“With all of the information that’s readily available online, and the resources you have at your disposal in the form of friends and family who have managed to get their kids to sleep, why would you want to invite a stranger into your home to get your child sleeping through the night?”
I don’t often hear this question phrased exactly that way, but I know it’s a concern that a lot of parents have when they’re thinking about getting some professional help with their little ones’ sleep habits.
And it’s a valid question! After all, your mother managed to get you to sleep at some point. Your friend might have four kids who are all champion sleepers, so she should have some answers for you, right?
Well, yes! At least they might. But then again, they might not.
And let me be the first to say, if you’ve got someone who can help you in this situation, I’m not the least bit offended if you want to ask them for help instead of calling a consultant. After all, we’re all trying to save our money where we can, so if you can remedy the problem without paying for it, I’m all for that option.
Most of the time though, my clients are parents who have already tried that route and found it wasn’t successful, and there are dozens of reasons why that might happen.
The biggest reason why the solutions that work for one parent don’t work for another is simple. They’re not dealing with the same baby.
Some babies are heavily reliant on sleep props. Others can’t sleep in a room that’s too warm. Some may not be getting enough daytime sleep, and others might be overtired. This baby might have developed an association between feeding and falling asleep, whereas that one might be ready to drop their second daytime nap.
And, of course, it could be any combination of all of the above, or the many other sleep challenges that babies might experience.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that most solutions don’t work overnight, so parents might try a solution that could potentially help baby start sleeping through the night, but abandon it before it takes effect due to some heavy protesting on baby’s part.
In short, sleep is a complicated issue and there’s very rarely one single thing that can remedy the situation overnight.
A professional sleep consultant has the experience and training to recognize which problems result in specific symptoms, and can work with you to develop a personalized plan for your child that addresses those individual issues. They can also provide some much needed support when things don’t seem to be working, and give you the encouragement you need to follow through on that plan until it starts to work.
Consider the example of a personal trainer. You could just get some dumbbells and watch some YouTube videos in order to get in shape, so why pay someone to guide you along?
Well, because they’re able to give you solid advice based on education and experience, they can help to keep you motivated, and they know how to respond to the problems that might arise when it comes to your specific situation.
So when it comes to baby’s sleep, I hope for everyone to find success on their own, and with as few problems as possible. But if that doesn’t happen for you, a professional consultant has the answers and support you need.
And when your child is sleeping soundly for 11 to 12 hours through the night, and you’re getting the blissful uninterrupted sleep you need, you’ll realise that getting a professional sleep consultant was one of the best investments you ever made.
Light, natural or artificial, sends a message to our brains that it’s daytime, and not time to sleep. Melatonin production is triggered by darkness, so start turning down the lights an hour before you plan to put your child to bed. (Especially electronic screens, which emit a blue light that is particularly inimical to babies/children’s shut-down process.)
For children/babies who wake up early, invest in some blackout blinds. You can get a decent set for a reasonable price, and I’ve had many parents tell me it’s the best money they ever spent.
New parents can be obsessive over their babies’ comfort, and making sure they’re warm enough while Mum and Dad are out of the room for the night is such a basic instinct that people tend to overdo it.
Babies, like their grownup counterparts, usually sleep best when they’re warm and snuggly inside of a cool environment. A nighttime onesie with a sleep sack and a cool nursery, is the best way to ensure that your child remains comfortable through the night.
I know we all love the look of a cute, elegant mobile over the top of our baby’s crib, but even though this may seem soothing to us, they can be a real source of fascination for your little one, which is great! Just not when they’re trying to sleep. To a baby, they can be the equivalent of a big budget action movie, so keep visual stimulation away from the crib.
A white noise machine can help to block out any outside noise that might jar your child into waking up, and a dim yellow night light can keep toddlers from getting spooked by the darkness, but other than that, the more boring your child’s bedroom is, the better they’ll sleep. For white noise, go for a constant sound with no variations or inflections - to prevent it from being a source of stimulation for your child.
A well-planned, consistent bedtime routine around the same time every evening is conducive to a good night’s sleep, no matter what your age, but particularly with children. Once their bodies and brains start to recognize the signals that indicate an upcoming bedtime, they will start mentally preparing for sleep as soon as that first step begins.
Their energy levels will start to wind down, melatonin production will kick in, and muscles will start to relax, so by the time you’re giving them a goodnight kiss, their system should be all set for a long, restorative sleep.
Teaching your child great sleep skills isn’t a one-night operation. It takes some time, a lot of repetition and consistency, and plenty of discipline and diligence on the part of the parents, but for those of you who are desperate for just a little bit of relief, these tips should help you and your little one get a few more hours of shut-eye, starting tonight.
You can work on the rest of if once you’ve had a little rest.
Sleep has always been, and will likely continue to be, a bit of a mystery.
As of yet, the scientific community hasn’t been able to tell us exactly why we sleep, but there is definitely a consensus among researchers (and new parents) that adequate sleep is good for you in a whole bunch of ways.
We’re all familiar with the fact that we have a hard time focusing on information when we’re running on too little sleep. Absorbing information is only half the battle though.
Actually, if you really want to get technical, it’s only a third. Learning and memory are divided into three functions. Acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Put simply, you need to receive the info, then you need to stabilize the memory of it, and finally, you need to be able to access it when you wish/need to.
Acquisition and recall really only take place while you’re awake.
