Last updated on May 26th, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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As parents, we have so many decisions to make: what to feed our children, where they should go to school, to use a pacifier or not…and then there’s sleep. When their children don’t sleep well, often, parents assume that it’s just a phase, when in fact it’s something that you need to teach your child how to do.
Most parents write off sleep coaching-assuming that I’m going to tell them to let their baby cry. I thought that was the only option when my girls were babies, so I understand. I don’t believe you have to nor that you should sit through hours of hysterics. My gentle sleep coaching technique provides both the schedule and support your baby needs to learn how to fall asleep (and stay asleep) on their own.
My method has an extremely high success rate of 98% for families who do The Shuffle correctly, as outlined in my book.

5 Reasons Gentle Sleep Coaching Works

Build A Strong Bond

As I mentioned, many parents fear that I will tell them to just “let your child cry,” when this is absolutely not the case; you will always be nearby during the coaching process.
Your baby needs to feel safe and know that you are there for them. I recommend staying with your baby and offering physical and verbal support during the sleep coaching process, which will help calm your baby as they start to learn how to soothe themselves to sleep. When a baby is crying hysterically, then he is simply too frustrated and upset to learn a new skill-which completely defeats the purpose of gentle sleep coaching.

“My own sleep-coaching methods promote a secure attachment, a secure base. Aside from those first four months or so when our newborns do need us to create the magic of sleep, we aren’t taking over their sleep indefinitely. I advocate letting them explore how to sleep for themselves, but I do not advocate letting them do it all on their own, or just shutting a door and letting them yell and scream.” Good Night, Sleep Tight

When was the last time you set out to learn something new?
Likely, you experienced periods of frustration along with moments of triumph. Remember this when you’re sleep coaching.
Learning any new skill will shake up your child’s routine, whether it’s learning to crawl, walk, use utensils properly (and not as projectiles), or sleep. You’ve probably noticed that any major change to your child’s routine causes some fussing. This is totally normal. Babies (and children) cry as a way of communicating their needs.
Crying is not always sleep related. In fact, your baby cries when:

  • they are hungry
  • they need a diaper change
  • they want a different toy
  • they want to be “over there”
  • they want to be on their back and not their stomach…

Do you see a pattern?

“The Sleep Lady system is designed to minimize frustration and maximize reassurance. By being present, by offering physical and verbal caresses and reassurances, we reduce the stress on ourselves and on our children, but we won’t eliminate every single tear.” Good Night, Sleep Tight

Consider Your Child’s Personality

mother with headscarf green shorts carrying her one year baby with pink hat in front rucksack walking at a beach
Every child is unique. There is not another kid out there who is exactly like your kid, and I respect that. The Shuffle was designed to be adaptable to your child’s temperament and your family’s beliefs.
In the first few months of life, it is helpful to establish basic routines to help your baby feel calm and secure. When you respond quickly to your infant’s needs, you’re building a solid foundation of trust (and you can’t spoil a baby.). So go ahead and hold him, cuddle him, look into his eyes, and make sounds and words right back to his coos!

A Tip From The Sleep Lady: Naps are important. If your baby is under 6 months , know that it’s okay to help your baby to sleep with a carrier, swing, bouncy seat, or even a car ride. You aren’t going to create any bad habits, I promise.

While you’re building a routine, pay attention to how your child responds:

  • Does a bath help right before bed or stir him up?
  • Does he seem like an extra-alert baby?
  • Does he have special dietary or physical challenges?

Gentle Is Key

My method encourages you to stay with your child, offering verbal and physical reassurance. Your presence will help them learn how to self-soothe. As you sleep coach, you will gradually, move a little further away from the bed.
Unlike other methods, you aren’t going to just leave the room. Instead, you are just a bit further from the bed, which allows you to remain nearby and responsive, should your child become upset.

Consistency Is Important

Like anything with children, sleep coaching only works if you are focused and consistent. I’m not exaggerating when I say that consistency is paramount to sleep coaching success. When parents are consistent they see improvements in as few as 3 to 4 days, and continued improved sleep in just a few weeks.
This being said, consistency won’t matter if you don’t prepare, so do a little homework before you start sleep coaching:

  • Check with your doctor.
  • Keep a log of sleeping and feeding.
  • Learn to detect your child’s nap and bedtime sleep window.
  • Create a soothing bedtime routine.
  • Decide about using a pacifier.
  • Have a consistent wake up time between 6:00 and 7:30 a.m.
  • Get everyone on board with your new plan.
  • Choose a convenient start date.

Adorable baby boy sleeping while being watched by father at home

Sleep Is A Learned Skill

When it comes to sleep coaching, it’s important to remember that you are the coach, not the player. You are there to provide love, support, presence, comfort, and care. You are showing your child the way, nudging them along, and setting them up for success in every way possible.
Have you ever seen a preschool-age soccer game? I highly recommend it!
The field is tiny. The ball is tiny. Even the players are tiny! The net is huge. And all of the parents (coaches!) stand around the perimeter of the field telling their little 3 and 4 year olds which way to kick the ball.
The ‘coaches’ even show them how to do it while the game is happening, but (and this is important), they do not jump in and play it for them. Instead, they design every part of the game to help their child be successful at this early stage of learning the game of soccer.
When you gently sleep coach your child, you are the coach who provides the secure base. But you are not there to fix, to rescue, or to jump in and do it all for them.
Gentle sleep coaching gives you the tools you need to coach your child through his frustration to the other side of slumber. You get to watch your child discover what helps him go to sleep. He may find his thumb, rock his body, or rub the soft edge of a blanket between his fingers. The key is that you are there for support, comfort, and direction while he finds his way to what soothes him to sleep on his own.

Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!