This week Certified Sleep Nanny Consultant Helen Farmer is talking about when a family may reach out for help with sleep challenges.

On a recent girly weekend with good friends (a key part of my self-care! 😉), we were discussing what I “do” with my clients and how I actually help families. One friend suggested to me that I should write an article on ‘readiness’ for sleep training. She said that it occurred to her, a while back when I had given her some general tips on breaking an early rising cycle with one of her kids, that she was initially nervous about implementing that advice and how hard it might be. However, she said that after further discussion with me, it was clear to see the overall benefit for everyone in the family and that the dedicated effort to reach the goal was absolutely worth it.

It did make me think, what other potential clients might think before initially making contact and what, if anything, are the prerequisites to gently sleep training your child?

Maybe you as parents do have reservations about what it involves and it puts you off contacting a sleep consultant. So hopefully, I can share some thoughts with you and answer the questions that you did or didn’t know you had!!

When do you need help from a sleep consultant?
This varies for every family. Some parents know after a very short time of having sleep challenges with their little one, that they want to ‘nip it in the bud’ quickly and get help – just someone to tell them what exactly to do and how to do it.

Other parents want to try their own thing initially, or give the situation time in the hope that things will settle. Then, if (when!) this doesn’t happen, parents get to a point where all the well-meaning advice out there can be a bit overwhelming and even conflicting and it’s hard to know where to start.

In my experience working with families, it is often the case that parents are doing lots of things ‘right’ but when you’re knee deep in a difficult situation and sleep deprived on top of that, it’s hard to see what exactly isn’t working!

2. Are you, as a family ‘ready’ to begin gentle sleep training? What does it involve?

Your Certified Sleep Nanny Consultant will initially have a chat with you about your situation and how it’s affecting family life. We aim to help parents consider what will happen if you do nothing about your situation and also how ideally you would like things to look. If you decide to go ahead (because let’s face it, the value of getting to your ideal situation with your little one’s sleep is hard to look past!), there follows a comprehensive assessment, a face-to-face consultation and generally between 2-4 weeks support to help you through the plan. Ideally, to get the most from this, it is best if you implement the plan at a time when there are no huge disruptions planned to normal family day-to-day life, for example, going on holidays, moving house.

However, the plan will be completely tailored to your specific family dynamics, so don’t worry if there are factors that you cannot control, for example, maybe both parents work and your child has alternative childcare arrangements in place during the day, or maybe your child has to share a room with a sibling, and you’re wondering if you can work around these things, fear not, your sleep consultant will be able to advise you on how best to work with your individual family arrangements.

I will say yes, sleep training your child could be described as tough. Yes it is challenging to remain completely consistent, to be more resilient than your child (in the kindest, gentlest possible way) and not give in when the going gets tough. But, as I say to all the Mums and Dads I work with – so is what you’re doing at the minute. And, this way, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel…..or should I say sleep!!

3. The big question I believe people have when they contact a sleep consultant is – does it work?

And the answer is yes. OK, there are some stipulations to this statement. Sleep training is designed for behavioural based sleep issues. If there are underlying medical issues, progress can still be made, but it can affect the overall outcome. So it is best if you have any medical concerns, that these are checked out first.

Then when you’re good to go, your sleep consultant will consider your family’s unique situation. This includes taking into account your child’s temperament- this matters because your sleep consultant can choose the most suitable gentle approach for your child’s personality. Also, we will consider what’s happening right now in your situation, and then they will tailor a bespoke step by step sleep plan that’s specific to your child’s needs.

You will be given the tools and knowledge to implement that advice. And as you’d expect, your sleep consultant will hold you accountable throughout because the cornerstone to sleep training is 100% consistency in the right approach. And, if you feel you’re not going to be able to stick to the plan, you’re better not to start at all, as giving your child mixed messages could leave you in a worse situation than you started in.

But, be assured the approach used by Certified Sleep Nanny Consultants is truly gentle and fully responsive. And, I’d even go as far as to say, more gentle and more responsive than what’s happening right now with your little one’s sleep challenges – because right now you might have to rock your child to sleep each time or face daily bedtime battles and frequent night wakings. And your child’s frustration and crying is undoubtedly their way of telling you ‘I need help…. I want to be able to get myself to sleep and to get back to sleep when I wake, but I don’t know how to do that!’ In that case, surely a more appropriate response is to gently teach your child the amazing life skill of self-settling.

So, what are you waiting for? You will never regret giving your child this precious gift. Setting them up to go forward in life.

