"But Why Doesn't It Work?"

Though some babies are certainly more challenging than others and certain developmental periods (teething, separation anxiety etc.) are tougher than others, The Baby Whisperer says that if you follow her techniques things will eventually work out. I implemented most, but not all of her techniques and had a lot of success, but I have to admit that it is hard for me to believe that her techniques will
always end up working with every baby. She does mention that she has worked with thousands of babies and that her techniques have always worked so maybe she is right - her techniques will eventually work.

Here's a list of reasons why she says you may not be having success with her techniques:

"You're following your child, rather than establishing a routine"

Remember that one of her main focuses is on implementing a routine from birth. See the EWS cycle for more on this.

"You've been doing accidental parenting"

 "You're not reading your child's cues."

 "You're not factoring in that young children change constantly. The only constant in the job of parenting is change."
 If you find your self using the phrase my child "used to be", then maybe your problems are routed from the fact that your child is ready for a change (more awake time, more time between meals etc.).

 "You're looking for an easy fix." 
Sometimes we seem to expect magic to happen with little or no effort. Not likely. What most likely is needed a whole lot of patience, persistence, and maybe a little extra chocolate when things get tough :)

"You're not really committed to change"
Make a plan and stick with it... Don't go back to your old way and don't keep tyring different techniques... Be persistent". I'd also like to add to this the need to be consistent.

"You're trying something that doesn't work for your family or your personality"
If you're not comfortable doing a particular technique, either don't do it, or find ways to bolster yourself, by having the strong parent take over for a bit, or enlisting some other help.

"It ain't broke- and you don't really need to fix it"
Every baby is different and just because your baby isn't following exactly what other babies his age are doing that doesn't mean something is wrong. If he seems to be doing fine, then that is the most important thing.

"You have unrealistic expectations" 
We can't have too high or unreasonable expectations of our children. They're not perfect, and they're only capable of so much. And often when we do "a" then "b" and expect to get "c", "c" simply doesn't happen. Things usually aren't that simple with them.


  1. Hi Rachel:

    I just found your blog. What a nice resource. I am having a hard time distinguishing between the problem of "following your child, not establishing a routine" and the positive "responding to your child's cues." How do I respond to my child's sleep cues (or eating cues, etc) but also be sure that I'm the one in charge. It probably seems dumb, but I struggle with this!

  2. Not a dumb question at all :)

    Responding to your child's cues but also staying in charge is best done (and most easily done in my opinion) on some kind of routine. Say you are using the wake, eat, activity then sleep routine. You start off by choosing a wake time in the morning and wake your child up at that time (or sometime close to that time). Then you feed your child at that time and YOU try and ensure a full feeding (without forcing your child to eat when he isn't hungry of course-look at his cues).Then you put your child down when he is ready for a nap. You use his cues (if he has visible ones, if not, you will have to go by what wake time seems to work the best through trial and error) to do this but at the same time don't let him trick you into thinking he doesn't need to nap when he really does. While my son generally sleeps great he hates to sleep. If I didn't put him down for a nap he would stay up entergeticly all day (and probably night) long. Next, you wake your child up when it is time for him to eat if he isn't up already (you keep in charge here). If he wakes up much earlier than expected, you need to trouble shoot...is he hungry (in a growth spurt, didn't eat much at the last feeding for some reason), is he in pain, did he not make it through a sleep transition etc. I've got a post (and several more to come) on possible reason he may wake early so you can check there.

    Does that makes sense? I think a lot of the reason some people think schedules are so bad or why some people can never get them to work is that they don't realize that you work with the baby as well as decide things on your own. You can't put a baby down for a nap whenever or they might not even be sleepy,(you need to look at their cues), but you also don't just let your child stay up all day when he needs a nap because he doesn't want to sleep---and who would anyway when mom is so much fun? (parents take charge).

    Hope that answered your question. Let me know if you need any further clarification and I'll do my best to explain it.

  3. Hi Rachel!

    Yay! I found your bog! I lost it and had to look all over before I came across it again.

