One of the biggest challenges with a newborn is getting them into a sleep routine.
This week parents shared their baby sleeping woes on Twitter after mum and author Holly Bourne revealed she went to a sleep consultant who later refunded her.
The consultant was ‘totally baffled’ by her baby, Holly shared, and essentially gave up. Who knew a baby could break a sleep consultant?
She later posted again, adding: ‘Sleep consultant: Oh, this seems like an easy fix. I’ve had five years experience. She’s just overtired. Here, let me try. *two days later* Sleep consultant: Here is your money back. I don’t understand.’
Mums and dads flooded in with their experiences, with one parent writing: ‘So sorry to hear this.
‘We had no joy with a sleep consultant or health visitor. We tried everything. Nothing worked. We ended up doing shifts so the other person could get some sleep… it lasted 18 months.’
Others added similar stories, revealing how hit and miss the results of working with a sleep consultant can be.
It’s a gruelling situation to be in: parents lose on average up to 550 hours of sleep in their baby’s first six months, according to a survey of parents from baby care brand Childs Farm.
And it turns out getting a refund from the pros isn’t so unusual.
Zoe Ayre, a 36-year-old mother from Yorkshire, tells Metro.co.uk it also happened to her.
‘My little girl wouldn’t really sleep other than on or right next to me, and so I had no real option but to bed-share,’ she says.
‘The narrative generally around sleep is that your child should sleep independently, they should be self settling, you shouldn’t bed-share.
‘I reached out to a sleep consultant when she was around six weeks old as I was really desperate, and they marketed themselves as being really gentle.’
Zoe says she was ‘sucked in by a lovely phone call’ where the consultant seemed friendly. ‘I purchased the plan but once I got it, I realised it didn’t feel gentle at all,’ she adds.
Shocked by the advice – that her baby should ‘learn to self settle’ by being left alone for long stretches – she told the consultant the plan didn’t align with her values.
‘Thankfully, within that time I also found a number of truly gentle sleep accounts which normalised what baby sleep really looks like, promoted safe bed-sharing, provided tips and tricks as to how to encourage your little one to sleep and to look at everything holistically,’ she shares, adding that the experience led to her creating an Instagram page all about parenting.
Lucy Herron, a mum and business owner based in London, believes ‘babies sleep when they’re ready’ after also struggling to make headway with the help of a consultant.
‘We used a sleep consultant after my daughter stopped sleeping at four months old. She woke up every 20 minutes and we were in bits,’ she says.
‘She woke 17 times one night and I was on the floor by her cot, a snotty crying mess. After that we called in the professionals and I had high hopes.’
Lucy says the tips worked ‘for a few nights’, but she didn’t think they were sustainable.
‘Sitting outside her room with her screaming, watching a timer telling me when I should and shouldn’t go in [and] being on WhatsApp to the sleep consultant was more stressful than anything,’ she says.
She decided to simply let things go back to normal and stop using the consultant, hoping her child would naturally settle.
The price of a sleep consultant can vary wildly, from £75 per session to as much as £600 for a more detailed plan. But is it ever worth the money?
Dr Hana Patel, a GP specialist in sleep and mental health, says one issue is that the sleep industry isn’t regulated – anyone can become a sleep consultant.
‘Most sleep consultant do not have a medical background, and are not medically trained,’ she says.
‘It is an unregulated industry, and I often see patients who come and see me, after an unsatisfactory experience with a sleep consultant that they may have found online.
‘I would advise parents to speak to their health visitor or general practitioner for regulated sleep advice.’
Though not to be avoided, sleep consultants can be extremely helpful – it might just require a bit of pot luck.
‘A sleep consultant can help with parents and children to help introduce better sleep patterns into their routines,’ she adds.
‘This is done by developing an individual plan and offering guidance and support as needed.’
Ruby Blaken, 32 from Wiltshire, found this to be helpful after getting a sleep consultant for her one-year-old son.
‘He was unwell and in and out of hospital for months, and it really upset his sleep,’ she says.
‘He was sleeping in our bed, not settling at night and waking lots.
‘The sleep consultant set us up a routine for the evening with keeping lights low and calm activities. Having a bath with low lighting and then sitting with him in his room.
‘I sit with my hand on his chest so he knows I am there and he would go off to sleep.
‘We had to go in and out a lot at night repeating the same thing for a while until he got better.’
For her, the investment was worthwhile, as she didn’t want to let him ‘cry it out’ from a distance and now her son has some regularity to his sleeping pattern.
If you’re thinking about getting a sleep consultant, be prepared for some trial and error, Rachel, a first-time mum, eventually found success after a rough start.
Advice from the first expert she tried left her ‘feeling guilty and a failure as it “wouldn’t work”‘ – but she tried again with someone else.
Eventually she invested in a second sleep plan and sought extra sleep support from a qualified pediatrician. Four days later, her child was sleeping soundly – and has done for the last two and a half years.
For some new parents it really can be life-changing.
Nicole Ratcliffe, from Manchester, was so inspired by her experience with a sleep consultant that she went on to train as one.
‘We hired a sleep consultant in 2016 for my eldest daughter. Everything had been difficult since day one and my relationship was falling apart,’ she says.
‘We had tried the health visitors “Solihull technique” which was controlled crying, and then when she was eight months old, a mum friend suggested a sleep consultant.
‘We bit the bullet and put it in a credit card and from that moment, our life started to change.’
Her daughter began sleeping through more regularly.
‘We had our evenings back and for the first time in months we were able to watch a film together. Me and my husband started getting to know each other again,’ Nicole remembers.
She then began studying sleep, and realised how unregulated the trade is.
She advises: ‘When looking for a sleep consultant, a good dig into their experience, their education, their reviews and ethos are really important as there are a lot of people who haven’t studied enough or say they are gentle but still promote controlled crying.
‘It really was the best money I ever spent and if started me on the path to helping others.’
The journey to getting your baby to sleep solidly is tough and unpredictable – and desperate parents will try whatever they can.
Tips and tricks, tried and tested by mums
Emma Morgan, mum and founder of All About Sleep, recommends ‘putting the baby to bed awake and not keeping the environment completely silent’.
She says: ‘I would often hoover the house or tidy after they were put down.
‘This meant that they weren’t easily startled by noise and we didn’t have to tip toe around the house.’
Emma also found rooting the bedtime routine in sensorial experiences, such as scented moisturiser, helped.
‘Like adults babies link smells, sensations and sounds to sleep and relaxation,’ she says.
Ruth Bradford, a 40-year-old mum of two and business owner, says: ‘Our now six-year-old has suffered with everything from night terrors to insomnia, taking two to three to fall asleep recently.
‘We have invested in a weighted blanket which is helping and before bed he now does some exercises that help reset his nervous system and rebalance his sensory processing.
‘This includes walking around on all fours with the weighted blanket on his back, commando crawling from room to room and certain yoga poses such as downward dog to plank and back.
‘He says the weighted blanket feels like a hug all night and loves his bedtime “challenges”.’
Always consult an expert if you’re unsure of what would be right for your child.
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