Preparing for the birth of my first child I swear I read up on labour, consulted with every friend who had a kid on how many onesies I should responsibly own and researched the best diaper disposal system. Once the wee one arrived though? Ask any new parent and the conversation tends to hover around the lack of sleep.
I know first hand. Bastien, my first, was a nightmare. We would walk around with him, rock his portable crib and lay down with him to sleep. It was TOUGH.
Second time around I just knew it wouldn’t fly. You can read my story here, but needless to say Alex is a dream and my dear friend Shawna Rose, who also happens to be a certified pediatric Sleep Consultant at Destination Sleep, is 100% the reason for that. Seriously, she was such a game changer it made me feel like burning all those books we tried to use to teach our kid to sleep where we failed so miserably.
I have to admit that I was nervous writing that post, which I published last July, on my experience with teaching my son to sleep. By large, the majority of comments were of utter support but I know that a lot of people hear the words ‘sleep training’ and think it’s cruel or bad parenting. I think that in some cases this is maybe because people don’t understand that there is so much more to sleep training than just letting your kid scream with no rhyme or reason.
Sleep consultants are a pretty new concept and somewhat misunderstood. I asked if Shawna would be kind enough to explain what happens when you hire a sleep consultant and bust a few of the most common misconceptions.
Read on for Shawna’s interview and the real deal with sleep consultants.
(Photo Credit Reina Procee Photography)
I’m a certified pediatric Sleep Consultant with the Family Sleep Institute, and I founded Destination Sleep when I decided to leave my corporate job last year in order to devote more time to my family and to helping others. I’m also the mom of two young toddlers, so when parents call me with sleep struggles, I understand where they’re coming from. Parents are often exhausted, frustrated, and simply don’t know where to turn. They’ve heard about sleep consultants usually from fellow parents, but they sometimes have concerns about what the process involves and what sleep training methods will be recommended.
I can assure you that I am here to listen to the parent’s needs, respect their comfort level, and support them in finding a solution that works for their family. I see where their child is at and come up with an age-appropriate plan that works for them. I support them through the process and listen to their feedback until we reach a point where they are comfortable with their child’s sleeping habits.
Here are some of the most common myths that come up in my line of work.
MYTH: I should only hire a sleep consultant if my child has serious sleep issues.
Absolutely not! Expecting and new parents should know that there’s so much that can be done beforehand to set a solid foundation for healthy sleep. We all read up on how to prepare for labour and delivery or why it’s important to breastfeed. It’s the same with sleep. Arming yourself with information on healthy sleep habits, like how to set up your nursery for the best possible sleep scenario and key sleep milestones, gives your baby the best chance for quality rest time.
Sleep is just as much of a biological need as eating, but unfortunately it isn’t given nearly as much attention in many of the resources that parents refer to in preparation for the arrival of their baby. I have a wealth of knowledge to get you started on the right path.
MYTH: If I ask for support to sleep train my child, I’ll just be told that I’ll have to let my baby “Cry it Out”
One of the biggest misconceptions in our field is that parents are worried that they’ll just be told that their child will have to “Cry it Out”, which consists of putting the child to bed, closing the door, and ignoring all crying unless the baby is in distress. If your child suffers from some form of sleep issue, parents should know that I will first work to correct the child’s sleep environment, sleep habits and sleep schedule before I even start to think about more direct intervention. There are so many components that go towards establishing healthy sleep habits that can be adjusted. These tiny adjustments can go a long way towards creating the best possible environment for your child.
For more complex sleep issues that need some type of sleep intervention, some degree of crying might be involved. However, plans are developed to respect each family’s comfort level. The cry-it-out method is a safe and effective method and is one option that I use in my practice. However, it’s definitely not the only method that works. I’ve worked with a number of families who’ve opted for much gentler approaches that are more gradual. Ultimately, we need to respect the parent’s beliefs, and above all, the needs of the child.
(Photo Credit Reina Procee Photography)
MYTH: Hiring a Sleep Consultant is just about getting my baby to sleep through the night.
It’s true that I get many calls from exhausted parents whose babies just can’t fall asleep or return to sleep at night without the breast, rocking or other types of intervention. I’ve been there – you just want to get a good night’s sleep. This is definitely a common issue but definitely not the only reason parents may need help.
Day sleep is just as important as night sleep, so I always analyze sleep issues over a 24-hour period. For example, sometimes when a child is experiencing behavioural issues, although he may be sleeping through the night, it’s likely that he’s just not clocking enough total sleep. In these cases, things like more daytime sleep by means of improving naps and an earlier bedtime greatly benefits everyone – parents and child.
MYTH: It’s not possible to sleep train while still nursing at night.
If the adjusted age of a baby is four months and a mother is currently nursing on demand then I agree that sleep training might be challenging.
If the baby’s adjusted age (age based on the due date) is 4 months or more and the mother would like to transition from nursing on demand to limiting the number of night feeds, then sleep training is completely possible. I’ve worked with many nursing mothers with babies in the 4-12 month range who went from feeding anywhere from 3-10 times per night, down to 1-3. The number depends on what the mother feels is right for their child and any type sleep training plan that entails cutting feeds should always be approved by the child’s paediatrician.
Nursing and sleeping can definitely go hand in hand, and as a mom of a rested 20-month old who sleeps well, but who still nurses at night on occasion, it’s definitely doable.
Thanks Shawna for sharing your knowledge.
Have you ever used a sleep consultant or tried sleep training your child? Did it work? Or do you not think that sleep training is for you? Please contact Shawna directly or put your feedback in the comments.