    I've got a real quandary on my hands, a challenge that I can't figure out any thoughts would be great appreciated.

    Maybe you have some ideas for me. My almost 9mo old girl sleeps on her mattress next to me. For a long time that seemed easier for night feeds than having to get up out of bed. Problem now is she's mobile! Once she learned how to roll over and sit up she started doing it at night. I thought it would just be a phase, that it was temporarily her automatic response to rolling over...months later I'm still helping her back down. But now I think it's a case of "I can't get back to sleep without you putting me in position mommy." She goes down at 7pm & wakes at least 5 times a night, sometimes more & sometimes I have to keep my hand on her for 20min to insure she doesn't just sit up again. I feed her 2 of those times, as close to 1:30am & 5:30am as I can. I find if I don't lay her back down right away she gets more riled up (and awake) and/or starts playing, which is like soooo not cute. Sometimes she crawls over to me and tries to play or go back to sleep, but is crying.

    The catch is we're moving in one week & will be in that place for a month, another place the next month, then essentially traveling the month after that. If possible I'd like to keep her sleeping arrangements the same. If we weren't moving, I'd probably transition her to a crib and work with some crying. But as it is I think I'd feel bad making her go through a big transition at the same time as taking her away from the only "home" she's known.

    So. Do you have any tips or ideas about handling her nighttime wakings. I'm working on a schedule, hoping that will curb her wakings. I figure I've got about one week to make any drastic changes and get her accustomed to that before I'll feel more "locked in" to her sleep patterns.

    The only thing I've come across so far for this situation is the Sears idea of playing dead. I haven't tried this consistently yet because the first time she crawled off the bed and toward the door. My plan very foiled.

    Do you think I can still co-sleep and "cure" her need for me, or that I definitely need to transition her to a crib. I'm sure other co-sleeping moms have had the same and figured a way through it, but I wonder if they just were accustomed to waking all night!


    1. Molly, I think if you want her beside you and she keeps crawling off her bed the best solution would be something like a play pen next to you. That way you actually have the option of giving her less attention at night (in whatever way you do it). The sitting up and then pulling up and then walking is a novelty thing. It will happen in most babies and disturb sleep and the main thing to do is allow practice in the day and wait for it to pass. If you involve yourself in the process too much, it can very wuickly turn into a game or habit. So maybe the playpen will help out some. Maybe say a phrase as you put her down (said calmly even if you don't feel it:) and you will be able to just say the words and drop the physical holding down. Playing dead may work but she may get very upset and cry, just like she may do if you hold her down (I'm surprised this isn't happening, lucky you!). Offering a lovey with your phrase, I.e. time to go to keep, works great or some kids (certainly not mine though at that age. Sorry it took a fe days to respond as this is time sensitive. Good luck!

  4. Dear Rachel,
    Thank you for this blog. I'm feeling a bit lost right now and am wondering if you have any guidance. My almost one month old is sleeping pretty well at night. She'll go for about 3 hour stretches, eat, and fall right back to sleep (can't complain at all!!). It's the day time that has been frustrating. She'll wake up in between 6:15 and 7 and nurse for about 15-20 minutes. Then she starts nodding off -- I've tried all the tips offered to keep her awake. Nothing seems to keep her up. She dozes off for about 30 - 45 minutes. Then awakes and wants to eat again for about 15 minutes (she'll either pop of my breast or start dozing again). She's been a bit fussy lately and I think it's due to her diaper rash. After I change her diaper she's up so we'll do an activity. But about 10 minutes into it she starts routing and making faces like she wants to nurse. She becomes so frustrated that she goes into a full cry. I've given her a pacifier but she just spits it out. I'll try to put her down (because about this time we have about 45 - 1 hour left of a 3 hour cycle). She won't nap. If I put her in the swing, she'll just stare off in space and get fussy, if I put her in crib she screams bloody murder. At that point I never know if I'm supposed to restart the Sleep, Feed, Activity cycle again. If I feed her she'll just fall asleep for a short nap. The past two weeks it's typical for her to not nap until 1 -- and even then is a struggle where she'll only do it in someone's arms. On the plus, she'll nap until 4 or so. I really don't think she needs more food, but nursing is the only thing during the day that calms her. Any insight would be appreciated.
    All the best,

