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What about sleep training?

Babies have no control over their sleeping. Find out more.

baby in cot

Well-meaning friends and relatives may tell you to ignore your baby's cries so that they will learn to go to sleep by themselves. However, crying is your baby's only verbal way of telling you that they need something. 

Babies have no control over their sleeping. If they cry it's for a real reason or need, not because they are 'spoilt' and not because they are manipulating you. By meeting your baby's needs you are not spoiling them. You are helping your baby develop a sense of trust and self-esteem. Your baby's need for closeness and physical contact is a very real and important need.  

What do the experts say?

Baby sleep-training programs are becoming very popular. However, many experts are critical of them.

The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMH) has this to say in their 2022 Position Statement on Infant Sleep:

'AAIMH is concerned that extinction based behavioural sleep interventions are not consistent with the infant’s needs for optimal emotional and psychological health and may have unintended negative consequences … These type of sleep interventions are at odds with the overwhelming body of evidence that shows that the foundations for lifelong physical and psychological health are laid down in infancy when distress is responded to in a prompt and reliable way.'  

And the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) say the following in their 2023 Clinical Protocol on Physiological Infant Care, which talks about how to manage nighttime breastfeeding in young babies:

'Training young infants to sleep alone by failing to respond to their crying in a distant crib [cot] causes significant infant stress, as indicated by elevated infant cortisol levels, which persist on the nights when the infant is no longer crying. Parents often experience distress at not responding to their infant’s cries, and often find sleep training is not effective.'

They advise against sleep training, especially in the first 12 months.

Supporting your baby's sleep

In the end, many parents find it's easier to go along with their child's sleep pattern until it changes, and to alter their lives to help them to cope. The ABA booklet Breastfeeding: and sleep looks at this topic carefully. It gives a checklist of possible causes of wakefulness at different ages, as well as some practical suggestions to help your baby sleep. Different suggestions work at different ages.  

Parents do feel better if they have a list of effective ways to calm their baby. Things like movement, soothing sounds, comforting and management methods, all tried and tested by other parents in the same situation.  


© Australian Breastfeeding Association May 2023


Australian Association for Infant Mental Health. (2022). Position statement: Infant sleep.

Zimmerman, D., Bartick, M., Feldman-Winter, L., Ball, H. L., & Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (2023). ABM Clinical Protocol #37: Physiological infant care-Managing nighttime breastfeeding in young infants. Breastfeeding Medicine, 18(3), 159–168.

Read more on babies and sleep

Evidence-led info and practical tips from our Breastfeeding Information Series

Breastfeeding: and sleep