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Getting A Great Night's Sleep With...Kim West

We're currently in the process of putting together our very own 'Child Sleep Guide' which will bring together more than 20 sleep experts offering their top tips, however as a little treat before we release that, we're proud to bring you a fantastic guest post from Kim West (The Sleep Lady).

Not only is Kim a best-selling author but she's also the founder of Gentle Sleep Coaches® all over the world and through her mentoring and teaching has helped hundreds of other sleep experts to help children to get a great night's sleep!

Without further ado we'll hand over to Kim!


kim-westMy name is Kim West, also known as The Sleep Lady®, and I have been helping families all over the world gently improve their sleep for 20 years. As a family therapist for 23 years I have been counselling families on a wide variety of parenting issues from dealing with anxiety, tantrums, discipline, and most often in the last 20 years, improving their family’s sleep.

After my first daughter was born I developed my more gradual, gentle method because I found so many parents had difficulty following through with a sleep coaching program that they feared would damage their child emotionally. Not to mention tug at their hearts!

My best tip for parents is simple: choose the sleep coaching method that best fits your parenting style and your child’s temperament. Then be consistent!

Consistency Is Critical

Consistency in sleep coaching is THE MOST IMPORTANT factor!

  • Inconsistent sleep coaching is worse than no sleep coaching at all. If you aren’t ready to fully commit to a new sleep coaching plan, then wait until you are. Trust me on this. It’s far better than approaching your child’s sleep half-heartedly. Inconsistency is so frustrating to the child. We send mixed messages when we do what scientists call intermittent reinforcement.

{The child…} can’t figure out what behavior he must change and what behavior will be rewarded if he screams, whines, or wheedles enough. Inconsistently reinforced behavior is the hardest type to modify or extinguish. It takes the longest to change, and it often provokes even more of the tears we are trying to avoid. This is particularly true if the child is more than a year old. Sometimes it is okay for us as parents to bend rules, make exceptions, give treats. We all do it. But breaking rules hither and thither, responding in different ways all the time, is counter productive, and that’s doubly true for sleep.
from Good Night, Sleep Tight

  • Don’t start sleep coaching until you can minimise interruptions and distractions. Do you sometimes bring your child into your bed or sometimes skip that morning nap? Do you sometimes have a consistent bedtime and sometimes not? “Sometimes” can be a big problem for many parents. Be sure you are ready for some extra-tired nights when you begin a new sleep coaching plan. It’s worth it to start on a weekend so that you can put some extra energy into it. Do everything possible to avoid falling back into old habits of “sometimes.”
  • Let go of the bedtime and middle-of-the-night sleep crutches. Before you begin a sleep coaching plan, identify your child’s bedtime and middle-of-the-night sleep crutches that you rely on to help your baby get to sleep and back to sleep (this might be rocking, a dummy, or bringing a child into your bed sometimes). There are gentle ways to move past these crutches so that your child’s difficulty is minimised.
  • Choose the method that works for you. It’s important as parents that we choose a sleep method that we can follow through with on a consistent basis. Babies (and adults!) thrive on consistency. Whether you choose a Cry It Out method, Controlled Crying or my method known as The Shuffle, you need to stick with it. Consistent sleep coaching requires time, patience, and a good bit of perseverance!

Methods Can Be Blended

If you are new to sleep training, you may choose a gradual approach, and move to something more structured, such as timed checks after a few days of progress with your baby.

Many parents begin with the cry-it-out (hearing that it can be “quick”) but may not make progress, or are (understandably) disturbed by the amount of crying.

If this is you, then you have nothing to lose by moving to a more gradual method, like The Shuffle, which involves staying in the room to reassure your child for a few days.

This will involve gradually reducing your interventions and moving out of the room slowly but steadily so that you do not create a new sleep crutch for your child.

Expect Progress in 3 to 5 days - A Caution

Know that sleep coaching your child will take time (at least a few weeks in most cases, though every baby is different). But if you are very consistent with your new plan and do not see any progress at all after 3 to 5 days, then stop. Really.

Talk to your child’s doctor in order to determine if there are any underlying medical issues. It may also be worth choosing another sleep coaching method that is better suited to your child’s temperament.

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Who Is Kim West?

KIM WEST is a mother of two now teenage girls and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practising child and family therapist for more than twenty years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past seventeen years, she has helped tens of thousands of tired parents all over the world get a good night’s sleep without letting their children cry it out alone.

Kim has appeared on the Dr Phil, Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC’s Bringing Home Baby and CNN, and has been written about in a number of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Baby Talk, Parenting, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, The Telegraph, The Irish Independent and the Washington Post.

Kim is the author of three books: “GOOD NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT: The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep and Wake Up Happy”, the “Good Night, Sleep Tight Workbook” and “52 Sleep Secrets for Babies”.

Dedicated to providing tired parents with excellent sleep advice and coaching, she started training Gentle Sleep Coaches® all over the world in 2010.

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