That Time We Hired A Sleep Consultant… and what I learned!

posted by Andrea | 04/8/2016
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sleep consultant

As many of you know, Nora was a HORRIBLE sleeper from the moment she was born. The nurses in the hospital sheepishly told me that we’d probably want to invest in a good swing and bouncy seat because she screamed and cried most of the time she was in the hospital nursery and only slept when I was holding her (yes, that was when she was just 2 days old!)

Over the next 3+ years, we tried almost everything to get that child to sleep (you can read everything we tried in this post).

There were just 2 things we knowingly didn’t try.

The first was to completely let her “cry it out”. We did let her cry for periods, then go in and lay her back down, rub her back, hold her hand, etc. but I never just let her cry for an extended period of time. Come to find out later, crying it out is one of the worst things you can do for a high-needs sensory baby, and I’m SO glad we didn’t ever have the heart to do it.

The second was hiring a sleep consultant. I did look into hiring a few different ones, but at the time, the consultants either required that we do a sleep study with Nora in a special office location (which seemed way too overwhelming for me) or they would come into our home at night when Nora was sleeping (and that was just too weird for me). So we never did it — but I always wondered if that would have been the thing to “solve all our sleep issues”.

When Simon was born, I was fairly worried that we’d be starting Round 2 of “eternal sleeplessness”… but to my surprise, he developed a pretty fabulous sleeping schedule all on his own.

By about 8 -10 weeks old, he was sleeping for 12 hours at night, only waking once to eat and then going right back to sleep. He also loved sleeping in his crib, and by about 4-5 months, we could simply lay him in his crib awake for naps and at night as he liked to “play” and babble for a bit before snuggling in and drifting off to sleep all on his own.

I thought I had won the sleeping baby lottery! 

By the time we announced we were pregnant with James, we officially had 2 children who were regularly sleeping through the night! Life was good!

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As James’ arrival approached, everyone joked about who he would look like, who he would act like… and who he would sleep like! Of course, our fingers were crossed that he would take after his big brother in the sleep department 🙂

I was thankful that James got his days and nights figured out very quickly, and he was an excellent napper. He did wake up a lot more than Simon did at night, but he would usually go back to sleep easily after feeding, and he was always SO HAPPY — nothing like the days and nights filled with Nora screaming and crying.

We were hopeful that things would continue to improve with James’ sleeping, but right around 5-6 months, he started waking up regularly ALL NIGHT LONG. Plus, his naps were getting shorter and shorter, it was taking longer and longer for him to fall asleep, and he was crying A LOT.

Not cool!

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At first, I thought he was sick or teething; but after a solid month of almost no sleep for me, I knew it was more than that. Ironically, around 6 months is when Nora’s sleep got significantly worse as well… and it continued to go downhill for the next 2 years.

I wasn’t necessarily panicking about James’ poor sleep just yet… but around 7 months, when I realized that I had been sleeping in the twin bed in the nursery for almost 2 weeks straight and holding him for a significant part of the night just to get him to sleep, I knew I had to do something!

As I was sitting there in his dark room one night, I started scrolling through Facebook on my phone. One of my high school classmates mentioned something about how her baby wasn’t sleeping well, and someone left the information for an internet-based sleep consultant in the comments of that post.

I immediately went to the consultant’s website (more information on this at the end of the post) and decided I would hire her in the morning — after all, there was NO WAY I was letting James’ sleeplessness plague me for 3 full years!

Within 24 hours, I had a personalized “sleep plan” for James in my inbox, and we were ready to get started. 

I was hesitantly optimistic that anything would change, but I was desperate enough to try almost anything.

I worked with the sleep consultant for 2 weeks at the end of February, and since then we have enjoyed significantly better sleep from James.

The main sleep issues we worked on:

  • Breaking James’ association with feeding and sleeping (a.k.a. I had to keep him awake when feeding him during the day)
  • Getting James to go into the crib awake and fall asleep on his own
  • Encouraging longer naps and less waking at night
  • Limiting feeding times at night.

