When is it time to call in the experts?
This is a tricky question to answer.
There are lots of sleep issues you can solve at home yourself by looking at things like sleep environment, awake time, and how your little one goes off to sleep.
But how do you know when it’s time to call in the experts to help you get on top of things? I’ve put my top four tips below!
When you’re no longer coping ok
We see this all the time, and it’s so important to remember that sleep deprivation is a form of torture.
We can go longer without food than we can without sleep. Lack of sleep, or extremely fragmented sleep, can take a deep toll on a person’s whole self and wellbeing.
I've had a mum tell me she wanted to throw her baby out of the window, and another who fell asleep at the wheel of her car at the gas station, thankfully when the car was stationary.
Lack of sleep is a torture that makes us negative, emotional, and decreases our ability to cope with stress hugely.
One of my all-time favourite clients had reached this point.
When I arrived at her home she was so extremely tired, she was tearful for the entirety of our visit and I spent most of it with my arm around her.
I could see she was such a good, loving, caring mum, and she wanted the absolute best for her baby, but their co-sleeping and feeding 12x a night was starting to affect her ability to function.
She’d had a cold for the last four weeks that she simply couldn’t shake.
She was starting to resent her baby at times. These are normal responses to not getting ample rest.
We utilized a really gentle method with her little one, because they had been sleeping together for his whole life, and within six days we managed to have him sleeping in his own cot, and her in her own bed, with just one night feed which she had wanted to keep.
At the end mum said she was surprised at how clear her thinking had become, how deeply she was resting, and how much she was enjoying her little one more. Not only this but she’d had three separate visitors tell her how happy her little one seemed!
When baby isn’t as happy as you think they could be
If your baby is constantly discontent it can be really frustrating as their parent – if only they could talk and tell us what they need right!?
If your little one is having really short naps or waking frequently overnight and you’re seeing that during the day they get grizzly really fast and nothing you can do seems to make them happy, they might be stuck in a bit of an overtired cycle.
Recently I had a mum call me to go and help her 9 month old to sleep better. Mum was up and rocking her up to five times a night, and for each nap.
She told me over the phone that she couldn’t even put the baby down during the day because she would just cry, her eating was suffering, she was fussy at the breast, and mum was at her wits end of trying to help baby be happier.
I went over for an overnight consult and asked mum what was happening when she was rocking baby – and mum informed me that the baby as actually kicking her and getting really upset until finally giving in and falling asleep.
I suggested we back right off and instead of jumping to the baby in the night we allow her a couple of minutes first to see if she would get more upset and need our intervention.
At about 7pm, after a period of 12 minutes where baby grizzled and cried on and off, she went to sleep!
On her own!
She woke again a few hours later and we decided to wait and see what happened.
I could see mum was finding it really hard not to rush directly to her baby, being so used to feeling she had to ‘solve the problem’ of baby being awake, so we decided we would give it three minutes. At 2mins30, baby went quietly back to sleep!
This happened again a couple of times overnight until I left in the morning, and continued as mum allowed her the space to find herself a comfy spot and pop herself back to sleep.
Mum said she couldn’t believe the change in her daughter from such a small thing as allowing her some space to pop herself back to sleep.
Mum had been so used to her being grizzly and upset during the day that she was going in to every noise and actually hindering the baby’s ability to pop herself back off to sleep and rest restoratively, and this became a vicious cycle.
Suddenly, baby was happier during the day, napping faster and for longer, feeding well at either breast or her solids, and sleeping all night without needing assistance. Baby started crawling three days later too – coincidence?
When there’s disharmony in the family dynamic
Parents are individuals too – we aren’t going to agree on everything all the time! The same can often be said about the sleeping situation, and if it’s starting to cause arguments or disharmony in your family because of lack of sleep or the way things are operating, it can be a really great idea for everyone to get on the same page and work towards a common goal.
I worked with a client recently who’s toddler, Lucy, was up and down all night long.
