"I've Tried EVERYTHING!" Why sleep training fails...
When clients contact me and we begin their first consultation. It is extremely common that they believe their child will never sleep as they've already tried 'sleep training' and it didn't work.
Well, good job I like a challenge!
The thing is, it's easy enough to find so much advice about sleep training online but it's all going to be very generic and not personalised to your child and your situation. This is where sometimes, the techniques parents have tried have not worked for them.
Here are some common reasons sleep training may have failed for you and how you can get back on track:
Nap Training: Some parents try to take a gradual approach and begin their chosen settling method for one nap with the goal of slowly adding it in for night sleep later on. However, it's actually easiest to start with night sleep as their melatonin levels will be higher and they'll naturally be more ready to get in some zzz's.
Filling them up: As parents, our biggest fear is often that we don't want our babies to wake up hungry. Whilst we do need to ensure they get a nice filling feed before sleeping, we also need to give them time to digest as this can be uncomfortable and prevent sleep. If your child is 6+ months, they are likely no longer waking from actual hunger and don't need feeds in the night. Try to shift your feed earlier into the bedtime routine and see if this helps your little one to settle. This can also be a helpful change to make if your child falls asleep feeding and then wakes when you put them down - or very soon after.
Overtiredness: It is a common misconception that if you keep your little one awake, they'll be more tired at night and sleep better. Not quite. Sleep breeds sleep. Try to ensure you're following appropriate wake times for your little one's age and that they get the right window before you put them down for the night. This can ensure they have build up enough sleep pressure and that they're not overtired which can build up too much cortisol (stress hormone) in their system.
Age-appropriate methods: Because information online is so generic, it's very easy for parents to choose a method that is not suitable for their baby's age or situation. For example a baby younger than 4 months old would benefit from good habits and their caregiver helping them to get drowsy and then falling asleep the rest of the way by themselves. However, if you're doing this after 16 weeks, they actually should be learning to do all of it independently. I hate to be the messenger of this one...but if your baby is falling asleep in less than five minutes, they're not truly self-settling.
Consistency: Consistency is key when it comes to sleep training, no matter what method you have chosen. Even the super gentle approaches need a consistent approach from all caregivers. Us humans always want overnight results with EVERYTHING but sleep training needs time, especially for the more gentle approaches. Before deciding that something isn't working for you, give it a good 7-10 days of consistency and make a pact you will not change within that time - too much change can confuse your little one. Try to ensure for this time you have a schedule fairly clear around bedtime so that you aren't having your child stay in various environments or having unusually late nights etc.
Pushing bedtime too late: Sometimes when parents are suffering early wakes, they push bedtime later - in some cases, this can be the right thing to do. However, most of the time this is not the issue. Generally for babies 6+ months, aim for a bedtime between 7-8pm. If naps have been all over the place, which can happen during sleep training as everything consolidates, don't be afraid to put them down as early as 6-6.30pm.
No Support: Sleep training is really difficult. It is emotionally and physically exhausting and in the most tired points of the night, it is VERY easy to give in. However, it really is short term pain for a long term gain. Picture predictable day naps for time to yourself, child-free evenings and a full night of sleep- DREAMY. However, with the journey being tricky, it is important to have someone to support you. This could be your partner, family member or a friend for moral support. It could be a sleep consultant who is there with you every step of the way. My newest package includes UNLIMITED support - this means we could sleep train at 6 months old and then if you hit a regression when your child is 4...the support is still there for you.
Parenting Style and Method Mismatch: Before embarking on a sleep training method, make sure you can feel comfortable. If you are wanting an extremely gentle approach and choose to use a 'cry-it-out' method, it simply won't be successful because it doesn't fit your morals and values. Choose something you really believe you can stick to, even the 'no tears' methods do have some crying involved but this can be minimal.
Check out my affordable, downloadable PDF programmes to get the correct nap schedule for your little one's age - plus lots of age-appropriate advice, including how to settle them.
Need more support? Take a look at my one-to-one package options or book a FREE 15 minute consultation call with me today.