Help! My Baby Doesn't Sleep! An Inside Look at Sleep Consulting.
"She just won't sleep!" Who out there has heard this string of words - or worse - uttered them? Show of hands.
I have a hunch that there are hands waving at me through all sorts of screens from all over everywhere. Know why? 'Cause I, myself, have had (or have overheard) conversations like this a countless number of times. In response to a parents' exasperated cries (sometimes complete with real tears), people are often eager to offer help.
In an effort to give tired mamas and papas some relief, and let's get real - some sleep, well-intentioned grandmas, aunts, and neighbors may offer any number of suggestions. Their advice may be completely anecdotal and full of old wives tales, but hey, their hearts are in the right place.
"Give him some rice cereal before bed." (Not likely going to address the issue).
"I put my daughter on her belly to sleep." (Dangerous in 2018).
"Keep her up a little later to make sure she's good and tired before bed." (Usually backfires).
Every now and again, someone may cautiously ask, "Have you thought about hiring somebody?"
A lot of people don't even know who this magical "somebody" is, but in a last ditch effort, your best friend, your boss, your dog groomer, suggests that you reach out for a lifeline - a sleep consultant. (As a side note, you know you must be looking rough if your dog groomer is giving you advice on your child's sleep). But many moms and dads hesitate to invite a sleep consultant into their sleepless haze, mostly because they don't understand what a sleep consultant is or what he/she does. So, we're going to take a minute to change that. Right here, right now.
1. Sleep consultants LISTEN.
The very first thing that I do as a sleep consultant is ask parents a slew of questions, the most important being, "What are your goals for your child's sleep?" You see, my primary job is to be a support to parents, guiding them to reach their self-proclaimed goals and aspirations for their family. I often say to moms and dads, "I'm not going to leave you until we reach your goal," and I mean that whole heartedly. I listen to how poor sleep has impacted the family and I like to dream with moms and dads about what life could look like if their little one allowed them to get some rest, themselves. I continue to feel honored by being a part of someone's family, if for only a few weeks.
2. Sleep consultants MAKE A PLAN.
After learning about a child and his or her family, I sit down and create a custom sleep plan with that specific child and those specific parents in mind. I coach parents (and other caregivers) on how to handle naps, bedtime, and nighttime wake ups, specifically and clearly. Every family situation and every child is unique (Duh, Chelsea!), so a "ONE SIZE FITS ALL" approach is not my style. I look at a family's schedule, routine, needs, and goals on a case-by-case basis to create an individualized sleep plan for that family and that family, alone.
3. Sleep consultants SUPPORT.
Some of my favorite conversations with moms and dads come in the days and weeks following our initial consultation. As stated earlier, I personally promise my clients that I am with them until, together, we have reached their sleep goals. For most families, that takes about two weeks with four or five phone calls during Week 1 and four or five emails during Week 2. Because of this personalized, one-on-one support, we can easily make minor adjustments, or "tweaks," to a child's sleep plan, if need be. Whatever the method of correspondence, I always want my clients to know that I am by their side every step of the way - through rough nights and crappy naps.
Sleep consultants can be great resources for you and your family, so don't hesitate to seek one out. Reaching out for help doesn't mean that you're doing something wrong, in fact, it may be one of the best decisions you ever make.