Why Doesn’t Sleep Training Work?

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By Jolandi Becker – MD of Good Night

Working in the baby/parenting industry I know that there are many topics that can cause a big debate.  Topics that can get parents talking, engaging and give passionate opinions on.  In the sleep space this is no different and even just the words ‘sleep training’ might send a shiver down most parent’s spine. 

Even I don’t love the words “sleep training”… not because I have strong opinions on it but rather because I know other parents do.  I always find myself clarifying the words, explaining what I mean when I say it.

What do I mean when I say sleep training?  For me sleep training means the methods we use to create sustainable sleep associations.  Yes, it sounds complicated but in reality it should. I purposefully chose the wording!  I know the power that goes with it.  I know how irresponsible people can go about sleep training!  I know that not doing it correctly, can do more harm than good!  I know that just doing sleep training will not work!  I know doing sleep training wrong will not work!


YES, I said it – sleep training does NOT work! 

Many times I have consulted with parents who have attempted a form of sleep training by themselves and it did not go well! Even long hours of crying didn’t help at all and resulted in a traumatised baby and parents.

This has nothing to do with the parent’s consistency, nothing to do with their determination or even their beliefs.  They did it and it did NOT work. 


Why doesn’t sleep training work if attempted without professional help?


Even though sleep is natural, it is complex AND parents time and time again underestimate this.  Sleep training (or rather creating sustainable sleep associations) is only one part of sleeping well.  This is the part that many parents have passionate opinions on because it is often one of the more difficult steps of teaching good sleep habits  BUT it does not make it more important.  The fact is that too many parents attempt sleep training without understanding how to do it responsibly.  Too many parents attempt sleep training without any of the other building blocks of sleep in place.  Too many parents attempt sleep training in an irresponsible way, which can cause a lot more unnecessary crying and ultimately more sleep issues.


Sleep training without a proper daily routine and schedule in place will not work.  Sleep training after giving your child a litre of coca cola will just cause hours and hours of crying.  Sleep training with a bedtime routine that is too late will cause you baby to wake up soon after falling asleep.  Sleep training with all the lights on will not only prolong the process but also create multiple wake ups.

Sleep training does NOT work… in isolation.  It should never be attempted without first considering the other building blocks of good quality sleep, that would be irresponsible.  You can only create sustainable sleep associations once all the other building blocks of sleep are in place.  Just because the other building blocks are easier to achieve, does not make them less important.  In fact, getting the other building blocks in place can go a long way in bettering your baby’s sleep without even needing to do sleep training! 

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