Exploring How Extinction Bursts Affect Sleep Training for Your Baby

As a sleep consultant in London, I’ve seen many parents face sleep training challenges, and one term that often causes concern is the “extinction burst.” In this blog, we’ll demystify this term, explain what it means in the context of sleep training, and provide guidance on how to navigate it successfully.

Why sleep training not working anymore?

Sleep training often starts well, with noticeable improvements in your child’s sleep patterns. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, things take a turn for the worse. This sudden regression is precisely what we call an “extinction burst” in sleep training. It happens when your child, who had been adjusting to the new routine, suddenly intensifies their old sleep-related behaviour.

What is an Extinction Burst?

Picture this: Sleep training is on the right track, progress is being made, and then boom, it feels like you’re back at square one. What you’re experiencing is known as an “extinction burst.” This behavioral concept describes a temporary surge in an undesired behavior just before it starts to get better. It’s a phenomenon we encounter not only in sleep training but also in different aspects of child behavior. Think of it as your child’s last-ditch effort to return to their old habits when you’re making changes to their sleep routine.

Example: The Snack Monster Meltdown – Imagine your child is used to having a bedtime snack every night, and you’ve decided to eliminate it. At first, they may react with resistance, but as you remain steadfast, they gradually adapt to the new routine. Then, suddenly, they remember their beloved bedtime snack, leading to an intense emotional outburst. This is a classic extinction burst – a last-ditch effort to regain the comfort they miss.

Extinction Burst in Sleep Training:

Whether you choose the Ferber Method, Controlled Crying, CIO (Cry It Out), or opt for a gentle no-cry sleep training method, extinction bursts can still occur. For instance, you may have removed the pacifier or nighttime feed, and initially, there was progress in your baby’s sleep routine. However, at some point, you might notice your baby resisting again, demanding what they used to have. This phenomenon is the “extinction burst” in sleep training, and it can manifest with all these methods.

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Do Extinction Bursts Always Occur?

Extinction bursts are common during sleep training, regardless of the method chosen, but can be short-lived if you remain consistent with your plan. Giving in to your child’s demands during an extinction burst sends the message that they can regain their old habits through protest. Stay firm and remember that consistency is key to success.

When May These Bursts Occur?

Extinction bursts typically occur between nights 3-5 of sleep training but may extend to nights 7-10. Every child is unique, and not all will experience a burst. Stay confident in your chosen method, whether it’s the Ferber Method, Controlled Crying, or CIO, and persevere, knowing that better sleep for your child and your family is the ultimate goal. These can happen so be prepared for them, see in this poll what others experienced.

Seeking Help from a Sleep Consultant:

In challenging moments like extinction bursts, hiring a sleep consultant can provide invaluable support and guidance. They can help you navigate these tricky situations, tailor the approach to your preferences, and maintain your sleep training plan.

Conclusion: Understanding extinction bursts is crucial for parents embarking on the journey of sleep training, whether they opt for methods like the Ferber Method, Controlled Crying, or CIO. Regardless of your choice, remember that it’s a temporary setback that often precedes lasting progress. Stay consistent, stay strong, and keep your eye on the goal of healthier sleep for your child and your entire family.


  • Extinction bursts can occur in sleep training methods like the Ferber Method, Controlled Crying, CIO or gentle no cry sleep training methods
  • Sudden setbacks in sleep training are often caused by extinction bursts.
  • Consistency is vital in overcoming extinction bursts.
  • A sleep consultant can provide tailored support for your preferred approach.
  • Trust in your chosen sleep training method for lasting results.
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