Why Sleep Training Fails

Sleep training - a person with long hair in a blue shirt sitting and looking defeated with hands around neck and a baby in the crib in the background

Have you tried everything to help your baby sleep better by sleep training on your own only to find that your sleep training attempts have failed?  Many parents that decide to work with a Good Night Sleep Site Consultant have already tried several different things.  They have read books, googled, looked at apps and talked to other parents. We have heard things like, “I think my baby just doesn’t require a lot of sleep”, “we have already tried several methods”, and “we have done early bedtime, late bedtime, added a nap, took aways a nap and nothing has worked”.  Does this sound like your experience with sleep training?   If so, you are not alone.  So, let’s dive into why sleep training often fails!  

First thing is first:  Why is sleep so important? 

Sleep is a vital aspect of a baby’s life!  It is just as important as eating properly and getting daily exercise. Sleep is an essential aspect of a child’s health and overall wellbeing.  Healthy sleep is important for your child’s cognitive ability, safety, mood, and immune system.  As we say at Good Night Sleep Site “Sleep is Everything!”.  

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Know What to Expect

When you make changes (even healthy changes), you can expect some protests or pushback from your child.  Your baby will probably cry as you implement those changes.  Crying is a way a baby communicates.  Often, we as parents think that we need to do everything we can to not allow our baby to cry.  But crying isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  A baby will cry for many reasons.  One reason a baby cries is we are trying to do many things to stop the crying and a baby may be getting over stimulated, overtired and like us, has just had enough.  Often in the sleep training process, you will find that less is more!   Here is a blog post that talks about the science of sleep training and crying.  

You also want to look at the full picture.  If your child is waking up many times a night or perpetually skipping naps or taking short naps, your baby may be already doing a lot of crying or being of our sorts due to being overtired.  Every attempt to help a child to sleep or back to sleep is resulting in more and more tears, push back and exhaustion.  With sleep training, there is an end to the cycle.  But first, you must set up a consistent environment, routine, schedule and response.  Offering your child these new tools over and over will put an end to this cycle of this overtired state.  Then once your child sees this as the new normal, the crying will get less and less, and your child will begin to sleep longer stretches and learn to put themselves back to sleep when they have normal wakings as we all do.  

Getting Set up For Sleep Training Success

Is the Timing Right?  

When considering doing sleep training, you want to make sure your child is ready biologically.  It is important to not to start too early.  A baby is not biologically ready to begin the sleep training process until at least 4 months of age adjusted (from due date).  Once a baby is 4 months there are biological tools that will make the process easier.  At this time, your child is ready to change from a wake window schedule to a clock-based schedule.  There are certain times of the day that your child’s body naturally produces melatonin. If you offer sleep during those times your child will have an easier time falling asleep.

Making sure the time is right also means making sure that everyone that cares for your child is on the same page.  Often sleep training fails because one caregiver is ready to make changes, but another isn’t, and this can be confusing to a child.  

If you are planning a holiday or vacation that will cause several disruptions to your ability to be consistent. It is suggested to wait until after your vacation.  Since sleep training means making changes, it takes time to set up the new structure surrounding your child’s sleep.  Once your child finds comfort in the new process that is when you will begin to see changes.  Children thrive within the structure of sleep training, but they need time to change their own expectations.  We suggest committing two weeks to a consistent plan to help your child understand and become comfortable with this new structure.  

Are All the Pieces in Place?

Often, when people think about sleep training, it is only the method of responding that is looked at.  But the truth is that before you even get to the method, you can give your child and yourself tools that will help support the process!  There are four pieces of the sleep training puzzle that are all equally important.  

Is your baby’s sleep environment conducive to sleep?  

Your child’s sleep environment can either support the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) or suppress it. Darkness is key here!  Darkness tells the body it is time to sleep.  So, reevaluate where your child is sleeping and make sure there is no natural light peeking through the sides of the blackout shades. I also recommend having a sound machine in a child’s room.  You will want to use this for all sleep cycles so that your child learns to associate the turning on of the sounds machine with preparing for what comes next, which will be the offering of sleep.  

Do you have a predictable and relaxing sleep routine in place?

A sleep routine is another important piece of the sleep training puzzle.  It is very hard for a child to stop and leave their favorite people and activities and go to sleep!  When sleep training it is important to use the routine as a transition and not as a means to sleep.  When sleep training, you will want to leave that job to your child.  

You often hear the term drowsy but wake.  If you help your child get too drowsy before laying them down, they won’t remember how to do the job themselves and will call you back each time they wake up.  Aim for 80 percent awake when you place your child into their bed or crib.  We like the term relaxed but awake because the word drowsy can give a parent a misleading message leading to helping too much.  

Are you offering an age-appropriate sleep schedule?  

Did you know that there are certain times of the day that offering sleep can be a tool for sleep training?  Setting up a schedule that follows your child’s circadian rhythms will help your child accept asleep easier.   If we offer too much or too little sleep during the day, it will bump the nights! 

You also want to look at what time you are putting your child to bed for the night.  At Good Night Sleep Site our number one tool and our secret weapon is an early bedtime!  You want to catch your child before they go into an overtired state!  An overtired state will cause more crying and push back.  

Then after all that is in place, the sleep environment, the sleep routine, and the schedule, now you look at the sleep training method.  

How Will You Respond? 

This is how you respond to your child as you teach them the skill of falling asleep unassisted. Here at Good Night Sleep Site, we use 3 different methods of response.  All these sleep training methods work with consistency (not to mention, time and patience).  All the methods will fail with inconsistency.  Check out this blog post on what methods we use in more detail here.  

All these pieces are important for success!  

A few more pro tips! 

Did you give it enough time?

Sleep training won’t happen in a day or so. There are a lot of factors involved in how long it will take.  First each baby is different, so you have to be patient with the process and give your child enough time to become comfortable with the new way of doing things.  Make sure you can dedicate enough time to the sleep training process.  As mentioned above, I would suggest being able to dedicate at least 2 weeks to the process. Some children will need more time.   

Consistency and Patience is Key

Every Sleep Consultant at Good Night Sleep Site will tell you the same thing, without consistency the plan will fail and will actually lead to more crying and uncertainty.  This is why it is important to put together a plan with all the pieces of the sleep puzzle.  So, it is best to start out with a plan that you feel you can be consistent with.  

Support is a Game Changer! 

If your tired mind and body are having trouble putting together and sticking to a plan, we have you covered!  Good Night Sleep Site can take the guesswork out of it for you!  Our sleep consultants will design an individualized plan, make decisions with you and (drum roll as this is often the game changer), give you support through the process with one of our SOS packages.  

All our sleep consultants have heard, “I could not have done this without you”.  We are professionals that live and breathe all things sleep. Many questions come up during the sleep training process and the process can become overwhelming.  Having a sleep consultant there to answer your personal individual questions is often the missing piece for many families!  

If you would like to know more about how our programs work to see if working with a GNSS consultant is right for your family, we offer a free 15-minute discovery call!  You don’t have to do it alone! 

Good Night Sleep Site Consultant
Good Night Sleep Site Consultant

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