Interview with a holistic sleep consultant

four month sleep regression twins

Catherine, owner of Dream Winks is a holistic sleep consultant who has a special interest in multiples.

How did you become a sleep consultant?

I have worked as a Sleep Consultant for 10 years now. I am a mum of 3 and my first gave us the hardest time when he was born. He was a terrible sleeper. He was catnapping, night-waking and a nightmare to settle.

Basically everything that could go wrong with sleep did. I joined an online forum to seek help as I had no idea what to do. The information and help I got just made sense. It was as though it all just clicked and I couldn’t understand why this sort of info wasn’t just given to all mums! So I started using this advice to help other parents and I was good at it and really enjoyed it!

I was soon offered a job and training by other consultants and I realised I could actually do what I loved and thus help others as a career.  I learned so much approaching it in this way. Learning from others and combining this with how much I learned through the wide variety of cases I was able to work on. My training and experience came from so many different people and places over the years it gave me a unique perspective

holistic sleep consultant twins

How does a “science based holistic sleep consultant” differ from a “general sleep consultant”?

I have studied in detail the science behind sleep and why our babies sleep the way they do. This is key to knowing how to approach sleep issues and also to help parents understand how to best approach situations in the future. I feel the holistic part is what really sets me apart from your traditional consultant. I look at the really big picture. It really surprises parents just how many things can affect sleep and settling when we start working together. I have learned that every single aspect needs to be addressed and when it is, things come together, resulting in good sleep.

This includes the dietary aspect of foods that can cause sleep issues that I have researched through years of observation regarding their impact on sleep. It also includes environment, feeding, routine, sleep patterns, sleep aids and more. In the way I work, settling comes last after we have worked on many other areas. Because of this, we usually see great improvements even before settling and thus when we do work on settling, it is so much easier.

I find that when most people think about a sleep consultant they just think ‘settling’, but this is a small part. I also look at each child’s temperament and every parent’s parenting style. Everything including settling methods is tailored to these. My approach is extremely personalised with complete support to continue working together until we see the results we are after.

When should parents start seeking help? Right from when the babies are born or only when they have problems sleeping regularly?

Parents can set up good habits right from birth as well as setting up an environment that is conducive to good sleep. If a young, healthy baby is well fed, swaddled and warm and popped to bed they will fall asleep.

We as parents are the ones who introduce sleep aids such as feeding to sleep, rocking, holding, dummies etc. Often these are out of necessity if a child has reflux or because it is what we would prefer to do. It may be because you love the feeling of feeding your child to sleep or cuddling them and there is nothing wrong with this if it works.

If what you are doing doesn’t work anymore or becomes a problem for you then you should seek help. The point at which it becomes a problem is different for each family. Parents should seek help when things just aren’t working for them or they aren’t happy with the situation. I can however help right from birth or even before, with setting up good habits and optimising a baby’s chances for good sleep. This minimises the chances of sleep issues in the future

transitioning twins to cots

Is there a good night time routine that parents can follow to help with getting their multiples to bed and help with sleep at night?

An early bedtime is key.

Little ones need to go down between 6pm & 7pm which is a natural sleep window. It is important to settle your little ones when they are tired, but not overtired and a bedtime of 9pm or 10pm is just too late.

Most often I work with a 7pm or sometimes a 6:30 pm bedtime to work best with sleep cycles. I like to follow bath, feed, play then bed. I know this is quite different to what you are used to hearing, but this means that your little ones go down wide awake, unaided to sleep and this is an important skill. It helps them to be able to put themselves back to sleep when they pass through sleep cycles all through the night. I find if you follow putting them to bed drowsy, then they wake and wonder how they got there and where is that feeling from rocking, feeding etc? They look for this to go back to sleep.

What tips can you offer parents facing the four month sleep regression with multiple babies?

I really don’t like the label of ‘sleep regression’. I find they aren’t regressions at all. They are just periods of development which highlight underlying issues and changes in sleep needs.

What happens at roughly 4 months is a big developmental change in regards to sleep. Babies start sleeping in sleep cycles and this means they are much more sensitive to all the things that can affect sleep and settling such as sleep aids, cold, hunger etc. Setting up good habits and a good sleep environment can really help with this.

