Sleep Training – What’s Holding You Back?

Risk of SIDS. Closeup portrait of sleeping newborn baby lying on his side in crib.

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.