Is sleep training your preemie any different than sleep training a full-term child? Are there any tips and tricks that can help? Let’s try to answer these questions in the post below!

A baby born earlier than 37 weeks is different from a full-term baby. Preemies need more sleep, are more fragile, and are at higher risk of developmental problems. 

However, one thing is the same: both premature and mature babies need high-quality sleep. 

In 2011, a study confirmed what was believed for a long time: growth hormone is produced during sleep. This was the first study to show a connection between sleep time and growth spurs. There was no more denying that children need high-quality sleep. 

The study is just another reason why good sleep is critical to preemies.

Do preemie babies sleep through the night?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, preemies may sleep for up to 22 hours per day, but usually one hour at a time. It’s common for preemies to sleep for one hour and stay awake for 20 minutes to feed. 

Their sleep schedule and sleep habits are different from full-term babies that usually get 14-17 hours of sleep over 24 hours.

For the first few weeks, your preemie will be waking up every hour of the night to feed. However, he’ll start sleeping longer stretches once he develops like his full-term peers and won’t need to feed as often. Until then, remember that he’s still underdeveloped and needs to wake up frequently to feed to grow into a fully-functional child.

When should I start sleep training my preemie?

Most babies can be sleep trained when they’re as young as two months old. Before you start sleep training, make sure you consult with your pediatrician and keep in mind your baby’s adjusted age.

Full-term babies may sleep through the night at three or four months of age, but a preemie may not do so until he’s six or eight months of age or even older. Bear in mind that up to about five or six months corrected he’ll probably need at least one night feeding. 

how to sleep train a preemie

How do you sleep train a premature baby?

There’s no difference in how you sleep train a preemie and a full-term baby. You have several sleep training techniques at your disposal. One of the most popular ones is the cry-it-out approach that involves techniques such as the Ferber method and Weissbluth’s method. In a nutshell, it involves letting your baby cry as he learns to fall asleep on his own.

There are other gentler techniques, such as the Fading method and Camping Out method. 

The Fading Method is a gentler technique that involves giving your toddler the hugs and cuddles he needs but gradually reducing the amount of time you’re in his room. 

The Camping Out method involves putting your baby to sleep and placing a chair next to his bed. If he starts fussing or crying, you give him verbal reassurance from the chair or even pat him once in a while. You stay in his room until he’s fallen asleep. If he wakes up in the middle of the night, you sit on the chair and repeat the process. 

The best sleep training method depends on what works best for you and your family. 

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine

At the core of a successful sleep training process is a consistent bedtime routine. Even though your preemie may not be sleeping through the night, it’s a good idea to establish a consistent routine that will help him recognize when it’s time to sleep. 

Like choosing a sleep training method, the best bedtime routine for you depends on what works best for you and your little one. Commonly a consistent bedtime routine includes a routine of giving your baby a warm bath, diaper change, getting him into a swaddle, dimming the lights, and playing some white noise. Once you find something that works for you, remain consistent. Your baby will learn what to expect, which can help him to eventually self-soothe. 

sleep training a preemie

Final word

Preemies have unique sleep patterns and special needs. But there’s not much difference between a preemie and a full-term baby when it comes to sleep training. Consult with your pediatrician when’s a good time to start sleep training and dedicate a few days to the process. Go with a method that works for you and your family, and remember always to maintain a consistent bedtime routine.