Recently I did a workshop and with lots of advice to keep it interactive, what better way to start than with some true/ false paddles and a number of sleep related statements to see what the general opinion was. Yes…..the results were interesting. The topic of ‘infant sleep’ is such a minefield. I have to say despite my training and experience, it still surprises me at times! It is really counter-intuitive and so today I am hoping to bust some common sleep myths. 

A quick reminder of the stats. 1 in 4 children will have a sleep challenge at some stage in their young lives. And so, for all those sleep-deprived parents out there, there are an equal number of family and friends who will have lots of well meaning advice on how to overcome your sleep challenges. 

For example, 2 year old fighting bedtime? Easy. Cut out daytime nap?? (See below for the right answer!)

Or, is your newborn only taking short catnaps? How about building his resilience and getting him asleep in the corner of the living room with a bit of background noise. If he can learn to sleep there, surely he can sleep anywhere??? (See below for the right answer!)

Any of these “top tips” sound familiar? And when you’re tired, you’ll try anything. Surely if it worked for your husband’s colleague’s niece’s baby, it might work for you!! 

And so you try. Progress? Erm. No. Not really. Let’s discuss why.

  • 2 ½ year old and a nightly bedtime battle. Cut out nap? Surely that will ensure the child is tired enough at bedtime. 

So, in this scenario, if you did cut out the nap, yes your child would probably fall asleep easier at bedtime. But it would be a ‘crash out’ to sleep.  Which indicates no self-settling involved. So then a wake-up in the night time might mean your child doesn’t know how to get back to sleep. Also, things could fall apart even further a week or 2 down the line. All 2 year olds still need a nap of up to 2 hours. So, cut that nap out altogether and you will soon have an even more overtired child. Which could result in early morning waking- pre 6am, as the major cause of this is overtiredness. 

So, in a nutshell, cutting out naps is NOT the answer here. Instead,  I’d want to investigate the timing and length of nap, bedtime, and how your child is actually getting to sleep. The answer is probably to be found here somewhere instead! 

  • Child is rising early (pre 6am). Appears awake and ready to start the day? Ok. So maybe bedtime is too early and you need to keep them up a bit later? 

Straight up, I’d be surprised if bedtime is too early. If your child is going to bed and falling asleep within 20mins or so, I’d say that bedtime is perfect. If it’s taking a lot longer than that, then I’d say bedtime isn’t early enough!! Because when a child is ready for sleep and it doesn’t happen (as often they are good at hiding their tired signs until it’s too late!!), then the body releases cortisol (like adrenaline) to keep them going, which makes getting to sleep even harder! And that’s what I mean when I say sleep is so counter-intuitive. 

So if your child is waking pre 6am, maybe bedtime actually needs to be earlier. As I mentioned above the main reason for early waking is overtiredness. 

  • 2 year old trying to climb out of cot. Ah. Maybe she’s ready for a big girl bed?? That will be a novelty and make her feel like her big sisters. Yes?? 

Nooooooo!! This is not the answer. So basically, before the age of 2 ½ years, a child does not cognitively understand the need to stay in bed. So, whilst it might seem like a good idea initially, and may even work for a short time, the chances are your little one will discover her freedom…and when that happens, you have a new challenge on your hands because she cannot understand otherwise. So, if you have a little ninja warrior who can scale a cot with ease, my advice is to explore all options firstt before resorting to a standard bed. Try a sleeping bag (grobag or similar). Or a product like a slumbersack (which has feet but it’s like a sleeping bag so very difficult for a child to scale cot by getting 1 leg over the top). Be creative. Try and work out a way to keep your little one safely in their cot until closer to 3 years if possible. 

And if that’s just not safe, then there are other ways of overcoming this challenge!

  • Newborns can / should be able to sleep anywhere?? Build their resilience?! 

Often the 1st born child gets peace to nap. After that, newborn siblings have to get used to all the noise. And join in with all the activities. Soft play. The swimming pool. Mums and tots. You name it. The new baby is there and appears to be sleeping soundly through all the background noise. Really? A new born baby will nap a lot.  But it is a light slumber rather than a deep sleep. So while they appear to be sleeping through any background noise, this isn’t recommended as a regular feature. Calmer days = calmer nights. Because even if your little one appears to be coping ok at the time with the noise, you can then find they are unsettled even hours later. 

Generally, it is best if the immediate area around your baby’s sleep space is calm, quiet and relaxing – as this is most conducive to a restful sleep. 