Consolidation, on the other hand, “takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories. The overall evidence suggests that adequate sleep each day is very important for learning and memory.”1
So even if you manage to focus on what you’re learning and acquire the information, without sleep, that information won’t be properly stored in the brain, and when called upon to access it, you’ll find yourself drawing a blank.
For your kids, learning is their primary responsibility for the first 18-20 years of their lives, so considering how much they need to retain, the importance of a healthy sleep schedule is hard to overstate.
We all know that when we don’t get enough sleep, we get short-tempered and irritable. A study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that subjects who experienced even partial sleep deprivation reported feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and mental exhaustion. 2
This isn’t exactly new information. We’re all aware that we get emotional in very negative ways when we’re running on too little sleep, but why?
Again, it’s a bit of a mystery, but some researchers have suggested that sleep deprivation stimulates activity in the amygdala. That’s the little almond-shaped part of the brain that’s responsible for feelings of, among other things, anger and fear. These amped-up feelings can lead to an overall sense of stress and hostility towards others.
We can see how getting enough sleep is essential to learning and emotional well-being, but what about some more tangible benefits? Well, short of eating and breathing, you would be hard pressed to find anything with more health benefits than getting enough sleep.
“Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood,” says Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at the National Institute of Health. “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies. People who regularly get between 7-9 hours of sleep see significantly lower rates of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, infections, depression, diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure. They also report higher satisfaction with their sex lives, better performance at work, and take fewer sick days than people who typically sleep less than 7 hours a night.”3
So there’s no question that sleep, while it remains mysterious, is definitely as essential part of a healthy, happy lifestyle.
But that all changes when you have a baby, right? I mean, you’ve brought a new life into this world, and you’re expected to sacrifice your sleep for a few years, maybe six or seven at the most, in order to respond to your baby’s needs, which, for some reason, they seem to have in spades in the middle of the night.
This is, in my mind, the most problematic myth about parenthood, and one that needs to be put out to pasture.
BABIES NEED SLEEP EVEN MORE
Because here’s the thing; your baby needs sleep even more than you do. Those little bodies may look like they’re idle when they sleep, but there’s an absolute frenzy of work going on behind the scenes. Growth hormones are being secreted to help baby gain weight and sprout up, cytokines are being produced to fight off infections and produce antibodies, all kinds of miraculous, intricate systems are at work laying the foundation for your baby’s growth and development, and they’ll continue to do so through adolescence, provided they’re given the opportunity to do so.
Nature does the heavy lifting. All that’s required of your little one is to close their eyes and sleep.
This being my field of expertise, I see a LOT of people telling new parents that babies just don’t sleep well, and that they should expect their little ones to be waking them up seven or eight times a night.
So to those people, I would just like to say, you have absolutely NO idea what you’re talking about. Your advice isn’t just wrong, it’s harmful. Telling people to accept their baby’s sleep issues as a part of the parenting experience is preventing them from addressing the problem, and that’s a serious concern for everybody in the family. Not because they’re selfish and enjoy sleeping late. It’s because they, and even more so, their kids, need adequate sleep for all of the reasons I’ve listed above.
And if your baby is waking up 7 or 8 times a night and crying until you come into the room and rock her back to sleep, that’s not motherhood-as-usual. That’s a baby who has trouble sleeping, and it’s interfering with their body’s natural development. It’s no different than an ear infection or jaundice. It’s a health issue and it has a remedy, so anyone telling you to grin and bear it for the next six years is peddling horrible advice. I’m sure it’s not done maliciously, but it still needs to stop.
Accepting inadequate asleep in infancy leads to accepting it in adolescence, and eventually you may end up with grown adults who don’t give sleep the priority it requires, and all of those serious health issues follow along with it.
So to every new mother out there, I implore you, don’t accept the idea of sleep as a luxury that you’re going to have to learn to live without for a few years.
If your baby’s not sleeping, address it. It’s not selfish, it’s not unrealistic, it’s necessary, and the benefits are tremendous.
1 Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, retrieved from [healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/](https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fhealthysleep.med.harvard.edu%2Fhealthy%2Fmatters%2Fbenefits-of-sleep%2Flearning-memory%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR34C5TP2e2rMnLPca75Dw5d4prRp5Trbw34V3DxKfjOZ1ZjwtWB4v6UAzY&h=AT0uvkh9WykH5fNYDXGQ6Drm1ikZWNKvYAjmH2OtP6CMtWedI5OxpdpmuWN9g8S672_UXiNZbCkaV7S9wHX6Cr4Yve8Hhx0tH3HVCnuxGmLGNsMAn_Sak1LolIQJ0bxIPH4) [healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory](https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory?fbclid=IwAR2R06f1Rje1NTxWmm_Dnr5s9MPC0eX1LSaU3EMhmb_9Qq8EWSd-xGJ8LzQ), December 18, 2007
2 Sleep. 1997 Apr;20(4):267-77. Cumulative sleepiness, mood disturbance, and psychomotor vigilance performance decrements during a week of sleep restricted to 4-5 hours per night. Dinges DF1, Pack F, Williams K, Gillen KA, Powell JW, Ott GE, Aptowicz C, Pack AI.
3 National Sleep Foundation, 2008 Sleep in America Poll, Summary of Findings retrieved from [sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2008%20POLL%20SOF.PDF](https://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2008%20POLL%20SOF.PDF?fbclid=IwAR2ffMQiSy6ljdJ9gr5BlHUMKzairPI_m61BfczZw0pgOPn7XU05Xju2xJ4)