My philosophy and training
The Gentle Sleep Coach Program is the first and most extensive professional sleep coach training and certification program available. The program involves over 80 hours of training with a faculty panel that includes 2 medical doctors, a psychologist, an attorney, lactation counselor, postpartum doulas and a family therapist. Each coach must pass an exam and participate in case supervision with Kim West, LCSW-C (a.k.a. “the Sleep Lady”) who has been helping tired parents for over 20 years. Clinical supervision and ongoing advanced training are required to maintain certification as a Gentle Sleep Coach. Some of my training topics included:
– Basic counseling and child development
– Sleep science and behavioral modification techniques to help parents of children age 0 to 6 years old.
– Secure attachment theory
– Support for the breastfeeding mother
The training also consisted of lectures from top specialists, including:
– Postpartum Depression from Dr. Shoshana Bennett, author and leading specialist on Postpartum Depression
– Medical Conditions and Sleep Apnea in Children led by Dr. Lewis Kass, Director of Children’s Sleep Center
– GERD and Sleep led by Dr. Anthony Loizides, pediatric gastroenterologist
The GSC Program also includes an exclusive advanced training series specifically focused on how to gently work with babies 4 and 5 months of age. This program, which I have also completed, consists of over 40 hours of instruction and mentorship.
Some of the curriculum training topics include:-In depth knowledge of the delicate nature of infants under 6 months of age and how to consider all elements of their well-being.-Current evidence-based guidelines and instruction on how to evaluate the 4-6-month-old child and family and determine if the child is ready for sleep coaching.-Gentle sleep solutions and strategies that are effective and developmentally appropriate for the younger baby.This specialty training is designed to give coaches the knowledge, education and all the tools and resources they need to successfully work with families of babies 4-6 months of age in a safe, healthy and developmentally appropriate manner.
Many parents ask “Are you a cry-it-out proponent or family bed advocate? Do I have to stop breastfeeding to sleep coach my child, do I have to choose between two camps: cosleeping/no crying or crib/cry-it-out?”
You do not have to pick a camp; this isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about what is working for you and your family.
It is true that the CIO method and the starker extinction methods can work well and a bit faster than gentler methods IF you as the parent can follow through consistently and for long enough.
The Gentle Sleep Coach philosophy was developed by Kim West LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady® because she found so many parents had difficulty following through with a sleep coaching program that they feared will damage their child emotionally or filled them with so much guilt they couldn’t follow through.
The GSC approach is a gentler alternative for families who emotionally or philosophically resist letting their babies cry it out: for families who tried “Ferber” (controlled crying) and it didn’t work, and for families who let their baby cry-it-out earlier but now find it doesn’t help. It is also for families who believe in co-sleeping but find that their children aren’t really sleeping all that well, even nestled snugly with their parents. Or for families who did co-sleep for a few months to a few years and now want the family bed to revert back to the marital one.
Can you guarantee “no crying” you might ask? No, no one really can. For example, if you as the parent have taught your child that the way to fall asleep is to be held to sleep for all naps, bedtime and wakings and you decide that you want to change this; your child will naturally protest or resist this change. After all, they don’t know why you have changed your approach. If your child is pre-verbal then they will cry. My goal is to have as little crying as possible. I encourage parents to be loving and responsive but to allow the child the room to learn this vital life skill of putting themselves to sleep. The parent responds and stays with their child and offers physical and verbal reassurance without putting the child to sleep. This supports the development of a secure attachment between parent and child.
I will work with you to create an individualized, step-by-step sleep plan that will factor in your parenting philosophy, your child’s age, health and temperament, mother’s well-being and the related family dynamics. And most importantly I will support and coach you through the process from beginning to end- for night sleep and naps!
Answers to a few other commonly asked questions:
-It is never necessary to end breastfeeding in order to successfully sleep coach your child.
-You can continue to room share while sleep coaching.
-I work with parents of children ages 6 months to 6 years old. Babies under 6months I will consult with parents on how to set up healthy sleep habits from the start and if appropriate how to gently shape their sleep.