    1. Ryan Price,
      It isn't surprising she nods off in the morning. Some babies are soooo tired then. Just do your best, it will get easier very soon here. In case you haven't seen this yet:

      I'd start off by looking over this post

      Look over the waketimes particularly. Unless I read wrong, you have quite a bit more than she needs for her age.

      Wake for overstimulation. She may be getting upset because she's had too much. At 1 month, even stairing at the wall is a lot of work!

      Keep working on other forms of soothing during the day outside of nursing otherwise that will become, more and more, the only thing that soothes her (this is assuming you don't want this to be the case)

      If she is so overtired she feeds to sleep, then that's what will have to happen if she needs a feed. You can only do so much to work around this.


  5. Dear Rachel,
    I'm a first time mommy to a very spirited little girl. My babe is almost 4.5 months now and night waking sometimes over 6 times a night. She was a very colicky baby from the beginning up all hours with bouts of crying. She has acid reflux and several food intolerances that I have gotten under control for about a month now. With that said, we did what we had to do, bouncing in a yoga ball for hrs since she never took to rocking but has always been a crib sleeper due to me having to keep her in an elevated sleeping surface.

    Now at 4.5 months I believe the night waking is due to poor sleep associations. She didn't start taking a paci til 3.5 months although I'm wondering if it just created another problem. So basically in a nutshell her wake up time is 6:30 a.m. And u can't get her to sleep any longer.
    She takes 4 naps a day but they are usually short. Lasting anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes. When I try to lengthen them it usually rarely works. I sneak in replace her paci and sometimes I can sshh pat her back to sleep. But most times she plays spurs the paci out and just won't settle. I've tried picking her up and bouncing her or holding her and she will fall asleep for 5 minutes in my arms and the wake back up. This can last for the 20 minutes that I spend trying. So she's on a 2.5 hr esw routine because of the usual short naps. Her bedtime is 6:00 pm because of the last nap ending at 4:30. Meaning I am trying to have her eyes closed by 6:00 pm. For naps and bedtime she is awake 1 hr 15 min and then we wind down for 15. For naps we read a story swaddle give her a paci and I hold her in my arms with no movement for about 5 min and gently place her in her crib and she stays asleep. At bedtime though I have to bounce a little and then the fun begins. She just won't stay asleep. Closes her eyes and I try to place her in her crib and she plays. I walk away and then try to put the paci in when she fusses and try to shh pat until I always end up picking her up and bouncing again so she doesn't escalate like she will. But I have to bounce for like 30 minutes before she will even stay asleep and then she wakes up like an hr later and my husband has to bounce til she is back asleep and I mean truly asleep or she will wake back up as soon as you place her in the crib. We do this til 10 when I feed her. And she wakes plenty more times until I feed her at 1 or 2 am and then again til she wakes at 6:30.

    At about 4 months exactly we tried a few things. First we did cry it out with checks. She cried for 2 1/2 hrs at bedtime and I was crying and it broke my heart so we called it quits. Then we tried extinction but I couldn't do that either because she cried for over 20 minutes and I knew where it was headed and again I couldn't do it to her. Then I said no more CIO because I realized I'm not for it so I tried a chair method. Sitting next to the crib and shhh pat but never picking up. It worked the first night in about 30 minutes but she woke 30 minutes later. The second night it took over an hr and she began escalating so I caved and fed her : ( then last night we tried p.u. P.d. She fell asleep in about 45 min but woke an hr later and it took over an hr to get her back to sleep.

