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The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight
Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Without Leaving Them to Cry it Out
By Kim West
With Joanne Kenen
Formats and Prices
- Trade Paperback (Revised) $18.99 $23.99 CAD
- ebook (Revised) $11.99 $15.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 10, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Kim West, LCSW-C, known to her clients as The Sleep Lady®, has developed an alternative and effective approach to helping children learn to gently put themselves to sleep without letting them “cry it out” — an option that is not comfortable for many parents.
Essential reading for any tired parent, or any expectant parent who wants to avoid the pitfalls of sleeplessness, Good Night, Sleep Tight offers a practical, easy-to-follow remedy that will work for all families in need of nights of peaceful slumber! New material and updates include:
- New yoga recommendations
- Updated information for parents of young infants
- Expanded information on nighttime potty training
- Ending co-sleeping
- Sleep training for twins and multiples
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WHAT I BELIEVE AND WHY
“How is the baby sleeping?” It’s one of the first questions parents of a new baby face, after “Boy or girl?” or “How much did she weigh?” If the baby sleeps well, the answer all too often is “Oh, she’s a good baby.” By implication, those who don’t sleep are bad babies, which to me is a ludicrous notion. These parents, already overwhelmed by exhaustion, now must also deal with feelings of inadequacy that they are failing their first duty as parents: to teach their babies to sleep.
Of course, the millions of babies who don’t initially sleep through the night are not moral failures. They are just new little people who have not yet learned to put themselves to sleep. Learn is the key word. We all know that the need for sleep is biological, but we don’t always realize that the ability to sleep is a learned skill. All children can learn it. All parents can teach them. But like everything else in life, some just need a little more help than others.
Parents around the world know me as The Sleep Lady. I’m a licensed child and family therapist—and the mother of two daughters—and for over two decades, I’ve focused my practice on helping tens of thousands of weary and bleary-eyed families all around the world find solutions to their children’s sleep problems. I’ve worked with parents of babies who are old enough to sleep through the night but aren’t yet doing so, nap-resistant toddlers, older children who won’t stay in their beds (or who sneak into their parents’ beds uninvited). I won’t promise you no tears, but I do aim for fewer tears, and I never tell you to just shut the door and let your baby bawl alone in the dark. Part of the mission of the Sleep Lady Shuffle and this book is to ease your concern about your baby’s crying and help you see that it’s a way your baby communicates with you. Once you understand how your child is communicating and what she is trying to tell you, sleep coaching naturally becomes gentler and less overwhelming for the whole family. The Sleep Lady Shuffle is my method to help sleep-coach babies from six months old and older. It isn’t a drastic, cry-it-out approach; I guide parents through step-by-step changes in bedtime, napping, and overnight routines that haven’t been working. It is gentle and family-centric, allowing parents to consider their values, philosophies, lifestyles, goals, and temperaments, instead of being a one-size-fits-all concept. It is also gentle because it is centered on finding balance between what parents can instinctually teach their child and what a child is innately capable of doing. It encourages responsive parenting, as our babies and children have not yet mastered self-soothing and need us to teach them, gradually and gently. I believe this approach fosters a more synchronistic parent-child relationship, helping them learn to communicate with one another from day 1: to be responsive but not enabling, to be interpretive and not overly anxious, to be confident and not inconsistent. We are here to be available to our children and to give them tools. We can’t do all the work for them, but we can support them and reinforce those tools until they learn for themselves. That kind of responsive parenting is at the core of the Sleep Lady Shuffle.
MY PERSONAL JOURNEY THROUGH SLEEP DEPRIVATION
It was twenty-five years ago when I had my daughter Carleigh, and she became my first guinea pig (she probably wouldn’t want me calling her a guinea pig, as she’s much prettier). As a newborn, Carleigh had mild jaundice. She was a “bird feeder,” and breastfeeding was a big learning curve for the two of us. I was given well-intended advice from a lactation consultant to wake Carleigh during the night every hour and a half to feed her. I would try to wake her and feed her, only to have her wake for a moment and then fall right back asleep. And then I would be awake for hours trying to wake her to feed her. I started to have hallucinations from sleep deprivation… really!
