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Baby Sleep Questions Answered

Night Training vs. Nap Training: Which Comes First?

By Amalah


My hubby and I are ramping up to sleep train our 4.5 month old using some variation of the Ferber method. Our pediatrician gave us the green light and our son is showing strong signs of being able to self-sooth.

We have been letting him nap on us (on the rocking chair) since he was a wee one because otherwise he would not nap and would be cranky all day. Letting him sleep on us seemed like a small price to pay to have an otherwise happy, sweet baby all day long (and nighttime too, because as someone wise says “sleep begets sleep!”) …but now he’s getting heavier, and it’s just getting worse. Even while on us in the rocking chair, he often does not settle or sleep restfully anymore. As soon as we attempt to put him down, he wakes up and screams.

For the most part, nighttime sleeping is going okay (i.e. he doesn’t need to sleep on us), once we rock him and put him down (asleep), he will sleep through the night, waking once for a quick feed, although lately that has been more erratic too (sleep regression, perhaps).


Do you recommend:

– Nap training and nighttime training at the same time, or should we focus on nighttime first so he can develop those self soothing skills and apply them to his naps? Nap training is challenging because by the time he finally settles (or not), nap time is practically over. What do you suggest for nap training?

– He sleeps in a Rock N’ Play (at night) but is quickly outgrowing it…soon we will need to transition him to a crib/Pack N’ Play …again, wondering if I should just loop that in to the sleep training, or if it will help him learn to sleep on his own if he’s in his familiar and cozy Rock N’ Play?

I’m worried about how much to do all at once but I also don’t want to have to repeat the process every few weeks/months.

I know you have loads of messages to respond to, but if there’s any way you are able to reply within the next week, I’d be so, so super grateful. We are going to use the long MLK weekend to start, since my hubby will be home for three consecutive days.

Warm regards and much gratitude,

Okay, let’s get right to the meat of thing:

  1. Tackle nighttime training first.
  2. Move him to the crib ASAP.

For thing number one, I have to really echo most of the advice and guidance from The Sleep Lady’s piece on nap training, found here. If you have a successful “nap crutch” (sleeping on you, on the breast, in a swing/bouncer), it’s probably going to be easier to just continue using that until you’ve successfully sleep trained at night and Baby has indeed learned some self-soothing skills. Nighttime training can reduce the number of hours of sleep your baby gets those first couple nights, so to ensure better success, you want your baby to make up for that sleep through naps. So I give you my blessing to just let him nap in the rocking chair during your long weekend and don’t bother trying to transition him.

Once he’s able to go down at night “sleepy-but-awake” and settle himself to sleep, that’s the perfect time to start mimicking the nighttime routine for naps. PERSONALLY, I think nap training is much more difficult than nighttime (it’s bright outside! why can’t we play! I took the edge off by falling asleep for five minutes in the car! I’m so excited but also tired and now it’s been 30 seconds and I’m completely overtired!), so I really can’t add any more insights than what The Sleep Lady outlines. It’s good advice, but don’t be surprised or frustrated if naps don’t come together as quickly as night sleep.

As for thing number two, yep, exactly what you said about not wanting to repeat the process every couple months. The goal of sleep training is to get them to sleep in their crib, so there’s no point in muddying up the process with a non-crib option. Particularly one that rocks/bounces/vibrates, which are all sleep crutches in and of themselves. And as you noted it’s a crutch he’s going to outgrow soon enough ANYWAY. Consider the Rock-n-Play retired, at least for nighttime (Update from Editor: see comment below from a reader named Amanda.  She reminds us that the Rock-n-Play is not approved as safe for sleeping.).

If you are nervous about having it all be Too Much during the big Sleep Training Weekend, I would go ahead and stick with your current routine of putting him down asleep…but start putting him in the crib instead. That might be more a gentler baby-step to just suddenly being like, “AND NOW EVERYTHING ABOUT BEDTIME IS DIFFERENT!” that first night of Ferber.

