There are many reasons why sleep training fails. One of the main reasons sleep training fails is that people are applying a good sleep training tool to the wrong sleep problem. When parents and children are not sleeping it makes everyone cranky. Actually lack of sleep is an official recognized form of torture. When we are not getting we get desperate and start doing anything to get sleep.
There are actually five sleep problems and each one requires a different solution. Children and parents can have all five or a just couple. The way sleep works is that all any change to a child’s sleep or a parent’s behavior will result in a change rippling through the entire 24 hours of a child’s sleep.
When I do a 90 minute sleep consult I am assessing for what problems parents have. In my consultation I’m educating parents on how sleep works so that it’ll make sense for them to do what I’m telling them to do. The way sleep works, often the fixes for sleep are counter-intuitive. Once parents are armed with accurate clinical information they only need 1 consult and are able to fix their behavior so that the child’s sleep is corrected. I also arm parents with the information they’ll need to maintain good sleep and troubleshoot for any changes that arise.
There is so much discussion and misunderstanding about how sleep works. Many parents will sleep a child waking at night or struggling to fall asleep when they go to bed and try and use an extinction tool, or a crying it out tool.
One of the reasons sleep training fails is that parents are using the crying it out tool (or a variation such as fading or controlled) on the WRONG PROBLEM, or they are implementing it incorrectly. Sleep is a brain function and the ability to fall asleep and sleep through the night is something that must be learned and to taught to the child by the parent. If a child is not sleeping well the problem is actually with the parent’s behavior not the child. The child is simply responding to what the parent is doing.
If you are trying to use a cry it out tool and it is not working or you are not getting the results in 1 night (yes in 1 night the problem should be fixed if you are fixing the right problem with cry it out), then you are probably miss using the sleep training tool and not fixing the right problem
Cry it out only works to teach a child to fall asleep and sleep through the night. However, if any other sleep problems are occurring and the parent is unaware, the cry it out will not work in 1 night or it’ll work for a few nights and then the problem will come back.
If you are struggling to get help, our sleep consult is 90 minutes. We educate you on how sleep works, your brain and your child’s brain function and behavior in order to give you a solution that will work. We debunk sleep myths with science and will provide you with trouble shooting skills and notes so that you will only need 1 session. Yep, most parents only need 1 session to get the results and maintain them. We don’t want to see you again.
Below is a summary of the various cry it out methods. This solution is only for 1 of 5 other problems. If this tool isn’t working you are either doing it wrong or fixing the wrong problem.
Extinction or Crying It Out (CIO) Method,
This is the fastest of the 3 methods. Generally it takes about 1-2 days (depending on child’s age, 1 day for under 12 months, and 2 days for over 12 months) and the sleep association is corrected. The first day is usually the most difficult for the parents because the child protests the longest. The next days there is little to fussing or protesting. This method is best for child under 15 months of age. This method is also very easy and simple to follow and implement.
Ferber’s Controlled Crying Method
This method was designed for the Parent NOT the child. This method is really to reassure the parent, but is very confusing for the child and results in 7 to 10 days of crying for the child. The difference with CIO is that after the child starts protesting, you follow a strict time-table and go in see the child. You do not talk, pick up or assist the child. You merely go and then come back out. Parents like this because they can see the child and the child can see them. However child 9 months and older will probably really cry hard when the parent leaves, again this will be 7 to 10 days.
This method is best used on children between 16 weeks and 9 months. One of the major mistakes parents make is too much interaction with the child sending the child confusing messages. We advise parents how to do this method correctly if it is appropriate for the parents.
This method is promoted as the the no-cry (or very little cry) methods. However, many parents feel this is the parent crying-it-out method. Fading methods take a minimum of 6 weeks and as long as 6 months or NEVER to work.
With this method, you help your baby fall asleep, but you set up “rules” as to how you will slowly take yourself out of the equation. A sleep association literally means the baby is associating your assistance to fall asleep. So you have to remove yourself. The child will cry each time you remove assistance. So crying can last the entire training procedure you are just there in the room with the chld.
If you think about how your child currently falls asleep, you realize you have done most of the work up until this point i.e. feeding, patting rocking assisting the child to sleep. Now you will develop rules to follow that will shift the “work” to your baby/child. If you have always rocked baby all the way to sleep, you might rock him/her less time and put him in the crib drowsy, but awake and let him/her try to fall asleep on his/her own. If he/she gets worked up, you try to quiet and soothe them using other methods until he/she is asleep. Each night, you do less and less “work” and your baby should do more of it.
How long will it take? Generally at least a minimum of 6 weeks but usually more like 3 months to see dramatic improvements. Your child will not sleep through the night until they can 100% fall asleep on their own at bedtime. So whatever you do to help them asleep at the beginning of the night must be repeated each time they wake in the night. This is a brain function.
Improvement and progress is slow and will require a lot of patience and stamina from the parents. It also requires greater consistency and awareness of what you, as the parent, are doing each night you put the child to sleep..
The amount of time this method will take will be directly related to your ability to be CONSISTENT and your child’s temperament and personality (how strong-willed is he/she and will he/she “outlast” you?). It is imperative that you remain consistent because if you falter 1 hour in, for example, then it will only be that much harder next time. I highly recommend writing down the plan you hope to follow such that you can refer to it and really stick to it 100%.
Please note: You cannot mix plans. This is one of the reasons sleep training fails. You can not start out doing Ferber and then switch to cry it out. This will confuse the baby and will not work and result in horrific crying. Not because of the sleep training, but because the parent is confusing the child by ineffectively implementing sleep training.