Do I really need professional help with my child’s sleep?
Do I really need professional help with my child’s sleep?
When you have a baby or toddler, you know that sleepless nights are a part of parenthood.
This is a generally valid and widely accepted law of nature.
I often hear explanations like:
- “The baby is not sleeping well right now because he is teething, having a growth spurt, had an exciting day, has a cold, etc.” Or the pediatrician says that some babies just don’t sleep well and that it will get better at some point.
- The midwife thinks it’s colic, and you just have to endure it.
- Your best friend tells you about her daughter, who didn’t start to sleep better until she was 2 years old. But that’s part of being a mom (or dad), and we simply get through the chronic lack of sleep with iron willpower.
- Because babies and toddlers don’t sleep much – welcome to your new normal.
But does that really have to be the case?
Is it unrealistic to believe that something can be done to improve your child’s sleep?
Should we have to improve or change anything at all?
Perhaps your child’s sleep patterns are age-appropriate and just right.
How much should my child sleep anyway?
When do children start sleeping through the night?
And what about naps? Is one nap ok? Or would two or three be better? Oh, and the length of the afternoon nap?
So many questions. And so many more (different) answers to it!
Even if friends and family mean well with their advice, it is advice based on individual and subjective opinions and experiences. Just because it worked with their child, it doesn’t mean that it will work for all children.
Even pediatricians, nurses, and midwives can often only give general tips, as they have learned next to nothing about sleep in their professional training. Even the best doctors only talk about sleep for a few hours during their entire studies.
And what about the internet? There is a saying: paper is patient. Well, that is also true of the internet. Everyone can write what they want. I frequently see allegations and statements but with no solid evidence to back up the claim. And there is a lot of half-knowledge circulating on the Internet. Some pieces of advice and tips are of course very good, and they can improve your child’s sleep. But it is not easy to distinguish between what really helps and what doesn’t.
So you try it out. And you try even more, and even more … Hope is the last thing that dies, isn’t it?
But at some point, you’re done with it – you are so over it! And your child is so done with you trying to sleep train him, too. He no longer knows what we actually want from him. Using your child as a guinea pig is not a good alternative.
So here’s the big question:
Can I improve my child’s sleep patterns ?
And do I need professional help to do so?
Sleep is a jigsaw puzzle. So many factors play a role in developing good sleep patterns.
If you don’t look at all the aspects that influence sleep, then you will not reach your goal. And there is not just one way that fits all babies and children. You need a method, a plan that is tailored to your child and your family.
By the way, that’s my standard answer when parents ask me what I can do that they haven’t already tried themselves.
In all honesty, I am often the last resource for desperate and overtired parents. Most parents come to me after trying EVERYTHING. Some strategies weren’t all that bad, but others were useless at best, dangerous at worst.
Typically, parents also find it difficult to admit that they require help. And many do not even see the need.
The most common objections and concerns are:
Sleep is something natural that doesn’t have to be learned or taught
Yes, sleep is one of the most important basic human needs. We all have the ability to sleep. But it is impossible to NOT teach your child how to sleep.
From day one, you teach him sleeping patterns and habits related to sleep. Does he sleep in your family bed with you, or does he have his own little crib? If you actively accompany him to sleep, be it with breastfeeding, giving bottles, rocking, with the pacifier, etc., then your baby learns that this is how sleep works.
I mean that without any judgment. It is essential that everyone in your family gets enough and restful sleep. And that includes parents too. If you achieve this goal, it doesn’t matter how or where your child sleeps.
That brings me to the second objection that I hear a lot.
My child actually sleeps quite well, he just needs less sleep, and at his age, it is normal to wake up at night.
Here is the motto: Knowledge is power!
Many parents are not even aware of what age-appropriate and healthy sleep patterns look like. There are many opinions about the amount and quality of infant sleep. Everyone will tell you that your child’s sleep behavior is normal and everyone’s child is waking up frequently, too.
That may be true. But, most people go to McDonald’s (or some other fast-food chain) and that’s normal. What everyone does is normal. Whether that is also healthy or good is another matter.
Most parents pay attention to healthy eating habits for their children. That, too, is a basic human need. They think about how to feed their child and what they need, depending on their age. Almost all of us know the basics of a healthy diet. And if not, then you get professional help or get the needed information in some other way. You teach your child healthy eating habits through active support. If we left meal planning to our kids, I bet it won’t be the most balanced meal plan.
So what do we do?
- We find out what and how our children should eat in order to grow up healthy
- We have a plan, and we are putting it into action. E.g. we think about what we cook this week to guarantee a varied diet. And then, we go shopping, cook, and feed our baby or child.
- We know that we cannot teach our children good eating habits overnight. It is a lifestyle and not a 3-day action plan. We have the best chances if we start as early as possible and don’t give up.
Sounds logical right?
Then why is it so absurd to think that it is exactly the same with sleep?
