Mistakes? Parents don't make mistakes, they just have learning opportunities, but the title was already too long so we'll all just have to roll with it.
Sleep training is not always easy, and it can even be downright confusing, especially with all the information and misinformation out there. If you are reading this and wondering what the heck I am referring to when I use the words “sleep training,” then you need to click this link before you read any further and learn exactly what I mean by the term sleep training.
Ok, so now that we are all on the same page, let's discuss the most common “mistakes” I see parents make when they sleep train. I usually meet these parents after sleep training didn't work for their baby. Then it's my job to identify what “mistake” they made and help them correct it so that sleep training will work for their baby. Below I have outlined the most common mistakes I see parents making. PS--sleep training always works, when done correctly, with a healthy baby. Just sayin’. Also don't forget to check out this post about nap training.
1. Starting Sleep Training Too Soon
From 0-4 months babies lack the ability to self-soothe, and it is important for them to get the help needed to soothe to sleep. When a baby younger than four months is forced to sleep train, not only can the attempt fail to provide better sleep, but the baby and parents may experience extreme amounts of stress. Make sure your baby is at least 4 months before you begin any sleep training. Furthermore if your baby was born early, even by 2 weeks, you will want to wait until your baby is 4 months old from the due date as opposed to the birth date. We want to make sure your baby is 100% developmentally ready to sleep train and be the most successful once started.
2. Not Having/Following a Plan
It does not matter what you are trying to change, consistency is the most important piece in getting results. This is as true in baby sleep as it is in exercise. Consistency when sleep training means two things. First, choose and stick to a sleep training method. There are plenty of methods from CIO (Cry It Out) to No-Cry solutions. It honestly doesn't matter which method you choose as long as you can stick with it and be consistent. If being consistent is hard for you, then I would recommend a more direct approach, leaning close to the CIO side, because you will see results faster. If you are someone who thrives on patience and consistency, a more gentle method may be great for you! Whatever plan you choose make sure you are consistent and true to that method. Do not switch back and forth from checks to no checks. It will do nothing but confuse your baby and delay results.
The second part of being consistent is about having a plan. This means you need to define exactly what your training method looks like and what you will do in unusual or unique situations when sleep training. Sleep training is stressful, and when we are stressed we tend to not think clearly and make decisions that might end up hurting our cause instead of helping it. One example of this is knowing what you will do when your baby only takes a 20 minutes nap instead of the needed hour long nap to truly rejuvenate your baby. Depending on the age of the baby, they may need an additional nap shortly after, or perhaps an earlier bedtime, or perhaps no change to the schedule. Having a plan and thinking through the possible situations before you begin can assure you are making the right decision when you are in the thick of it. With my Sleep Plan Package, clients get two weeks of support from me, where they can ask any and all questions they have! When parents are stressed they turn to me, and I can help them make the best choice for their child to improve faster!
3. Sleep Training an Overtired Baby
Did you know that you can teach your baby to fall asleep on his own at the beginning of the night (aka sleep train), and he might still wake up frequently at night? When parents tell me they have a baby who is falling asleep unassisted, with no sleep aids, at the beginning of the night but still waking more than normal for the age, I always consider lack of sleep as the problem. Therefore, the first thing I look at is the sleep schedule. I make sure they are on an age appropriate sleep schedule and getting enough sleep in order to help them sleep better at night.
The same principle applies when you are in the middle of sleep training. If your baby is going to bed too late or not getting enough sleep during the day, your baby may wake up as often if not more often while sleep training and after. Make sure you are providing them with the appropriate number of naps and an early enough bedtime while sleep training to help them sleep their best as they learn and even after they've accomplished falling asleep on their own.
This is also the most important part of sleep between 0-4 months of age. A baby who is well rested will sleep training much easier. If you are interested in receiving exclusive access to my Newborn Survival Sleep Guide to keep your baby well rested, click here and I will send it to you for free in Facebook Messenger. You will learn exactly what newborn sleep looks like and how you can help you baby stay well rested until he is ready to sleep train.