As a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, one of the questions I get asked the most from people is “How do your kids sleep?” I often tell them that you would be surprised at how little of my own advice I follow or how unready for change I am for long periods of time.
Making a change is hard work for anyone—expert or not. It's difficult enough for us to make change within ourselves but the prospect of asking your baby or child to make changes and being the support system for that change can be totally paralyzing!
Most sleep professionals will tell you that no change is better than inconsistent attempts at change. Inconsistency creates power struggles and sets everyone up for far more work with each attempt. This is why even professional sleep consultants are guilty of continuing poor sleep habits with our own children that we denounce to our clients daily!
I recently polled a group of my professional sleep consultant peers to get the real scoop on what "rules" they don't actually end up following in their own homes. If you're feeling like you should be doing more or doing better, take solace in the knowledge that even those of us who know better are in the same parenting boat.
Sleep Consultant #1 (a.k.a. Yours Truly)
I still let my 4-year-old take a small sippy cup of milk and a small sippy cup of water to bed every night. He also often takes several toys to bed and I have been known to lay with him for naptime until he falls asleep. It’s just easier than dealing with tantrums at 7:30 p.m.
I also allowed him to sleep exclusively in a Rock N' Play until he was six months old. And, yes, he ended up with a cranial helmet. I also had a 27-month-old toddler at the time that was not sleeping so one of them had to sleep by any means necessary!
Sleep Consultant #2
My twins took a bottle to bed till they were 3. Why? Because, twins! No battle, no resistance!
Sleep Consultant #3
2 out of 3 of my children had pacifiers until they were over 3!
Sleep Consultant #4
On the weekends, I let them sleep whenever or wherever they want. Sometimes they fall asleep on the sofa while we watch TV, and other times they fall asleep in their bed watching devices. I just sometimes don't feel like enforcing bedtimes on the weekends!
Sleep Consultant #5
I currently still let my (almost) 4-year-old go to bed with a bottle. This is nowhere near as crazy as what I have done to keep my 2-year-old daughter in her crib. That little turkey started climbing out so I put the mattress on the floor. That didn't work so we turned the crib around and backed it into a corner. This worked for a while but she figured out how to get out again. So, I bought pool noodles and wrapped the slats of the crib so she couldn’t get her foot in there to help her swing her self-up. Then she pulled the mattress up off the floor and slid under her crib! I was not going to lose this battle [so] I got some wood a hammer and nails and nailed a panel at the bottom so she couldn't get out. It has worked ever since.
Sleep Consultant #6
I let my newborn sleep on my chest for the first week of his life and then in a Rock N' Play for the following month. I always tell clients not to ever get into letting their kid sleep in the Rock N' Play at night since it's such a large crutch to get rid of, but I'll most likely keep doing it for my subsequent children since it made life so easy in the beginning!
Sleep Consultant #7
My 3-year-old boy still falls asleep with a bottle of water. He sleeps well and can drink it whenever he wants through the night. Though I would never recommended it as a sleep consultant!
Sleep Consultant #8
My husband works away for long periods so I often get lonely at night. So I sneak in and gently get my toddler out of bed and put him in with me! In the morning I’m like, "surprise, you got to sleep with Mummy!"
Sleep Consultant #9
I totally give in to letting my child have sugar WAY too late. " You ate all your dinner? Sure you can have dessert at 8 p.m.!”
Sleep Consultant #10
I let my three kids, ages 4,7, and 9, take their iPads to bed for half an hour before going to sleep each night, even though I harp on to my clients about the effects of blue light emission inhibiting melatonin production, because that way my kids literally RACE to bed and not piss around with a million reasons why they simply can't.
While this article is all in good fun, sleep is critical to our psychological and physical health. If you and/or your child are sleep deprived to the point of depression and/or you are failing to experience pleasure or thrive in your life, please reach out to a professional sleep consultant or a medical professional for help.
* To protect the guilty, this poll was performed anonymously. Nothing in this article is presented as professional sleep advice or professional acceptance of poor sleep habits.