From Sleep-Deprived Mum to Baby Sleep Consultant
Why did I become a baby sleep consultant? It’s all down to my daughter Sofia.
Many people tell me that I look like I have it all together now – with two happy and healthy little girls, but it certainly wasn’t always this way. I help others with their baby sleep issues now, because I received help from a baby sleep consultant when all else had failed and at the time when I was at my most desperate. Click the image to watch this week’s video about my story, or read a shortened transcript below.
I had a Sofia back in February 2016, and she thought sleep was something that only other babies did. We had the most horrendous breastfeeding journey – it took until she was five and a half weeks old before I saw an infant feeding specialist, who basically fixed the latch. So we had a really traumatic start to the first six weeks of life, with an emergency section. She had infections. I had infections – I had to stop breastfeeding her for a week and give formula while I was on certain antibiotics, and everything that felt like it could go wrong pretty much did.
And she just didn’t sleep. I went to my mum’s in Blackpool when she was four weeks old and mum said, “This isn’t normal, I’m sure it’s not. I’ve never breastfed but this scenario is just not right.”
And I’d always said I would never give my baby a dummy, but mum went to the chemist and came back with a dummy, and I just went, okay, we’ll try. It didn’t fix anything much, really, but it gave me a little bit of respite to just regather things and maybe go to the toilet and have a brew, without having to hold a baby that was just constantly attached to the boob.
And that’s when I was able to actually reach out and get help from an IBCLC. I’d always recommend this, by the way, if you’re really struggling, go and see an IBCLC natural infant feeding specialist. They are absolutely incredible. And they are the ones that will be able to help you in your breastfeeding journey. So you would think by now going on five and a half weeks. The latch is all sorted. This is great. We’re going to get it all done.
But even once she was feeding properly, Sofia still didn’t sleep. The sleep just never came. I was driving around to try and get her to sleep and walking for miles upon miles each day.
I can’t even really put it into words the despair and the darkness that that kind of sleep deprivation can take you to. I’m not talking about just being tired, I’m talking about full-on sleep deprivation, having microsleeps. If you don’t know what a microsleep, is it’s where you’re driving and you suddenly jerk awake and realise you’re halfway across the lane on the motorway or something like that, it’s terrifying, absolutely terrifying. And these are things that were happening more and more frequently.
This lack of sleep had the worst effect on my marriage. We didn’t communicate with each other. The only time we did communicate with each other was through shouting. We couldn’t talk. We weren’t on the same page with things we tried. We desperately tried to have a day out, which ended in pretty much near divorce. But the smallest thing and we attacked each other. And actually, when you’re going through something like this, the last thing you need to be doing is attacking your partner. You need to be coming together and saying, okay, what are we going to do to fix this? How are we going to make this better together rather than keep fighting against each other?
Getting Support? What didn’t work
So then I’d go to all the baby groups and everyone was talking to me about their baby that slept from seven till seven. And I’d be going, “I hate you!” I know they had all the best intentions for telling me all the things that they were doing that helped their child sleep. Yeah, I tried all of them. They didn’t work.
I went to the health visitors. I was constantly talking to the health visitors about the lack of sleep and they had me down as an anxious mum. I was just absolutely knackered. And then in the summer, me and my husband decided that we’d reached a point where we either had to try and fix ourselves or go our separate ways. It kind of got to that point because we couldn’t talk to each other. So we went down a marriage counselling route, which was hard. There were a lot of things that were said to each other, and we had to work on that.
When she was seven months old, the health visitor told me to try this Solihull technique, which was basically controlled crying. And it involved me sitting on the stairs outside Sofia’s room while she was crying her eyes out in the cot while I was crying my eyes out on the stairs listening to my baby sob. And I was just doing what I was told to do by the health visitor because I knew no better. And I did it for I think I managed it for two nights and this is just awful. It went against everything that felt instinctive, which is not right.
Seeing a Baby Sleep Consultant
And then a friend of mine who I’d met at swimming pointed me in the direction of somebody who was a baby sleep consultant and she basically sold us the world, and we agreed, we’ve got to do something. We didn’t have the money but it was one of those things where we knew we had to do something because I’ll tell you what, divorce costs more than paying somebody to actually help us with our child’s sleep. So we did. We paid a huge sum of money and we got our child sleeping. And I’m not going to say it was without tears because it really wasn’t. I’ve learned so much since then.
