We have a story that we like to tell, about my daughter Emma when she was a baby. Emma was USUALLY a good sleeper but she occasionally went through periods of waking up at night. Our doctor told us to let her “cry it out,” but she wouldn’t just cry. No, on the night of our story, Emma stood in her crib, leaned over the edge and POUNDED on her bedroom door. She wanted to get up and eat the apple she didn’t finish at dinner, so she screamed “I WANT MY APPLE,” as she pounded. She emphasized each word with a THUD from her tiny fist.
“I! WANT! MY! APPLE!!!”
This continued for about 30 minutes, while my husband and I hid under the covers and giggled. Well, we giggled for the first 10 minutes of her tirade, but then it got pretty annoying. Emma eventually slept through the night again, but she still occasionally goes through periods of restlessness. She is 11-years-old now but she will still sometimes make the tearful trek down the hall to tell us, “I can’t sleep.” I know that Emma is not alone and that her sleepless nights are nothing compared to the insomnia some of her friends suffer. I also know that I have several friends who share their beds with spouses AND kids, though they don’t openly discuss it.
All of this popped into my mind when I saw that my old friend Jessica Bryant had started a new business as a Child and Infant Sleep Consultant. Jessica and I had babies around the same time and struggled through that first difficult year of motherhood together. I always loved her because Jessica never faked it or pretended that her baby was perfect (we all know THAT Mom). She would always commiserate over a glass of wine with me, but Jessica had a background in Child Developement so she also had real, workable advice. Any Mom will tell you how VALUABLE that is during the first year of parenting. Then Jessica got pregnant with twins, so we essentially lost our wine and commiserating time with her.
It’s been 10-years and Jessica’s children are now all in school, so she decided to take the knowledge she’s obtained and help others with it.
Jessica, as a Child and Infant Sleep Consultant, what is the first thing you say to parents whose kids are having sleep issues?
Most parents are so excited about getting the chance to vent that I really just try to LISTEN. I also remind them that they know their child better than anyone else and that it’s okay to ask for support. I try to meet the parent where they are and just start from there.
What’s the biggest mistake parents make, when it comes to helping a kid who can’t sleep?
Parents feel like they have to know it all and that sleep is just going to HAPPEN for their kids. They think that babies are born knowing how to sleep and that one day they’ll just sleep 12 hours without being taught. That’s simply not the case for everyone.
Did you have problems with your own children?
YES! I didn’t even know that babies were supposed to sleep 12 hours a night with my first-born. She went to bed when WE went to bed but a neighbor told me, “You know, you can put her to bed at 7 and she’ll sleep all night.” Sure enough, she was sleeping from 7pm to 7am in no time. The twins were a totally story different though. Parenting taught me how important sleep really is and how you just can’t function without it. I also realized how many people are surviving on no sleep and how much time parents spend just trying to get their kids to sleep. Moms and Dads do whatever they can to get by but those bedtime habits aren’t always healthy. They also don’t always help down the road, when kids start school.
What do you think about “crying it out?”
Oh gosh, when I tried “crying it out” with my kids, I would take long showers or sit on the back porch with a glass of wine. I paced in the hallway and thought she’d certainly broken her arm or was bleeding to death. Of course, we didn’t have video monitors back then. “Cry It Out” is an ugly term but it doesn’t have to be. Today, we’re taught to do everything for our child and to anticipate every need. Letting a child cry it out allows them the space to figure it out on their own. Maybe they need to suck their thumb or put their head in a different position, but they need the time to figure it out for themselves.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far, as a Child and Infant Sleep Consultant?
Well, every challenge is unique in it’s own way. I recently worked with a single-Mom who had 10-month-old who was nursing on-demand and co-sleeping. There’s nothing wrong with either one of these things until a child is barely sleeping, and they weren’t getting more than 6 hours a day. Naps included! We had to find a way to get the child out of the bed and help them both get more sleep, for everyone’s health and sanity. Parents might try a million different things for their child but they’re not doing one thing consistently, so everyone ends up frustrated. They might reach out to their pediatrician but there are so many factors to consider. Is the child over-stimulated or over-tired, or is there something in their room that is affecting them? You also have to watch for the child’s cues. These simply aren’t things that a pediatrician can tell you.
Jessica says that it’s easier to sleep-train babies around 4 to 5-months-old, but she can offer support to parents of older children, as well. If you would like to reach out to Jessica Bryant, her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or you call her at 214-856-0341. And maybe we can all FINALLY go the F- to sleep!