Reasons your baby's sleeping training isn't working

3 reasons your baby's sleep training isn't working!

Nov 15, 2022
4 min read

Are you trying to implement some form of "sleep training" with your little one and you're just not seeing results? Perhaps you have previously tried to improve your baby's sleep and gave up because you just didn't seem to be getting anywhere?

We've heard a lot of "I've tried everything" or "nothing is working" from tired parents. More often than not, these parents weren't aware of the impact that three simple factors can have on a baby's ability to respond positively to sleep training:

  • Awake times
  • Naps
  • Sleep environment

Keep reading to find out why these factors are crucial to your sleep training success... 

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Awake times

Whether you're trying to improve naps, or night sleep, or want to your little one towards self-settling, awake times are the key to success!

If you're not putting your baby or toddler down for sleep after the right amount of awake time for their age, no amount of shhh patting, or timed checks, or even controlled crying is going to be effective. If your baby is over or under tired, they will be near impossible to sleep train.

So, the first place we always start when we're looking to improve a baby or toddler's sleep is their awake times in between naps and before bedtime. Sometimes, just getting those awake times right can yield amazing results - you may find that you don't even need to do proper "sleep training"!

One thing we see a lot parents of 4 month old babies reaching out for help because suddenly, they're having a hard time napping for more than one sleep cycle or are waking more frequently overnight. In this situation, it's easy for parents to assume that their baby needs sleep training.

Now, these changes have a lot to do with the 4 month sleep regression, and yes, self-settling or sleep training definitely has a role to play there. BUT these sleep challenges can also be caused by parents continuing to aim for newborn awake times with their 3 or 4 month old babies.

By the time your baby is 3 or 4 months old, their sleep needs will have changed and their awake times will need to be stretched out to ensure they are getting the awake time and stimulation that their fast developing brains need!

If you're still trying to put your 4 month old down for a nap after just 1 or 1.5 hours of awake time, there's a good chance that they're going to be undertired. In other words, they just aren't ready for sleep yet! And this is going to be contributing to both the catnapping during the day and increased waking at night.

On the other hand though, a baby who has had too much awake time and is overtired, can also be very difficult to settle, only nap in small chunks and wake more overnight! It's a delicate balance but our Sleep Programs help to take the guesswork out, with age-appropriate sleep schedules that evolve to keep up with your baby's changing sleep needs.

Making sure your baby is PERFECTLY ready for sleep is a crucial first step in improving your baby's sleep and it is definitely something you want to check off before you start any form of sleep training.

Naps

Your baby's daytime napping is another key area to focus on if you're looking to improve their overall sleep, especially their night-time sleep. What happens in a baby's day directly affects the night, so you can't ignore naps! In fact, we always suggest parents start working on improving their baby's daytime naps before even looking at their night sleep.

If your baby is napping poorly during the day, they are likely reaching bedtime in the evening very overtired, meaning they'll really resist any sleep training attempts. They are not being "naughty" and they're not consciously rejecting or protesting the sleep training, they're genuinely having trouble sleeping due to that build up of over tiredness.

The same can happen if your baby has too much daytime sleep, or if their last nap of the day is too long or too close to bedtime. In this case, they will fight going to sleep, no matter what you do, because they're undertired.

Both situations will usually result in a lot more tears, even if you're trying to use a gentle sleep training method and it will also take your baby a lot longer to fall asleep. 

So save yourself and your baby the frustration and make sure their naps are lined up first, before you start to work on their settling or night sleep. If you're not sure where to start, our Sleep Programs contain all the information you need!

Sleep Environment

The environment in which your baby is sleeping can also play a big part in how effective (or ineffective!) your sleep training is. If your baby is going to bed in a bright room with stimulating toys, nightlights or mobiles, this will really hinder their ability to fall asleep!

A few key things we recommend for sleep training success are:

  • A very dark room - the dark promotes the release of the sleep hormone melatonin which helps babies to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • White noise - this is a positive sleep association for your baby and will also help drown out any other household noises that might prevent your little one from settling to sleep.
  • A baby sleeping bag - using a sleeping bag rather than blankets means your baby won't kick around and get tangled in their blankets. It keeps them nice and cozy through the night and also becomes a positive sleep association for them that signal that it's time for sleep.
  • A cuddly or lovely - when your baby is old enough, giving them something to snuggle in bed can be a great way to establish another positive sleep association.

 So there you have it - three factors that are crucial to your sleep training success! Once these factors are lined up, it's possible that you won't even need to do "proper" sleep training with your baby. If they do need a helping hand towards self-settling though, our Sleep Programs contain several gentle methods to choose from, that work with your baby's current sleep associations.

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Bibliography 

Gradisar M, Jackson K, Spurrier N, Gibson J, Whitham J, Williams A.S, Dolby R, Kennaway DJ. Behavioral Interventions for Infant Sleep Problems: A Randomized Controlled Trial 

Paul IM, Savage JS, Anzman-Frasca S, Marini ME, Mindell JA, Birch LL. INSIGHT Responsive Parenting Intervention and Infant Sleep. Pediatrics. 2016 Jul;138(1). pii: e20160762. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-0762. PubMed PMID: 27354460; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4925087.

Kaczor M, Skalski M. Treatment of behavioral sleep problems in children and adolescents - literature review. Psychiatr Pol. 2016;50(3):571-84. doi: 10.12740/PP/41294. Review. English, Polish. PubMed PMID: 27556115.

Dewar, G. (2008-2014). Baby sleep patterns: A guide for the science-minded. Retrieved from Parenting Science

de Weerth, C., R.H. Zijl, and J.K. Buitelaar. Development of cortisol circadian rhythm in infancy. Early Hum Dev. 73(1-2): p. 39-52. 2003.

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