  • Some children just don’t need as much sleep as their peers. Maybe my child is just a ‘bad sleeper’.

This is unlikely to be the case. Yes, all children are different, but there are guidelines of how much recommended sleep a child of a certain age gets – and these guidelines apply to 95% of children. So whilst most of us think our child falls into the other 5%, chances are they don’t. They are likely just having some behavioural challenges right now that mean they aren’t getting the sleep they need. And when I say ‘behavioural’ based challenges, I don’t mean you have a little one who is ‘naughty’. I simply mean when there is no medical reason for the sleep issues, and that it’s just the actions or behaviour you are seeing at bedtime. 

So, isn’t it a relief to know that chances are there likely is a solution to the sleep challenges in your house right now?!

I hope my sleep myth busting has been useful. If any of these scenarios resonate with what’s happening with your little one, hopefully my tips here will help! And if you need more tailored advice and 1:1 support to guide you with that, please get in touch today!!

Blog written by Certified Sleep Nanny Consultant Helen Farmer. 

Or reach out for help today, click HERE book a FREE 15 minute sleep evaluation call with Helen.

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Now, I’m no social media influencer. I wish I was (wink, wink, nod, nod, though I’m not even sure who that should be directed at lol!)
However, as a sleep consultant, it’s no surprise that I am constantly scrolling through sleep related social media forums and pages and I can’t miss the vast array of sleep aids and products that are out there these days aimed at new parents and parents with young kids.

And I mean, wow, I know the power of marketing, I have to admit I’m as vulnerable as the next person to a good advert. Even more enticing in the new world of social media we live in, is the impact of the influencers we follow and become a bit obsessed by. So, if they have a new baby and get a new product, well then surely we need to get that too, right? If it’s good enough for them…….

I’m not going to try and go through every new sleep aid and product there is on the market to give it a yay or nay – I wouldn’t know where to start! But what I am going to do, is suggest a few products that I think are useful and conducive to setting up a safe and calm sleep environment for your little one. If I specify a brand it’s because it’s from my own personal experience and it’s something I have, use and like.

At this stage I will also recommend checking out the Lullaby Trust as they have excellent safety advice on buying baby equipment and how to know whether it is reputable.

Here’s my list of ‘Definites!’:

1. Black out blinds / curtains. You can get curtains with blackout linings. You can get fitted blinds that are blackout. It’s up to you and what suits your preference / budget. But whatever it is, as long as it gives you a darkened bedroom effect. You want to be able to achieve about an 8 out of 10 in darkness levels (if 10 is pitch black). Believe me, these will be useful for daytime naps, the brighter evenings in the summer and for all those mornings when the sun comes up at 5am.
In my house I have normal blinds but then curtains with blackout lining. However I do find some light still creeps in above the curtain pole so I have to block that out using my portable blackout blind.
On that note, portable blackout blinds are brilliant for holidays (1st thing I pack as I find often needed in holiday houses, especially abroad!) but they are not suitable for longterm use on your windows so not advised for nightly use at home.
If you follow me on social media you’ll know I also use my @snoozeshade buggy cover for naps out and about (it protects against UV rays and has a blackout lining to help darken the buggy for naps). I like this product and am happy that the material is fully air permeable, although nothing is safer than regularly checking your little one- and so I do that too!)

2. Red / amber night light. Sounds a bit counter intuitive to number 1?! And maybe it is. But if you have a completely darkened room and prefer to be able to see your little one when you go into the room, then a small nightlight is fine. Also can be useful when your child gets older and you maybe want ‘just’ enough light in their room for them to safely be able to go to the toilet in the night or whatever. But the important thing here is the colour. Red or amber. They are considered warm colours. NOT blue / white. So why is it that lots of readily available night lights emit blue or white light?? I’m honestly not sure, but I just know to avoid them!
3. A video monitor. (Get one that has a room temperature gauge as well so that you can ensure room stays within recommended 16-20 degrees). The benefits of a video monitor are pretty self explanatory, I think. It enables you to keep a reassuring and close eye on your little one during naps / nighttime. Obviously initially your newborn baby is always with you, but as your baby gets older and starts napping in their bedroom and going to bed before you are, a video monitor is really useful. Saves any 2nd guessing. Little one is quiet. Are they asleep yet? Do they need anything adjusted? You go in to check, and wham, they weren’t quite over yet and you’ve now disturbed them and it’s back to square one. Aghhhhhhh!!!!
4. A sleeping bag. I love them. There are lots of different brands on the market. They generally come in different togs, and there are often other features available such as detachable arms, zippers with safety covers, even sleeping bags with feet. I use the Brand ‘Slumbersac’ and find they have a great range available.
Sleeping bags are great because they are safe- the babies head can’t get stuck under the blankets. Assuming you select the correct tog for the room temperature, it’s reassuring to know that your child shouldn’t get too cold or too warm in their sleeping bag, and also it rules out the the child being able to displace the blankets and then waking from being too cold.
Another big reason I love them is because I believe they can help to keep baby safe for longer in their cot. If your baby is used to being in a sleeping bag from a young age, they will always be content in it. Fast forward to a 2 year old and it’s much harder to try and scale a cot when they’re in a sleeping bag (not impossible I agree….but harder) and hopefully in this instance will buy you more time to reach your child and prevent that happening. Then you will need to consider what’s the safest option thereafter.
And last but not least – they are a positive sleep association. If your little one goes into their sleeping bag for every sleep, they soon learn to associate it with sleepy time. It’s a perfect cue.