It was sort of traumatic, but it did work. It was really hard work. But we got there and she slept.
Trust me, this is not something that has been an ongoing thing that she suddenly started sleeping and that was it. Sofia is actually quite difficult in general. She’s nearly six now. And one of the things I’ve had to do over the years is constantly study, and restart and relearn, because for some bizarre reason, she seems to be a child that just doesn’t seem to want to go to sleep and she seems to struggle with sleep and that’s fine. She sleeps through the night for me, everything like that. She doesn’t fight me at bedtime. Everything is fine.
But this is because I’ve had to put a lot of work into place for that over the years. But right back then it was a game-changer because we went from literally having no sleep and just arguing all the time. I remember I was on the phone to mum at one point in the night. She had literally been screaming for 2 hours and I’d done the whole feeding her, rocking her, walking around the room, singing to her absolutely everything and nothing seemed to work. And I thought there must be something wrong with her. There must be something wrong with this baby. What’s wrong with her? And turned out she was actually just tired, which sounds completely bonkers, doesn’t it? But she was. She was just tired.
She was absolutely knackered and sorting that sleep out and actually bringing sleep into her life made the world of difference and it brought it into mine and it brought it into my husband’s and we were able to actually start talking to each other again and starting to communicate. I know that my story here is not unique. I absolutely know this.
Discovering my Vocation – Becoming a Sleep Consultant
What happened from this particular point is I found a passion. I found a passion to say I need to change other people’s lives. I need to do what this lady has done for me, for other people that are going through this because not enough people know about this help.
So I went on to study with her, and I later found out that actually, she didn’t know as much as she thought she knew. And I’d done a few things I now regret a little bit with Sofia from that particular experience. However, it was the path that’s led me to where I am now, to really come into this and make some positive changes for everybody else. So I started by training with her. I’m not going to say the name because it’s just what it is. Gentle Sleep Training course. I went and did that, but it just wasn’t enough.
And this is a bit that’s really important. What I have learned is there are multiple people out there selling the dream to say you can become a baby sleep consultant by doing a few weeks of this study or a few days or a few hours, whatever it might be. There are some courses which are a day and people can then say that they are certified. What I have learned is these courses, they’re not necessarily worth that much because the training is not as in-depth as you might think. We probably need to make those changes and to be able to actually really acknowledge what’s going on in a family’s life. It’s not just about that baby going to sleep. It’s the family dynamic It’s everything. So I started off with that. And that was what got the business going four years ago. Now, back in 2017. And then in 2018, I started on the holistic sleep coaching course with BabyEm, which was utterly incredible and it just opened my eyes so much as to the world of sleep, it’s the most complex thing going and you can’t just look at one little bit the bit that really made a huge difference as well.
Toddler Sleep Issues
I’m going to talk to you now about this because again, this is something where a lot of you will probably say I get this as well. So when Sofia turned two, we went through little patches, but then she got to the point where she fell out of the cot and she wasn’t ready to go into a bed. But I hadn’t learned enough at this point to know what I needed to do. So I just thought she’s got to be safe. And we took the sides off the cot, and it was probably the worst thing we could have done because she wasn’t ready and it built all sorts of anxieties into there, which I hadn’t even considered.
And we ended up back where we were literally on 2 hours of broken sleep at night and she was sleeping in with us. I say she was sleeping in with us. I can’t co-sleep because Sofia likes to sprawl and kick and move around. She’s always been a very restless sleeper and she couldn’t sleep in the toddler bed because she kept rolling out. We ended up eventually getting her a full-size single bed low down, so if she wants to roll out, she wouldn’t hurt herself. But it had sides. It was like a Princess car bed. And then obviously I went on to do okay.
I’m generally quite a highly-strung person. I don’t deal with tiredness. Well, I struggle. Hence one of the reasons I do what I do because I need to keep learning. I need to keep learning and understanding things so I can help and support my child and keep my emotions in check as well. Knowledge for me is so powerful because knowledge is what levels me, grounds me. And this is what I’ve learned for so many of the families that I work with. Having that knowledge is so powerful it can ground your emotions enough to be able to take you to that next point and to say, okay, rather than absolutely losing the plot, what can I do now to bring things back? What is the actual situation is going on and is this normal? And how am I going to get out of it? So that knowledge is so powerful.
