When to seek professional help with your child’s sleep

There are many resources available to parents who are seeking to improve their child’s sleep. These range from popular parenting books, online courses, the internet, social media, alongside peers and conventional wisdom, to name but a few.  There are several schools of thought as well, ranging from bed-sharing to solitary sleep, cry-strategies, responsive solutions, waiting it out, and within that there will be varying levels of opinion and guidance about what helps over what hinders. For tired parents this can be daunting, as well as frustrating. Especially when what you may read and try, appears to not work. This can lead to parents feeling that nothing helps, and it is just the way that it is.   

However, this is likely not the case but a representation firstly of the complexity of sleep itself and how a multitude of force factors influence sleep in all aspects from biology to psychology, alongside the individuality of each child and family.  For that reason, engaging with a suitably qualified sleep professional, with an established reputation for supporting and solving challenging sleep issues, is worthy of consideration. 

Unfortunately, because sleep is often described as a natural and inherent process, which indeed it is, together with the language associated with sleep, such as “sleep tips” and “within 3 nights” there is an assumption or understanding that resolving the issues should be easy or come naturally and not take a long time to address. Whilst this may be the case for some, regularly it is not so. For this reason, parents may feel like they are failing, or doing something wrong. When in fact it may simply indicate that direct professional input would help. Not unlike seeking support required to establish breastfeeding, solid foods or address digestive or developmental issues for example.

Consequently, how does a sleep-deprived parent know when it is time to call a trusted infant sleep specialist.  Here are some suggestions that may help.

Your child’s sleep profile is a challenge.

Despite your best efforts, at 6 months of age plus you still experience several challenges such as sleep resistance, frequent night waking, long wake times over-night, excessive upset, short naps, and early rising, for example. You may also have feed, weaning, and behavioural concerns that are interrelated. However, even when availing of commonly used resources, you feel that you are not making desired progress and within that the sleep challenges are having a negative impact on your parenting experience. If you feel like you are not able to be the parent you would like to be and that with better sleep, you would manage, what is a difficult job anyway, so much better.

An experienced sleep professional will likely have seen and solved it all. Meaning they will be able to immediately identify areas that are creating vulnerabilities to the sleep experience and more importantly present a range of solutions that will begin to move the needle in the right direction, at an age-appropriate rate and pace that suits.

General guidance does not appear to help your situation.

As your child’s sleep is multi-dimensional and entirely unique, the general recommendations that you have reviewed may not always apply, or how you have interpreted the guidance may also differ as well. Assessing conflicting information from sources, alongside the emotionally charged nature of sleep deprivation, could undermine your efforts. This might mean that you second guess yourself. Additionally, sometimes tension between both parents about what you are trying to change or adjust to, loads the situation further. This can mean starting to make changes on your own feels too overwhelming. Your confidence may also be lower because of feeling tired, and emotionally worn.

A qualified sleep practitioner can lighten the load and, in a way, take the thinking out of it for you, without undermining your own parenting philosophies and sleep goals. They will help you identify the immediate and long-term adjustments. Plotting with you the best way to allow a responsive sleep journey to unfold and support you to make those key decisions in the most suitable order for a sleep process to succeed.

You would like bespoke guidance and support.

Many parents intellectually know what changes are required or may help, but benefit from the level of support, guidance, insight, and accountability the process of working with a sleep specialist provides for. From a psychological perspective, it is understood that having a plan accounts for a large part of success in general, within in many disciplines. When that plan and support is delivered in a knowledgeable, compassionate, non-judgmental setting, the parents’ own intuition, confidence and understanding has an opportunity to flourish. Working with a sleep practitioner helps parents to feel seen, understood and heard.  Parents are wholly deserving of this holding of space. One to one sleep support means that your own unique family dynamics are accounted for, something that is impossible to achieve with a book or an online course.

Consequently, it may be challenging to stay predictable and on track when working on sleep solo. Whilst many parents will successfully address their child’s sleep themselves, it is very usual that on your own, it can be hard to make progress. Working with a professional help keeps you on track when everything feels off kilter.  Accompanied sleep work enables you to understand where to start, what feels right for you and most importantly what helps to promote better sleep, appetite, mood and behaviour-for all family members and to future-proof your child’s sleep experience too.

It is a courageous act to reach out for help. Despite your levels of tiredness, do explore the various options of support available. Understand that sleep consulting is an unregulated industry which means there are varying levels of education and experiences amongst providers. Ask other parents for recommendations and trust what feels right. Additionally, don’t keep delaying if one to one support feels like a good option for you, many parents retrospectively always wish they engaged with a professional sooner.