... or how
I learned about sleep
parenting the hard way
and became your very own baby
and toddler sleep consultant
Hi, I'm Heidi Holvoet, PhD, passionate sleep consultant, certified breastfeeding counselor, award-winning author and founder of
Advice.com. You'll find my detailed bio and about me on the linked page, but here is my very personal story of how my everyday journey as a young parent led to all of this.
When expecting our first baby, my husband and I
were happy and excited, fresh young parents.
I got a
'pregnancy handbook' so we could follow fetal development as our
little treasure was growing - everything went well and we mostly
enjoyed those special nine months.
I also had a few pregnancy
magazines: I learned about prenatal vitamins, stylish maternity
clothes, maternity leave, baby nursery checklists, ...
so we started preparing for baby: we bought a crib and a changing
table, got some clothes and toys from friends and family.
We had baby's room
ready - little did we know
so much more to preparing for baby's sleep than just a crib and cute
covers. Or wait, I
did read one article about sleep. And it was simple:
and change baby, get cute PJ's then put her down in the crib, awake (of
course!). Be determined, do not let your baby dictate when or where or
how she sleeps. "
We were actually proud to be so well prepared. Let that cutie arrive! And he
did, and of course he was the cutest and sweetest baby ever :).
all my 'perfect preparations' there was another topic besides sleeping
that I had barely read about: breastfeeding.
Our first baby
were a couple of brilliant maternity midwives who helped make my breast
feeding experience a big success.
And what about sleeping?
I admit I'm one of those moms who frustrate others endlessly: my
son slept through the night very quickly. But then again, I'd soon be
frustrated enough myself ...
The very first night,
he did a 4 hour stretch - during the day he'd nurse about every 2,5-3
hours. At 5 weeks old, he slept for 6 hours (midnight to 6am) and by
the time he was 12 weeks old he'd make 10 hour nights!!
imagine how proud I was? (Little did I know then that it was not my
achievement, it was luck & coincidence. But I'd learn that soon
In his first weeks, he'd also have these 'cry moments' when he'd just
cry, for no apparent reason.
all sides, I was told to let him cry - otherwise I'd spoil him. And
sadly I did for a while :( poor thing. I'm happy my instincts soon told
me to just hold and comfort him.
He'd still cry for a while but we both
relaxed pretty quickly. Yet I felt guilty about that, I was probably
spoiling this several-weeks-old baby ...
also barely took any naps, and rarely fell asleep without
nursed. And I worried about that, had no idea how I'd ever get rid of
that bad habit. He was often cranky, especially in the afternoons. I
didn't even fully realize he could be so cranky just because he didn't
We got through each day somehow though, and I was so happy with the
long nights - I tried not to worry too much about the rest.
then, suddenly, around 4,5 months old, a terrible thing happened ...
He started waking in the night!
Our perfect baby, who'd slept through the night forever,
who allowed us restful evenings of quality parent time, long nights and
even sleep-ins on weekends ...
... suddenly woke us up in the middle of the night!
What a shock!
cried, wouldn't go back to sleep at all, sometimes nursing helped but
usually we would spend an hour or more to settle him again.
were not used to this, so we hadn't built up any experience. He'd
always slept so well, how could we have learned how to deal with night
In no time, the two of us were totally sleep
deprived. Frustrated, no energy to get anything done during the day,
extra hard for my husband to stay focused at work, afraid we'd never
get our nights back ... the whole lot.
O and did I mention
that I continued to try and be the perfect mom and wife? Trying to get
everything done, by myself, no help needed.
Of course we got a lot of advice from family and friends but somehow
their well-meant you
need your sleep, just let him cry and sit it out advice
didn't appeal to me.
I have to shamefully admit that I tried. One afternoon, I was desperate
for him to take a nap. So I made sure he was well-fed,
changed and safe and put him down. He cried, and fell asleep
after good half an hour (!)
:( . Then he woke up half an hour later. Needless to say I felt vEry
uneasy about this 'crying' technique. I felt horrible, and it didn't
Eye opening forum discussions ...
Then I was lucky to come across a very friendly forum for moms on
ended up there by accident, when looking for some breast feeding
information - yes I'd finally come to my senses: the Internet is full
of helpful information ;).
And breastfeeding is worth reading about if you're nursing ... ;)
Now the friendly discussion I entered into on this forum was no less
than an eye opener! I learned that ...
... it is OK to hold and comfort a young baby when she's crying, for
it is OK to nurse baby to sleep at times when nothing else works -
without needing to feel guilty. And that are gentle ways to
... it is almost impossible to spoil a baby under 8 months old.
... there are no-tears techniques to help a baby with sleeping,
imagine that! :)
This felt like coming home!
I could feel the feelings of 'guilt' melt away with
every supportive forum post I read.
the things that felt so natural to me, but I didn't dare to do out of
guilt and fear of spoiling ... I wasn't the only one and other moms
were doing it all the time! And they still had lovely babies, even if
they (or their moms) weren't perfect.
That's another lesson I learned: it's OK not to be the perfect mom. And
it's OK to relax about baby stuff.
Long story short: I finally learned to relax and trust my instincts.
guided my cute baby boy to better sleep by helping him when necessary.
Well, partly at least. I also realized now that I could not 'control'
everything. Sometimes you just need to be patient and be confident that
their skills will improve.
