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How Not to Sleep Train Your Child

One of the first goals of a parent with a new baby, aside from just keeping the baby alive, is to sleep train that little bundle. And there is so much great advice out there on how to do it, it seems like you're bound to find a way to do it. There are tried-and-true techniques to appeal to every type of parent, from the soft and crunchies to the inflexible tigers. My husband and I are somewhere in the middle. We are not Ferber freaks, but we are also not eating my placenta on toast either.

We went into the whole sleep-training thing with a plan. We'll be firm but gentle, and if she cries, we'll frequently go back into her nursery and reassure our little one that we are here to comfort her. We'll stick to it; we'll make sure our little one develops healthy sleep habits, and that we are getting as much sleep as possible. And this did work, for the first year.

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But somehow in year two, i.e., the toddler years, all of our "training" fell apart, and what used to seem to work just quit working. It got more challenging, and well, we got soft. Now we are facing complete sleep training defeat. We have all but mastered the art of not sleep training our child. So I thought I'd offer up some helpful tips on how NOT to sleep train your child (aka, all the ways we have screwed up). Admitting your weaknesses is the first step, right?

1. Put her in your bed with you to begin with.

This way, you've done the leading. You are in charge. You have shown her from the get-go that it's OK for her to take over your bed and your sleep, and hence, your life. You have shown her that having enough room in your own bed for your entire body (including your limbs), your quality of sleep and not being kicked in the face repeatedly are not important to you. You have taught her from the night's offset that she does not have to sleep in her own bed. She is boss.

2. When she wakes up at 3 a.m. and asks for milk, go and get it for her immediately.

Let her know that when she says "jump" you say "how high?" or "off which cliff?" (speaking figuratively about your mental health, which is not so firm at 3 a.m. after five nights straight of doing this).

3. Read her 14 stories.

Give in and read her just one more story—13 times. This gently lets her know that you do not mean a word you say, and encourages her to ask again and again for something she knows she will get, eventually.

4. Let her put you to bed.

After you let her put you to sleep, she will proceed to run amok through the house.

Fall asleep lying next to her while "putting her to bed" because it is nearly impossible for any human being, except for your 2-year-old to not fall asleep when laying supine, after a long day of work, in the dark, for over an hour. After you let her put you to sleep, she will proceed to run amok through the house, leaving piles of blocks and dirty laundry she's pulled out of the hamper until you wake up and put your foot down! (i.e., lie back down with her. You're tired, man.)

5. When she stalls going to sleep by telling you she has an "owie," be sucked in by those big, puppy dog eyes and that pudgy, pushed-out bottom lip and proceed to act out an entire "Doc McStuffins" episode.

6. Have a dance party right before bedtime.

That's right, get her adrenaline pumping to her favorite Beyoncé playlist. Get her all hyped up minutes before she's expected to calmly go to sleep.

7. Scoop her up within the first minute of hearing her cry.

Actually, more like the first 15 seconds. You wouldn't want to give her the opportunity to fall back asleep after merely stirring from a dream in the night.

8. When she gets out of bed and tells you she isn't tired, let her sit on the couch next to you and watch Jimmy Kimmel with you.

If she's not going to sleep, she may as well be watching something that's educational, funny and very entertaining. It's essentially "Baby Einstein."

9. Let the bedtime storytelling session turn into a family affair where all of you (dad, mom, brother) are heaped on the bed adding to a story, making it ridiculous and laughing uncontrollably, WAYYYY past bedtime.

No chance of settling down happening, for any of us.

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10. Be OK with all of the repercussions.

You've made your toddler-dominated bed, now lie in it with that restless, little monster. They're only this little and cuddly once, and for a short period of time, right? I guess you can catch up on your sleep, later. Many years from now. Enjoy.

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