All alone at 2:00 a.m., crying, with a sleeping baby in my arms who I couldn’t get to eat and a sleeping cat curled up by my side (I had never been jealous of a cat before!), I reached my breaking point. I woke the next morning from what was basically a nap with the realization that doing the same thing over again was not going to help Carleigh or me. There had to be a better—less insane—way.
I went against the social norm at the time—which was feed on demand (i.e., whenever a baby cried and according to no schedule). Culling from what I knew about child development, attachment, and reading nonverbal cues, I put Carleigh on a flexible, gentle eating and sleeping routine during the day. Eventually, I started to put her down awake at bedtime, staying with her as she fell asleep and never letting her cry alone. I only fed her when she woke up at night—no more waking her up to try to feed her. I tweaked, I experimented, I still breastfed her, but I was following my intuition that told me how I wanted to care for her and, more importantly, how Carleigh needed to be cared for. Carleigh was growing, happy, and sleeping through the night early on. I was blossoming in my role as a mother.
I had the naysayers who would tell me, “Oh, that’s a stage… it will change,” or “Oh, you were lucky,” and I would have my moments of doubt. But I remember a nurse telling me, “That’s not luck, Kim, it’s you.” And I put that thought in my back pocket. I started to help my family, and then my friends, when they had babies.
Somewhere in between this and working as a therapist, I had another baby. Gretchen had horrible reflux and was—and still is—one of those alert kids! (We’ll talk much more about alert children in Chapter 3.) Gretchen put me in my place by showing me that sleep coaching is not a cookie-cutter activity; what worked for her sister did not work for her. And that ultimately helped me become a better Sleep Lady.
Friends and friends of friends began calling me for sleep help. As word spread and more and more people reached out, I added this specialty to my family therapy practice. At that time, there weren’t any baby and toddler sleep coaches or parenting coaches, and we didn’t have the Internet as we know it now, let alone Alexa. However, there was a book out there by Richard Ferber, a doctor in Boston who popularized the “cry-it-out” method, which bore his name—Ferberizing. Ferber was the first one to stick his neck out there on what was and still is a controversial topic: graduated extinction (i.e., checking in on a child at gradually increasing time intervals—five minutes, then ten minutes, etc.). Then came the other prominent pediatricians who recommended and popularized “full extinction,” which meant letting the child cry it out with no parental response or intervention. To me, that provides little empathy for the plight of the sleepless new parent as well as the physical and emotional pain parents feel when their child is screaming. These doctors weren’t in the trenches like I was. They conducted onetime consults with no follow-up. They were not coaching a parent through the process and didn’t really understand the toll. My instincts were clear: letting my child cry it out all alone wasn’t how I wanted to sleep coach or how I wanted to raise my own children.
I tried to find someone to mentor me or supervise me or even to brainstorm with me about a gentle approach—one that was more realistic and less emotionally painful for us all. But there were no peers in my field to speak to or who were accessible. There were no training programs, and sleep consulting or coaching wasn’t considered a field. So I researched and read and talked to my friends and did more research and reading. I taught myself, I built on my knowledge of child development and attachment theory, I honed my skills and defined my method. And I listened to the parents. With each family I assisted, I grew and learned and modified. I wasn’t sure how to structure or build my practice. I knew I wanted families to be happy and well rested, to be empowered, and most of all, to know they had choices when it came to sleep coaching. That it wasn’t just cry it out or do nothing or hold the baby all day and night.
My passion (obsession at times) for the topic of sleep and development, for helping others (I am a therapist, after all), and the rewards of sleeping parents are what kept me going. In the end, and after some work, my determination and honing the program worked. I never dreamed that I would have a trademarked name, the Sleep Lady (which a three-year-old client gave me), and create a gentle method for sleep coaching known as the Sleep Lady Shuffle, or SLS. And with each passing day, I find again and again that the need for gentle sleep coaching is so much bigger than I could ever fill in a thousand lifetimes. In a nutshell, I’m saying it’s not just you.