Good luck! It sounds like you’ve got a good start on healthy, predictable nighttime sleep! Focus on that before the naps and hopefully it will all come together sooner rather than later. (Although yeeeeeeah, the four-month sleep regression is a BIG ONE, so don’t be too disappointed if that ends up ruining your best-laid sleep-training long-weekend plans.)

Published January 11, 2016. Last updated October 29, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Myriam

    January 11, 2016 at 9:46 am

    We used, which is a 5-10-15 method. They advise doing it around the clock, from the start. Their reasoning is that is helps to mitigate “mixed messages”. They do allow for a “nap” in the stroller or the car or something around 4pm if the earlier night were difficult. As long as you don’t use your “regular” sleep time crutch. My daughter was 7 months old, and dependent on the breast for falling asleep. It took 3 nights for night time, and about 2 weeks for naps… I did not wean at night until 14 months old, but used “dreamfeeds”.

  • MJH

    January 11, 2016 at 10:12 am

    We didn’t sleep train until 6-7 months because that’s when our kid quit going to sleep in our arms at night. Once she started squirming around while we tried to get her to sleep, we gave up and put her in the crib. From there, she learned pretty quickly. 

    4.5 months would’ve, I think, been too young for us (we also kept her in the Rock ‘n’ Play until 6 months), but when it was time, it became VERY OBVIOUS and it stuck (we haven’t had to re-sleep-train at all.)

    All that to say, of course, that this might work now or it might not, but if it doesn’t, you can easily try again in 2 months and it might stick. 

    (Sleep went to hell for us at the 4 month mark and it didn’t even out until 7 months, so maybe I should’ve sleep-trained sooner! But who knows!)

  • Jodie

    January 11, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Three kids in (and about to have my 4th) and just want to echo the nighttime thing first.  With **all** of my kids, naps didn’t become really easy until nighttime sleep was established.  My only piece of advice is to just stock up on wine.  Sleep training while worth it (in my experience) has also been hard each time (in my experience.)  Wine helps.

  • Bea

    January 11, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    I agree with Amy’s second-to-last paragraph about perhaps doing some baby steps rather than tackling everything at once. I didn’t have a Rock n play until my 4th baby and while I loved it, it made for some challenges with the transition to the crib. I think one of the simplest ways to do things is to pick whatever “sleep episode” (bedtime or nap) is easiest and start with that one. For example with my last baby, the first morning nap was the easiest to get her down for and they got worse as the day went on. Bedtime was actually 2nd worst and then getting her back to sleep at night was harder. So I started putting her in her crib for the first morning nap, and doing the rock n play for the other naps. Then at night she would start out in her crib but after any MOTN waking/feelings I’d put her in the rock n play. Little by little I kept progressing things until she always slept in the crib. You could look at your baby’s sleep and do some kind of similar progression for naps (arms to rock n play to crib) and bedtime (rock n play to crib). And the sleepy-but-awake thing is crucial! Again, I would start practicing this with the “easiest” sleep and work to the “hardest”, always aiming to use the minimum # of sleep crutches necessary. Combining this with periodic checks a la Ferber worked well for us. Good luck, it will be worth it!

  • Amanda

    January 11, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Not quite on topic, but RE the rock and play sleeper, just be sure your pediatrician knows your kiddos are sleeping in it…when I mentioned we had our son in this soon after birth, because his crib just seemed too big and far away, and friends had used them successfully, our doctor said they are NOT safe for sleeping, despite the name, due to the incline, neck control, SIDS, etc. So, we ended up using ours as a great place to put the baby, while awake, while we showered, etc., but moved him if he fell asleep, into a pack and play or crib…good luck with the sleep training.

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      January 11, 2016 at 6:13 pm

      Great point, Amanda. Thanks for highlight it.

  • Marisa

    January 11, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Whatever you do, do it before they start standing up. It’s a whole new ballgame after that developmental gem.

  • Karen

    January 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Amy you need to always include a link to this post from your blog when you do a sleep column. It’s my all time favorite blog post of any blog.