The results:

Honestly, within 2 to 3 (long) days of working with the sleep consultant, I already noticed a big difference. James was no longer eating to fall asleep and he was able to fall asleep on his own for naps and at bedtime. He also put himself back to sleep a couple time in the middle of the night — without me going into his room!

Now, about 6 weeks later, I feel like we have a pretty good sleep “routine” in place. 

James eats at 7:00pm, then I get him ready for bed, and snuggle him in the living room while the other kids eat their bedtime snacks.

He is almost always sleeping by 7:30pm — and usually falls asleep easily on his own.

He often wakes up around 11pm and then around 5:00am to eat and immediately goes back to sleep (it takes less than 10 minutes to feed him).

I wait to go to bed until I feed him at 11:00… and also go back to sleep after the 5:00 feeding too.

He often sleep in until 8:00 or 8:30am.

He takes 1 nap during the day — usually 2-3 hours, around noon.

Why I didn’t take all the consultant’s advice:

In my opinion, the progress above is fantastic and I do not regret paying for the consultant at all.

However, when I initially hired the consultant, I envisioned James sleeping blissfully for 10-12 hours a night by the end of our 2 weeks. That didn’t happen, but I do think we could have gotten there IF I was willing to take all the consultant’s advice.

The consultant really encouraged me to eliminate ALL nighttime feedings so James would sleep for 10-12 hours at night, but I honestly didn’t feel like he could go that long without eating.

After lots of trial and error during those 2 weeks, I realized that the only way I would be able to successfully eliminate all nighttime feedings was to let James cry for a really REALLY long time, for several nights in a row — and I’m not willing to do that at this point.

Although a full night of uninterrupted sleep sounds so fabulous right now, I would honestly rather wake up once or twice for a super quick feeding if he goes right back to sleep (which he does 99% of the time).

The consultant did a good job of suggesting various alternative methods to try, but I have a feeling she wanted me to let him cry for longer than I was willing to. She did agree that it was my decision on how much to let him cry and she respected that decision.

The consultant also told me that at his age, he really should be taking 2 naps every day — but whenever he took 2 naps, he went to bed much later and woke up much earlier. I tried everything she told me to try, but the 2 nap schedule just wasn’t working for us, so I went against her advice to do what seems to be working best for our family.

Now, all 3 kids go to bed between 7:30 and 8:00pm every night and Simon and James often wake up around 8:00 or 8:30 every morning (of course, Nora is our early bird and up WAY earlier than that, but I’ll take what I can get!)

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Although James technically isn’t “sleeping through the night”, I’m thrilled with the progress we made. 

In fact, we implemented some of the consultants ideas with Nora and Simon too. Within a week, we FINALLY got Simon to give up his nighttime bottle and we greatly expedited both of their bedtime routines as well!

My Take-Aways:

I’m SO glad I found (and hired) the sleep consultant when I did!

I learned a lot about sleep for babies and children, but I also realized that all children are different and just because an “expert” says I should do it one way, it doesn’t mean that’s my only option.

Babies are people too — we can’t expect them to sleep exactly the same all the time. They will get sick and not sleep well, they will start teething and not sleep well, they will have nightmares and not sleep well, they will have growth spurts and wake to eat more. However, by having a more regular routine, we can hopefully get back to “normal” more quickly after any “bumps in the road”.

Getting a young baby to sleep a full 10-12 hours at night feels somewhat overrated to me. Even my fabulously-sleeping Simon didn’t officially sleep 10-12 hours straight until close to a year old. Having a good routine, falling asleep on their own, and sleeping in the crib are all more important to me than sleeping for 10-12 hours (at least when they are so little).

I am a really good mom and sacrifice a lot for my children… but I am so much happier and more fun when I get more sleep!

Information About the Sleep Consultant:

Since I know many of you are wondering who this magical sleep consultant is, I’ll share all the information below 🙂

The consultant’s name is Violet. Her website is Sleep Baby Sleep

We purchased Sleep Package #4 (2 weeks of unlimited emails and consultation)

Personally, I would recommend Sleep Package #3 — which is ONE week of unlimited emails. We really accomplished everything we needed to in that first week, so the second week didn’t seem necessary in my opinion.

