The Sleep Lady’s Philosophy

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  • September 17, 2010

Kim WestAs a clinical social worker in private practice for 18 years I have been counseling families on a wide variety of parenting issues from dealing with tantrums, discipline, bottle weaning to of course, sleep. Over the last 14 years families have sought me out to help them with their child’s sleep. My clinical background in child development and adult psychology has helped me immensely in creating individualized approaches to help the entire family’s well being. I factor in your parenting philosophy, your child’s age, health and temperament, mother’s well being and the related family dynamics.

The Sleep Lady’s Philosophy

For those who have not read my book they ask, “What’s your philosophy? Are you a CIO proponent or family bed advocate? Do I have to stop breast feeding to sleep coach my child, do I have to choose between two camps: co-sleeping/no crying or crib/cry-it-out?”

I don’t believe you need to pick a camp; this isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about what is working for you and your family.

It is true that the CIO method and the starker extinction methods can work well and a bit faster then gentler methods IF you as the parent can follow through consistently and for long enough.

I developed my more gradual gentle method because I found so many parents had difficulty following through with a sleep coaching program that they fear will damage their child emotionally or fill them with so much guilt they couldn’t follow through.

My approach is a gentler alternative for families who emotionally or philosophically resist letting their babies cry it out: for families who tried “Ferber” and it didn’t work, and for families who let their infant CIO at 3 or 4 months but found it didn’t help later. I have also helped 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 have helped guide many families who did co-sleep for a few months to a few years but now want the family bed to revert back to the marital one.

Much of my work is with babies between 6 and 18months whose pediatricians agree should be able to sleep through the night. But if your child is older, don’t worry its not too late to improve her sleep, although it may take longer to break habits that are more deeply ingrained. I have helped numerous toddlers, many sets of twins, triplets and even a set of quadruplets and more than a smattering of school aged children.

Answers to some frequently asked questions about The Sleep Lady’s philosophy:

-This is NOT a “cookie cutter” approach. You can use part of my method or the whole thing- or use it for nights and not naps.

I support breastfeeding! It is not necessary to end breastfeeding to successfully sleep coach your child. I will help you gently move away from using nursing as your sole and primary sleep crutch.

-I work with parents of children ages newborn to 5 years old over the phone and all over the globe.

You can continue to room share while sleep coaching.

-I can not guarantee “no crying”…no one really can. For example, if you as the parent have taught your child that the way to fall asleep is to be held to sleep for all naps, bedtimes and wakings and you decide that you want to change this, your child will naturally resist this change. After all, they don’t know why you have changed your approach. If your child is pre-verbal then they will cry. My goal is to have as little crying as possible. I encourage parents be loving and responsive but to allow the child the room to learn this vital life skill of putting themselves to sleep. The parent responds and stays with their child and offers physical and verbal reassurance without putting the child to sleep. This supports the development of a secure attachment between parent and child.

-If your child is healthy and you are consistent, I have a 95% success rate.

The art of putting yourself to sleep is a priceless gift you can give to your child and your entire family.

Was this article helpful to you? Please tell us by commenting below! For more baby, toddler, and family sleep tips and tricks, please subscribe to The Sleep Lady’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube channel! If you are looking for more sleep content, please check out Get Sleep Now-an exclusive members-only area designed to provide in-depth help and support during your sleep coaching experience.

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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  • jenn says:

    I am on day 8 of the SLS and it has worked as far as my 10 month old putting herself to sleep (even though some nights it takes almost an hour) and even without a lot of fuss. She actually doesn’t cry at all when I put her down to sleep at bedtime…but its the middle of the night awakenings – she is still waking up 2-3 times – that are brutal still. The frequency of her waking up has not changed yet. And I even send my husband in instead of me to settle her down, but after her screaming for an hour and him being religious about not picking her up unless it gets really bad, I finally go in and nurse her or will give him a bottle to give her. That happened two nights in a row and so last night I decided I would nurse her the first time she woke up after midnight AND give her a supplemental bottle afterwards, but she was still up. How long will it take for the night awakenings to become less and eventually stop??? I feel like I’m going crazy!!

    • KimWest says:

      Be careful it sounds like you might be training her to cry until you feed her! I would need more details to be more helpful but make sure she is well napped and put to bed early enough which will help with the night wakings.
      Rule out all medical conditions that could be interfering with her asleep also. Hang in there ! Kim

  • Victoria Goetz says:

    We are on night 2 of SLS. We did really well last night w/ our firs night of Night Weaning. My question is about your 95% success rate!  I have a horrible napper on my hands! She’s getting better. She’ll usually take ONE 1hr 20m nap a day but the other 2 are still 30-45 min.  She’s 8 mo old tomorrow.  So, I’m doing this so that she will sleep all the way through the night AND so that her naps will lengthen. But, is there a chance she’s just a short napper and that even if we train her to fall asleep on her own it WON’T fix her naps? Just trying to prepare myself if you have seen this before! Thanks SL!!!

  • erayrad says:

    This sounds PERFECT for me but I am nervous about changing our bedtime ruitine so much. She falls asleep perfectly after bath/nursing/put in crib. But of course she stills wakes up a lot, sometimes only 20 minutes after, sometimes its much later but several times a night and requires a lot of intervention from me in order to go back to sleep. I hate to ruin the only part of her sleep that is working: going to be initially, on the breast. It works! But i know putting her to bed drowsy but awake is key. I hate to do that, and make it harder for everyone! Im going to read the book and see what I can do.

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