Obviously, I believe in my work and the lasting positive changes it brings into family’s lives. However, there are certain situations in which I believe it is not the right time to sleep train and I wanted to break those down for you. So here we go, 5 times you should not sleep train:
If baby is 12 weeks or younger
This might be a little controversial actually. I know several families that start interval check sleep training from just a few weeks old and it works for them. I know there are books titled “12 hours by 12 weeks”, and I know there are babies that naturally start sleeping through the night very early on. However, in my opinion, doing any sleep training method before 12 weeks is not great.
Why? A few reasons…
Firstly, babies don’t actually have the skills to self soothe yet. This is something that develops during the 3rd or 4th month. You wouldn’t expect a baby to walk at 6 months would you? Of course there are the outliers that can and will, but in general, nobody lays that expectation on a 6 month old. You shouldn’t expect a 12 week old (or younger) to sleep through the night either. They are just not developmentally ready.
Secondly, the majority of babies will still need night feeds at this point. In fact, in my sleep programs we keep 1 night feed until 5 months old. This is particularly important for breastfeeding mamas to keep their supply up. The last thing you want is to lose your supply at month 3 when you had hopes of breastfeeding until age 1.
Finally, there is still so much going on in the first three months that would make it difficult to sleep train. The digestive system hasn’t fully developed (hello colic and gas) , some babies might have days and nights still mixed up, and your baby probably gets overstimulated by really simple day to day life because it is all so new and exciting to them (cue the witching hour that my hubby and I fondly nicknamed B*tching hour).
You can absolutely lay great sleep foundations from day 1 that could get you some pretty wonderful night stretches naturally, but sleep training before 12 weeks? Hard Pass for me.
2. You have a lot of changes that are about to happen
This goes for babies, toddlers, and kids alike. I work with babies all the way to 5 year olds and if a child is about to start daycare, or preschool, if you are in the middle of potty training, if you just moved to a new place, then it is not the right time to sleep train. Make sure the rest of their life is pretty stable before making big changes at bedtime.
3. You will be traveling a lot
Same as above. My programs are 2-3 weeks long and I ask that families not to travel during that time. Ideally, I would want you home for a good solid month before traveling with new sleep skills but sometimes this is just not possible and we can still see success with a plan and prepare your travels in a way that won’t throw your hard work out the window.
4. Baby is sick
I think this is self explanatory. Our kiddos need extra comfort when sick and it is not the time to be setting boundaries or trying something new.
5. You just aren’t ready for it
Ok this is where I get on my soap box….
You will know without a doubt that your family needs sleep help because you will find yourself in a constant state of exhaustion and frustration. You will feel that you are not living the motherhood experience you had hoped for.
I work with families who have all sorts of different goals, some just want to be able to lay their baby down in a crib and sleep 6 hours, others want the full 12 hours of night sleep. Some families need naps to be consistent and on a schedule while others are happy to wing it a little more with naps and aren’t bothered by short naps.
There are also so many moms and dads out there that don’t mind waking up so many times at night or who say that they themselves don’t need that much sleep.
If what you are doing is working for you, you feel happy and thriving, then there is no reason to sleep train. If you co sleep and that gives you peace, then do it. But whatever it is you choose to do, don’t judge another parent for their choice.
Everyone is making decisions in parenthood that work for their family and it really makes me angry when, especially moms, start judging one another. Do what works for you and mind your own business. You don’t know the serious toll sleepless nights might be having on a family.
I went for sleep training when I was feeling so exhausted and beyond frustrated that I had to keep getting up at night to feed. I felt resentful to my husband sleeping and I felt that I could hardly think. I didn’t feel like my happy self and it was taking a toll on all of us. It was the best decision I could have ever made regardless of the fact that our night one was incredibly hard. The changes it brought our family were so significant that I would do it a million times over.
With my son I waited a little longer because simply knowing the option was there made me so much less resentful and angry. I felt in control of when he would sleep through the night and was actually enjoying the night wakes holding my little baby. Especially because I knew he was our last.
It’s crazy how being the one in control of the situation, rather than just responding to the situation makes all the difference mentally. My husband and I both agree that having two toddlers that sleep beautifully every night is what keeps our family thriving.
So- If you are in any of these 5 situations, then sleep training is not for you right now. Maybe you revisit it later or maybe it’s something that isn’t right for your family. Whatever you decide, know that the best decision you can make for your child, is the one that makes YOU feel best.