Sleep consultant – why hire one for your child?

By Kate, 26th August 2019

Modern parenting

Let’s take the Instagram image as an example. We’ve all seen it. The picture of the postpartum super mum. She’s seemingly unfazed by the challenges of breastfeeding and lack of sleep. This woman is a fabrication. She is an unlikely example of perfection that can make other parents feel deficient and unable to succeed.

So whats this go to do with sleep consulting? It is a different world we live in now. Both parents are under pressure to return to work, to not let our child cry, to breastfeed. The list of conflicting information on the internet is endless. Parental pressures to seemly do what is right has become an overwhelming and highly confusing task.  

What does a sleep consultant actually do?

A sleep consultant educates families on sleep, the biological needs of sleep, safe sleep practices whilst offering support and guidance. The method that a sleep consultant uses should also closely align with your family’s needs. Both parents should be comfortable and confident moving forward with a sleep consultant and their approach to helping you.

I had a client of mine once say: “There is so much about being a parent that is instinctive and yet sleep was always a struggle.”  So many of us think that good sleep will just happen naturally, but this isn’t the case for everyone. In our complex lives we have so many variables effecting our sleep. Some of us just need that bit of professional support. That’s when a certified sleep consultant can help put you on the path to reaching your sleep goals for your child.

Will it harm my child?

Searching the internet you’ll find many articles detailing the extensive long-term damage sleep training will do to your child. At its core, the concern from the opponents of “cry it out” is that your baby will feel abandoned and, as a result, struggle to form attachments to you.

Surprisingly this idea comes from 1980s Romania, where thousands of children lived in orphanages with very little human contact for months or even years. One of the things visitors noticed in these places was the unnaturally quiet. Babies didn’t cry, because they learnt over long periods of time that no one would respond. The argument is that letting your baby cry through sleep training does the same thing.

This is just simply not true. Sleep training methods do not leave the infant for months without any human contact, nor do they suggest subjecting children to the other types of physical and emotional abuse that occurred in those orphanages.

So what is the evidence?

To learn about the impact of sleep training, we need to study it in the way it is actually used. Fortunately, many people have, and in a lot of those cases they used randomized trials. A 2006 Australian study of 328 mothers whose 7-month-old babies were having problems with sleep. Approximately half were assigned to do a sleep-training, and the others were not. For those that received intervention, showed improved sleep for children and also lowered parental depression. 

They continued the study and returned to evaluate the children a year later and five years later. The researchers found no difference in any outcomes, including emotional stability, behaviour, stress, parent-child closeness and parent-child attachment. Essentially, the children who were sleep-trained looked exactly like those who were not.

In addition, many studies actually show that sleep training showed substantial improvements in maternal depression and family functioning. Sleep has a positive effect on mood. 

Nonetheless there are still academic articles that argue against it. One small study that gets a lot of play. In the few days after sleep training, mothers are less stressed, but the same is not true of infants. The researchers attempt to interpret this as a sign that the mothers and children are losing emotional touch with each other, but this is a stretch. Why not turn this around and interpret the evidence to say that sleep training relaxes parents without hurting children? Fundamentally, the argument against sleep training it seems is largely speculative. 

It’s good to look at this in a holistic manor and pose the question that sleep training is also good for some children and their families. I have first-hand experience with this with my own child and for all the families I have helped too. 

In summary

The growing need for a sleep consultant isn’t just a fad or a trend. It’s a modern support system that some families choose in order to guide their children into good sleep habits. There are some children that really need the uninterrupted sleep and perhaps for some a risk health by not having it. Does all this mean you should definitely sleep train? Of course not. Every family is different, but if you do want to sleep train, you should not feel shame or discomfort about that decision.

If you feel you need some help and guidance with your child’s sleep, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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