Sleep consulting as a profession was pioneered by Kim West, author of Good Night, Sleep Tight and creator of the Gentle Sleep Coach training and certification program. As a clinical social worker frequently helping families whose children struggled with sleep, West was dissatisfied with the ineffective and limited options available to parents who wanted to improve their children’s sleep. As an alternative to methods such as cry-it-out and timed checks, West developed the parental fading technique. Any GENTLE sleep coach certified by West (AKA the Sleep Lady), has received in-depth training in coaching families through implementing parental fading with their struggling sleepers.
Gentle sleep consulting guarantees that a parent will never have to leave their child alone to “cry-it-out”. Attachment theory advocates for parents responding to their child’s cries. Parental fading does just that- at the same time as helping babies and children learn healthier sleep habits.
Will there be crying in parental fading? Yes. Will the child be left alone to become hysterical in their crib until they finally get too tired to cry and fall asleep? No.
The first step in the technique of parental fading is to identify potential issues that may be standing between your child and better sleep. Is their room too bright? Is the schedule inappropriate for their age and development? Problems that can be solved by making an immediate change will be identified before the first night of parental fading.
The next step goes deeper into the reasons for your child’s sleep issues. Does your child need to be bottled or nursed to sleep? Do they need to hold your hand, twirl your hair, or sleep in the same bed as a caregiver? If there is something that they need you to provide for them to be able to fall asleep, that is their negative sleep association, or sleep crutch. Once that is identified, a gentle sleep coach will help you to develop a plan to gently phase out your child’s dependence on their sleep crutch.
An intervention to break your child’s negative sleep association will almost always involve a 12 day phase out where the parent will incrementally increase the physical distance and decrease the amount of soothing they provide. Some crying is normal, but the parent will always be close by and responsive.
So, what is different about gentle sleep consultants? Gentle sleep consultants are trained in proven, gentle methods that are proven to help children learn to sleep better and independently.