And if you are starting out with any uncertainty about sleep coaching, as many parents do, I hope you take solace in the tens of thousands of people who have had success with my approach. The success rate, I truly believe, is based on the philosophy and approach I have built and refined over twenty-plus years. That means if you and your child are struggling with the uphill battle of learning to sleep, it’s only going to get better from here.
THE SLEEP LADY’S PROCLAMATION
Because I want this book to mimic what it’s like to work with one of the Gentle Sleep Coaches® I have trained in the Sleep Lady method, so you can reap all the benefits of the Sleep Lady system, I would like to share the ideas and beliefs that have become the bedrock of my gentle system. As I mentioned, you can only adopt a set of ideas and make it your own if there is a transparency and understanding of the philosophy that lies behind it. That’s the only way you can know if it is right for you. I believe parents need to know the method behind my madness if they are to quickly grasp and implement the strategies set forth in this book. So with that said, here is the short list of what I believe makes for a successful sleep-coaching strategy.
I believe sleep coaching is subjective: To the extent that you get advice, whether from doctors or well-meaning friends or relatives, it usually falls into one of two categories. On one hand are the variants of cry-it-out. On the other are the attachment parenting theorists, who promote co-sleeping and nursing on demand well past the early months of infancy. Either of those approaches is fine—if they feel right for you and right for your kids. They aren’t fine if they don’t feel right, if they strain your marriage, if they don’t fit into your adult needs—or if they don’t help your child learn to put himself to sleep and stay asleep. Your subjective needs and beliefs count. You can get creative, you can be more responsive and less reactive, and there is definitely an opportunity for more balance. My Sleep Lady approach is a gentler alternative for families who emotionally or philosophically resist letting their babies cry it out, feel judged for their ideas on how to sleep coach and raise their children, tried “Ferberizing” with no success, and let their child cry it out completely but found it didn’t help. I have also worked with families who believe in co-sleeping but find that their children aren’t really sleeping all that well, even nestled snugly with Mom and Dad. And I’ve helped guide many families who did bed share for a few months or a few years but now want the family bed to revert to a marital one.
I believe sleep is highly personal, and therefore, so is sleep coaching: Anyone who has ever shared a bed or a room with someone—a sibling, a college roommate, a partner—can attest that there isn’t just one way to sleep. Some of us kick off the blankets in our sleep, while others have the thermostat down to arctic temperatures. Some fall asleep at the drop of a hat (I hate them), while others—like me—need to quiet the mind before even thinking about sleep. Some like the room as dark as an Alaskan winter, while others prefer to wake up to natural sunlight. Sleep preferences and styles range widely and affect everything from the kind of mattress we prefer to whether we have the talent of being able to sleep on a plane (I wish I had that talent) or the kinds of aesthetics we would like in our sleep space. If this sleep subjectivity is a fact for us, then why should sleep be any different for our babies?
Some families want their children to sleep on Montessori floor beds, while others have siblings sharing rooms. Other families are passionate about co-sleeping, but still need advice on sleep training, and the preferences vary in infinite measure. Therefore, when I work with families, I explore their values, lifestyles, and approaches to parenting as I develop an individual sleep plan. In this book, you will have the opportunity to do the same exploration, which will help you feel in control of how you sleep coach your child. I never suggest anything that would make anyone feel like a horrible parent, nor do I believe in miracle cures and no-cry techniques, simply because they unfortunately don’t exist. When we go to change a pattern or behavior and our babies are nonverbal, they will cry and not understand the change—and if they are verbal, they will cry and have words of protest. Changing sleep patterns can take time, and it definitely takes consistency. Most families solve their bedtime problems within two weeks, even if poor napping, early rising, and occasional night awakenings take a little longer. The bottom line is I believe parents should have choices in sleep coaching. The choices shouldn’t be simply between cry-it-out or suffer for months or years.