    Also we are still using the paci but I'm not ready to toss it out because I feel like it's her only way to try to soothe herself since we have her still sleeping swaddled. About a week ago I tried one arm out for a nap but it was a disaster. She threw her paci and kept touching her face and crying. So I'm not sure what to do about that either as she is very strong and I worry about it not being safe. But she still sleeps elevated in the crib and I don't think I will be taking it down anytime soon due to the acid reflux

  6. Any advice would be appreciated! I am just so confused and don't know what to do anymore : ( I've read everything I can and just don't know what to do next! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! You truly are amazing and very sweet!!!


  7. Sierra,
    6:30 morning wake time isn't too bad for a baby. I personally don't like getting up before 7 am, but you can't complain too much with 6:30 when it comes to young children :)

    Now at 4.5 months I believe the night waking is due to poor sleep associations.--that is for sure the issue.

    So she's on a 2.5 hr esw routine because of the usual short naps--this is too short for her and will cause it's own problems. Just do ewsaews or whatever version you need to make it work. Don't worry if it isn't always the ews pattern. The key is to try to not have her feed to sleep or feed extremely often.

    As you've read in this post, there is no magic fix. If you want your situation to improve, you are going to make some drastic, difficult changes. Whatever method you choose to do to change things is going to take time, patience, extreme consistency and determination or it won't work. And it will need to be repeated whenever things start to get off at all or you'll end up back where you are at again. Until you stop the sleep associations and have her settling by herself, the sleep issues will not improve (at least not for a long time). There isn't really much more to it than that. I know it is hard to do, but you've got to make a plan and stick to it 100%. Get support through the process. She needs sleep just as you need sleep. As for pacifier, if it is adding to the issues, it will be a half hearted effort to sleep train if you continue using it while it interferes. I've helped many a baby learn to soothe themselves to sleep while swaddled, but if you are really worried about it, then unswaddle. Yes, it will be tough at first, but she will get used to it pretty quickly. She may scratch herself, but she isn't going to do anything serious to herself. And it'll give her a chance to get comfort from sucking on her own hands instead if she wants (which don't need to be reinserted :)


  8. Thank you so much for writing back Rachel! She is slowly getting better at the self soothing as she is 5 months now! I have also increased the routine to eating every 3 hours and Im currently trying to stretch her further. She has begun turning in the swaddle though as she is learning to roll. I begun unswaddling today for one nap with one arm out. She just kept throwing the paci and crying. I then held her for while and she fell asleep but woke pretty frequently and I was unable to set her down. Do you have any advice as to how to get her to be unswaddled? It is a big transition for her. Also she takes the paci for naps and night but never during her wake time. Any advice regarding this matter. Should I just go cold turkey? Thank you sooooo much!

    1. Sierra Archambo,
      I would at least swaddle with one arm out first or swaddle from the armpits down for a bit. It can a tough transition times for some babies, but you just have to kind of grunt your way through it :) It usually doesn't last more than a few days, although there are the occasional babies that will struggle a little (especially with short naps) for some weeks. Hopefully she'll start finding other ways to soothe herself besides the pacifier.


  9. Hi Rachel
    You have an amazing post. I have a fewquestions and need advise. My 6month 1week old baby is finding it difficult putting himself to sleep and one of the reason is that he will keep touching and scratching his face which resulted to me having to start swaddling him at around 3month till date. I decided to start the Ferber sleep training today and it has been brutal. I am intears as i write. I had to unswaddle him to do this. He woke up at abt 12.28a.m from 7.44p.msleep and we have been at it till about 3.18a.m when he finally slept. But sadly ge woke up again at 4.20 and i went i thinking it must be for feeding( but i was wrong )as he has beenfeeding like every 1 to 2hrs in the night since he turned 5month. His wake time is usually betweeb 6.30a.m -7a.m so i guess no sleep for us both tonight anymore. My questions are; 1) can i teach him this ferber method with the swaddle on as i have eliminated holding and rocking him and slowly weaninghim off night time feeding . Thus it seems he is just helpless taking all these away at once. However, my fear is i dont want to have to go through all this (if it works) again for transitioning him to unswaddle stage when i do.