Parenting is hard. Babies (and toddlers) are hard. Generally speaking, we all know what we are getting into when we decide to have a child. In the beginning, there will be sleepless nights, lots of crying, bottle washing, diaper changing, and so much more. When does it get easier? This is the question that every new parent asks. When does the fog lift, and when do you settle into a groove and a routine that is manageable and sustainable? The answer to this question depends on many factors, but I’d argue that the biggest piece of this very large and complicated puzzle is sleep. Once your baby is sleeping, everything just feels easier.
There is no shortage of information about infant and toddler sleep available in books, and on the Internet. Chances are you also have a handful of friends with babies a few months older than your child, and they all seem to be the expert when it comes to sleep. Sometimes it can be incredibly overwhelming, especially when you are sleep deprived, to try and sift through the information that you are being fed by your friends and pediatrician, as well as all the content available online. Who should you trust? Which nuggets of advice will change your circumstances and allow you to get some much-needed sleep at night?
They say you can’t put a price on good quality sleep, and for some, that means investing in a certified pediatric sleep consultant. A good sleep consultant will listen to your unique and specific circumstances and encourage healthy sleep habits that will benefit the entire family for years to come.
But can’t I work on this on my own?
Absolutely. Every family is different and many parents feel totally equipped to improve the quality of their child’s sleep without the guidance and support of a sleep coach. Usually, these parents pick up a book, read it thoroughly and seek help and support from close friends. Without the guidance and support from a sleep coach, it will be important for the family to do their own research and really remain committed and consistent with their chosen sleep training method.
When is the ideal time to work with a sleep consultant?
This will differ for every family. Each family has a different threshold for what they deem to be tolerable when it comes to sleepless nights. Generally speaking, whether we are discussing sleep or any other topic, when things feel too hard it’s always a good idea to seek help and support. Some families even hire sleep consultants before things get too hard because they want to lay the foundation for healthy sleep habits down the road. This strategy is brilliant and often saves parents from months and months of sleepless nights.
Most professionals in this field would agree that you can begin sleep training at about four months. This is also right around the time when infant sleep tends to unravel as there is typically a four-month sleep regression which throws most parents for a serious loop! All this being said, it’s important to note that sleep training and night weaning are not the same things. A four-month-old baby may be ready to learn to fall asleep and back to sleep independently, but they still may need to be fed overnight. Decreasing those night wakings from being every hour to just once or twice for a quick feed would be a major improvement!
What do sleep consultants do?
A good sleep consultant will spend some time gaining an understanding of your child, and also your parenting philosophies. Sleep consultants will make sure that your child’s sleep environment is one that is safe and conducive to quality sleep. For younger babies, a sleep consultant will likely make recommendations for swaddles, white noise machines, and even pacifiers. Then they will work with you to establish a solid routine for daytime, often giving guidance on an age-appropriate nap schedule as well as general feeding advice. They will help you to implement a solid bedtime routine and also provide options for sleep training or teaching your baby to fall asleep independently. Most importantly, in addition to providing you with a solid plan, they will also provide a whole lot of handholding and support through the process. Sleep training, which almost always includes some crying, can feel very overwhelming and stressful, especially for first-time parents. A good sleep consultant will provide parents with options and help them land on a method that aligns with their parenting style. As the baby learns to fall asleep independently and self soothes, the sleep consultant will provide advice and encouragement along the way. This process can sometimes feel like a bumpy road, and having the accountability and support of a sleep coach can be incredibly helpful to overwhelmed parents.
How do you find the right sleep consultant?
When hiring a sleep consultant, it’s important to do your research. Not all sleep consultants are created equal. It’s wise to hire a certified sleep consultant as this ensures that your coach will be properly educated and trained to support you through the sleep training process. It’s also important to have a solid understanding of what your sleep consultant will provide. Will they provide a written sleep plan? Do you get a phone or text message support? Is your sleep consultant trained to teach only a specific method or are they familiar with many options for teaching independent sleep? Do you jive personally with this sleep consultant? Many will offer to get on the phone for a free 15-minute discovery phone call. This is a great opportunity to learn about the sleep consultant and to see if working together would be a good fit. Lastly, trust the recommendation of a friend. If you know someone that has used a sleep consultant, reach out to learn about their experience. This can be incredibly valuable and give you a good idea for whether or not working with this sleep consultant would be a good fit for you.
Remember, that whether or not you decide to go at this alone, or with the help of a coach, it’s never too late to work on improving your child’s sleep. Healthy sleep habits are incredibly beneficial for the entire family, and laying the foundation for solid sleep early on will have lasting effects for many years to come.