Michelle believed her situation was hopeless. Her five month old breast fed son Toby was waking every two hours over night and would only go to sleep when feeding and only on her. He would cry and wake up when she tried to lower him into his bassinet. On top of that, her two and a half year old son Jake had just moved into a ‘big bed’ but he thought it was much more comfortable in his parent’s bed. He would creep into his parent’s room and snuggle in beside Michelle when he woke at night. Michelle was so sleep deprived that she had no energy left to deal with Jake’s nighttime antics. Her partner worked early mornings and long hours and had begun sleeping in the spare room just to get some peace, so she was pretty much on her own. “Sleep is non-existent in my world. I’m a total mess. I feel like I’m failing as a mother”, Michelle said this in tears over the phone. “I want things to be better for my kids but I don’t know how to change our situation. I don’t like the thought of sleep training because I would never let my babies cry it out”.
A proactive approach
Back ‘in the day’, if your kid had trouble sleeping, you would ask your mum or sisters for help or read a baby help book. Some really lucky mums were able to attend a live in sleep school to help iron out sleep issues, but these were only located in major cities, were expensive and had huge waiting lists. Most of you, like myself, probably rocked and shushed your babies all night long in a fog of delirium, dreaming of that elusive night when you might have some uninterrupted sleep. Nowadays, families are taking a more proactive approach, with many turning to a sleep consultant to help them teach their kids to sleep well.
The sleep consultant
Most sleep consultants offer an free mini phone consultation first up. This initial chat can be very useful as it can give you a feel of whether or not your philosophies mesh, what the underlying issues really are and how the sleep consultant can help. Different sleep consultants offer different services and packages and some prefer specific sleep training strategies and approaches to others, so this is the time to ask questions. A good idea is to write down your questions in advance and have a pen and paper ready to take notes. That way, you can get in touch with a few, at no cost to you, before you make a decision on the sleep consultant who would best suit your family.
It’s All About Sleep
At All About Sleep, we believe that when a child’s temperament is matched with the right technique and this aligns with a parent’s philosophy and style, working on sleep issues can be easy, stress free and success is a given. The strategy that will work for one family, may not work for another, so in our eyes, it is a very personal thing. It’s about listening to parents and taking into account the above-mentioned factors and then matching a strategy to a particular family’s needs. It’s 90% about support. This is also probably why as a parent of three young kids myself, after reading EVERY parenting and sleep book I could get my hands on, I still struggled with their sleep. Like Michelle, what I really needed was someone who knew their stuff to ‘take the reigns’, be my cheerleader and guide me with a solution that would work for us.
What is sleep training, really?
Sleep training in the simplest of terms means teaching a child to sleep well. A sleep training method is the just the strategy or technique used during the whole process. Sleep training is NOT synonymous with cry it out. Like Michelle, many parents believe sleep training means leaving your baby to cry and ignoring their needs, which is so very far from the truth. Any good sleep consultant knows that sleep training means focussing on a child’s needs first and foremost, because in essence, that’s what it’s only ever about. The child’s needs must always come first, because that’s the only way a sleep solution will work. Cry it out is just one sleep training method amongst many, and although it can be effective in the right circumstances, it is understandably the least used and least popular amongst parents and sleep consultants in general.
STOP PRESS: Sleep training does NOT = cry it out!
There are a spectrum of sleep training methods that are scientifically confirmed ways you can teach your child to settle independently and it’s not ‘rocket science’. The fact is, cry it out is on one extreme end of this spectrum and on the other end of the spectrum are the gentlest of approaches, with some middle of the road strategies in between. Unfortunately, there is a massive misconception out there in the parenting (especially mum) world about what sleep training involves, which has essentially evolved with the advent of Internet and social media. This sadly means that parents are being grossly misinformed and are subsequently reluctant to seek help when they most need it.
Can a sleep consultant help?
Michelle overcame her fears, got in touch with All About Sleep, took that first ‘scary’ step and has never looked back. She started by working on her baby Toby’s sleep by using a gentle settling technique at night instead of feeding when he wasn’t hungry. She stayed close by his cot in his room, she was there to cuddle and soothe him if he needed comfort and there were actually very few tears. By the end of the fifth day, he was sleeping happily in a portable cot all night with only one feed.
It took another week and a half to iron out her cheeky toddler’s middle of the night capers, which she did by putting him back into his cot and teaching him to sleep independently with a sleep training technique called spaced soothing. Michelle would leave the room for a few minutes and go back in to check and console Jake with increasing intervals, until he fell asleep. He now sleeps through the night and there are no more night time shenanigans! This approach was different to what Michelle did to help her youngest son Toby, but it suited Jake’s temperament and it was the best fit for him. Michelle feels like a new person now and is starting to get some much needed sleep herself. Her partner moved back in with her and their family are so much happier in general. Like most parents who have worked one to one with a sleep consultant, Michelle’s comments at the end of her time working with All About Sleep were: