Is sleep training not working for your child? What in the world can you be doing wrong? Here are seven things that may be blocking your efforts.
You had heard many sleep-training success stories from other parents that you were certain sleep training would work for you, too.
But after doing the cry-it-out method for two weeks, it only had partial success. Although now your baby falls asleep independently, she’s not sleeping through the night. She still wakes up like clockwork at 12 a.m, 3 a.m, and 6 a.m.
Why is sleep training not working? Are you doing something wrong?
The truth is that sleep training can be a challenging process for some children. Some children are more sleep trainable than others.
What’s more, although not intentionally, there are many things that parents don’t consider or aren’t doing properly when putting a sleep training plan into action.
To help you successfully sleep-train your little one, I’ve prepared a roundup of the seven most common reasons why sleep training fails.
Consistency in sleep training is what flour is to a cake: an essential ingredient that ensures structure and prevents everything from falling apart.
Consistency in sleep training is so important because your child needs some time to learn a new skill. That’s what sleep training is: teaching your baby a new skill.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes: how long did it take you to pick up a new skill like driving a car or learning a language? Probably it took more than a few hours.
Your bedtime routine should be consistent from day to day, starting at the same time and going in the same order. No napping in the car or the stroller. No skipping a day.
You need to do it every night, for at least a few weeks, or at least until your baby learns the hack of putting herself to sleep.
Feeding too close to bedtime
If you nurse your baby right before bedtime, she’ll begin to associate feeding with falling asleep. In other words, she’ll need to be nursed in order to go to sleep.
What you should do is separate feeding and falling asleep by at least 10+ minutes.
Instead of feeding her right before you place her in her crib, change the order of your bedtime routine.
For example, you can start by giving your little one a bath and a little massage.
Then, you can feed her. After she’s fed, you can end the bedtime routine by reading her a book. This should take a few minutes.
You’re using the wrong sleep training method for your child
Sometimes, one sleep-training method may be super effective for one child but entirely ineffective for another. Similarly, the best sleep training method for your friend’s family is not the best fit for your family.
Some children are too distracted or stimulated by their parents patting them on their back or shushing them. Similarly, some parents are uncomfortable with leaving the room and letting their baby cry.
In a nutshell, different families and temperaments require a different sleep-training method.
Not paying attention to naps
Another common reason why your baby wakes up every hour is that she may be having too little or too much day sleep.
In fact, being overtired or under-tired can have a massive impact on your child’s bedtime. You can’t sleep-train by only focusing on the nights.
What you need is a solid daytime nap schedule in place. The end goal should be to strike the right balance between awake time and sleep time.
As a general rule, you should use the guidelines in the table below.
As your baby gets older, her awake times will increase, her naps will get longer, and the number of naps she needs will gradually decrease.
Be aware of the “drowsy but awake” state
You must have heard experts talk about putting your baby down drowsy but awake.
However, after your child turns five months, she’s already past the newborn stage. If you’re placing her down drowsy but awake, it’s like you’re putting her down already asleep. This means that you’re doing 80% of the falling-asleep work for her, and she’s only doing 20%.
As a general rule, the drowsy but awake method works best for babies not older than four months. Older babies should be put to sleep fully awake and not drowsy.
Rushing at every little cry
Some parents would run to their baby the moment they hear a fuss. Especially if there are other children in the home, it’s easier for the mother to nurse her baby back to sleep than risk having everyone being awake at the same time.
However, rushing at every little cry can create long-term problems. Your child will learn that mom will come to nurse her back to sleep if she makes a fuss.
An elegant solution would be to get a video monitor and watch to see if your baby can soothe herself back to sleep. Give her a minute or two before rushing to her room.
Night feeding your child
Night feeding your little one can also create a problem. Your little one will learn that her mom comes into the room every two or three hours to give her some cuddles and some milk.
Eliminating night feeds can help with frequent night wakings, but it’s not required. You can still keep a scheduled night feed, but you’ll have to do it very strategically.
Keep in mind that before going with one strategic feed per night, you should consult with your pediatrician to assess the baby’s age and weight.
Another recommended step is to let the father put the baby down at night and respond to any night wakings. Have some breastmilk ready at hand so that your baby can feed without the nursing-sleep association.
Hopefully, now that you know the top 7 reasons why sleep training is not working for your baby, you’re ready to try again and succeed.