These 6 baby sleep training mistakes can make sleep training a nightmare for new parents. Learn how to avoid them and have your little one sleeping peacefully in no time.
Let me guess:
When it comes to sleep training your baby, you’ve heard plenty of “we tried, but…” stories. You talk to other parents and they tell you they gave their best shot but it was a total failure.
You want to embark on this “terrifying” journey yourself, but now you’re having second thoughts.
Can I be totally honest with you?
In 90% of the cases, sleep training is unsuccessful because parents often fall into classic sleep traps like feeding or comforting their baby to sleep.
I’ve been there, and I’ve made those same baby sleep training mistakes myself.
That’s why, in this post, I’ll walk you through the most common things parents must avoid when sleep training their baby.
Let’s dive in!
Falling into the trap of negative sleep associations
Here’s the thing:
Falling asleep while feeding is just fine when you have a newborn who’s adjusting to life outside of the womb.
During their first few months, newborns can’t self-soothe and depend on the mother to rock them or feed them to sleep. The good news is that newborns don’t form bad habits.
However, around four months of age, babies start to mature neurologically and develop sleep routines. They also begin to form sleep associations.
There are two major types of sleep associations. We call them positive and negative sleep associations.
Positive associations develop when babies use something on their own to help them fall asleep, such as sucking a finger or holding a lovey.
Rocking or feeding the baby to sleep is a baby sleep training mistake that should be avoided.
Your little one may become dependent on these things to fall asleep.
In other words, you’ll have to do the same thing you’re doing to get him to sleep at bedtime whenever he wakes up at night.
Tip: The best thing you can do is to gradually wean your little one off of these negative sleep associations and help him learn how to self-soothe without your help. Place him in his crib the moment he becomes drowsy but awake. If he’s older than four months, put him to sleep awake and not drowsy. This practice will help him learn to connect going to sleep with being in his crib, not in your arms.
Running to offer comfort at each cry
Think about this for a moment:
Mothers are extremely sensitive to the sound of crying. In fact, the sound of a baby’s cry is almost impossible to ignore.
As a result, mothers rush to their baby’s room when they hear a cry or a fuss.
It’s an instinct.
Unfortunately, falling into the trap of this instinct is a major baby sleep training mistake.
As your child gets older, he learns that he can use his cries to his advantage. He discovers that when he cries, his mother will run to comfort him.
- Give your baby a few minutes to see if he settles back down on his own.
- Set a timer for five minutes. If he’s still crying after five minutes, go into his room and reassure him he’s okay.
- Go back into his room every five minutes.
- The next night, increase the time to ten minutes before going into his room to offer reassurance.
And so on. In two days or three, your baby will have an easier time falling asleep on his own.
Continuing your night feedings
How many times have you fed your little one just to avoid listening to his sobs?
I’ll guess too many times.
The bad news is those night feedings are a baby sleep training mistake that can create a long-term problem.
If your baby is older than six months and growing normally, he doesn’t need night feedings—even though he’s asking for them loudly.
Not only will nighttime feedings disrupt your sleep training process, but they can affect your baby’s daytime eating too. It’s the start of a vicious cycle where your baby eats too much at night, refuses food during the day, so he’s hungry again at night.
Tip: Make feeding a part of your bedtime routine. Another tip is to let your partner put the baby down at night and respond to any night wakings. Have some breast milk ready at hand so that your baby can feed without the nursing-sleep association. Or, you can always go cold turkey.
Having a late bedtime
Have you ever found yourself keeping your little one up until he’s exhausted, believing this would make him sleep longer and more deeply?
I’m sorry to tell you, but a late bedtime can have a detrimental effect.
When you extend your baby’s bedtime, you’re risking over-tiring him.
And an overtired baby takes longer to fall asleep and wakes up more often.
By the time your little one is three or four months old, the ideal bedtime for him would be between 7 and 8 p.m.
- Instead of over-tiring your baby, follow a consistent bedtime routine to help him relax.
- Give him a bath, put him in his pajamas, and read him a story.
- If he’s used to going to sleep at, let’s say 10 p.m, try moving bedtime earlier by 15-20 minutes every 2-3 days until you reach your ideal bedtime.
The first day or two of sleep training, you’ll be feeling hopeful. You’ll know that your current sleeping situation is unbearable and that better nights are coming.
However, by day three or four, you may start experiencing some doubt about whether your methods will work to improve your child’s sleep.
There will be plenty of crying and fussing, friends and family saying that sleep training is new-age nonsense, and disagreements between you and your partner.
I want to tell you not to lose hope.
In fact, losing hope is another major baby sleep training mistake.
Change is possible.
You’ve already taught your little one so much and will continue to teach him many important lessons in life. Remember you’re an incredible parent who can survive any situation.
With commitment, persistence, and consistency, healthy sleep habits and a good night’s sleep are within reach.
Not hiring an educated sleep consultant
Sometimes, a super sleep-deprived mama needs help, encouragement, and advice from a professional sleep consultant to guide her through the process of sleep training.
Hiring a sleep consultant means that someone will always be available to help you adhere to a well-regimented plan. You’ll know what to do in each situation, receive words of encouragement, and most of all, get all the reassurance you need that you’re an amazing mother!
The best news?
Sleep training services are HSA and FSA eligible.