Lets take it back to September 2015…
I was a new mom, with 6 month old twin girls. Having twins in itself will normally present some newborn sleep challenges … one waking the other being the most common. But I found myself exhausted and frustrated with TWO newborns that just. wouldn’t. sleep.
We had seen a specialist pediatrician to rule out the common causes: silent re-flux, prolonged colic (yes, that’s a thing), throat and ear infections, or any other medical condition that could be hampering their sleep.
We had established a solid bed time routine, we ensured they were not overstimulated, overtired, overfed or hungry at the time of going to bed.
We ensured the room temperature was optimal and we made sure the crib was comfortable and safe. So why were our girls not sleeping?!
After one particularly harrowing night of being up literally every 30 minutes between the two of them, I got on the phone to a sleep consultant who had been recommended by a friend.
I have no idea what I was expecting from that call…but I’m SO GLAD I called!
Our sleep consultant made an Skype appointment with myself and my husband (we were both in this together!). Be wary of those that work with one parent individually, as sleep training really needs a collaborative effort from all those involved with the child’s sleeping schedule to ensure consistency.
Before that appointment, I needed to fill out a detailed questionnaire with information regarding each of the girls. A separate one for each twin as the approach would be tailored for them specifically. The questionnaire covered everything from day and night routines, eating habits, family dynamics, medical background, growth and development milestones, environmental factors, and sensory environment. The questionnaire also covered the child’s specific personality traits and temperament. There was some miscellaneous information I had to provide regarding favorite toys and foods, and our methods of play etc…
I also had to include some information on what sleep training methods (if any) I had tried before, and what I expected from our forthcoming consultation. (“To sleep, duh” – was apparently not an appropriate answer)
The questionnaire was very, very detailed to the point of exhaustive! But I truly do believe that a great sleep consultant will ensure she gathers the utmost information she can about your particular child to ensure that the approach she uses is tailored to your child. Sleep training is definitely not a one-size-fits-all technique.
One particularly important piece of information I also had to provide prior to our actual consultation was the level of Cry It Out (CIO) I would be comfortable with. On a sliding scale, I chose ‘minimum crying without intervention” (the lowest level of CIO acceptance).
I think what scares many moms away from sleep training is the fear of CIO. And rightly so. It is gut-wrenching to imagine leaving your child to scream in distress for extended periods of time without intervening. I truly believe that a qualified sleep consultant will recognize a parent’s aversion to extended CIO and will be willing and able to work within your comfort levels to achieve a successful result in your quest to get your child to sleep better.
With all the information we provided in the questionnaires, our sleep consultant came up with a detailed and specific plan for each twin which we then discussed in our Skype call consultation. We used a holistic approach, taking into account all factors contributing to poor sleep and looking to alleviate them without too much disruption of her current routine.
She established a sensory profile for each of our children as well as an in-depth sleep prognosis. She gave us a plan which we were to implement that same night, and the take home message of the entire meetings was: CONSISTENCY.
She stressed how important consistency was in getting a child to sleep well, and how any lack of consistently on our part would cause setbacks for our goal of getting the twins to sleep well.
One of the very best advantages to having a sleep consultant working with us directly, was the benefit of having someone available on the phone when things got tough. She may not have been available 24/7, but there wasn’t a single text or Whatsapp message that went more than a few hours without being answered. And perhaps most crucially, on those first few nights, when I felt like giving up…she was on the phone with me, talking me through the plan and helping me brave it out.
I’m happy to say that we learnt SO much about healthy infant and toddler sleep from our consultant. We know now just how important a sound night’s sleep is for their development and growth, and I know the basic concepts of ensuring a good night’s sleep. I understand the do’s and dont’s of getting a feisty toddler to bed each night and that consistency is key.
I know that many families are struggling with sleepless nights, but are totally against the idea of sleep training due to the misconception that sleep training automatically means extended CIO.
However, a good sleep consultant will and should be able to work within the framework of what you find comfortable in regards to CIO. After all, there isn’t anyone who knows your child better than you, so you’d be in the best position to determine this.
A good sleep consultant will ensure she has all the relevant background information prior to formulating a sleep plan for your child.
A good sleep consultant will develop a sleep plan that is tailor made specifically to your little one, taking into account the child’s routine, personality and family dynamics, among other things.
A good sleep consultant will ensure that anyone and everyone who is involved with the child’s sleep routine, participates in the sleep training consult…to ensure consistency for the child.
A good sleep consultant will provide step by step support through the implementation of the sleep training plan.
Going the sleep training route was the best decision we made for our family. Giving our children the gift of sleep, has done wonders for the entire family’s well being.
The basic principles we learnt during the training process will stay with us for life and help us through all the little sleep regressions we encounter along the way.