Updated: Mar 18
You finally decided to bite the bullet and sleep train, but it didn’t work. Don’t be so quick to throw in the towel just yet.
Here are some reasons why sleep training fails.
1. Their sleep environment isn’t dark enough
Sleep environment is one of the basic fundamentals of healthy sleep hygeine. Our sleepy hormone, melatonin, is only produced in the dark. If there is any light entering the room this will block melatonin production so your little one’s hormones aren’t primed for sleep, making it harder for them to self-settle.
Read more about setting up the perfect sleep environment.
2. The timing was off
The timing of when you put your little one down to sleep during the day and for bedtime makes a big difference to their ability to self-settle. Babies can only tolerate a certain amount of awake time before they become over tired. This awake time increases with age. If you are putting your little one down for sleep when they are already over tired, they will struggle to self-settle as their cortisol and adrenaline levels start to rise.
When sleep training, it’s important to follow somewhat of a routine, this creates a sense of predictability and your baby learns when it’s time to sleep and you can be sure that you are putting them down at the right times, setting them up for success. It's also important to factor in some wind down time at the beginning of each nap and bedtime.
Find out what my favourite routine is and why.
3. You weren’t feeling confident
You’ve done your research on different sleep training options. However, this research has probably led you to find a lot of conflicting advice and opinion. The problem with this is that any seeds of doubt that cross your mind while trying to sleep train will likely lead to you being inconsistent and not able to commit. For sleep training to succeed you need to be consistent and commit 100% otherwise your baby can become confused and frustrated.
4. The method wasn’t a great fit
When deciding on a sleep training method it’s important to consider not only your parenting style but also your baby’s temperament and age. You may feel more comfortable being in the room with your baby while supporting them to fall asleep on their own, however, your baby may find your presence too much of a distraction or become overly frustrated that you are there but not assisting them to sleep. Some babies respond much better when we leave the room and give them some space.
On the other hand, perhaps you are returning to work soon so you decide to use an out of room method for quicker results, but if your baby is more sensitive they may respond better by having you in the room to comfort them while they learn to sleep independently.
Most settling methods can be adjusted to suit your baby’s needs whilst also aligning with your parenting style and comfort levels.
Have a read through the 5 common baby temperaments here.
5. You didn’t have a contingency plan
You have chosen a routine and a sleep training method and you’re ready to go… but it doesn’t go as you expected. At first it doesn’t seem to be working and they just aren’t falling asleep. You start wondering “how long do I keep trying to let them settle?”, “do I help them off to sleep just so they have some sleep?”, “they completely missed their nap. What do I do now?”. All completely valid questions. Any good sleep training plan will include a back-up plan if the original plan all goes out the window. This contingency plan will be different depending on the age of your baby.
6. You gave up too soon
Changing your baby’s sleep habits is hard work. Sleep training is not a quick fix and it can be very disconcerting when it doesn’t seem to be working. It takes a lot of patience, persistence and consistency. The first few days are often the hardest as your little one will likely protest out of frustration of all the changes. Stick with it. It’s short term pain for long term gain. Remember your goals when it’s 3am and you are exhausted and all you want to do is climb back into bed. Don’t give up now, the results will be well worth the wait.