Sleep training your baby is hard. There are no two ways about it. But why is it that, sometimes, it looks plain impossible to sleep train your little one?
You’ve tried sleep training cry it out. You’ve tried no tears sleep training. You’ve read every article on sleep training online and you even bought a bunch of books on the subject. Yet, no matter what sleep training methods you apply, sleep training simply doesn’t work for your baby.
You are not alone! There are so many parents who blindly follow the rules in the sleep training books without taking into consideration important factors like how long sleep training takes to work, the link between separation anxiety and sleep training, etc.
Let’s take a look at 5 reasons you may fail at sleep training your baby:
1. Improper nursery conditions
No matter what method of sleep training you have chosen for your baby, there might be something in his surroundings that prevents him from sleeping through the night.
Many parents (wrongly) assume that to fall asleep, their baby needs to be warm, for example. What works for us does not apply to newborns and toddlers! A baby sleeps best in a cool room, preferably as dark as possible.
Another misconception is that babies need quiet to fall asleep and stay asleep – wrong! Your baby was used to massive noise in the utero so a source of white noise may be your pass to a full night’s sleep.
Hint: you can opt for a baby humidifier that will combine optimum air humidity with a soothing humming noise babies love when sleeping.
2. False start
Bad timing (developmentally speaking) is one of the main reasons parents fail at sleep training. Self-soothing (the ability you rely on when sleep training) only develops after your little one has reached 4-6 months. If your baby is younger than 4 months, don’t expect him to cope with sleep training – he simply hasn’t developed the mechanisms to do it!
Bad timing has another dimension here. The time of day you have chosen to sleep train your baby is another factor worth mentioning. As you (probably) know, there is a “sleep window” that opens when your little one is ready to fall asleep, but not yet overtired. If you miss this time window, your little one becomes hyperactive and no sleep training method can help you put him to sleep.
3. Following different rules as parents (caregivers)
Inconsistency never led to anything good. This applies to sleep training a baby/toddler as well. There are actually a lot of ways you can miserably fail in regards with consistency…
For example, you can start sleep training your baby and after the first few “successful” nights you may become lazier in following the same rules, and… Boom! Your “sleep trained” baby is waking up again in the wee hours. No matter how exhausted you are or how tempting it is to stop following the rules after the first night of uninterrupted sleep, don’t bend.
Another thing that’s a deal-breaker for successful sleep training is the lack of consistency in the different caregivers. Imagine you are a working mom, your husband takes day shifts and night shifts, and you also leave your little one at granny’s overnight once in a while.
Does each one of you know exactly what to do in regards with sleep training? Are you ALL on the same page (following the same rules)? If not, your child is getting mixed signals, preventing him from progressing in sleep training.
4. Not allowing enough time for changes to stick
There are a hundred and one sleep training methods out there. After you have made your research and made a list of several that you want to try, start with the first one and allow yourself and your child enough time to see if this particular sleep training method works for you and your baby.
Some experts say it takes at least 7 days for a new sleep habit to stick. I wouldn’t recommend changing to a new method after only 7 days, though. Each child is individual, so you have to follow his cues and monitor his progress before deciding a certain method doesn’t work. Only after you have allowed enough time for changes to stick (and they didn’t), you can go on to the next sleep training method on your list.
5. Choosing the wrong sleep training method
Sometimes, it’s not about what you are DOING wrong – it’s about what you are CHOOSING wrong. Just like different diets have different effects on people, not all sleep training methods are appropriate for every baby! Only because your neighbor swears by a certain sleep training method that worked like a charm with her baby, it doesn’t mean it will have the same magical power over your child.
When choosing a sleep training method for your baby, you have to take into consideration several factors: your baby’s age, their temperament, and your own sense of what’s right and wrong. Sometimes, it’s difficult to find a balance between these three factors. However, it is essential that you consider them all.
Only a sleep training method that is suitable for your baby’s current developmental stage will work for him. What’s more, if you don’t feel comfortable implementing certain methods when sleep training your baby, they probably won’t work. For example, if you are against cry it out baby sleep training, you will most probably fail at it because you will not be able to stand your baby’s crying for long enough to see if it will work or not.
Some final words
Sometimes, it takes A LOT more than 1 or 2 weeks to sleep train your baby. After all, babies are born different and have different needs and understanding of how sleep works during babyhood and toddlerhood.
Babies are not robots. Some will learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep for a couple of days while others will need months (if not years) to get it right. Remember, you are their teacher, not some warder. Besides, the lesson they have to learn is actually way more complicated than you may think.
For a grown up (especially a sleep-deprived parent), falling asleep is a piece of cake. For a baby, it is a long process that includes many smaller lessons to learn (like when they feel tired, how to relax before sleep, how to self-soothe, how to fall asleep on their own, how to stay asleep for the whole night, etc.).
Be patient and (sooner or later) your little one will sleep through the night. And so will you. I promise.