For advice on how to choose a sleep consultant, check out Episode #2 of The Promise of Sleep, a new Kinderling podcast exploring all the ways children (and their adults) can get more sleep.
Sleep can be elusive in the first few months, babies are hungry and they need to eat.
They don’t know the difference between night and day for the first three to four months of life.
That’s according to Fran Chavasse from Tresillian.
So how do you know when it’s time to ask for help, and when it’s simply part of their developmental process?
Ask for help when it’s affecting your ability to parent
Derek McCormack is the Acting Executive Director of Raising Children Network.
“It can be quite stressful when you're having difficult nights. If your quality of sleep isn't great because of what's happening with your child during the night then it can affect your mood. It can even lead to stress and some anxiety.”
You might notice that you’re burning dinner. Or you’re forgetting to strap your baby into their seat when you go somewhere. You might also be feeling teary and emotional. None of these things are great, and can be more easily dealt with if you get enough sleep.
Listen to The Promise of Sleep:
Lana Sussman is a counsellor at The Parents Village, an organisation that supports parents from the early days of pregnancy to birth and beyond.
“A lot of parents say ‘I just can’t do this anymore’. It’s so hard when a baby doesn’t sleep well for extended periods of time. We are living in much more isolated times away from friends and family and a ‘village’ to help support us as we grow our families. I really believe sometimes we just need to outsource the help and advice to help us get back on track and feel like we can cope again.”
But what about a baby’s development?
As I mentioned above, there are very valid reasons why babies won’t be sleeping through the night in the first months of their life.
It’s inevitable for most parents to go through periods of broken sleep. But if it’s not affecting your ability to parent, and you can push through, when is a reasonable time to expect a baby to sleep better?
“It is important to understand that babies up to the age of about six months have almost no ‘working memory’. That means that they can’t really ‘learn’ anything at this early age.”
Jo Ryan from Baby Bliss says that if you’re not suffering sleep deprivation, a good time to get help is if a baby is waking around every two hours at six months of age.
Expensive sleep consultants: are the worth the fee?
What value do you place on sleep? There was a time when I would have paid almost anything to get my baby to sleep through the night. Of course, I didn’t have the financial capacity to pay anything. I wasn’t working, and my husband was a freelancer.
What do you do when you’re desperate but you can’t afford the fee of a private consultant?
Organisations like Tresillian and Karitane are free with a referral from a health care provider. There are often long wait times to get into these organisations, so if you know you need help it’s a good idea to get a referral ASAP.
Lana says that while private health consultants can be expensive, they are often worth it.
She’s used a sleep consultant twice. Once when her daughter was going through a sleep regression at four months of age, and again when she turned one and screamed at every bedtime.
“I’m always very supportive of people getting assistance and paying for the sleep consultant because in my opinion there is nothing more valuable than rest and sleep. It allows us to focus on being the best for our children. Also a private sleep consultant comes into your home and sees your family and is able to give advice based on a holistic approach.”
Choose one method and then stick to it
When your baby’s not sleeping well you can look to many different places for help; Google, mother’s groups on social media, mother’s groups in real life, your parents, siblings and anyone who has had a small child.
Getting lots of different information from different places only makes you more confused.
At least, that’s what I found.
If I’ve learnt anything from many hours sitting beside Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue on Kinderling Helpline, it’s that babies need consistency.
Choose one sleep consultant (or organisation) that aligns with your parenting style, listen to their strategy and then give your baby time to adjust to the change in routine.
Sleep is a skill that babies need to learn. Make it easier for them by providing time, patience and a predictable routine.
You might get more sleep too.
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