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How to Successfully Sleep Train your Strong-Willed Baby Without Losing your Mind

Sleep training a baby can be one of the most challenging tasks for young parents.  And when you have a strong-willed baby on your hands, it can feel impossible!  

However, I want you to know that your strong-willed, high-needs, spirited baby CAN learn how to sleep like a champ.

I say this confidently having helped thousands of families to date, MANY of whom with strong-willed babies.

With patience, consistency, and a strategic approach, it is VERY possible to successfully sleep train your baby and get yourself a champion sleeper. 

In this article, I’ll discuss my top 6 tips and strategies to help you sleep-train your strong-willed baby without losing your mind.

  1. Set realistic expectations

While strong-willed babies and young children CAN be successfully sleep trained, there are important differences in terms of what the process often looks like between sleep training an easy-going baby versus a strong-willed baby.

These main differences are:

  • your baby might take slightly longer to sleep train;
  • your baby might resist these changes more and push back more intensely; and
  • there is less room for error when sleep training a strong-willed baby.

Remember- strong-willed babies are characterized by their determined nature and resistance to change.  Their strong personalities might lead to them resisting these new routines and asserting their independence more fervently.  This can be frustrating!  

As a result, you might want to choose a more gradual approach with smaller steps to accommodate their temperament and needs.

That being said, I want to emphasize that a baby should NEVER cry for hours on end when sleep training, no matter how strong-willed they are.   

  1. Be consistent- and correct- with your sleep plan

Because there is usually MUCH less room for error when sleep training a strong-willed baby, consistency and correctness with your sleep plan are crucial.  Because strong-willed babies are quick to pick up on inconsistencies, they’re likely to become more resistant to sleep training if they sense any uncertainty or inconsistency.  Any deviation from his routine will likely lead to setbacks and confusion for your baby.  

Avoid giving in to your baby’s demands or reverting to old habits.  This will only confuse them and prolong the process. Remember that consistency sends a clear message to your baby and helps them learn what to expect when it’s sleep time.

This is why it’s so important to remain consistent with your sleep training plan and routines. 

  1. Understand and respect your baby’s sleep needs

Before diving into sleep training, it’s essential to understand your baby’s sleep patterns and needs.  Make sure they are napping well, that their wake windows are respected, and that they’re not overtired.  Otherwise, your sleep training attempt could be a disaster.  

Remember that every baby’s sleep needs are somewhat different.  What works for one baby might not work for another.  As a result, it’s always important to spend a few days troubleshooting and fixing your baby’s daytime schedule before beginning sleep training.  

  1. Set up a comfortable sleep environment for your baby

Ensure your baby’s room is as conducive to good quality sleep as possible.  This means:

  • keep the room dark (blackout blinds are your best friend);
  • use a white noise machine to drown out background noise;
  • ensure the room temperature is cool and dress your baby in a sleepsack; and
  • if your baby is over 12 months of age, introduce a lovey or comfort item for him to sleep with at bedtime and naptime.
  1. Introduce a relaxing and enjoyable bedtime routine

Bedtime routines are important for babies and children of all ages.  That being said, they are especially important for strong-willed babies who often have a harder time winding down and relaxing before bedtime.

Create a calming bedtime routine that signals to your baby when it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.  This routine could include:

  • A warm bath
  • A feed
  • Gentle massage
  • Stories
  • Bedtime songs

Stick to the same routine each night so that your baby knows exactly what to expect.  

Try to complete the majority of their routine IN the room they’ll be sleeping in.  This allows your baby to relax and wind down in their bedroom.  

Otherwise, you’ll have to add an extra transition to your baby’s routine when it’s time to head to their room.  And these transitions can lead to additional pushback when it’s bedtime. Completing the bedtime routine IN your baby’s room helps you avoid that problem.  

  1. Seek support

Sleep training a strong-willed baby can be exhausting and emotionally draining.  I always recommend sharing the load of work with your partner so that you don’t burn out.  Reach out to friends and family for support who can offer encouragement and reassurance. 

And don’t forget to go to bed early!  You need your sleep throughout this process.

If you are not seeing significant improvements within 5-7 days of beginning your sleep training plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced sleep consultant, such as myself, for customized advice and insights.   

Final notes 

Sleep training a strong-willed baby is not for the faint of heart.  I’ve been there!  My middle child was a VERY strong-willed baby.  And I remember like it was yesterday how stressful it was to sleep train her.

But if this is something you want to do, I want to assure you it is doable- and worthwhile!  

You do NOT have a non-sleeping alien baby on your hands who is incapable of figuring out how to sleep.  I promise.

Instead, your strong-willed baby simply needs the right routine, schedule, and sleep plan customized to HIM, along with 100% consistency with follow-through on your end.

When you get those puzzle pieces properly in place, that’s when the magic will happen.    

About Guest Author: Eva Klein

Eva is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, owner of My Sleeping Baby, and a mom of 3.  She helps exhausted parents across the globe get higher-quality, more restful sleep through her renowned sleep courses, private coaching, and corporate seminars.  Download her FREE sleep chart here that has all her suggested wake windows, nap totals and night totals for babies age 0-5! 

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