But truth be told, quite soon now, his night awakenings stopped. I
didn't try to force his naps any
more, but did consistently create two regular nap times each
he wouldn't sleep - and I was cool about that. But more and more often,
he'd sleep at his nap times. Even dozed off all by himself.
back now, I'm convinced that the mere relaxing has helped quite a bit.
consistent about regular naps helped too.
He was (and still is) a good sleeper.
Naps were tricky, but with the added regularity he quickly picked
that up. The sudden night awakenings were probably just a
hiccup in his sleep patterns that slowly disappeared around 6-7 months.
But, I'd learned a lot now and I was
absolutely ready for our next super sleeping baby.
Finding my own baby sleep way
Less than two years after her big brother, my precious baby girl was
born. Another cutest baby ever :).
my own instincts made such a huge difference. She was an easy baby
overall, but didn't sleep through as early as her brother did.
She did 4 hour stretches regularly at first, then had some longer
'nights', then many awakenings again, on and off.
But I was mostly fine with that. I'd learned that this is normal.
This time, thanks to my forum friends, I was also geared with my
absolute favorite baby accessory:
course, I loved having my little baby so close to me, especially as
she'd usually cry if she didn't see me. But mainly, I used the sling to
try and arrange a regular nap schedule.
I noticed how it was
so much easier for her to settle (nursing, but still ...) at nights
when we had bedtime around a specific time each night.
And if I stuck to that bedtime rather strictly, she'd also sleep longer
when she was about 4 months old, regular naps and self
soothing were not in sight at
all - I decided to try a regular nap schedule. I knew when she was
typically tired. At those moments, I'd always put her in the sling.
She was happy, and usually dozed off within minutes. And ...
I was happy too because I didn't need to worry whether she'd sleep or
cry. And while she was napping in the sling, I could play with
toddler son or go to the park with him, prepare dinner, clean up a bit,
Then came the day, a couple of weeks later, when I wanted to
try and put her down for a nap - in her crib, awake ... I
say I was a bit nervous, but it had actually worked. She fussed for a
minute or two ... and then went to sleep!!
For a 1,5 hour nap!!! The
Baby Sling Trick was born.
she kept doing that regularly. Of course there were times when it
took her a bit longer, then I'd go in and comfort her briefly,
which usually worked.
Nights would become a different
challenge though. After a quiet first few months, she started waking up
more and more at night, 2-3 times. The worst thing for me was that it
was at irregular times - that makes it even harder on your body.
advice from all sides again: I should stop nursing (she was obviously
comfort nursing) - I should let her cry (she needed to learn to sleep
by herself) - I would become ill from sleep deprivation (and
was feeling tired and not feeling very happy) ...
Actually, I was completely exhausted: I found myself less patient and
often just had no energy to do the things I wanted to do. Yearning to
spend some simple quality time with my husband and children but it was
difficult to function normally to begin with.
And I felt bad for my baby, I knew she would also feel better if she
decided to be patient. I kept nursing her when she woke. But I'd
gradually shorten the feedings. My husband would go in at some
awakenings and soothe her without me near. And I worked out a way to
gently teach her how to self soothe.
Sometimes this worked,
sometimes it was back to the drawing board ... ehm back to the breast
really :) But baby step by baby step, our baby girl slept longer
stretches again, needed to nurse less and less and
actually learned to go back to sleep when she woke at
too long after her first birthday, she was actually becoming a very
good sleeper. She'd nap for 3 (!) hours or more. She'd go down happily
(awake) at night and sleep through - except for the odd awakening.
were still a lot of separation anxiety phases, and colds, and
nightmares, and a whole bunch of sleep disturbers ... not to mention
terrible twos ... ;)
we would learn to deal with that. It was never easy - but trusting
my instincts had definitely paid off - and I have to say that was
much-needed confidence boost ...
... and I have no doubt that confidence played a big part in the
success I had with helping my children sleep.
From my babies sleeping to ... your babies sleeping
I had always had a natural interest in sleep and
read every sleep research article I could find, since when I was
Through my own parenting, I learned that
sleep research in children is not just theory but - if you
some motherly loving care - that theory translates into very useful
my life returned to more or less 'normal' again, I realized there was
so much use for the things I had learned with my babies.
I picked up reading again and trained as a sleep consultant.
talked to many (!) moms - both online and offline - about their babies
how they were sleeping, or not sleeping. I found out that many of my
techniques, 'secrets' at the time, worked well for them too. Some
always, or just didn't fit the family in question.
took notes, read articles, kept track of how other babies and parents
reacted to the advice I gave, read more articles, took more notes,
advised more parents ...
And more and more I saw clear links between the theory and real-life.
Like the link between say a
regular sleep schedule and how it can work wonders in real-life.
to help prevent night terrors, improve sleep when a baby is ill, or
has a true sleep disorder, how crucial crib safety is.
This site, Baby-Sleep-Advice.com
is where I bring all of this together for You - working with you and
aiming to help you as
much as possible with any baby sleep issue you may have.
Because I know
what it's like to feel nothing but tired - and I know how important it
is to find the right information, and get support and guidance in
these bumpy baby times.
Thank you so much for reading. I'm looking forward to meeting you here
in one way or another - I hope for you it will be with a story about
blissful sleep but in
troubled times you'll have my doubled attention!
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