Interview with The Sleep Coach

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Sleeping Newborn

Cheryl Fingleson, based in St Ives, is The Sleep Coach. She works with families across a range of areas, including settling and sleep techniques, establishing a good routine, discipline in the home, transition from cot to bed, potty training, safe co-sleeping, and identifying signs of postpartum depression. 

Why do you recommend that exhausted parents engage with a sleep consultant?

Amazon has more than 20,000 baby books on sleep! There is an overload of information for parents to sift through. It is overwhelming to find the correct gently sleep plan for your precious bub.

Sleep is a learnt skill. Parents can teach their children how to sleep, however this can be a very stressful process. It is comforting to have the guidance and reassurance provided by a trained sleep consultant. A sleep consultant tailors a sleep routine to your family lifestyle and needs, as well as to your baby’s unique requirements.

Your website states that your approach to sleep training is gentle. How is your approach gentle?

My gentle and proven sleep solution is a compassionate alternative for families who emotionally or philosophically resist letting their babies cry it out. My gentle technique allows parents to be in the room with the baby while coaching the baby, until the baby is asleep. We maintain a close connection to babies or children when they cry. This ensures that parents feel calmer. I don’t believe in cry it out – research has shown that babies have higher stress hormone levels when left alone to cry.

What is the best time to start sleep coaching?

At 4-5 months some babies are capable of learning gentle sleep skills or sleep shaping. However, this should be carefully assessed, preferably by a doctor or a sleep consultant. 6-9 Months is the ideal time for gentle sleep coaching. At this stage they are developmentally ready to learn independent sleep skills and it will more likely be a long term solution.

How can your service assist a mother suffering from post natal depression?

Often mothers are so sleep deprived they experience poor concentration and lose all self confidence. Lack of sleep can lead to many disorders, anxiety, panic attacks, weight loss or gain as well as a hormone imbalance. All these factors can contribute to Post Natal Depression. Unfortunately PND is often missed as many mothers find it difficult to communicate that they are not coping with doctors, family and friends. I have found on many occasions talking to a sleep consultant on a one on one level helps the mum realise that they need help. Once a baby learns to sleep, a mother feels less stressed and will be able to sleep better for their own health.

Cheryl Fingleson

Cheryl Fingleson

Please can you walk us through a sleep training program from beginning to end?

I send a detailed history form for the client to complete and return to me. The history form gives me a wealth of information with regards to the baby’s disposition, medical history and special needs, as well as the family’s composition and lifestyle. I then design a bespoke plan that would suit the baby. We then have a consultation with both parents, where we discuss your goals and adjust the plan where necessary. We then set a start date. Once we start sleep coaching, we talk, email or text message every morning and afternoon as long as is required and until your precious child reaches a sleep pattern that you are satisfied with.

Do you offer talks to mother’s groups?

I give talks at mothers groups, day care centres, pre-schools or any other groups.  I find the talks are very beneficial to all present and I always allow time for a Q & A session.

What tips can you offer exhausted parents of newborns?

  • Create a flexible feeding and sleeping routine.
  • Encourage soothing techniques other than nursing.
  • Put your baby down drowsy but awake at least once every 24 hours.
  • Feed your baby when he wakes up from a nap.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment.
  • Total sleep is 16 to 18 hours, spread over day and night.

What tips can you offer parents facing four month sleep regression?

  • Continue to help your baby fall asleep in the way he has been falling asleep up until now.
  • Do what you need to do to help your baby fall asleep.
  • Swaddle and/or offer a dummy. If you’ve been doing this (and it’s been working), keep it up.
  • You can offer a dream feed right before you go to bed, and it may help your baby sleep a bit longer at night.
  • Use the swing, if you have one. The swing can be a great way to soothe your fussy baby, and to help induce a nap that wouldn’t otherwise happen. Do not let him sleep there for long periods of time.
  • Ask for help! This is the time to lean hard on friends and family members.

Remember, these should all be viewed as short-term solutions. None of these will solve your 4 month old baby’s sleep problems. This short term solution will help you rest up. in preparation for starting to work on teaching your 4 month old baby a new way to sleep. This is the perfect time to start sleep coaching

What tips can you offer parents facing a six month old waking for his/her dummy to be placed back into his/her mouth?

Unfortunately until your baby is 6-8 months they can not grasp the dummy to place in their own mouth. If you have given your baby the dummy, you will need to do the ‘dummy run’ at night to help your child, until your baby is old enough to pick up the dummy on their own. When they are able to take the take themselves put a few around the cot so when they lose one dummy there are more they can find another.

What guidelines do you recommend to be put in place to help a six month old self soothe?

It is important that there are no sleep crutches such as rocking, holding or feeding to sleep. Watch for sleepy cues. Do not miss the sleep window. Put your baby down drowsy but awake.

What bed time routine do you recommend for a toddler?

Bedtime routine should be consistently the same from 4 months. Dinner, bath, milk and quiet time. Then into their room with lights dimmed, one story, sleeping bag, hugs, kisses and into cot/bed.

How can a parent ensure that their toddler learns to stay in their bed overnight?

Stick to the usual bedtime routine. Set guidelines as this will help your child feel secure and be happy to stay in their own room.

Can you offer any tips for those who would like to co-sleep with their babies?

Some parents enjoy having their newborn with them for the first few months. They like the bonding and the convenience of having the newborn right there for frequent nursing. Babies and children still need to learn to self settle on their own while co-sleeping.

The most important aspect about co-sleeping is safety. Create optimal sleeping space for baby. Infants should sleep on their backs on a firm surface, under a light blanket and their head should never be covered.

Persons on sedatives, medications, drugs, or intoxicated – or excessively unable to arouse should not co-sleep on the same surface as the infant

How do you know when your child is ready to drop their day nap?

When your child is sleeping 10 to 11 hours uninterrupted – if not work on night sleep before dropping one day sleep. Consistently taking longer and longer to fall asleep at night.Consistently takes increasingly shorter morning naps or sleeps too long in the morning and refuses afternoon nap.

What are the two most important points you would like to share with parents?

Consistency and routine.

If you’d like Cheryl to help you out with any issues, you can call her on 0411 501 338. For more information, go to The Sleep Coach website. 

We’d love you to share if you’ve been to see a sleep coach and how it worked for you. Also, for those of you who haven’t, what has stopped you if you have had problems getting your little one to sleep? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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