So you finally geared up the strength, courage and readiness to begin sleep training your baby, expecting that you would be enjoying the fruits of your labour within a week. And yet, weeks and weeks go by and your baby is still waking up throughout the night! WHAT GIVES? The reality is that for sleep training to work, you need to address the multitude of factors contributing to the sleep problem. Below is a list of the top 5 sleep training mistakes I’ve come across in my career:
1) Lack of readiness
In order for you to make big changes to your baby’s sleep, you need to be ready. And I mean READY to make these changes and stick to them. Often parents don’t realize what kind of commitment is involved and are not ready to prioritize sleep needs over other priorities.
2) Baby is overtired.
Before beginning any sleep training plan, make sure you are well-versed in your baby’s sleep needs. You should know what a typical daily schedule should look like for your baby. Improperly timed naps, short naps, extremely large awake periods or a bedtime that is too late will lead to an extremely overtired baby. Attempting to sleep train an extremely overtired baby with a daytime schedule that doesn’t meet his sleep needs will be disastrous and can lead to copious amounts of unnecessary tears and protest. Don’t waste your time!
3) Putting baby down “drowsy but awake”.
Oh how I loathe this saying, mainly because it confuses parents. When a baby is a newborn, attempting to put him down drowsy but awake is a fantastic goal. However, once your baby is old enough to be sleep trained, you want to ensure you are putting your baby COMPLETELY awake in his crib so that he learns to do 100% of the work on his own. Rocking or feeding a baby halfway to sleep is going to thwart your efforts since this baby isn’t really learning how to fall asleep completely on his own.
4) Lack of consistency
Oh man- if only I had a dime for every time I’ve had to remind a family to remain consistent! One of the biggest sleep training mistakes I see is a lack of consistency. This advice applies across the board to those of you who are implementing the most direct approaches to the most gentle. BE CONSISTENT! Starting and stopping the process, as well as switching things up multiple times can be extremely confusing and aggravating to your baby, which will likely lead to MORE crying and protesting. Once you start the process, stick to it like glue and don’t look back.
5) Wrong choice of sleep training method
There are many choices of sleep training methods you can implement to teach your child how to fall asleep on his own, and how to fall BACK to sleep on his own. In order to figure out the right method for you, there are a few factors you should consider:
- Which method is most in line with your family’s parenting philosophy? It’s essential to make sure you choose a method that you will be comfortable executing consistently
- How old is your child that you are attempting to sleep train? I don’t recommend using a direct approach like Ferber for toddlers and older babies who are going through separation anxiety. I also recommend using gentler approaches for babies under 5 months of age.
- What is your child’s temperament? Is she calmed by your presence in the room? If that’s the case, it would make sense to you a gradual fading approach. However, if your presence seems to make matters worse by causing a big distraction, a more direct approach might be a better fit.