What is a sleep consultant?

I wrote this for a post on Supervalu’s website recently. Here it is for those who missed it.
I understand that sleep training isn’t for everyone but for some, it’s gaining a little control back from a spiraling situation. The experiences I’ve had with my clients have always been positive. X

Sleep training doesn’t always mean endless nights of crying. The methods I use involve parents fully in guiding little ones to a different behaviour around sleep time.
As a sleep Consultant with www.thenursery.ie I am often asked about my work and these are the definitely the most frequently asked questions! I hope you find this useful! Niamh

1. When can I begin sleep training?
A child should be 6 months of age and well established on solids to begin sleep training. Sleep training works well when the child is in good health and it is the right time for your family. If you have already begun a process and your child becomes sick, I suggest you stop until the child is healthy again.

2. Will there be any crying during the sleep training process?
Unfortunately, some crying is almost always involved but it is generally in protest against the “new regime”. You will be starting new schedules and methods at nap time and bedtime. Most children will object to these changes. It is important to remember that sleep training is not all about “crying it out.” There are other important parts such as consistency in the method you use, along with regular and age-appropriate sleep schedules.

3. Do you work with families who follow attachment parenting, co-sleep and are against any “cry it out” methods?
Unfortunately, sleep training does not work as effectively when a child sleeps in your bed. It is all about your child learning the skill of self-soothing. My job as a sleep consultant is to help a family get well rested quickly and effectively. The methods I recommend to my clients would not work well with attachment parenting families. Having said that, if you are a co-sleeping family by choice and everyone in the family is well rested and happy with the sleeping arrangement, there is no need to change the sleep situation!

4. How long will it take?
There are many sleep training methods available, but maybe it’s time to pick one and stick with it! The good news is that most methods work, as long as you stay consistent with your chosen method. The reason sleep training most often fails is inconsistency and as a result the child getting mixed signals. I usually suggest to parents that it will take 5-7 nights but to allow a window of 2-3 weeks before you see everything settle down.

5. Do you work with older children or just babies?
I work with parents of children from birth to around 4 years. About 75% of my work is babies, but the other 25% is with preschoolers/older children. It is definitely not too late to teach a 2, 3, or 4 year old to learn positive sleep habits. Yes, it is easier to sleep train when a child is still in a cot, but the methods I advocate work really well with older children as well.

6. If I don’t fix my child’s sleep problems now, will they eventually go away on their own? Yes of course! Most children with poor sleep habits will eventually sleep through the night in their own rooms. However, this may not happen until six or seven years of age. I do not recommend that a family stay sleep deprived for so many years. Once sleep becomes a real problem for you and your family, it is time to make a change.

7. Will we have to repeat the training a number of times in my child’s life?
The positive effects of sleep training last a lifetime. Of course, there may be times in a child’s life that may cause sleep regressions such as an illness or holiday times. The good news is that once a family has successfully sleep trained a child, both parents and child have the skills and confidence to get past the sleep regression and get back on track to good sleep. It often only takes one night of retraining to get a child’s sleep back to where it was before the sleep regression.

It is not always a bad thing to use techniques with your child – how else will they learn? Using any techniques require – DETERMINATION – CONSISTENCY – CLEAR MESSAGES – COURAGE OF YOUR CONVICTIONS
As parents, you have a behavioural history with your child – so they know which buttons to press. Even from 4 months they can pre-empt what you are going to do next. When you start training, they are going to be a bit cross because you are not meeting their expectation of you. This is completely normal and I promise that they will forget their old ways very quickly!

For further information or to request a consultation, email niamh@thenursery.ie

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