|Note: Before you consider buying any sleep programs or books, use this quick and easy free online sleep assessment to find out why your baby isn’t sleeping well.|
With a plethora of online sleep programs promising to solve your baby sleep problems, many first time mums find themselves undecided. Either that or they end up purchasing a variety of programs and baby sleep books, going through each one in desperate hopes that something will work (that’s me by the way, back when I was a FTM).
Today, I’m reviewing the Little Ones Baby Sleep Program (which they call a Sleep Pattern) for ages 0-36 months based on the following criteria:
Table of Contents
Baby Sleep Routine Overview
The Littles Ones Sleep Program is centred around baby’s awake time and nap lengths, so the timing of the routine shifts depending on those two factors. As such, everyday might be slightly different depending on what time baby woke and how long each of her nap lasted.
In this respect, Little Ones is similar to other sleep programs in the sense that it is a flexible routine, meaning you make day-to-day changes accordingly.
However, it differs from other programs in the way that it handles changes in baby’s routine. For example, if baby woke early from her nap, many programs will simply say to put her down for the next nap after X amount of awake time. This band-aid solution has several flaws to it:
- If baby didn’t have a good nap, her awake time might not be the ‘standard’ that’s recommended.
- If baby has a habit for catnapping, this solution will result in several short, unfulfilling naps in a day and an unpredictable bedtime each day, which in turn will lead to an unpredictable wake time the next morning. And you can see how easily this can turn into a vicious cycle, resulting in inconsistent timings almost every day.
The Little Ones program, however, offers different solutions based on how much earlier baby woke. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every situation. It even has instructions for night wakings.
The program maintains a very delicate yet elegant balance of total awake + sleep time within 24 hours, while also managing to maintain somewhat consistent nap times even for serial catnappers. The result is a more or less predictable 7-to-7 day.
Sounds like magic? It probably is. When I had my firstborn, I was struggling to maintain a three-hourly Eat-Play-Sleep routine that almost all sleep programs recommend because my boy would either 1) refuse to nap at the designated time 2) wake early from his nap.
Implementation Of Baby Sleep Pattern
The Littles Ones program is broken down by age groups: 0-3 months (starting from 2 weeks), 3-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-24 months, and 2-3 years.
Each program comes in the form of a downloadable PDF guide with the routine, detailed troubleshooting section, as well as useful information on settling techniques and age-appropriate matters, like starting solids and dropping naps.
Whatever age you start the program for baby, they have clear instructions on how to implement their program and what to expect.
Starting baby on a new routine is always difficult, and the Little Ones guides do recommend allowing 1-2 weeks for baby to adjust. This means taking things slow and you will initially find yourself referring to the Troubleshooting Section of the guide very often, almost daily.
Effectiveness Of Sleep Training
As mentioned above, it takes 1-2 weeks before you start seeing improvement in baby’s sleep habits. And many mums actually report seeing a regression before improvements kicked in.
Whether or not the sleep program ‘works’ depends on your definition:
Baby sleeping through the night
This is a tricky one because there isn’t a single program out there that can promise you this, simply because sleeping through the night involves too many factors dependent on baby, not just his routine and self-settling abilities.
At 7 months old, my second baby has only slept 12 hours through the night TWICE, usually waking 1-2 times instead. On the other hand, my first boy was sleeping 7 to 7 at just 3 months old.
Initially, I did doubt the effectiveness of the program, but I’ve come to realise that if my baby can already self-settle and has no sleep associations, yet is still waking in the night, then there’s nothing else that can be done.
Baby can self-settle
Separate to their sleep guides, the Little Ones program also includes a comprehensive settling guide, which teaches various age-appropriate settling techniques to gradually teach baby to self-settle.
I’ve found that the earlier you start the program, the easier it is to teach self-settling. I never had to read their settling guide because I started the program when baby was just 2 weeks old, so just shushing and patting him was enough to have him settle in his cot and go to sleep.
By the time he was three months old, I didn’t even need a wind-down routine for him to go to sleep independently.
Baby doesn’t catnap
I would have to give this a big YES. Catnapping is the bane of every mum’s existence and a lot of mums think this has something to do with their baby being ‘different’ or ‘difficult’, but it’s actually something all babies do at one point or another. And it’s not something that will easily change if you don’t do anything about it.
The Little Ones sleep program has a long term view to baby sleep habits and is centred around the midday nap, which is ideally two hours long. Very few babies can manage a two hours nap, but that’s where the magic of their sleep program lies.
By carefully planning the timing and length of the morning nap, their program works toward consolidating most of the baby’s daytime sleep into the midday nap.
So, instead of trying to get baby to take three proper naps throughout the day, their program focuses primarily on getting just ONE really solid nap at midday. This really relieves a lot of stress for mum and it means baby can easily be taken out and about in the mornings and afternoons for her shorter naps.