Now, this actually wasn’t a problem for mum, she was super relaxed and didn’t mind this.
Dad, however, felt a lot of stress around his little girl being out of bed overnight a lot and was worried about Lucy becoming overtired and not getting the rest she needed.
Mum had attempted to take on the nights alone so that Dad could get more rest, but he was waking every time he heard Lucy up, and the stress and fragmented sleep was starting to show in his relationships with the family, and at work where he felt he didn’t have the attention he needed to get his job done well.
This is a great example of where something might be ok for one parent but not the other.
Thankfully, mum could see the toll this was having on the whole family as a result, and they got me in.
I worked quite closely with Dad, as he was the one who was suffering the most as a result, and he decided he would like to take charge of helping Lucy learn to stay in her bed overnight.
The great thing about working with toddlers is they understand so much, so we can do a lot of background work with them which is really fun involving some basic rules, rewards, and a bit of roleplay, so they understand exactly what we want before we even implement a settling technique.
This makes the process a lot faster and more pleasant for everyone involved. Within three nights, Lucy was sleeping through, and Dad said he felt like a new man.
What’s more, he was no longer being snappy with the family and they were able to enjoy their time together again.
When things are about to change and your current situation just won’t work
I’m a really big believer in doing what works best for you.
If your little one is needing assistance frequently overnight or to fall asleep, and you’re happy, you absolutely don’t need to change a thing! I know right, a sleep consultant telling you that there’s nothing wrong with your baby waking, so long as you’re both happy!
The only issue here is when something is about to change and you know it isn’t going to work for your family anymore.
A really good example of this is the arrival of a sibling, or starting back at work. If you’re required to settle your baby or child frequently overnight, then considering how this might look when youre working or when their sibling arrives is a really good idea.
Melissa got in touch with me a couple of months before her second child was due to be born.
She’d foreseen that her current situation co-sleeping with her toddler was probably not going to be the best approach when she had a newborn to consider, and rather than make all of the changes when the new baby arrived, she wanted to gently work on having Thomas move into his own bed.
I was really impressed with how thoughtful Melissa was to Thomas – if his brother had come along and suddenly he was out of mums bed there may have been resentment towards his sibling, and feelings of anxiety around the situation.
Mum wanted to avoid these and so we worked together on a plan to have Thomas in his own room.
Because Thomas had always been in with mum, we initially started out with her camping out next to his bed so she was nice and close, and as he got used to lying in his own bed with her nearby, we returned her to her own room for some decent rest, and she would sit further and further away from Thomas if he woke in the night.
Within two weeks Thomas was happily settling to bed in his own room, and had nearly completed stopped waking overnight – and if he did all that was required was for mum to pop her head around his door to reassure him before heading back to bed.
As you can see, there are times when doing it alone work beautifully, and times where we can really help to support you in making changes if you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or unsure about how to make positive change for your family situation.
There's nothing we haven't seen before, and nothing we can't help you with.
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
If you're ready to work on your child's sleep, you have two options...
FIRST DIY WITH OUR ONLINE SLEEP PROGRAM, AND HAVE ACCESS TO OUR EMAIL SUPPORT COMPLETELY FREE
Our Baby Sleep Program helps tired parents
TO DEVELOP HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS BY FOCUSING ON NAPS, SETTLING AND NIGHT SLEEP.
- Empowered: Feel empowered as a Mum as you learn to understand your growing baby's needs and cues.
- Simple effective settling: Gentle, proven self settling, evidence based techniques.
- Content happy baby and parents: Better sleep creates content babies & happy parents.
- Freedom: Predictable routines and longer nights creates freedom. Solve your sleep problems for more freedom.
- Work with your babies circadian rhythm: Work with your babies biological clock for faster easier results.
- Awesome naps & nights: You'll create consistent naps and nights with our support.
The second option is working with our amazing team of sleep consultants one on one. We offer phone or home consultations.
Book a chat with our team and we'll see what the best fit for you is.
My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.
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