What interested you in the field of sleep optimization?
A: I’ve been there. I’ve seen what lack of sleep can do to a person and a family. Sleep is the foundation in which everything else is built upon in our lives. We get short tempered, we forget things, we don’t perform optimally and there are numerous studies that show lack of sleep is bad for our health overall. When my son Andrew wasn’t sleeping, I knew there were books and resources but I was so tired and short on time it felt like a monumental task to learn how to sleep train and many of the books weren’t specific to my situation. I reached out to a sleep consultant and within 2 weeks my son was sleeping through the night. He was a completely different baby during the day because he was well rested, and frankly, so was I! I became a sleep consultant because I know there are so many tired families out there that need help and just don’t know how or where to begin.
How did your children sleep, and did you use different techniques?
A: All children are different, and all children/people have different temperaments. I have 3 children and they have all been drastically different sleepers. I had one colicky baby with a strong will and how she learned to sleep was different from my other two. No two babies are the same and the beauty of sleep consulting is I look at each baby and child individually. That is something a book or advice from a friend cannot provide. Every parenting style is different as well. Some parents prefer a gentle, more gradual approach, which may decrease crying but takes some additional time. Other parents may need fast results due to circumstances like another baby coming soon or because they feel a gradual approach would challenge their ability to be consistent. They may opt for a method that achieves faster results. I can help parents walk through these decisions and I’m supportive of any technique that makes parents feel the most comfortable.
What are some common signs that a child could benefit from sleep consulting?
A: This is a really good question because many new parents have heard that parenting is exhausting, so when it happens we think perhaps it’s just “par for the course.” There are also the parents out there who feel guilty about wanting to take care of themselves and get more sleep, but feel they are somehow not giving their child what they need if they wish to get some sleep. This approach can quickly lead to burnout because every individual needs sleep and we should not feel guilty about it. No way around it though, parenting does involve feeling tired, but by teaching a baby healthy sleep habits, we can maximize everyone’s sleep at each stage of development. For example, an infant who is 3 weeks old is not going to have organized sleep patterns and will require feeds overnight, so of course the parents are tired. But even from infancy, there are things we can do to work on optimizing sleep for both baby and parents. Sleep environment, for example, and knowing age-appropriate awake windows to prevent overtiredness can make a huge impact. As baby grows and sleep patterns become more predictable and organized, we can begin to teach baby how to consolidate sleep, how to settle to sleep and resettle back to sleep after a wake. Some common issues I address are catnapping, frequent overnight waking, a baby who cannot fall asleep without mom or dad’s assistance, waking very early in the morning and not going back to sleep. Or if you are simply exhausted and are having trouble functioning, I would say let’s take a close look at what’s going on and see if we can make some healthy and age-appropriate adjustments to get everyone sleeping better.
What does a consultation consist of?
A: First, let’s have a phone call so I can hear about what sleep challenges you are experiencing. This is completely free and takes about 15 minutes. From there I can guide you toward what I think will be the best consulting option for you. If you feel ready to make a change and are invested and ready to commit to the process (usually a 2-3 week commitment), you will fill out a detailed questionnaire that covers your baby’s daily routine, sleep issues, what you’ve already tried, etc. I then write you a personalized sleep plan, considering your baby’s temperament and your parenting style/preferences. But just giving you the plan is only the first step. I stay with you every step of the way (via phone, email, text) while you implement the plan so that I can answer any questions and provide feedback as you go. Contingency plans and changes are very normal so by walking with you, parents feel supported and confident throughout the whole process.
What are one or two tips for struggling parents?
A: One of the biggest tips I can give is just to tell you that even though sleep is a biological need, how we sleep is learned. Rocking and nursing an infant to sleep is necessary, wonderful, and appropriate but as a baby grows and develops new skills we can begin thinking about how to teach baby to fall asleep and stay asleep in ways that don’t involve the parents or caregivers sacrificing too much of their own sleep.
Secondly, we live in a culture that places a low priority on sleep. Sleep is something we all admit that we need and love, but we live busy lives, so sleep for both children and parents is sacrificed. My advice is to prioritize sleep for your baby. It is so vital for your babies’ physical and emotional health to be well rested and when they are it makes it so much better for the parents too. Early bedtimes and nap schedules are temporary. Well rested babies and parents are worth it!