I believe that, generally, six months is the optimal time to start sleep coaching. Don’t worry if you didn’t start at six months or you yourself weren’t ready to stick to it. As you can see, my book gives age-by-age instructions on bedtime, nap time, early rising, and sleep-related developmental changes all the way to age five.
But with very rare exceptions, we don’t sleep coach before six months because babies just aren’t ready. That doesn’t mean we don’t start very gentle “sleep shaping” with newborns. We’ll learn about that in Chapter 2.
Babies have intricate, delicate, and rapidly changing development patterns that cannot be dismissed when considering how they learn to sleep. In the chapters that follow, you will find a milestones chart that explains what is happening developmentally and how each stage can cause nighttime sleep and nap regressions. Milestones are skills, like self-regulation and soothing, and the things babies learn to do by a certain age—like focusing their vision, reaching out, exploring, and learning about the things around them. For now, here are a few things to consider about infant sleep before the age of six months.
* Infant sleep cycles do not yet resemble those of adults, so making allowances for our babies makes sense.
* Babies before the age of four months have not yet established a circadian rhythm (i.e., their internal clock).
* Before three or four months, babies do not produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep by relaxing our muscles and making us drowsy. Secretion levels of serotonin are linked to darkness, another aspect of our circadian rhythm.
* As a family therapist, I do not recommend extinction (the cry-it-out method) or gradual extinction with newly adopted children, children in foster care or placed in new homes, and children with special needs. I find the parental fading of the Sleep Lady Shuffle to be more effective with these children who may have challenges self-regulating.
I believe in empowering parents to be confident: Douglas Teti, professor of human development and psychology at Penn State, has led a study about a parent’s state of mind, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, based on videotaped footage of families in their own homes. It revealed that a parent’s emotional state may be a hugely important contributor to healthy infant sleep. “What parents do at bedtime doesn’t seem to matter as much as how they do it.… So you can decide to co-sleep or not co-sleep or you can decide whatever bedtime routine you want to follow. That seems secondary to whether or not parents are feeling good and comfortable with what they’re doing.”
Though Teti’s study of mothers was small, his findings suggest that even if I give you every sleep trick in the book and you devour the pages of this one, it is your confidence in yourself as a parent, combined with your faith that your child can learn the skills vital to falling asleep, that will help you succeed. We’ll discuss more on what Teti says about “emotional availability” of parents during bedtime routines (and frankly at all times) in Chapter 3.
I believe in making friends with your baby’s tears (and toddler’s tantrums): We’ve all heard the adages “Make friends with your fear” or “Understand your enemy,” and we can put these to good use when our babies cry or our toddlers throw a tantrum. So many parents are frightened by those cries, and when they can’t stop them, those tears do indeed feel like their hearts are shattering into a million little pieces. However, it’s easier for us as parents to tolerate the tears if we understand that they are a form of communication—just in a preverbal language we are not versed in.
I believe in responsive parenting: Responsive parenting allows for the balance between assisting your baby and letting your baby figure it out for himself: responding to a child’s cry is, in my opinion, nonnegotiable when sleep coaching, both for his sake and for your own peace of mind. As parents, we need to be sure they are okay, that they haven’t spit up or gotten tangled in something, that their diapers haven’t leaked, or that they weren’t spooked by a sound or shadow. But I also believe that balance between comforting our children and allowing them to learn to comfort themselves is an essential component of sleep coaching. The Sleep Lady Shuffle is designed to minimize frustration and maximize reassurance. By being present and emotionally available, by confidently offering physical and verbal caresses and reassurances, we reduce stress on ourselves and on our children. And where there is stress, there is cortisol (a hormone), and cortisol is no good for sleep!
