The world of infant sleep
If you have children you will more than likely remember those tricky first weeks and months where you really struggled to get your new-born baby to sleep. You’ll remember the long nights pacing the floorboards. You’ll probably remember the weird and wonderful techniques you developed just to get a little more sleep!
Well, for many families, those issues don’t stop after just a few months. In fact, one in four families will experience some sort of sleep disorder that prevents them from getting the rest that they need. One in four families – that’s huge!
Alone in the dark
After months of experiencing severe sleep deprivation, I felt like the only person on the planet that had a child who just would not sleep, and I felt like a failure as a mother. I didn’t realise that this was simply not true.
Many parents don’t realise that being able to put yourself to sleep is a skill that needs to be learnt.
Some easy-going children will naturally pick this up quite quickly, simply by following a regular bedtime routine. Some parents don’t even realise that they have ‘taught’ their child to sleep! But for others, particularly children with alert temperaments, feeding problems or other specialised concerns, they will have a much harder time learning to sleep and need more support.
Look around the next baby group or soft play that you go to, and one in four of all of the parents there will know what wakeful nights and bedtime battles feel like. They will know just how you feel when your child is struggling to sleep for longer than an hour.
The problem I then discovered is that everyone has their own advice to share, their own top tips that worked for them, or the latest expert’s baby book that has the magical baby sleep formula. The more I looked for answers the more confused I became.
I tried each technique with absolute certainty that it would work. I tried to fulfil it to the letter. I thought I could honestly say I had tried it all but without success. It went on and on, night after night.
Enter the Sleep Coach
To make sense of this sleep minefield and to finally make some progress, a friend of mine suggested I seek help from a Sleep Consultant.
I had never heard of a Sleep Consultant (or a Sleep Nanny, Sleep Expert or Gentle Sleep Coach for that matter!) and yet right here, in the UK, there was a whole industry field dedicated the world of baby sleep.
Life coaches are well-known, as are fitness coaches, and now business coaches are a staple for many business owners. In the UK we are slowly becoming more and more accustomed to the concept of paying for information and guidance in order to get the results that we need. It then made sense to me to seek help on the most important subject of all, sleep.
The right fit
I took time to find the right Coach. I wanted someone with qualifications and experience, who I felt that I could work with and trust. When I eventually found her, I felt her value almost immediately.
Our Sleep Consultant was someone who understood me and my child, and could develop a sleep plan that worked for our personalities and my parenting style. She had in-depth knowledge of a wide range of sleep techniques and could fully explain them and point out the potential problem areas.
She could inform and support us (especially through the tough times) and she helped me to work through the issues as they happened. She was responsive and on hand to see us through those unexpected bumps in the road which had side-lined my hard work so many times in the past.
But shouldn’t I ‘know’ all of this?
Many mothers I have spoken to feel like they ‘should know’ how to get their children to sleep and that they feel guilty if their child doesn’t sleep well. I know I did. And I felt a guilty about buying in support to achieve what I ‘should know’.
I did some local parenting courses before I had children, but no one really covered how to help your child to learn to sleep. We discussed changing nappies, holding baby correctly and the importance of breast feeding (a lot!) but no mention of helping a tired 4-month-old learn how to settle down or helping a child that won’t nap during the daytime.
As adults, we accept that we may need to ask for help or may need to take courses when we can’t do something ourselves. We’re happy to seek advice on fitness training, weight loss, developing a skill such as learning to drive, or cooking a new meal – so why not teaching your child to sleep better?
It then began to make sense to me that if you are stuck on something, and it is having a huge impact on your family, why wouldn’t you ask for help from someone who has the answers for you?
Convincing the sceptics
Quite a few people were sceptical of our new Sleep Coach and some questioned whether it would work for us. Almost all thought it would involve some sort of traumatic experience and that our child would be scarred for life in some way – but this simply was not true.
Sleep training gets a bad name because it is associated with teaching babies and young children how to sleep independently. It is often assumed that this will mean leaving babies to cry it out alone and unanswered in the darkness.
This view is hugely outdated and there are now more varied sleep training methods on offer than there are ice cream flavours. Our sleep coach never asked us to do this and only used gentle sleep methods that we were happy with. She frequently asked us if we were pleased with the progress and whether we were achieving the goals we wanted to.
The results spoke for themselves. There was no need to convince the sceptics. In just over two weeks we were enjoying better sleep and feeling totally refreshed. Our darling child was now sleeping through the night and bedtime battles were a thing of the past. We felt like a new family!
I’m not going to lie, there were hard parts to it. We were required to be consistent and stick to the plan no matter what. But at no point did our Coach ask us to do anything we didn’t want to. Our child was never in real distress and I’m pretty sure we’ve caused no lasting damage (not through sleep training anyway!)
It is for everyone?
In short, no, sleep coaching and sleep training is not for everyone. You need to find the right person to work with, you need the commitment to follow the plan, and you need the time to see it through to the end. There is no good starting out with a sleep plan only to give in one week later as you will have created a situation ten times worse and shown your child that you will back down eventually.
You need to find a Sleep Coach that you are totally confident in and that has the right qualifications and experience to guide you in the sleep techniques that you feel comfortable with. If anything is not the right fit for you and your family, it simply won’t work no matter how hard you try.
A new start
I felt so revitalised by our sleep coaching experience that I eventually took time out of my career to retrain and I am now a Certified Sleep Consultant myself.
I adore the opportunity to work with sleep deprived families to help them transform their lives. It’s my privileged job to meet families from all over the world online, and to assess, consult and coach them to sleep train their child in their chosen sleep goals.
Get in touch to discuss how sleep consultancy could help your family. Do not hesitate to contact us on 07547 199478 / firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatively, get in touch via the contact page.