So, I’ve just had a sleep specialist come out to my home to help me manage my baby’s sleeping (or lack thereof). It has changed my life so much, and I can’t believe I didn’t ask for help earlier! My experience has really put me in the shoes of our fussy eating clients, so I thought I could share with you what I’ve learnt.
People would say “Oh geez I didn’t realise it was that bad?” There’s a perception that your child’s sleeping or eating difficulties have to be HORRENDOUS for you to seek professional help. Like they can only sleep for 1 hour or eat one food for you to ask for assistance. NOT TRUE! If your child’s sleeping or feeding cause you ANY stress, then please go and get some professional help. It will save you so much angst.
People also gave me suggestions like "maybe she needs a later bedtime”. I internally rolled my eyes and thought “Gee, wish I’d thought of that one.” I appreciate that people are just trying to help, but if you’ve got a non-sleeping baby, or a non-eating child, then you’ve googled your heart out. You’ve listened and tried all of the advice. You don't need someone to tell you to cut their sandwich into a dinosaur shape. It’s not that simple. You need someone to understand your specific circumstances.
MY OWN BELIEFS
Even if I disagreed with someone who commented on her sleep, I still felt a bit pathetic and I would defend myself and my baby. “It’s not THAT bad. She's still learning.” I would tell people. But seriously, why did I have to be at rock bottom to get some help? I know that many of my clients feel embarrassed about what their child eats, and they try to play it down to others who might judge them. I totally get it. The great thing is that your sleep or mealtime specialist gets it too.
But instead of making a booking, I would read some more and look at other things I could try. Still, it didn't change. I was chopping and changing between strategies and approaches. I didn't know what was working and what wasn't. I didn't know how long to try each thing for. Her lack of sleeping was worrying me. It was taking up lots of my energy. It was hard, without being horrendous, but I knew people out there could help me. So why did I feel like I need to tough it out a bit longer? Who was going to give me a medal? (As a side note, it was my husband who put his foot down and insisted we contact a professional- I think his exact quote was "All this reading is sending you mad. Call someone who knows what they're doing!")
I was worried that a sleep specialist might judge me or make me feel bad about what we'd been trying. I knew I'd been trying to do everything I could, and I just imagined someone with a checklist going through all my failings. But when we met Nikki (from The Gentle Sleep Specialist) on the first night, I knew that wasn't going to happen. She came into our home and at no point did I feel worried or uncomfortable. She was so lovely and understanding. She’s exactly like I hope I am in our fussy client’s homes. As a side note, if you ever see a clinician or specialist who makes you feel bad about yourself, then go and find someone else. They’re not for you.
When I tell people how much it cost (the package we chose was $800) they almost keel over. Yes, it costs money. Was it worth it? Without a doubt. I’d pay it again in an instant. I’m getting exceptional professional advice, tailored to my situation. Those kind of skills take a long time to develop, and I’m benefiting from it. That’s money well spent in my eyes.
THE THINGS THAT HELPED
The moment I made an appointment with Nikki I felt less stressed. My baby's sleeping actually got a bit better on its own, probably because I know help is on the way. Having an expert helps me to offload some of the stress- others are going through this too. I am not alone! I know this happens for a lot of our fussy eaters too. They might magically eat a new food just before we come, or even during our first appointment.
When we met with Nikki I started to understand WHY she wasn't sleeping. It makes sense to me. I now understand it from my baby’s point of view. This helps my reasoning skills at 3am when I need to work out what to do next. It also means I have more patience because I don't feel so overwhelmed with too many options about what to do.
The critical factor for my stress levels is the fact that I have a plan. Something to follow. Someone to listen to me who knows what they're talking about. Someone to debrief with. I’m progressing (slowly at first, Elsie is a bit more determined than most- of course she is!) but that is still progress. Before I felt like I was going backwards more than forwards. If we have a bad sleep now, I know how to get back on track. I am CONFIDENT!
Finally, seeking professional help has saved my sanity. Instead of feeling like I’m facing 5 settles and sleeps per day on my own, I feel supported. I know for our mealtime clients, the constant feeding (at least 5 meals and snacks a day) is exhausting. That’s why you need someone who is totally invested in you and your family, and who has your back. And that’s how it feels for me with the sleep- we’re not alone in this. That is priceless.
If you’ve got concerns about your child’s SLEEPING habits, please think about getting professional help. My experience with The Gentle Sleep Specialist has been incredible.
If you’ve got concerns about your child’s EATING habits, please think about getting professional help. Lauren and I are incredibly experienced and passionate about what we do. You can read more about what we offer on our website.
(ps. this is not a sponsored post, just a grateful one. Nikki, we love you!)
*For those who are interested: Elsie is now sleeping like a boss. She self settles in 5-10 mins for most naps and night sleeps. She wakes once overnight for a feed and goes back to sleep on her own. We're still working on day sleeps but at least I don't need to sleep every time she does anymore. It's incredible.
About Mealtime Building Blocks
Dr Kyla Smith is a paediatric dietitian specialising in fussy eating, feeding difficulties and childhood nutrition. Lauren Pike is an occupational therapist working in fussy eating and feeding difficulties. They have a private practice called Mealtime Building Blocks in Perth, Western Australia. You can connect with Kyla and Lauren on their website and sign up for their newsletter, and the Facebook page or on the Instagram page. You can also email them.