Juggling multiples and sleep can be really challenging. The best way to make this period pass more smoothly is to ensure you little ones can put themselves to sleep. If they can’t and for example are rocked to sleep every sleep, then when they pass through a sleep cycle they will wake and need to be rocked to sleep in order to be able to resettle. This can start with the 40 min daytime cycles. Which lots of families are ok with. But it soon moves to 2 hourly night sleep cycles. If you haven’t worked to get them falling asleep themselves and working through catnapping, you often then find them waking frequently through the night. Multiply this by 2 or even 3 babies at different times and it is exhausting.

If you are able to help your little ones to learn to fall asleep early on, then it really does help minimise issues later on. There are plenty of ways to do this including very gentle parent-involved methods.

twins holistic sleep consultant

How can a parent ensure that their toddler multiples learn to stay in their bed overnight when they are sharing a room?

Room sharing can be a challenge with any child but more so with multiples. You are dealing with little ones who are the same age and at the same point of development and quite often have become partners in crime! This is a lot different to when you may have an older more mature sibling with a younger one. I find the best way to avoid issues with toddlers and multiples room sharing and in big beds is to have good sleep habits and sleep routines from a young age. This means they have a good understanding of what happens when they are put to bed regardless of cot or bed.
they are older you can set out clear expectations in a chart with images or a routine you follow each time they go to bed.

Do you have any advice on transitioning from cots to beds?

I recommend you wait until 2 ½ years for girls and 3 for boys before making the move to a bed. Unless you need to for safety reasons such as jumping out of the cot. This is because before this, they lack impulse control so it really isn’t fair to expect them to understand and not get out of bed.

science based holistic sleep consultant

Sleep and the expectations around it are also the biggest boundary in a baby or toddler’s life. When a boundary is removed or relaxed, which is what happens when we remove the cot, then they naturally test all their boundaries. Staying firm on all the other boundaries in their life can actually help with bedtime too. I know it is tempting to take the side off the cot and turn it into a toddler bed. However,this can really confuse the whole boundary issue. Moving to a big bed is best and then the cot can be used if they are getting out of their new bed. Popping them in the cot if they get up is usually a pretty good incentive to stay in their bed. And their brother or sister will see what happens and learn from it too. 

I also recommend keeping toddlers in a safe sleeping bag for at least 6 months after the move to a big bed as this also helps keep them in bed. It makes it harder to get up and move around. And don’t forget that they naturally push the boundaries every 6 weeks or so. Stay consistent!

Are there any sleep aids (sound machines, swaddle sacks, black out blinds, etc.) that you swear by?

I really don’t like calling them sleep aids but there are definitely tools I can’t live without when working with clients and I have seen virtually everything on the market through my clients. The only wrap I recommend is the Doublewrap. It is amazing!! All my clients know that I only recommend wrapping firmly, arms down, in a 100% cotton wrap. The Doublewrap is a 2 layer wrap that can be used in multiple different ways to keep even the biggest Houdini from escaping. I have used them for 10 years with all my children and they are still going strong!

Baby Origami Doublewrap

My favourite safe sleeping bag is Bubbaroo. They meet my high safety standards, which most don’t, and they are made with organic cotton which is so luxurious. On top of that they are really generous in size which means they last much longer. Any time you can choose something you have to buy less often is a bonus!

My new favourite product which I take everywhere is Instant Blackout Blinds. They go up with just static force, take seconds to put up, completely block light, need no adhesive and they don’t leave marks! They are also re-usable and come on a massive roll which makes them perfect. And I love supporting small local business

How does a skype consult work? 

All my consultations have the same basic structure with just the initial consult varying – for example in-home, phone, email or skype. My skype consultations are roughly an hour or so, very similar to my phone consultations and are mainly for the convenience of overseas clients.  All my consultations will start with the family receiving and filling in an intake form. This allows me to look at every aspect of sleep, settling and feeding as well as learn about your little one’s temperaments and your parenting style.

From there I form a sleep plan which is very detailed and I keep in touch during this process to gather or clarify any extra information I need. Families will receive this extensive, personalised plan along with a wide variety of guides on various topics. We will then have the consultation, for example a skype call, where I go step by step through all aspects of the plan and the recommendations and reasons behind them, as well as how to implement them. Families are able to ask and discuss anything and make a choice as to what settling method they are comfortable with.

Often all of this can be overwhelming, so everything is provided in written form as well for future reference! I also connect with families on Messenger and email so I am available to them for a minimum of 2 weeks for any support or questions.  I can respond with quick replies and also keep working through things, adapting everything to their little ones as each child is different.

Dream Winks


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