Once you’ve been on the program for 1-2 weeks, you should start getting a longer midday nap out of baby.
Cost Comparison Of Sleep Training Options
To illustrate the costs better, I’ve drawn up a comparison table with average costs and other factors involved:
*All costs are in AUD
|Little Ones Sleep Program||Private Sleep Consultants||
Sleep schools (e.g. Karitane or Tresillian)
Sleep training books
|Age||0-3 years||0-5 years||
$138 one-time payment for their Ultimate Sleep Package
Note: See this article for some of their best free resources
$700-$1000 for overnight in-home consultations
$130-$200 / hr for Skype/phone consultations
(See also: Best Books For Gentle Sleep Training)
By appointment, wait time varies
|Post-consultation support or follow-up||Unlimited ongoing support via their closed Facebook group||Very limited, or charged at $120-$160 / hr||None||None|
|Refund||Yes, but with conditions (more info here)||No||No||No|
When I assessed all the costs involved, deciding to buy the Little Ones sleep package was a no-brainer. Not only was it an instant program that I could implement straight away at 5am when I’m trying to get baby to sleep, I could get ongoing online support for free.
Some prefer hiring sleep consultants or going to sleep schools because they personalise a sleep plan specifically for your baby. However, bear in mind two things:
- The sleep plan is tailored specifically for your baby at THIS stage when you approach them. It is not a sleep plan that will be applicable forever and be able to cope with new problems or changes further down the road.
- Babies change so quickly and their sleep can be affected by so many things: The 4-month and 8-month sleep regressions; dropping naps; transitioning to a big bed; leaps or developmental milestones, and much more. Sleep consultations and sleep schools are short term solutions that cannot provide economical long term support.
And what about books? I bought dozens of those when I was a FTM and I can tell you this: The basics of what they teach are all the same, but they’re all marketed to make you believe they’re different and you’re tricked into thinking the next one will be the magic answer to your problems.
Also, because there is no troubleshooting support available, you’re left on your own to figure out how to implement the routines and what to do when baby isn’t doing what the books say she should. The result is a very stressed, frustrated and tired mum who has wasted days reading useless books when she could’ve gotten some rest.
Best Features Of The Little Ones Program
- One-time payment that covers your baby from 0-3 years, plus ongoing support for all those years
- Suitable for both breastfed and formula fed babies
- There is a separate supplement that can be purchased for twins/multiples
- It covers age-related matters that affect sleep, such as starting solids and dropping naps
- It takes into account both co-sleeping and separate sleeping arrangements
- It is the only sleep program in the industry with a refund policy
- It has very detailed troubleshooting instructions
- The closed Facebook support group, appropriately named the Little Ones Village, because it does indeed feel like an entire village supporting you
I would like to particularly elaborate more on their Facebook group. As mentioned, it is a closed group only for their customers. Once you join, you can post questions as often as you like. Most of the time, it will be other mums who respond with suggestions and advice. At first, this might seem like a letdown, because you’re not actually getting support from professionals so to speak.
I thought so too initially. However, I’ve come to realise that a lot of the mums in the Village are way more experienced than me when it comes to implementing the program. They’ve already experienced the challenges I face (and overcame them), they know what’s up and how to deal with things. Every baby is different, so in a Village of almost 8,000 mums, I have always found the support and solution I needed.
Here is a video they made to give you a glimpse of what it’s like in their Village:
The best thing is, now that my baby is almost 7 months old, when I see questions posted by newer mums who have just started on the program, I am in a position where I can actually answer some of their questions. It’s the circle of receiving and giving!
That said, the team at Little Ones is not absent. They do follow the discussions in the group and if it is a particularly tricky situation or no one has offered a proper solution, they quite often step in to give detailed answers and support.
Like with any other programs, sleep consultations, or sleep schools, if you’re expecting a magic solution that will make your baby a champ sleeper for the rest of her life, you will be sorely disappointed.
However, the Little Ones Sleep Program is by far the most economical professional guide I’ve found that provides maximum support for its customers. The company itself is founded and run by mums just like you and me (albeit with heaps more sleep-related qualifications, training, and experience), so they have a lot of compassion and understanding for what we’re going through.
Lastly, this was recently posted by Little Ones on their Facebook page:
Our Sleep Programs are endorsed and recommended by Dr Kate Johnson, Ph.D. Sleep Physiology and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Stanford Research International! Kate approached us, offering her endorsement, saying:
“Most of the time I am very disheartened with the type of information the people with the loudest voices seem to peddling [on the internet], however I love the way you guys write and I am blown away by your comprehensive body of work!! I am always looking for credible sources for people who want more detailed information. I think your settling approaches would really appeal to many that are looking for alternatives to some of the mainstream techniques.”