NOTE: It looks like she has raised her prices since we hired her just 2 months ago, but they are still fairly reasonable for what she offers. She is VERY quick to respond to all emails and thorough with her responses to your questions and concerns.

Also, I should mention that I really didn’t seek out any other sleep consultants to compare services or pricing. I saw that a handful of people left very positive reviews for Sleep Baby Sleep and just decided to go for it.

Finally, this is NOT a sponsored post in any way (she doesn’t even know I’m writing it), but I know there is a place for you to list who “referred” you to her services, and I’d love it if you shared that I sent you her way — just so she knows!

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Also, I’d love to know if any of you have ever worked with a sleep consultant?

If so, did you learn a lot? Did your babies magically start sleeping better or not?

sleep consultant

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23 comments

  1. Keely

    05/02/2016

    Hi Andrea!

    I am considering hiring Violet for my 6 month old. My big question is are the first few long nights when you are “teaching” your baby to fall asleep on their own basically a cry it out approach with you consoling every now and then (kind of the Ferber method)? Even if it is I may still hire her, I would just like to know her approach before going into it. I think my husband and I need a step-by-step approach and the No Cry Sleep Solution didn’t really provide that…

    Thanks for your blog, I like to see some reviews that aren’t published on the website!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Keely,
    Sorry for the delay — I totally forgot to respond to this and JUST remembered now 🙂
    Anyway, Violet did not force me (or even pressure) me to do the cry-it-out method, however, we did need to let James cry more than I noramly would. We usually let him cry for 5-10 minutes and then when in to his room to sooth him.

    I’m not sure what the Ferber method is — so I can’t tell you that for sure.
    Hope this helps!

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  2. Mandy

    04/09/2016

    Thanks for posting this! I never knew there was such a thing as a sleep consultant. It makes perfect sense – especially for parents who are too busy / sleep deprived to read a big “how to get my baby to sleep” book.

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  3. Julie

    04/09/2016

    Hi Andrea, I have three children who all had completely different sleep patterns too. My first was an awful sleeper. I would either have to feed him or rock him to sleep. He would wake constantly through the night and would only go back to sleep if I feed him or held him. I can remember being in labour with my second baby and trying to pat him back to sleep. I often slept in his room as only I would do. Naps were very short, about 45 mins in total. I would often drive him around , just so he would sleep for his naps, he liked the vibration of the car. Getting my husband to take over took a very long time for him to get used too. We took him to Sleep School (in Australia it is called Karitane). Baby number 2 was completely different. She quickly worked out how to fall alsleep on her own, would only wake once or twice a night for a feed and took long naps. She slept from 7pm until 7am. Baby number 3 also worked out how to put himself to sleep and would wake up twice to be be feed. He also took long naps. Unfortunately, when he woke for the early morning feed, about 4am, he would stay awake. He took three naps a day, just to catch up on sleep. Now my children are 10, 11 and 14. They all sleep all night long and sometimes I even have to wake them up! Believe me Andrea, it does get better. Your children are beautiful and you are doing an amazing job

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  4. Pam B

    04/08/2016

    I’m happy to hear that you are getting James on a better sleep schedule and learned tips from a sleep consultant. Don’t beat yourself up that you didn’t try this with Nora. With her having sensory issues, it may not have helped. I have a 7-year-old (as of this Sunday) with sensory processing disorder and he slept horribly those first few years. We are in the part of the country where Children’s Mercy Hospital is so we are lucky enough to be able to get top notch therapy for sensory issues there. There really wasn’t anything that could be done but to just wait it out. Just think of it as extra bonding time you had with Nora. That’s how I look at it with my son, Brody!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I know — you’re right. I try not to think of “what if we had done this with Nora” but it is really hard not to always go down that path. I just wonder if things could have been totally different for us… but I guess I’ll never know!

