Baby sleep and parent sleep deprivation
Sleep! Precious Sleep! As a new parent, you learn to appreciate sleep more than you ever had. When my children were itty bitty, I used to daydream about sleep. I was, at points, so sleep deprived that I would actually dream while awake. I could even fall asleep while standing! I only ever nodded off for a fraction of a second but that was enough. I didn’t even know that was possible before having children. Of course, every parent has funny stories about the silly things that can happen in such a state of severe sleep deprivation – going work with two different pairs of shoes, accidentally pouring the wrong milk (the one for the baby!) in your coffee.
All jokes aside, sleep deprivation (especially over many weeks and months) has much more serious and negative consequences. For new moms, sleep deprivation can contribute to postpartum depression. Check out this article from Postpartum progress to learn more.
Babies have a sleep cycle that is very different from their parents. They may have day and night switched. They do not know how to put themselves back to sleep if they wake up. They go through many developmental changes and are growing so fast! All of those changes can disrupt their sleep.
If you are reading this post, you may have already come across cry it out, fading, no tears or co-sleeping. There is a ton of information out there but it is hard to figure out what is good, what works, what does not work, what is reasonable and what is just bad advice. The best approach is one that takes into account what the baby is capable of based on their developmental stage and temperament and what is realistic for the parents based on their personal situation.
YOU NEED SLEEP. YOUR BABY NEEDS SLEEP.
A sleep consultant can be an immense help! I hired an experienced sleep consultant and it was an incredibly good decision.
Sleep consultants: an introduction
What does a sleep consultant do?
They educate parents, help them form a sleep plan and support the parents as they implement that plan. Sleep consultants help parents understand sleep basics such as the importance of having sleep routine, what the proper bedtime is and the amount of sleep children need depending on their age. They will co-create a sleep plan with the parents based on the parents’ own unique goals.
How can a sleep consultant help me?
She can help you navigate your child’s developmental stages to help you understand what to expect. She can provide you with techniques for coping with your child’s sleep patterns. If your child is developmentally old enough for sleep training, she can help teach your child to go to sleep without associations you’d like him to grow out of (falling asleep on the breast, reading books for 3 hours, etc). She can help you help your child transition to a crib, or to his own room, or to a toddler bed. She can give you good information and she can provide you with support as you implement your sleep plan.
When is a baby ready for sleep coaching?
Babies 6 months and older are ready for sleep coaching. They are ready to learn how go to sleep drowsy but awake. If they learn this skill at bedtime, they will have an easier time putting themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night. They may also be ready to unlearn sleep associations such as nursing to sleep and waking their mom up many times a night to nurse back to sleep.
Parents of babies under six months can work with a coach to talk about their experience and gain coping skills. They can also advise you on proper sleep routines, the best sleep environment, and techniques to soothe a baby. Babies at this age do not have the capacity to self soothe as well as 6 month and older babies do. Some babies just need that extra tenderness in order to sleep and become calm. Even if the baby is 6 months or older, their temperament will shape the way you work with your baby and your coach.
How do I know if I am ready to work with a sleep consultant?
Exhausted? Confused by the conflicting advice coming from well meaning friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors, etc? Returning to work and want to sleep better yourself? Want to introduce more of a schedule for your baby after many months of living on demand? Baby is sleeping well but naps are inconsistent and your routine is off? Have a child with reflux and need that extra support (alongside medical support) that helps you cope and come up with more comfort measures for baby? Want to talk about your sleep and your baby’s sleep in a space free of judgement? These are all good reasons to hire a sleep consultant.
Are there different types of sleep consultants?
Sleep consultants vary based on their training and approach. Some may be self trained while others may have gone through formal training programs. Generally, certified sleep consultants will know about the various approaches available to parents. There will be greater variability in approach amongst self-trained sleep consultants depending on how they trained. You may even find some self-trained consultants that just specialize in a specific method such as ‘no tears’.
How does someone become a sleep consultant?
There are a few training bodies operating today. Some training programs are three days long and others, three months long, with lifetime mentorship for the coach from her trainer.
Training programs teach the technical aspects of sleep training as well as counseling skills. Certified sleep consultants are trained to meet you where you are, without judgement. They can show you middle-of-road sleep coaching which doesn’t involve cry it out or bed sharing (which are often the only two options families think exist). One approach, called ‘Gentle Sleep Coaching’, trains coaches to understand parents, educate them, and help them co create a plan that best suites their family.
There are also self trained sleep consultants. They may have learned by being an apprentice to someone else. They may have already been working with babies or new parents and may have learned sleep training and coaching techniques along the way. In some cases, a mom who had success with a specific technique may have started offering services focusing on that technique. There are some great self-trained sleep consultants out there but it is up to the parents to determine if the sleep consultant has the right level of expertise and counseling skills to meet their needs.
How do I choose a sleep consultant?
Think about your goals. Write them down. Then find a sleep consultant who can support you in achieving those goals. Find someone who will be honest with you. Your sleep coach should tell you if you need to adjust your expectations and they should be able to give you more than one option for achieving your goals. The sleep consultant should ask questions about your baby and their temperament. They should also ask questions about you and your family so they can guide you to an approach that works for you.
What are good questions for me to ask if I am interviewing a sleep consultant?
- What ages do you work with?
- What is your approach?
- How can you help me?
- What is your background/training?