← Go back Common Pitfalls of Sleep Training
Published on Sunday, February 28, 2016 by

momsleeptraining240Sleep training your little one can be a frustrating process. Our sleep expert Dawn Witttaker has complied a list of the ten most common pitfalls that she, as sleep and parenting consultants, see when it comes to making changes to children’s sleep.

Starting Before Everyone Is Ready
Often parents come to us frustrated with their sleep training efforts to date. One of the most common pitfalls that we see is parents starting the sleep training process before they are fully ready to commit to it.  In order to see success, everyone involved needs to be ready to commit to the process (as it can take as long as three weeks to see any significant changes to a child’s sleep.)  Therefore, starting the process when only one parent is ready, usually results in inconsistencies, frustration, and confusion when trying to make changes to a little one’s sleep.  As parents, we want to avoid getting stuck ‘trying’ to sleep train. This is why, as sleep consultants, we like to encourage parents to commit to the process and get sleep training done the first time.

Trying too Many Things
Often, when something isn’t working, our instinct is to throw as many solutions as possible at the problem in hopes that one of the solutions will work.  When it comes to making changes to a little one’s sleep, throwing too many variables into the mix will only result in confusion.  Instead, when making changes to anything sleep related, we always suggest that parents make a change and commit to it for at least a week.

Mom Tries to Do it All with Lack of Support
When making changes to a little one’s sleep it is important to have support.  For example, it can be very difficult for a breastfeeding mom to break a sucking association when it comes to making changes to sleep.  This is because sucking is one of the strongest associations and breastfeeding is the strongest prop that supports it.  Therefore, in cases where a baby associates nursing with falling asleep, it is helpful to have the other parent do the majority of the sleep training.

Not Wanting to Let Go of the Sleep Prop
It can be very difficult for parents to let go of a sleep prop that has worked in the past. However, what we tend to see over time is that these props take longer and longer to have the same effect.  For example, if a baby is rocked to sleep it may start by taking 20 minutes to do so.  However, over time, we may begin to notice that the rocking that once took 20 minutes now takes over an hour.  When the prop becomes more of a burden than a help, it is usually when parents are ready to make sleep changes.

Not Understanding Enough about Sleep Cycles
Children, like adults, naturally wake at various points throughout the night.  One of the most common pitfalls to sleep training is failing to take sleep cycles into account.  Instead, when babies wake throughout the night, parents often assume that the only reason is for hunger.  Knowing when to feed a child and when to encourage them to self-soothe, is an important step in the sleep training process.

Listening to Advice from Too Many People/Dr. Google
In today’s day and age of parenting, there is far too much information available on the internet.  Therefore, when parents are facing a challenge, the easiest thing to do is google the answer.  However, as with anything related to the internet, when you google something you get hundreds of conflicting responses.  All the varying responses result in a lack of confidence in our parenting abilities and more confusion over how to sleep train.

Unrealistic Expectations
When addressing children’s sleep it is important to maintain realistic expectations.  It is not for example realistic to expect a two month old to sleep for twelve hours.  Learning more about sleep patterns and sleep cycles can help keep our expectations regarding a child’s sleep realistic.

Waiting for the Baby to Guide You
Another common pitfall of sleep training is parents waiting for their baby to guide them towards when they need to sleep or to naturally sleep train themselves.  In the majority of cases this does not happen.  Instead, as parents, we need to look for sleep cues and help guide babies to sleep during the period in time that they are naturally tired.

Comparing our Baby to Other Babies
Like us, children all have different sleep patterns and they all need varying amounts of sleep. One of the most common pitfalls we see is parents comparing their child’s sleep to others.  For example, someone’s friend may have a baby who sleeps from 7pm-7am.  Naturally, as parents, we would all love it if our children slept from 7pm-7am.  However, it is important to recognize that each child is different.

Assuming Sleep Training means Extinction
Often parents are hesitant to start the sleep training process because there is an assumption that sleep training always involves the extinction method.  That being said, we do believe that making changes to sleep will involve some level of crying.  However, sleep training definitely does not mean leaving your baby alone to cry from 7pm-7am.  There are many ways to comfort and help your child as they learn to put themselves back to sleep.

Dawn Wittaker is a parenting consultant with a big focus on SLEEP. She has worked with thousands of families world wide, former nanny and mother of three children who resides in Langley, BC. For more information or to reach Dawn www.dawnwhittaker.com

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