These sleep training mistakes are very common, especially when parents are trying to sleep train on their own.
Make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes in your sleep training journey!
Mistake #1: Not preparing for (and being prepared for) the first night
Sleep training is not a last minute decision.
You really can’t decide at 5:30pm on a Friday to start that night.
I believe you need at least 24 hours to mentally wrap your brain around starting (and committing to the process), preparing the room, optimizing the routine, schedule and choosing the right method.
There are preparations for the nursery (for my go-to favorite sleep training products for babies and toddlers see my Resource page) – making sure you have sleep sacks and loveys washed, extra PJs and sheets, windows are covered, a real pack n play mattress if you regularly use one, etc.
The day of Night #1, you’ll inevitably need to do some things differently so you can set up Night 1 for success and minimize the crying – looking at the routine, schedule and method you’ll be using.
And then you need to make sure YOU’RE ready to start. If you’re feeling like it’s probably not going to work, or it’s going to be hard on everyone, those feeling will likely come true.
If you’re feeling anxious because you’re not sure if you have the right plan to get your child sleeping through the night – but you know for everyone’s health and well-being it’s time to start – then reach out to me and I can make the right plan for your child. If you’re worried your child isn’t old enough, etc, definitely talk with your pediatrician.
Mistake #2: Best intentions…
You’ve been talking about sleep training for weeks (months…) and you’re ready to start. You feel prepared, think you have a good plan in place, maybe feel a little anxious but you have the best intentions for this experience.
You do your Woman Wonder pose before bedtime for extra fortitude…and it isn’t as bad as you thought it’d be!
You breath a sigh of relief.
But then the nightwakings start.
By 4am when you’re on your 5th night waking, your super power strength is gone and you cave – resorting to old sleep props to get a couple hours of sleep.
Caving will just put you right back where you started (or in some cases even further back since these smart kiddos start learning that if they cry long enough, they’ll eventually get what they want…not the best message to teach your child.)
It’s important to have a strong support system during sleep training to help stick to the plan, whether that’s a spouse, family member, other caregiver or working with a sleep consultant to keep you accountable (and make sure you have the right plan with the best method and schedule for your unique situation).
Mistake #3: Multiple false starts
There are parents that have great intentions of starting sleep training and they are diligent for a night, 3 nights, etc but then they hit a regression or the number of nightwakings is so many that they just can’t do it any longer.
I get it. Sleep training is hard, especially with a clever and stubborn baby!
But the more times you start and stop, the more your child will see the pattern that he just needs to wait this “try” out and things will go back to the old (more comfortable, but certainly not healthy) way.
Then when you hit bottom and try for real it’s more of a challenge because baby will think this is another “try” and will hold out even longer waiting for this attempt to be over!
It’s so much better to make sure you’re ready, you have a support system and your schedule permits you to focus on this 100% so these loopholes from previous sleep training attempts don’t form!
Mistake #4: Not addressing medical issues first
I work with a ton of babies with reflux, but if you’re suspecting there’s a tummy issue and nothing has been diagnosed, or your child has been diagnosed and you’re trying to figure out a course of treatment, wait on sleep training.
If you don’t wait, with every wakeup you’ll second guess things and wonder if he’s waking from discomfort rather than being frustrated that you’re now teaching him to sleep!
Mistake #5: Just working on night sleep (or just on naps)
Sleep is sleep, whether is light or dark outside.
When I work with clients, we work together on bedtime, nightwakings, early wakeups and naps – the whole shebang.
I want these babies to learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep, no matter what time of day (or night) it is.
By only working on bedtime and constantly having baby take naps on the go, he’s not getting the consistency that’s so important to master these new skills. (Once he has the skills, it’s usually ok to do 80/20 – 80% of naps in the crib, 20% on the go.)
So make sure to commit to doing sleep training day and night at the same time!
Mistake #6: Starting at the wrong time
You have exactly seven days left of maternity leave and you can’t imagine being productive with this little sleep. You’re headed on vacation in 10 days and think it’ll be a more enjoyable vacation if baby is sleeping. Baby is due for vaccines next week while will likely affect his sleep. You have relatives coming in town this weekend and they’ll want to see the sites…
Make sure to clear your schedule for a good two weeks, with no travel, weddings or other events where you’ll be gone from the house or have a new sitter, pediatrician appointments, etc.
I tell families all the time that there’s never a PERFECT time to do sleep training, because baby will (it seems) always be going through a milestone, teething, having a runny nose, etc, but you can control the timing of when you start so you can be fully present and ready!
Mistake #7: Getting rid of almost all the sleep props (but hanging on to that last one for dear life!)
Your baby loves the rock n play after getting fed and rocked to sleep and will sleep for a semi-decent nap there along with a pacifier.
You realize those four things are sleep props and need to go…but you can’t quite nix the paci.
In this case, eliminating 3 out of 4 sleep props won’t cut it.
Think about it…when your baby uses sleep props, he depends on it and doesn’t think he can sleep without it (them). If you remove the props and teach your baby how to fall asleep without them, he’ll learn that he doesn’t actually need them. But keeping one in just shows that you don’t think he can do it without the prop.
Give him the opportunity to learn how to sleep without all of the props and the sleep training experience will go much faster and be less confusing for your baby.
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