Why we hired a sleep consultant – and was it worth the money?
The Boy is and has always been a horrible sleeper. Getting to sleep, Staying asleep, he hates it all! In the early days we tried a lot of different things. We had a sleepyhead and a snuzpod. We co-slept. We used dummies and comforters. We tried following strict sleep schedules and tried following a looser eat play sleep schedule. Still nothing worked.
The Boy consistently woke up 4 – 5 times a night. I would go to bed around 7.30pm in order to get a few hours before my husband went to sleep (upstairs of course) and I was back “on” for The Boy. Although I was back at work and struggling to manage without my day time naps, I was OK with it because I figured this is what having a baby is about. It wasn’t until around 6 months when The Boy himself started struggling with his lack of sleep that we really decided to tackle the issue. He was clearly tired all of the time and would get over stimulated easily. He was also over sensitive and would react to minor things like having his face touched by The Girl with hysterical tears. It was time to make some changes – all of the things we had tried as recommended by Dr Internet clearly were not working.
Hiring a Sleep Consultant
I decided to hire a sleep consultant quite simply because we had exhausted every other option apart from controlled crying which I wasn’t comfortable with. I say I decided because my husband was definitely not on-board at this point – he definitely saw a sleep consultant as a luxury that we did not need to be paying for.
I stumbled upon Annie from Infant Sleep Consultants on our local NCT group – she had glowing recommendations, one even from someone I knew. I loved that they were also mothers and understood how as a mother you hate your child being upset and that their approach was tailored. I also liked that they were flexible and recognised that sometimes all the rules need to go out the window – like if you are on holiday or if your child is sick. It also didn’t hurt that they were relatively cheap compared with some of the alternatives.
Having signed up for the Home Consultation (£250) everything happened relatively fast. We had to complete a lengthy questionnaire about The Boy’s current sleep patterns, eating patterns and many other things in between. Annie quickly found a suitable evening where both my husband and I were at home and we were booked in.
I had no idea what to expect from our consultation despite having read everything I could find online about Sleep Consultants. Annie arrived just before The Boy’s bedtime and I was surprised that she launched straight into it. She started by explaining the different methods available and their pros and cons before putting us on the spot to choose one there and then to implement.
We chose to go with a timed controlled crying where we went into The Boy every 5 minutes and placed our hands on him to comfort him. We choose this method as I felt that it would be easier for us to be consistent compared with alternatives such as gradual retreat. As Annie explained, sleep training is all about being consistent so your child knows what to expect. Inconsistency is the cruellest thing you can do.
Annie also recommended we got rid of the dummy at the same time as The Boy would sometimes wake looking for it in the night. We made sure that he was sleeping with his monkey comforter instead to replace the comfort the dummy gave him.
That first night The Boy cried for 90 minutes. It didn’t help that it was fireworks night! It was definitely hard to listen to however I found that going in every 5 minutes helped as I knew that he was OK and it wasn’t too long to wait. We also had Annie there to reassure us that it was the right thing to do and that it would get better. We were able to ask Annie questions about sleep and to discuss the questionnaire we shared. Annie was concerned that The Boy had reflux based on his sleep position – something we had not even considered. We also learned that the most any child cries for is 2 hours and it takes on average 4 days for most sleep issues to resolve.
The Boy only woke up once that first night for around 15 minutes. It was amazing! We were also able to keep in touch with Annie and ask her any questions we had for the next few weeks after the consultation.
Did it work? And was it worth the money?
Overall I would say yes it worked. After a horrific third night “sleep regression” where he really tested the boundaries, The Boy began to consistently sleep through the night in his own bed. Four months on, he still generally sleeps through the night but often takes thirty minutes or longer to get to sleep for naps or for bedtime and often wakes between 5.30am and 6.00am (rather than the scheduled 7.00am). Its not perfect though – he does wake up in the night probably once every fortnight or so.
I think this is probably atypical and most people would have even better results. A number of our friends have copied the method that we use and have found that their children consistently sleep 7pm to 7am without issues.
So would I pay for it again? Yes, yes and yes! Although at times it did feel like we were paying for someone to reassure us that we weren’t bad parents, having good sleep is priceless. I didn’t realise how much both The Boy and I were struggling until we had some more sleep.