I really tried EVERYTHING. What can a sleep consultant tell me that we haven’t already tried?
I thought exactly the same thing many years ago when I was desperate about the sleep issues of my first son.
As I mentioned above, sleep is a pretty complex issue. If you don’t look at all the factors, it won’t work. Simply leaving out the pacifier, stopping feeding at night, or just letting your child cry does not work. And if you do see an improvement, it is usually only short-term. It is much better to create a good foundation so that you don’t have to start over and over again.
A trained and certified sleep coach can help.
The guessing game (do I feed or not, do I give pacifiers or not, let them cry …) at 3 am is really no fun at all, is it?
How do I know if my sleep consultant is even qualified?
That is a good and important question. After all, this is your child we are talking about.
The term sleep consultant or sleep coach is not protected and is not a recognized title (not yet). Anyone can call themselves a pediatric sleep consultant. That is why it is not easy to distinguish the good from the bad
- Ask about training and certifications.
- Did they just have an online course with a few videos watched?
- Or did they have personal training from a largely recognized institute or mentor?
- What other certifications do they have?
- How long has the sleep consultant been in business?
- Check out the reviews on Google.
- Exactly how does the training work, and how much support will you get?
- Arrange a call to get to know them. This way, you can have a first impression. It is critical that there is a personal connection with the consultant. Sleep training only works if you work well together as a team.
And what about the crying?
That is also a good question. Almost all parents tell me that they don’t want their child to cry. I understand that only too well. Many sleep consultants advertise with slogans like: “Learn to sleep without tears”, or the like.
It is important for me to be honest and transparent with the families I work with. Of course, I can promise all and say what tired parents want to hear just to get new customers. But that will only result in frustration on both sides.
Your child will protest and cry!
It would be bad if he doesn’t because all babies and toddlers are very protective of their routines and habits (whether these are good or bad is another issue). They give them security. And now we just change them overnight? Your child will initially feel taken by surprise, overwhelmed, and insecure. It is to be expected that your child does not like this and will protest. If he didn’t, I would be worried about your child. Where is his willpower, his character, his assertiveness? Does he just give up without a fight? Can you just turn his world upside down, and he won’t say a word?
BUT, and now comes the big BUT, you accompany your child in this process of getting used to his new sleeping patterns. You don’t have to leave him alone. You can comfort him and help him to replace his sleeping habits with new and better ones. I would be happy to explain exactly how in a personal conversation with you.
With the right method, crying will be kept to a minimum, and we’re talking about a few short nights here.
Crying is not your enemy. It’s communication.
That’s why we won’t ignore your child’s crying, but learn to listen to him.
What many overlook, is that chronic sleep deprivation is the real culprit!
It’s just not as obvious as crying. Sleep training will not cause any physical, mental, or emotional damage to your child. Too little sleep, on the other hand, will definitely cause some harm.
Think about the following:
Kindergarten & daycare adaptation. How does that work?
We take our child there for a short time and stay with him. At some point, we leave him alone longer and longer until we finally stay away completely. Many children cry and feel overwhelmed. But with our empathy and support, your child will get used to the new situation. Many then even love their kindergarten. So all is good.
The adaptation can take weeks or months, and so can the crying. Sleep training usually only takes a few days until the child stops crying.
During daycare adaptation, the child is left with a foreign person in a strange environment and the parents leave.
During sleep training, the child is in his familiar environment and his parents are with him and accompany him.
What about the argument that the child will stop crying because they have learned that no one will help them anyway?
What about basic trust issues?
If the basic trust were broken, your child would no longer cry or ask for help in other situations. If it is broken, then it is broken. But that will not be the case. It is much more plausible to assume that your child has learned how the new sleep routines work and no longer needs any help with sleeping. Therefore, there is no longer any reason to cry.
Why do children stop crying in kindergarten? Because their basic trust is broken?
We would not think that, would we? The better explanation is that they have learned that they are fine, they are safe and maybe kindergarten can even be fun. Wouldn’t you agree?
How do I know if I need professional help:
- your child or you do not have a good sleep foundation and quality sleep
- you’ve tried so many things but just don’t see any long-term success
- you are unsure of your child’s sleep needs
- you are pregnant and want to create a good sleep base from day one
- you are reaching your limit because of lack of sleep and this negatively affects your physical and emotional health
- you and your partner are at each other’s throats over the subject of sleep
- your harmonious family life is no longer quite so harmonious
- it takes 2 hours to get your toddler to bed
- your (pre-) schoolchild gets too little sleep and this impairs their school performance
- you have questions about sleep and just want to see whether everything is ok with your child’s sleeping habits
- you just want to say “hello” to me 🙂
Stop ignoring your child’s sleep problems. Just sitting it out is not a good solution.
- If you have trouble breastfeeding, see a lactation consultant.
- If you have back problems, a chiropractor can help.
- Do you have sleeping issues with your child? Well, then contact a certified pediatric sleep consultant!
Get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you.
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