    And yes, lots and lots and LOTS of bonding time 🙂

    [Reply]

  5. Aimee

    04/08/2016

    Very well-timed! My 8.5 mos old wakes at 11pm or 12am, then at least 1more time before 7pm & EATS & EATS. We have him on solids & even supplement sometimes with a bottle, but I had never heard of a sleep consultant. What a brilliant job that must be! Thank you for explaining in such detail what you experienced & the pros and cons of it. Gives me a lot to consider. He’s our 3rd under 5 and I just NEED sleep! We too have an early early riser.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Aimee,
    Obviously, I’m not an expert, but I will mention that I don’t think it’s THAT crazy for an 8 month old to wake up at 11 and then one other time during the night. That’s what James does right now (and that’s huge progress AFTER working with the consultant!)

    Of course, I know lots of babies who do sleep through the night by 8 or 9 months — but I know lots more who don’t. So while I definitely understand that you’re wanting sleep, I wouldn’t necessarily think you are doing anything “wrong” or that you baby is a horrible sleeper just because he wakes up 1 or 2 times to eat at night.

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  6. Emily

    04/08/2016

    Oh how timely is this post!! We’re going through the same thing with Jonathan right now. Started around 6 months. He’s very happy when he’s awake but trying for better sleep habits has been crazy. I think we had one week of consistent sleep patterns and that was it. You would think after five kiddos I’d have this figured out, right? 😉 Reading your post has reminded me of the things I need to be diligent about. Thanks for the tips!! Seriously, you could be a sleep consultant after all you learned with Nora!! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well, if you aren’t in a consistent pattern with your 5th, then I don’t feel so bad about not having a good pattern for #3 🙂

    let’s hope we both get some sleep SOON!

    [Reply]

  7. Katie

    04/08/2016

    I used the Baby Wise book for my babies and it worked great. One of the key points the book made was not letting them fall asleep while eating, even as newborns. Often that involved changing their diaper immediately after the feeding to wake them up. It encourages you to consistently follow a pattern of Feed, Wake, Sleep. Another great benefit is that during the wake time, they are happy because they just ate. I’d recommend that book to anyone. Although, like anything, it could probably be taken to the extreme. And with babies you always have to be flexible!

    [Reply]

    Melissa Reply:

    We used Baby Wise too! I loved that book so much. The method worked soooo well for us and I agree that keeping them awake while they eat was the tricky part. I would strip my oldest nearly naked to keep her awake. It takes a bit of time to develop the routine, but once we did it was fantastic. Now both my girls (13 and 8) are super sleepers.

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  8. Jennifer

    04/08/2016

    We hired a sleep consultant for our daughter when she was 6.5 months. She was a good sleeper till 3 months, then went downhill – waking 3+ times a night, taking 30 minute naps only, and getting her to sleep was a screaming fest of feeding, rocking, walking! I tried sleeping with her, since I’d heard that some babies slept better that way, but it never made a difference to her waking patterns.

    Our sleep consultant had a similar plan and similar advice to yours. We did have to let our daughter do some crying, which I wasn’t happy about, but she did so much crying with our current ‘gentle’ methods I was willing to give it a try for longer-term happiness (for us all!). The worst crying was about 45 minutes, with us going in every 15 minutes to soothe her. But the first night we did it, it made an immediate difference and she went about 6 hours before waking up – previously we were lucky to get a 3-hour stretch!

    In 2 weeks we went from 3+ wakings every night, and 3 night feedings, to only 1 feeding and usually no other wakings. Like you, our sleep consultant wanted us to eliminate that one feeding, and since our daughter often sleeps 6:30-4am without feeding, I reckon it would be possible; but actually I’m too lazy! After months of so little sleep, the sleep I’m getting now feels great and I’m not going to complain about one feeding.

    We also changed her feeding pattern. She was a very frequent feeder, like every 2 hours or even more often during the day, and I stretched it gradually to 3.5-4 hours between feedings. This saved my sanity if nothing else. Possibly it helped with the nights as well.

    We still struggle with naps; she rarely naps more than 30 minutes in the morning, and I even struggle to get her to nap more than 30 minutes in the afternoon, which drives me BONKERS. I keep hoping! And I keep reminding myself how much worse it used to be!

