Sleep Training Not Working?
The Top 5 Reasons Why
Sleep training not working for your little one? If so, you’re probably disappointed. I know I was until I found some solid answers…and finally got some rest!
Luckily, as a registered nurse and a mother of two wonderful girls, I knew what to try when my littlest just wouldn’t sleep. If you’ve been trying to sleep train your baby and not seeing success, here’s what to do.
In This Article:
- You’re Not Alone
- When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?
- Top 5 Reasons Sleep Training is Not Working
- When to Seek Extra Help
Surprise: You’re Not Alone
One thing I’ve learned both as a baby sleep expert and a mom is that every parent wants their child to sleep healthfully.
It isn’t just about needing some shut-eye of your own. (Although that’s a factor — let’s be real!) Most parents know that losing out on sleep can be harmful to their baby. So what do you do?
First, know that you’re not the first family to go through this. I have helped thousands of families who had a baby who just wouldn’t sleep through the night. Or the baby gets up early from naps and is cranky for the rest of the afternoon.
Moms who can’t get their babies to sleep through the night try a lot of different methods. Understandable! But what if sleep training just plain isn’t working?
Let’s start with the basics: timing.
When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?
It’s important to understand that solo, “adult”-style sleep is a learned behavior.
In some cultures, infants sleep with their mothers for up to two years. (I don’t recommend this. Here‘s why.) In these situations, the baby or toddler wakes, feeds, and drifts right back off to sleep.
However, most of us in the West want our babies to sleep through the night because we need to be driving or at work or school on a regular schedule, often in the morning.
It’s unrealistic to expect a newborn to snooze cheerfully through the night. So here are the facts:
- Sleeping through the night is usually classified as 6-8 hours without a feeding.
- Many babies are physically capable of soothing back to sleep without a feeding at 8 weeks old.
- Some babies take longer, up to about 12 weeks.
- If your baby is unable to soothe themselves to sleep by 3 months of age, there may be other factors keeping them from learning this important skill.
Top 5 Reasons Sleep Training is Not Working
Don’t get me wrong: I am 100% in the camp of, “sleep training works!” I’ve seen and taught it myself hundreds of times.
Many parents consult an expert if their little one isn’t sleeping well by 3 months of age or so. Some wait longer — up to 6 months. A few don’t ask for help until their baby is closer to a year old.
I’m not trying to scare you! Most babies will be sleeping through the night before that time. But a few babies seem to be unable to grasp the idea of lovely, blissful rest until later than you’d expect. What’s going on?
Here are the Top 5 reasons sleep training may not be working for your infant.
#1: Your child isn’t ready for sleep training
While 2 to 3 months is the gold standard, some babies just aren’t ready by the 8 week mark to begin sleeping through the night. This is rare among healthy infants, but it does happen. Some babies physically mature at a slower rate and need more frequent feedings, for example.
#2: Your child isn’t feeling well
A cold can knock your baby off-kilter for a little while. If your baby has been ill within the past 2 weeks or if they have a chronic condition, you may want to put off sleep training until things are more stable. For a chronically ill baby, please call the pediatrician for advice before continuing with sleep training.
#3: The method is too harsh
Sleep training isn’t a blanket term. Yes, it involves teaching your baby to sleep on their own. But some “sleep training” methods involve leaving your baby to cry for half an hour or even more at a time. Try a safer and more effective method instead.
#4: You’re inconsistent
Sometimes, it can be tough to stick to a consistent bedtime schedule. Life happens. You may have other children, a full schedule, or a demanding job that has you texting hours after you get home. Unfortunately, “giving in” and “just feeding” or holding the baby when they should be sleeping can counteract even the best sleep training program.
#5: There has been a change
Changes in the household routine can seriously undermine sleep training. A new sibling, a change of residence or daycare, or sickness can all disrupt a baby’s ability to learn to self-soothe to sleep.
When to Seek Extra Help
Seek an expert sleep consultant if:
- your baby is healthy and isn’t sleeping 6 hours a night by 2-3 months
- you’re becoming frustrated with you and your child’s lack of success
- you have ruled out a physical cause
Seek a pediatrician if:
- you suspect something is physically wrong
- your baby was born with, or now has, special needs
- your baby was a preemie
- you simply want a clean bill of health before trying sleep training
I’d love to help you if your choice of sleep training is not working. I have worked with so many families, and they’ve all been a delight to help. Whatever is going wrong, there’s an answer. Check out my services here. Plus get a FREE e-guide to get you started.