Going for long stretches without good sleep suuuuuuucks, and you probably feel at your wit’s end. You’ve read all of the books and articles, and you’ve tried the sleep training thing—Ferber method, cry-it-out method, etc.—without any measurable success. So what is the problem?
There are many possible reasons behind your baby not sleeping, and it can feel overwhelming to figure out your next step. To help you out, we have put together five common reasons for trouble with sleep training.
1. Baby is overtired.
The number one thing derailing your baby’s sleep is being overtired. Let’s try that again but even more emphasized. THE NUMBER ONE THING DERAILING YOUR BABY’S SLEEP IS BEING OVERTIRED! If your baby is tired out of her mind, she will not be receptive to a new way of falling asleep. It’s just not going to happen.
Unfortunately, if you’re already in the tired/overtired cycle, you can feel trapped and unsure of how to move forward. First, focus on adjusting your baby’s naps to ensure that she’s ready for sleep. Initially, do whatever is necessary to get her to sleep without becoming overtired, even if that means nursing, rocking, or swaying her to sleep.
Be conscious of her sleep cues and create a daily routine that addresses her napping needs. Only when she has a good daytime schedule down where she’s tired but not overtired will she have a shot at success with sleep training.
2. You haven’t tried long enough.
You’ll notice that we didn’t say, “You haven’t tried hard enough.” If you’re at the stage where you’re reading blogs about troubleshooting sleep training, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve tried hard enough.
The thing is, your baby is new to both sleeping and the learning process. You have to be patient. Whatever method of sleep training you choose, you have to do it the same way for at least three consecutive nights before making adjustments.
If you’re not giving your baby time to adjust, you’re preventing her from learning how to sleep better. She already knows one way (being rocked to sleep, nursed to sleep, patted to sleep, etc.), so you’re asking her to unlearn a strategy that already works for her.
Even the smartest baby in the world needs consistent repetition in order to unlearn a sleep habit successfully. So take a deep breath of that sweet baby smell, and try again tonight. If after three days things aren’t working, then you can adjust your strategy.
3. You’re inconsistent.
Being consistent is probably one of the hardest things to be as a parent. Intellectually, you know that you need to follow through the same way every time, but it’s So. Darn. Hard. Sometimes you’re too tired to think straight, or you’re at your wit’s end, or you’re stressed by any number of outside influences in your life, and it’s just easier to give in and do x, y, z to get your baby to go to sleep.
The problem with inconsistency is that you’re giving your baby mixed messages about your expectations for her. Sleep is a learned skill, and when you are teaching her how to do it a new way, she needs consistent repetition. Once you commit to a sleep training method, you’ve got to really commit. Sure, it might be a rough few days, but if you’re consistent (and she’s ready to learn), you have a greater chance of success.
4. Your expectations are out of whack.
Everyone has that one friend whose baby was sleeping through the night when she was two days old. You see her little peanut sleeping peacefully in her crib with the light on and her siblings playing nearby. It’s truly an amazing sight to behold.
And you think about your own kid: There’s no way she’s going to sleep unless it’s pitch black, you’ve fed her exactly 4.526 ounces, the sound machine is on, Jupiter and Saturn have aligned, and you have read “Goodnight Moon” once in English and once in Scandinavian.
Friends, family, and mommy-bloggers all have the best intentions with their “guaranteed sleep training tips,” but buying in can set you up for some unrealistic expectations. The fact is, your baby has physiological and developmental changes throughout her babyhood that will impact how well she sleeps. Additionally, no two kids are alike! What works for one isn’t guaranteed to work for another – even within the same family.
Every baby can learn to sleep well, but it’s a process, and you need to reel in your expectations for how and how quickly it will happen.
5. It’s not the right time.
Sometimes it’s just not the right time to sleep train. Your baby might be in the middle of a developmental change or teething or sick or, or, or. Frankly, your baby might even be too young. The point is, sometimes it’s not the right time to sleep train.
Some events that will make sleep training difficult include:
– Staying in a new place
– New pets
– New developmental stages
– Stressful events at home
We’re not telling you to throw in the towel. Your baby is capable of sleeping through the night. We’re just saying that you might not want to start sleep training in the middle of or right before one of those events.
This is not an exhaustive list of sleep training troubles, but these are common problems. The best thing you can do is monitor your child and her needs. Adjust things slowly, and do your best to ensure she gets enough sleep so she’s not overtired. To help you on this journey, call one of our certified sleep consultants to see how we can help you and your baby get a good night’s sleep.