Learning About Myself
But at the time, we didn’t know how to actually manage this with Sofia because we were all on our absolute knees. I went to the GP and basically asked for counseling because I couldn’t cope anymore. I felt like everything was just wrong. I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought there was something wrong with my child and really it was just a case that I needed to change so many other things as well. But I’ll tell you about that in a second. So they actually put me onto an anger management course which was really helpful.
It wasn’t actually a thing I needed, but I learned a lot from that on calming myself and understanding my own triggers, which really did help. But the thing that really changed, it was I then went on to do the Incredible Years course, which is a three-month programme. I’m learning all about behaviours, how to implement them and understanding their behaviours, and understanding the brain of a young child. And this was the key for me in being able to kind of say, right, what’s actually going on and implementing laying foundations, emotion coaching, and all these different things. These were the things that built the foundations to have the daughter that I’ve got now, which she’s stable.
She struggles with quite a few things and that’s fine because I’m going to keep learning so I can keep supporting her.
Helping Others with their Baby and Child Sleep Issues
But because of this journey we’ve been on, I can now support so many other people on their journeys as well. This is why I do what I do. I do it for my children to make sure that they get the best I can possibly give them. I can manage all their emotions and help and support them and help them develop in the best way possible. But because I’m doing that for them, it means that I’m able to do that for you as well.
So if you are struggling, please know you are absolutely not alone. You really are not alone. It can be so hard. Parenting is difficult at the best of times. But when you’re absolutely exhausted to the point, you can’t see what’s in front of you and everything around you feels pointless, and you’re not enjoying things the way you thought you would do. It’s possible to come back from that. And it’s when you need to ask for help. You are not alone.
If you hit that stage, or even before you do, it’s really important that you do reach out and say, Right, okay, who can help me? Figure out what you need help with and find a qualified professional. And if that’s not me, that’s absolutely fine. There are other people out there that can help, but it’s really important that you make sure whoever you ask to help you has got the experience to be able to help you, and they studied enough to be able to do that, because the sleep industry is not regulated. Anybody can literally do a one-day course and call themselves a baby sleep consultant.
Make sure that whoever you get to help, they know what they’re talking about, but please know you are not alone. It’s a really hard journey to go on, but it’s the most amazing and rewarding journey being a parent.
But if it helps you, our story ends well. We also now have a 20-month-old who’s a little dream. She absolutely loves sleep. I say, do you want to go to bed? She says yes, she goes to bed, and it’s so different – I’ve been able to lay those foundations earlier because I knew what I was doing. Also, her temperament is very different, but she’s a little girl that loves her sleep. I was able to actually build that in right from the very, early stages rather than waiting till it was too late.
My Video Guides with Online Support
if you feel that you need help, you can find access to my video courses which come with online support. Click the image below.
Rather than it just being videos, you actually have my support within a private Facebook group as part of the package. So you can come in at any time and say, “Nicole, what’s going on with this? This is happening”. And I’ll come back and say, Right, okay, what you need to do is X, Y and Z. Try this. Try that because it sounds like this is going on.
So you have my hand to hold in an online capacity. You’ve got somewhere that you can constantly dip in and out of over the years. So when these things happen, you’ve got somewhere you can come back to and say, right. Okay. They’ve just started school. They’re feeling a bit like this. Sleep just got a little bit like that. What could be going on?
My support group gives you a safe place that you can come back to and have a look and learn new information from me and from seeing other parents get their questions answered too. NO question is too silly and you’ll be surprised how many people feel the same as you.
If you want to you can also work with me on a one-to-one basis as well. So if you would rather me hold your hand, we can do that as well. I just want to make sure that there’s something there for everybody because nobody should ever get to the point which I was at, my husband was at, where you feel that there is no way out and it’s just too hard. Nobody should get to that point.
I hope you’ve come to the end of this thinking. Do you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay to struggle. I get it. I feel it. And actually, I’m going to get some help because it’s okay. It’s normal to have felt the way that I felt. And actually, my child isn’t broken and I’m not broken because you’re not. You’re just going through a difficult patch and I can help you through it.