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If sleep training is not working, this is what you may be doing wrong

Sleep is something most parents want a little more of. Before contacting Enhance Sleep most parents have attempted sleep training often with little to no improvements. Parents describe stressful days and nights with no more sleep than before. There are a few reasons your attempts at sleep training are not working.

Before I start I want recognise there is no judgement in this space. No one wants to sleep train their child. Sometimes it becomes a necessity as a family reaches breaking point due to prolonged sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep is a torture and I 100% support any family’s decision to prioritise mental health and family wellbeing.

The first thing you need to determine is what is YOUR problem.

Forget what the perfect families on Instagram/Facebook/even your mothers’ group are (often falsely) portraying. Think about you and your baby. Is there a problem?

The best piece of advice I can offer is you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. The old saying “if it isn’t broken don’t try to fix it” is true in this discussion. Decide what your issue is and how you want to fix it.

If you are desperate for a little more sleep then you need to look at how you want to change it. This list could highlight where you might be going wrong

sleep training not working, what am I doing wrong
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1) No bedtime routine

Children thrive in routine. Bedtime routines have been shown to enhance the wellbeing and development of a child (read research article here) (more research available here). A large portion of my clients do not have a bedtime routine. Or worse, their bedtime routine is long and dictated by a strong willed, over tired toddler wanting more books, songs and food!

Your bedtime routine should be a short, simple and predictable pattern of 30 minutes or less could dramatically improve your night. Read our bedtime routine blog here to find out what your bedtime routine should look like. -- Our bedtime routine blog --

2) Working hard to get baby drowsy before transferring to the cot

The phenomenon of drowsy but awake can be a hard one to tackle. There is a fine line between drowsy and fast asleep. Blink and you may have missed it. Each night you push to get them drowsy you are actually doing a large portion of the work. Instead I recommend putting your child into bed awake. Allowing them the opportunity to self-settle WILL help their long term sleep. The more you do to get them to sleep the more they will need you to do at every sleep and wake up.

3) Rushing in to "fix" it

It is a natural instinct as a parent to go to our child at the very first sign of them waking. Every single wake up does not always demand our attention. Your little one may be dreaming, shuffling in bed, having natural (but noisy) brief awakenings. This is normal. Babies communicate with us through crying. But not all crying is bad. But we need to learn to read our child’s cry to hear what they are communicating with us. A pause before entering gives us that opportunity to listen, to hear if baby really needs us. I encourage responsive settling- when your baby is actively crying we always go to them. It is what we do when we go that matters.

4) Starting sleep training naps

I recommend all clients start with bedtime and the night settling because baby's drive to sleep is highest at night time. A dark room, a quiet house and a rising sleep pressure encourages baby to fall asleep without distractions. Starting to sleep train at nap time can result in prolonged battles, missed naps, chronic over tiredness and much less success.

5) Feeding right before sleep

Feeding to sleep is not an issue if it is working for you. Many clients are struggling with a dependence on the feed to get baby to sleep or return them to sleep after a wake up. The easiest way to make progress with sleep independence is to separate the feed and the sleep. Aim to have 30-60minutes between a feed and the sleep.

6) Overtired children

Over tiredness is like giving your child a red bull. To then expect them to calmly settle themselves is unrealistic. Correct the over tiredness and see baby more willing to learn new settling ways. Make sure you have downloaded our FREE wake window guide -- HERE -- to ensure your child is on an age appropriate sleep routine.

7) Inconsistent settling

Sleep training is hard. Changing a child's behaviour takes a consistent and persistent effort. Many clients have "tried everything". When I investigate further a day or two of making changes, often many changes at once, resulted in no change to their sleep so they gave up. I understand it is exhausting and frustrating but an inconsistent approach will almost certainly see little to no improvement. No matter how you decide to change sleep stick at it 100% for 10-14 days and you WILL see a change. My biggest advice - chose a date to start, ask for someone supportive to help you (with your other children, the household chores or the sleep training itself) and commit to a consistent week of shaping sleep.

8) Parents don't believe it will work

It upsets me greatly how much wrong information is out there. Each week I hear about parents who were told/read/downloaded information to sleep train that was misaligned to their parenting style. Selecting sleep training because you are at your wits end is one thing but going against your parenting philosophy you are unlikely to follow through consistently. There is a spectrum of sleep training methods from less crying to less supported crying. The key to your success is finding a way to shape your little one's sleep that works WITH your parenting style. You need to be comfortable with the process. Trust your instinct mamma. It is usually right.

Potential clients contact me and are often at the point where they have tried everything and seen no success. Many are riddled with guilt at the thought of sleep training their child. I first want to remove this guilt. Sleep is an issue for the WHOLE family. Sleep is AS IMPORTANT as food or water for us all. When we are deprived of sleep we are not functioning at our potential. Whatever you decide to do, it needs to be right for you and for the right reasons. There are many misconceptions about sleep training and the work of a sleep consultant. Sleep training doesn’t need to be traumatic for you or your baby. I offer personalised support to help you through the thick of information and advice and get the sleep solutions you need.

As your sleep consultant we have a mutual goal to ensure you have better sleep, a happier family and healthy sleep habits. No matter what you decide... Trust your instinct. Try these tips, and if you are still struggling then contact me to get the sleep you deserve.


If the thought of doing it alone fills you with fear know Tessa can support you to gently ease your little one to healthy sleep habits. You don't have to do it alone. Book a free 15minute call today to see how we can help tackle your sleep issues without compromising your parenting style


Mindell JA; Telofski LS; Wiegand B; Kurtz ES. A nightly bedtime routine: impact on sleep in young children and maternal mood. SLEEP 2009;32(5):599–606. LINK HERE

Mindell JA; Li, AM; Sadeh, A; Kwon, R. Bedtime routines for young children; a dose dependent association with sleep outcomes. SLEEP, 2015; 38 (5); 717–722. LINK HERE

Sleep deprivation is torture. Tessa Gow is a midwife and certified sleep consultant working with families across the globe. She offers nurturing methods with lasting results. Let her be the support and guidance you need to get through this. On the other side of a consultation with Enhance Sleep is rested, functioning families. Take the first step towards healthy sleep by contacting me today.


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