As a doula and a mom of two, I'm always interested in attending different seminars hosted by different pros. For my own curiosity and to add to my bag of knowledge for my clients. The other week I went to a friend's sleep seminar. She's a professional sleep consultant and this was an hour where you could go and bring your baby and hear a sleep expert give some baby sleep tips and then ask her some specific questions about your little one's sleep 'issues'.
I totally expected her to only talk about sleep training. That is, after all, her business. You hire her and she helps you get your baby to sleep...by using a sleep training technique that you and your family are comfortable with. But then, one mom said 'I do what you're not 'supposed' to do and I nurse my daughter to sleep for every nap and bedtime and we bed share and I nurse her to back to sleep multiple times a night'
My friend, the sleep expert asked her if this was working for her...did she want to change what she was doing and sleep train?
Turns out, even sleep professionals who help you sleep train don't think you need to sleep train if what you're doing in your house with your family is working for you.
I'll admit, I'm sceptical of sleep training. I can't let my babies cry whether I'm in the room with them or not. I have a toddler who'll be three in June. I nursed him to sleep and co-slept with him every night for 26 months. I nursed him and held him for most naps for the better part of those 26 months. Unless I was at work or he fell asleep in the car. And guess what? I loved it. He still sleeps with my husband in our bed. Bedtime is zero percent stressful at our house because we're ok with laying down with him until he falls asleep. So I guess I do what you're not 'supposed to do' too.
(Also, there's two of us at home at bedtime every night so that makes a huge difference. That's not the case for every family.)
Now I have a 7 week old daughter and I plan on doing the same thing with her because in our house this is what works and what we feel comfortable with. I'm very pro safe co-sleeping & bed sharing. We co-sleep (specifically bed share) and we do it safely. A firm mattress, no blankets or fluffy pillows, no alcohol or drugs. More information about safe co-sleeping/bed sharing here:
This is what works for us.
If your sleep routine works for you and you're happy and your kids are happy and your husband is happy, keep things just like they are! You don't have to "sleep train" because your mom or your best friend said when your baby is 4 months or 6 months or a year old it's time. You don't have to sleep train because your doctor told you your baby weighs enough and doesn't need to be eating at night. You don't have to sleep train because 'if your baby is still co-sleeping at ____ age it's time' You don't have to sleep train because if you don't now, your kids will always be in your bed with you. (They won't)
You hire a sleep consultant to help you change things because they are not working for your family anymore. You sleep train because you're not happy with the way bedtime or naps or nights are going anymore. Sleep consultants are an amazing resource when your baby is not sleeping and you're not sleeping and something has to change. Co-sleeping doesn't work for all families. I have a friend who tried to bed share with her daughter and she says she doesn't get any sleep at all because she hears every little noise and feels every movement and is too worried about rolling into her. What works for one mom isn't going to work for every mom. Your baby doesn't come out of the womb with an instruction manual. You have to trust your own mommy instincts.
Hire a sleep consultant (my friend Holly http://tinysleepersbigdreamers.ca/ because she kicks ass and she's respectful of her clients wants and needs) if what's happening at nap and bed time is not working in your house & you want your baby to be an independent sleeper right now. Remember, independent sleepers will still wake up during the night (we all do, its biologically normal) but he or she will be able to fall back to sleep without needing you every time.
Don't hire a sleep consultant just because you thought you had to sleep train at a certain age. If you're looking for someone to help you change things, you're looking for a sleep consultant. If you're looking for support, you're looking for a post partum doula!!
My friend Holly put it perfectly when she said, "a sleep consultant will work with your family to make the appropriate changes for independent sleep where a doula will support you with your current situation and what you want to do"