Sleep training. It's often met with a giant sigh and a "oh God, I don't want to do it," because it's the total pits. Babies are not known for their excellent snoozing skills. So trying to implement them when you're already exhausted and you know your baby is going to fight it is the worst. But once you've got a plan, it should be a breeze. Until you realize there's one tiny thing that's ruining your baby's sleep training and nobody in your house is ever going to sleep again, and it's officially the end of days.
OK. Don't panic. You will eventually get some sleep and so will your little one. The thing is, sleep training isn't always a one-and-done deal. Some people have to go through it several times with their baby, and some have to stick to it for longer than they thought. But it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your baby or that they aren't getting the hang of sleep. The tiny thing that's ruining your baby's sleep training is that you're calling it "sleep training."
Look, sleep isn't something babies have to learn. According to Today, approaching sleep training as something you have to be rigorous and structured about in order to get your baby to sleep just sets you and your little one up for failure. Your baby knows how to sleep. What they don't know is how to sleep without you there, intervening.
Although there are plenty of helpful techniques to get your baby to fall asleep on their own and stay asleep, Baby Center noted that sometimes common sense is your best course of action. What works for your family? What works for your baby? Are they falling asleep fine, but you're rocking them at night keeps them awake? Do they need one more bedtime story before they'll settle down?
When you treat sleep as some kind of hardcore activity your child has to learn and be good at right from the start, you're bound to find yourself frustrated with an even more exhausted kid. Today noted that sleep training is really about teaching parents how to put their babies to sleep — no sleep associations, no intervening at every sound, and, most importantly, no expecting sleep to be the same every single night.
Your baby is human. They're going to get sick, teeth, have bad dreams, and wake up early. Some nights they're going to go straight to sleep. Other night, they'll want to stay up and play with you. By treating sleep as some kind of military-like training, you're not giving yourself or your baby the room to live.
According to The Sleep Lady, consistency is key in helping your baby get to sleep. You can't help them fall asleep without nursing or rocking and then pick the habit back up the next day and expect your baby to forget. But that's why looking at sleep as something natural and not a training activity can make all of your decisions easier. You know that your baby will sleep and you can make consistent decisions based on you and your baby. If patting them on the back every night at 3 a.m. doesn't bother you, fine. If they wake up once a month and need a snuggle from you and you don't mind, also fine. Sleep is sleep and some nights, just like your own sleep patterns, your baby will wake up. Some nights, they'll go straight to bed and some nights, they'll log 12 uninterrupted hours.
Sleep training can be hard, so stop thinking about it as sleep training. Put yourself in the mode of a parent helping their baby learn how to stay asleep throughout the night, but expect set-backs, changes, and that you'll have to make adjustments to your routine. Babies aren't robots. The sleep routine and bedtime that worked when they were 4 months old probably won't work when they are 18 months old. Be flexible, but consistent, and know that sleep is a natural part of life, even if it doesn't feel like it right now.