6 Most Common Sleep Training Mistakes

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As a professional sleep consultant, the question I am most often asked is “does your plan really work?” And my answer is always the same “YES,” but only if the family is ready to implement all of the changes I put into their plan.  In my profession, the baby is not the hard part – the hard part is the parents, getting them onto the same page and staying consistent.  So what are the biggest mistakes families make while sleep training? 

Willingness to change

The biggest mistakes that I see with sleep training is the parents are not ready for the change.  I’ve worked with a number of clients who would like for their baby to sleep for longer stretches, but are not really willing to make any significant changes to their routine.  So if I tell them “your baby needs to be in bed by 6:30pm” but they want to keep him awake longer to see dad when he gets home, then they’re not ready for that change.  Although not ideal, perhaps the working parent can make arrangements to spend quality time with baby early in the morning before work or on weekends. Infancy is a short period of time relative to a person’s whole life and this inconvenience will pass.

Inconsistency

This is the second biggest mistake I see.  I’ve had clients who do phenomenal at implementing a bedtime routine, and then bring the baby into bed in the middle of the night because “they felt bad” or “it’s just for the early morning” or “I was just too tired.”  Inconsistency creates a sense of chaos for your baby and they then have no idea what to expect from their parents.  Whatever you do, stay consistent!

Doing something different for naps and bedtime

Although sometimes necessary due to childcare options (or lack thereof) during the day, like mentioned above consistency is key, so baby will learn much faster if we remain consistent throughout an entire 24 hour period.

No support system

Your partner has to be on the same page otherwise this will never work.  They should also be around during a sleep training period, and if they can’t be, the parent doing the training needs access to someone who is willing to support their plan.  Otherwise the whole system will fall apart and baby will be confused and not make any progress.

Not respecting the child’s needs

Children have their own unique temperament and personalities and as a parent it’s our job to realize their uniqueness and allow them their space to grow.  Some babies will have high needs on the emotional front, and will simply need those extra cuddles and snuggles throughout infancy.  Other babies may become overwhelmed easily by touch or interaction and actually need more space than what the parent would like to give.  As parents we need to learn to respect those needs, even if they don’t fit into our ideal picture of what a baby should be.

Unrealistic expectations

The vast majority of babies 6 months and older are physically capable of going 12 hours or more without eating (if they can wait that long to eat there’s no reason to wake up in the middle of the night…right?).  A lot of experts will say most babies are also capable of this by 10 weeks, 12 weeks, or whatever magic age they’re using.  The truth is that every baby is different, and some can master this skill early, while others may take 6 months to get there.  Keeping your expectations realistic will help you to determine achievable goals for your infant.