Other sleep aids:
White noise aids- basically mimics the soothing noises that a baby was used to in the womb.
I personally have no strong feeling one way or another towards white noise aids. They can be useful if you live in a busy area where you might want to try and block out traffic, noise on your street etc. As long as you don’t have to return during the night to turn it on, but as most of the ones on the market now automatically come on when your baby stirs, that’s not normally an issue. So, if you like the idea of them, go for it – but just don’t expect a white noise aid to ‘cure’ any sleep challenges your little one is having! And it’s another thing to remember when you go away for the night if baba becomes used to it.

Not recommended:
Sleep pods / positioners
The Lullaby Trust very clearly do not recommend any form of sleep pods (nests) or positioners. Instead they advise that the sleep space should be firm, flat and have a waterproof cover.

Cot bumpers, pillows, duvets
All not recommended as are potential risks to baby’s safety.

Mobiles / light shows
As a 1st time mum 10 years ago, I read a book by a well-known mum of that time and on her recommendation rushed out to buy an all-singing, all-dancing cot mobile (literally). It played classical music and the mobile went round and round. Funny enough, my baby son never really took to it….
Now, I know better. We want our babies to go to sleep. Why would we want to have a mobile playing or a light show running that will only encourage them to keep their eyes open and watch it!?!?! These items are fine for sensory play and even for wind-down time in baby’s room but they certainly aren’t essential items for the nursery in opinion, and definitely don’t make my criteria as the perfect ‘sleep aid’!

So there you have it. Really, the items you actually ‘need’ are pretty simple. Nothing too fancy. I hope this helps reassure and guides some of the new mums out there who are confused by the vast array on offer.

Was there anything else I left out that you wondered about?? Let me know if so!!


Baby sleep products and aids …..what do you really need?

Now, I’m no social media influencer. I wish I was (wink, wink, nod, nod, though I’m not even sure who that should be directed at lol!)
However, as a sleep consultant, it’s no surprise that I am constantly scrolling through sleep related social media forums and pages and I can’t miss the vast array of sleep aids and products that are out there these days aimed at new parents and parents with young kids.

And I mean, wow, I know the power of marketing, I have to admit I’m as vulnerable as the next person to a good advert. Even more enticing in the new world of social media we live in, is the impact of the influencers we follow and become a bit obsessed by. So, if they have a new baby and get a new product, well then surely we need to get that too, right? If it’s good enough for them…….

I’m not going to try and go through every new sleep aid and product there is on the market to give it a yay or nay – I wouldn’t know where to start! But what I am going to do, is suggest a few products that I think are useful and conducive to setting up a safe and calm sleep environment for your little one. If I specify a brand it’s because it’s from my own personal experience and it’s something I have, use and like.

At this stage I will also recommend checking out the Lullaby Trust as they have excellent safety advice on buying baby equipment and how to know whether it is reputable.

Here’s my list of ‘Definites!’:

1. Black out blinds / curtains. You can get curtains with blackout linings. You can get fitted blinds that are blackout. It’s up to you and what suits your preference / budget. But whatever it is, as long as it gives you a darkened bedroom effect. You want to be able to achieve about an 8 out of 10 in darkness levels (if 10 is pitch black). Believe me, these will be useful for daytime naps, the brighter evenings in the summer and for all those mornings when the sun comes up at 5am.
In my house I have normal blinds but then curtains with blackout lining. However I do find some light still creeps in above the curtain pole so I have to block that out using my portable blackout blind.
On that note, portable blackout blinds are brilliant for holidays (1st thing I pack as I find often needed in holiday houses, especially abroad!) but they are not suitable for longterm use on your windows so not advised for nightly use at home.
If you follow me on social media you’ll know I also use my @snoozeshade buggy cover for naps out and about (it protects against UV rays and has a blackout lining to help darken the buggy for naps). I like this product and am happy that the material is fully air permeable, although nothing is safer than regularly checking your little one- and so I do that too!)

