Sleep training is not a fun activity for a parent, but a necessity to get some sleep back.
I know because we did not start sleep training until my daughter, K, was about 14 months old. Yes, this might be late but we were not emotionally ready before that.
There were a few reasons why we didn’t sleep train her before. One was that we had planned to go to Asia for 5 weeks so we wanted to sleep train her upon our return.
Read more about our Asia trip here: Kid-Friendly Places to Visit in Singapore.
Also, we had a wedding to attend two months after our trip. I wanted to move her to her room (which was on a different floor) to sleep by herself while my parents watches over her.
Whether you want to start sleep training right at the beginning or it’s a little late like we did, I want to share some mistakes you can avoid to quicken the process.
Please know that every child is different. Some might be able to sleep through the night quicker than others. Later, I will share what I tried and what worked for me. Of course, you’ll have to try and decide which is best for you and your baby.
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- Here are 7 mistakes to avoid when sleep training your baby or toddler:
- 1. No Bedtime Routine and Structure
- 2. Trying different sleep training methods after one day
- 3. Allowing sleep regression to frustrate you
- 4. Not understanding why baby is waking up
- 5. Letting your baby’s cries or toddler’s excuses delay the training
- 6. A lot of stimulation right before bed
- 7. Doing this alone
Here are 7 mistakes to avoid when sleep training your baby or toddler:
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1. No Bedtime Routine and Structure
Having a structure is super important in a child’s life. This will help them to know what to expect. It’s a lot easier to get them to bed this way.
I didn’t understand why my sister in law wanted to have 5 p.m. dinners when my nephew was younger. Now after having my own child, it made so much sense to have the same early bedtime everyday.
There are two important things to note. One, as I mentioned, having the same bedtime everyday.
For us, since she was born, at 7:30 p.m., we start our bedtime routine. There might be a day or two that we start at 8 p.m., but it’s really rare.
We even kept this up when we were traveling to Asia last year. Even though we haven’t start sleep training her, she was able to sleep for good chunks of time throughout the night.
The second thing is to have a bedtime routine.
It’s essential to have this at the beginning. If not, today would be a good day to start.
A bedtime routine is basically the things you do with your baby every time before they go to sleep at night.
This was our bedtime routine when she was a baby:
- Give her a bath
- Put balm
- Change into pajamas and swaddle (here is a similar one)
- Read the Kid’s Bible
- Feed her a bottle
- Burp her
- Put her in the crib to sleep
This is her bedtime routine now as a toddler:
- Brush teeth
- Take a shower
- Put balm
- Change into her pajamas
- Read the Kid’s Bible
- Read a story or two
- Put her in the crib to sleep
Having structure and a bedtime routine will help your child to understand that it’s bedtime. It’ll ease the process of sleep training when they know what to expect.
2. Trying different sleep training methods after one day
Consistency is key. However, you’ll need to know what’s best for your child.
There are so many types of sleep training methods out there. From crying it out to gentle sleep training, you’ll need to research on what is best for you.
I have mommy friends who did the extinction method, which is put the child in the crib and close the door. The baby will cry until they fall asleep.
It may sound heartless, but the child knows now that when they go to bed, it’s time to sleep. Also, this allows the parents to have some time at night to do whatever they need to.
In the beginning of our sleep training, I tried the method where I’ll occasionally check on my daughter while she’s standing and crying. She eventually slept. However after a few days of doing this method, she started crying during the bedtime routine knowing that I’m going to leave her in her room.
So I stopped this method because it just didn’t sit well with me.
It’s perfectly fine to try different methods to see what will work. But, do give it a couple days or weeks before your kid sleep through the night.
The Pick up Put down method worked for us when she was younger, and now it’s reading storybooks while she’s in the crib helps her fall asleep.
If you know that you don’t want the cry it out method, look for gentle sleep training methods.
3. Allowing sleep regression to frustrate you
Sleep regression will happen. Babies learn new skills, and toddlers learn new words. These new developments might cause sleep regression.
Of course, if you feel like something is wrong, you can always go check with your doctor.
Know that sleep regression happens and be prepared for it. Make sure that your bedtime routine and structure throughout the day remains the same.
Your baby might take longer to fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night. Just keep pushing through. They’ll figure out how to fall asleep soon and through the night.
It may be tiring and frustrating, but you’ve got this!
4. Not understanding why baby is waking up
There are a couple of reasons why your baby or toddler is waking up in the middle of the night to prevent them from sleep through the night.
Understanding why they are waking up might help you figure out how to get them to sleep better.
Here are some reasons:
- Too much stimulation
When the babies are younger, they will need to eat every few hours. This will prevent them from sleeping through the night. However, when your child starts to be older, they’ll have a bigger stomach to hold the food they’ve eaten and not be hungry in the middle of the night.
As they become toddlers, sometimes they can feel discomfort from teething or just the growing pains. It’s heartbreaking to see them suffer due to these discomforts. One suggestion given to me was to massage the muscles before bed. This worked well when K, my toddler, started to learn how to walk.
As with teething, my doctor suggested to give her some pain relief medication. However, you should check with your own doctor before doing so.
The hardest but most obvious one is habit. The baby has not learned how to connect their sleep cycles yet, or to fall back asleep on their own. Knowing that they are not hungry, or feeling any discomfort, you’ll just have to keep going with your sleep training method of choice. They say that it’s easier when the baby is younger, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot start after they turned 1.
The final one is too much stimulation. I will talk about this in a later point.
5. Letting your baby’s cries or toddler’s excuses delay the training
As parents, we feel sad when our babies cry.
When it comes to sleep training, they will cry whether it’s the Cry It Out method or not.
This is because it’s a new skill for them to learn. It’s encouraging them to learn how to sleep by themselves.
If your baby is crying because of this and not hunger, a full diaper, or discomfort, keep going. It’s just like when we learn a new skill, we might be terrified at first. However, with small steps, we start to feel more comfortable and even get much better at it.
The difference that I found between babies and toddlers with sleep training is the ability to stand and talk.
My toddler would tell me that she needs to use the bathroom, needs a blanket, and wants to read this or that story.
Even after they’ve been good sleepers, with the regression, you can hear some really creative excuses of why they should not go to bed right now.
Keep pushing through your sleep training method or find another one that will work better, depending on your child’s age.
6. A lot of stimulation right before bed
This was a huge mistake that I made.
My aunt sent me this video of her saying good night to my daughter, and I showed it to her right before bed.
Then, she would not sleep for another hour or so.
Please, don’t be like me. Show the video to your child the next morning instead.
As it gets closer to bedtime, it’ll be good to help them wind down and relax before bed. Read a book, sing a song, but not the really exciting ones with lots of actions.
You can turn on soft music for them as they prepare for bed. Here is one that I was considering to get, but we ended up using our Google home.
See what helps your baby relax and include that as part of your bedtime routine.
7. Doing this alone
Having said all the points above, please do not do this alone. What I mean by this is that you need to have a support person, whether is your spouse, or a mommy friend.
It is so helpful to have someone else to talk to about sleep training, especially someone who has done it before.
What I found really helpful is to read mommy forums. You can ask questions if you would like to know other mommy’s experiences of sleep training their children.
I hope that these tips are helpful for you as you navigate the world of sleep training. There are so many methods and opinions out there. If you can only take one thing out of this whole blog post, it is to be consistent. You’ve got this!
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