I believe that setting limits and boundaries makes for happy and securely attached children (who also sleep better): Parents tell me that they are hesitant about providing structure and direction; they are nervous about enforcing rules or confronting negative behaviors. I often hear a parent say, “I don’t want my child to feel bad about himself,” or “I don’t want to crush her spirit,” or “I don’t want my child to not like me.” As my colleague Peter Grube, a clinical social worker, notes to me, “Parents want to be loving, but unfortunately, the term loving is often interpreted as meaning no boundaries for the child or parent.”
Countless studies tell us that our children do need structure, consistency, and clear boundaries, at bedtime and during the day. Setting limits does not mean that we don’t give our children some choice or autonomy. Rather, it means giving age-appropriate choices within healthy boundaries—boundaries that actually make children feel safe and protected. In the age-specific chapters in Phase 2 of this book, I will give you advice and strategies for your child’s sleep to do just this. As a family therapist who has counseled parents on an array of issues, I cannot stress enough how learning to set boundaries and limits during sleep coaching will come in handy later when child-rearing extends into other areas of life. When children get a little older, boundary setting and setting limits throughout the day—and not just at bedtime—will be essential to sleep coaching.
I believe in informed choice: Parenting isn’t a one-size-fits-all job, nor is it something we do solely based on blind recommendations, marketing campaigns, or opinions of professionals we’ve never met, myself included. We can of course gather the information at hand, weigh its potential benefits, relevance, risks, and lifestyle implications related to our family’s needs, and make an informed choice that is consistent with our own values. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to sleep coaching. All the research, proven theories, product reviews, and sage advice in the world will not match what your instincts say to you about what is right for the needs of your child and your family. Informed choice coupled with your unique parenting philosophies equals a consistently happy, well-rested, and thriving family. If something works for you, even if it isn’t the most popular or glamorous approach to parenting—you will likely stick with it, and that is the key to sleep coaching.
I believe in being kind to yourself: It has become common today to compare ourselves and our families to idyllic snapshots posted on social media. I cannot tell you how many people have confided to me that they believe themselves to be among the minority when it comes to having a baby who just won’t sleep. Trust me—this is not the case, and you are not alone. Just because your friends are posting pictures of blissfully sleeping infants does not mean that their kids aren’t fussing and waking just as much as yours are—in the photos that don’t make it onto social media. My experience working with parents all around the world tells me that more parents than not struggle. They don’t know that things can be better or know where to turn for help… or feel they will be judged for wanting to sleep coach their child because they are barely hanging on. I understand how desperate exhausted parents can feel—and luckily, the Sleep Lady Shuffle can offer you non-desperate solutions. But please try to understand that you didn’t do anything “wrong.” Be kind to yourself—we are all doing the best we can as parents. And have faith that you can improve your family’s sleep!
SINGLE MOMS, SINGLE DADS, AND SAME-SEX COUPLES
I know that there are many ways to make a family—and my Sleep Lady system can work for all of you. I can say that with confidence because I’ve seen it. You may have to make some adaptations here and there, particularly if you are the only parent around at bedtime and the only one dealing with middle-of-the-night wakenings and early risings. Get as much support as you can from friends and family and other new moms and dads. Check out my advice on divorce or widowhood here. For families with two dads, since neither of you is nursing, you have a little more flexibility in dividing bedtime and nighttime feeding responsibilities. No matter what your circumstances, be kind to yourself—and get as much rest as you can, whenever you can.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
The Sleep Lady Shuffle has two distinct phases plus what I call maintenance, where we troubleshoot or deal with regressions during sleep coaching. In the first few months of life, which are addressed in Phase 1: Sleep Shaping, we concentrate on bringing home and bonding with your newborn, getting to know your baby, learning appropriate soothing techniques, and establishing basic rhythms and routines that will help babies learn to sleep. It’s subtle but effective. For many newborns, this foundation will enable them to start going to sleep by themselves and staying asleep all night between ages four and six months. Other babies may need more intervention, and my Sleep Lady Shuffle, which is taught in Phase 2: Sleep Coaching, provides an action plan that is structured but gentle.
- On Sale
- Mar 10, 2020
- Page Count
- 448 pages
- Hachette Go