2. Red / amber night light. Sounds a bit counter intuitive to number 1?! And maybe it is. But if you have a completely darkened room and prefer to be able to see your little one when you go into the room, then a small nightlight is fine. Also can be useful when your child gets older and you maybe want ‘just’ enough light in their room for them to safely be able to go to the toilet in the night or whatever. But the important thing here is the colour. Red or amber. They are considered warm colours. NOT blue / white. So why is it that lots of readily available night lights emit blue or white light?? I’m honestly not sure, but I just know to avoid them!
3. A video monitor. (Get one that has a room temperature gauge as well so that you can ensure room stays within recommended 16-20 degrees). The benefits of a video monitor are pretty self explanatory, I think. It enables you to keep a reassuring and close eye on your little one during naps / nighttime. Obviously initially your newborn baby is always with you, but as your baby gets older and starts napping in their bedroom and going to bed before you are, a video monitor is really useful. Saves any 2nd guessing. Little one is quiet. Are they asleep yet? Do they need anything adjusted? You go in to check, and wham, they weren’t quite over yet and you’ve now disturbed them and it’s back to square one. Aghhhhhhh!!!!
4. A sleeping bag. I love them. There are lots of different brands on the market. They generally come in different togs, and there are often other features available such as detachable arms, zippers with safety covers, even sleeping bags with feet. I use the Brand ‘Slumbersac’ and find they have a great range available.
Sleeping bags are great because they are safe- the babies head can’t get stuck under the blankets. Assuming you select the correct tog for the room temperature, it’s reassuring to know that your child shouldn’t get too cold or too warm in their sleeping bag, and also it rules out the the child being able to displace the blankets and then waking from being too cold.
Another big reason I love them is because I believe they can help to keep baby safe for longer in their cot. If your baby is used to being in a sleeping bag from a young age, they will always be content in it. Fast forward to a 2 year old and it’s much harder to try and scale a cot when they’re in a sleeping bag (not impossible I agree….but harder) and hopefully in this instance will buy you more time to reach your child and prevent that happening. Then you will need to consider what’s the safest option thereafter.
And last but not least – they are a positive sleep association. If your little one goes into their sleeping bag for every sleep, they soon learn to associate it with sleepy time. It’s a perfect cue.

Other sleep aids:
White noise aids- basically mimics the soothing noises that a baby was used to in the womb.
I personally have no strong feeling one way or another towards white noise aids. They can be useful if you live in a busy area where you might want to try and block out traffic, noise on your street etc. As long as you don’t have to return during the night to turn it on, but as most of the ones on the market now automatically come on when your baby stirs, that’s not normally an issue. So, if you like the idea of them, go for it – but just don’t expect a white noise aid to ‘cure’ any sleep challenges your little one is having! And it’s another thing to remember when you go away for the night if baba becomes used to it.

Not recommended:
Sleep pods / positioners
The Lullaby Trust very clearly do not recommend any form of sleep pods (nests) or positioners. Instead they advise that the sleep space should be firm, flat and have a waterproof cover.

Cot bumpers, pillows, duvets
All not recommended as are potential risks to baby’s safety.

Mobiles / light shows
As a 1st time mum 10 years ago, I read a book by a well-known mum of that time and on her recommendation rushed out to buy an all-singing, all-dancing cot mobile (literally). It played classical music and the mobile went round and round. Funny enough, my baby son never really took to it….
Now, I know better. We want our babies to go to sleep. Why would we want to have a mobile playing or a light show running that will only encourage them to keep their eyes open and watch it!?!?! These items are fine for sensory play and even for wind-down time in baby’s room but they certainly aren’t essential items for the nursery in opinion, and definitely don’t make my criteria as the perfect ‘sleep aid’!

So there you have it. Really, the items you actually ‘need’ are pretty simple. Nothing too fancy. I hope this helps reassure and guides some of the new mums out there who are confused by the vast array on offer.

Was there anything else I left out that you wondered about?? Let me know if so!!