5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Sleep Training
It is not uncommon for families to come to me and insist they have tried everything to get their little one to sleep, had nothing work, and to assume their child just “will never be a good sleeper”. Without even knowing that child, I can say with complete confidence that this is just not true. I know many adults who are not good sleepers, but childhood is a time where sleep is as close to perfect as it is going to get. After gathering their history, what they’ve tried, and the methods they’ve used, I can often quickly spot what went wrong and how some simple tweaks can make a drastic difference.
Working with a sleep coach is extremely beneficial in ensuring parents use an appropriate strategy, remain consistent, and are able to navigate common challenges without unraveling progress. However, it is understandable that most parents want to try to solve their child’s sleep issues themselves before inviting a stranger into their lives. Besides, how hard can it be to get a baby to sleep? (Spoiler alert: if it were easy, my profession would not exist).
Here are the top five mistakes that most parents make when trying to sleep train on their own.
Top 5 Mistakes Parents Make When Sleep Training
1. Starting too Early
It is my opinion that formally sleep training before 16-weeks adjusted age is developmentally inappropriate. Until about 16 weeks, infants’ circadian rhythms are still developing, and their sleep organization is very immature. After 16 weeks – or that dreaded 4-month sleep regression – sleep organization becomes more adult-like and infants are better able to practice independent sleep skills. Trying any formal sleep training before this time will just cause unnecessary stress and confusion and can cause you to quit before you’ve even truly begun.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through months of sleepless nights before fixing the problem. Getting started with a newborn plan can help establish a healthy sleep foundation from the beginning. Armed with an understanding of healthy sleep, you will have all the tools to get your little one sleeping well for life without the need for formal sleep training.
2. Misunderstanding of Methods
My plans offer many levels of choice depending upon a parent’s comfort level and a child’s developmental stage. However, often times parents who choose a generic method are unclear about the parameters and how exactly to implement it properly. That’s why a coach is so important: we are going to break down exactly what you need to do, why it is important, and how to succeed. There’s no indexing in an attempt to find an answer to your question; we are there to solve all the issues specific to you and your child and make sure you are on the right track.
3. Lack of Consistency
Once parents have selected a method, it can be very difficult to stay consistent. However, this may be THE most important aspect of any plan. It is hard to hear your little one protesting. You’re tired, they’re upset, and you’re not totally sure how to react in every situation (see #2 above). Parents MUST be 100% consistent in whatever method they choose. All it takes is one time giving in and your child will continue to push to see how far you will bend. Getting some coaching an accountability in this area can make a world of difference!
4. Inappropriate Schedule
Along with independent sleep skills, an appropriate schedule is imperative when making sleep changes. While any child can be taught to sleep independently, there will continue to be tears and stress if they are not on the right schedule. Not building up enough sleep debt can cause bedtime battles and protests while over-tiredness can cause meltdowns and fragmented nights. Understanding the specific sleep needs of your child is critical to seeing success.
If you are struggling to find the right schedule for your little one, I can create one for you!
5. Nap Training First
Daytime sleep is much harder to nail down than nighttime sleep. At night, the drive to sleep is much stronger and will help everyone see success more quickly whereas any changes during daytime sleep without nighttime practice can result in excess stress, tears, and frustration. I’ve found that working on both night sleep and naps at the same time is important to establish consistency and get in good practice.
Of course, when it comes to your little ones’ sleep needs, I hope for everyone to find success on their own. If you’re a DIY-er, please be aware of the common mistakes mentioned above. But if you get stuck, run into trouble, or just need a little more guidance, Oh Baby is here with the answers and support you need to get everyone sleeping well again!
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!