. Take full advantage of the long nights; spring will be here before you know it.
Most families are done with holiday travel. Most families travel at least once over the holiday season. Day trips are disruptive to naps and overnight stays pose challenges to children who already have problems sleeping at home. In January, most people are done with traveling and hunker down for at least a few weeks. Ideally, families should wait several weeks after good sleep patterns establish before attempting to travel again. If you start now, there is still plenty of time for a ski weekend later in the season.
All relatives and house guests have gone home. Although some relatives can be very useful to have around the house, most are not willing to get up in the middle of the night to help with a crying baby. Furthermore, house guests can cause problems with naps. Many three year olds, for example, much prefer to play with Grandma rather than nap.
If your baby is at a least 18 weeks old, hits developmental milestones on time, and is otherwise healthy, January is a good time to think about sleep training. If possible, I prefer for babies to be around six months old or older, but understand that some families benefit from earlier intervention. Most babies respond beautifully to gentle sleep training techniques, but always obtain clearance from your pediatrician first and ideally work with a certified pediatric sleep coach if you run into problems.