Gentle Sleep Coaching refers to an approach developed by Kim West, LCSW-C (a.k.a. “The Sleep Lady”). The Gentle Approach involves gathering information about you, your baby, and your family. It takes into account the baby’s development, temperament, and feeding, as well as parents’ goals, philosophy, and needs to devise a plan for improving sleep that does not involve leaving the baby alone to cry. A Gentle approach can work for parents who want to continue cosleeping or room-sharing, or for moms who would like to continue night-nursing.
This is not about forcing you or your baby into a pre-designed, crying-based program. We work together to come up with a plan that you feel good about.
Research has shown that coaching and support
• Reduces stress and anxiety
• Improves parents’ confidence
• Prevents depression
Coaching and support...
• Allows for a tailored approach
• Gives you feedback so you can see that progress is being made
• Helps you troubleshoot when things don't go as planned
• Helps parents when books and other advice don't seem to work
My philosophy about sleep
Waking at night is what babies are wired to do.
Nightwaking is actually normal and necessary for many infants in the first year.
From a biological perspective, they are hard-wired to want parental presence. That’s what babies do. For today’s parents, however, all that nightwaking is unsustainable. And so we ask infants to adapt by helping them sleep for longer stretches at night.
However, it is possible to take a gradual approach to stretching out sleep. There are ways that take it all into account in order to come up with a reasonable approach that guides everyone toward better sleep.
Parents can take a breath. Sleep is important, but it’s not the only thing …
So much sleep advice can make it seem like “if your baby isn’t sleeping 10 hours straight by 3 months, you’re failing as a parent.” Not true. There is time to intervene in sleep. The older a baby gets, the more resources they have that they can draw on. As babies grow through the first year, they have a wider range of abilities to distract, self-soothe, and understand that you don’t disappear if you leave the room.
Parenting is a long road and sleep is just one small part it.
My position on crying and sleep.
Developing self-soothing and self-regulation skills are important to overall health, but this development is gradual and tied to brain development and maturation.
Self-soothing occurs when we allow babies to manage tolerable amounts of frustration. For infants, this amount can be quite small. For infants who have sensory issues or are more temperamentally intense, this amount may be smaller still. Babies do not learn self-regulation when they are exposed to more stress than they can manage.
As a result, sleep interventions should be 1) developmentally appropriate, 2) tailored to the unique qualities of the baby, 3) consistent with the parents’ parenting philosophy/values, and 4) undertaken in the context of assessment and support.
I’ve heard that crying-it-out is the only thing that works.
Not true. Crying-it-out (CIO) definitely works, but HOW does it work? At what age is it appropriate? CIO is the “most researched” approach, but that does not mean that other methods are ineffective. It merely means that researchers haven’t given them as much attention.
Research has shown that positive routines, white noise, and parental fading (gradually moving away) all work and parents tend to like those approaches more. Social support for parents also can have dramatic effects on infants’ sleep.
I’m still breastfeeding at night. Will I need to wean my baby?
This question really depends on the age of the baby and the needs/goals of the breastfeeding mom. If mom still wants to continue to night nurse, a coaching plan can accommodate that or help to reduce the number of feeds to a manageable number (if the baby is over 6 months).
Why do you wait until 6 months to sleep coach?
Before 6-months, babies’ feeding patterns and ability to self-regulate are still maturing. Often, starting sleep training too early will result in frustration because some approaches require the infant to do more than they are capable of. Waiting until at least 6 months ensures that the baby is also more capable of learning sleep skills.
What about younger infants?
There are some things that parents can begin doing when babies are under 6 months. This may involve practicing some small steps in terms of adjusting schedules and finding the best sleep environment. I can still work with you if your baby is under 6 months.