    Nothing our sleep consultant advised was rocket science, or anything I couldn’t have done on my own, but it was so helpful to have someone to vent to after a bad night, someone to keep me accountable to sticking with the plan, and someone who was vouching that it would work. That was really worth the money for us.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Jennifer — nothing our sleep consultant said was “rocket science” or anything I couldn’t have read in a book… but like you said, it was just nice to have her as a constant resource for those 2 weeks, as someone to vent to, and as an accountability partner. Also, knowing that I was paying her made me really want to stick to “the plan” and we did notice a huge difference in James’ sleeping within the first 2 days.

    For the past week, James has either been teething, quit sick, or recovering from being sick (a.k.a. eating a TON) so our “sleep plan” has basically gone out the window — I’m starting to go crazy. BUT, I know that once he’s fully over his sickness and back to normal, I can implement many of the sleeping techniques I learned and have him in more of a normal routine within a couple of days.

    As a fairly frugal person, I would also say that it was totally worth the money for me and for our family. I kind of wish I would have done this back when Nora was 6 months old… oh well!

    [Reply]

  9. Kelly Hess

    04/08/2016

    I followed The Sleep Lady and read the book Good Night Sleep Tight with all 3 of my kids. All of what you said is in this book. The earlier you start the better!

    [Reply]

  10. Kellie

    04/08/2016

    These are wonderful suggestions, Andrea! So helpful! I am also really grateful that you were upfront about going with your conscience – after all, YOU are James’s mother, not the sleep consultant (and I’m sure she was completely well-intentioned). I’m just thankful for the reminder that there is lots of really good advice out there but at the end of the day Mom knows her baby best.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I would definitely say that “mom knows best” when it comes to a small infant.

    Also, for the record, I don’t do much with trying to get a baby on a schedule or sleeping more consistently until after 12 weeks old. That “4th trimester” is the time when I adjust to them, they adjust to me (and our family) and we just exists together 🙂 After 3 months, then I start working a little more diligently at getting into some sort of rough routine.

    In my opinion, there’s no need to go crazy trying to schedule a tiny newborn 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. Mariangeles

    04/08/2016

    My baby girl is almost 5.5 months old and doesn’t sleep very well, but there’s no way we can afford a consultar 🙁

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Mariangeles,
    You could try researching other sleep counselors (I mentioned I didn’t really shop around, so there are potentially less expensive options). Also, you could buy a smaller package (Violet’s prices start at $60). Finally, if you’re looking for a free option, there are TONS of baby sleep books available at almost all local libraries — so that would definitely be a place to check first if you’re not sure about the financial part. Hope this helps!

    [Reply]

    Pam Reply:

    At one and a half years old my daughter was a terrible sleeper and the stress was spilling over into every aspect of our lives. A friend suggested I check into the Ferber and Sears methods (I didn’t know about sleep consultants at the time). I went to the book store and skimmed through both books. I felt more “in tune” with the Ferber method for various reasons. If nothing else, the book helped by letting you know that you were not alone; that others were struggling too. It took us two weeks to get to “sleep bliss”. We may not have followed through if we hadn’t seen progress from night two (we had a written chart so we could see the progress). Since that time, I’ve loaned the book out to several people. All of them have used all or some part of the suggestionswith great success. If you can’t afford a consultant, I highly recommend getting Dr. Ferber’s book.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing this Pam — I’ve actually never heard of the Ferber method, so I’ll have to check that out!

    [Reply]

  12. Carolyn Bowden

    04/08/2016

    We also used a sleep consultant for our twins. It was the best money I ever spent and my boys now run to bed at night. I just wish I hadn’t waited until they were two to bring them in!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, Dave and I have often lamented the fact that we never tried a sleep consultant with Nora. But at the same time, we did learn A LOT from battling with Nora’s sleep issues — so who knows, maybe all that stuff we learned has inadvertently helped us to get our boys to sleep a little better.

    I’m glad you finally got your boys sleeping… and I’m glad our kids are sleeping as well as they are 🙂

    [Reply]