Frequently Asked Questions by Parents

The Ins and Outs of Gentle Sleep Coaching

At Sugar Night Night, Jen Varela helps you learn and grow just as your child will. It’s all about studying your child to shape (and keep) healthy sleep habits that work for your child and family.

There are no wrong questions. In fact, the more questions, the better! Based on Jen’s experience, here are some of the questions many parents ask when it comes to baby sleep consulting.

You do not have to pick a camp; this isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about what works for you and your family. You can teach a child to self-sooth in a separate sleep space or in the family bed. There are options on how to approach teaching your child to self-sooth.

While the “cry it out” method and the starker extinction methods are used by many for a desired fast result, it demands that you as the parent follow through consistently and for long enough.

But many parents have difficulty following through with the tear-based sleep training methods for fear it will damage their child emotionally or fill them as parents with so much guilt they can’t follow through.

Personally, Jen is tear-adverse and is always looking at how fast a family really needs to go and if they do have the time for the more gentle methods to keep tears to a minimum.

Jen does not use the “cry it out” strict extinction method. She is always saying it is a trade… “Tears for time, the faster you go the more tears there are. The slower you go, the less tears there are but if you go too slow you will stall out and never make the shift.”

This is why she has aligned with Kim West, LCSW-C, aka The Sleep Lady®, who developed the Gentle Sleep Coach philosophy.

The Gentle Sleep Coach approach is a gentler alternative for families who:

  • Emotionally or philosophically resist letting their babies cry it out.
  • Tried “Ferber” (controlled crying) and it didn’t work.
  • Let their baby cry it out earlier but now find it doesn’t help.
  • Believe in co-sleeping but find that their child isn’t really sleeping all that well, even nestled snugly with them as parents.
  • Did co-sleep for a few months to a few years and now want the family bed to revert back to the marital bed.
No, 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, bedtime and waking and you decide that you want this to change, your child will naturally protest or 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.

At Sugar Night Night, Jen’s goal is to have as little crying as possible. She encourages parents to be loving and responsive but to allow the child room to learn this vital life skill of putting themselves to sleep. With Jen’s guidance, 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.

Jen works with you to create an individualized, step-by-step sleep plan that will factor in your parenting philosophy, your child’s age, health and temperament, the mother’s well being and the related family dynamics.

Most importantly, Jen supports and coaches you through the process with services from beginning to end – for night sleep and naps!

No! This question always amazes Jen because it seems so harsh and unnecessary to ask a mother to choose between not being sleep deprived or breastfeeding. Even if you were to stop breastfeeding, there is no guarantee it will solve your baby’s sleeping issues, especially if there are other factors besides nursing for why your baby is waking at night.

It is also myth that you have to night wean to sleep train your baby. Jen encourages mothers to discuss any adjustments to night feeding schedules with their doctor and lactation consultant. There are many important reasons to keep a feeding for babies at night and those decisions need to be made by the parent with guidance from their doctors and lactation consultant. Jen has had success after success with clients who have kept a night feeding and have their baby sleeping through the night.

Yes. Jen has worked with families with six- month-olds to toddlers who have their own separate sleep space in the parent’s room. The sleep training process was completed in the parent’s room. There are times when you have to get a bit creative to complete this process but the end result is a child who can start the night in their sleep space on their own, the parents come to bed at their leisure and the child is able to self-sooth throughout the night without assistance from the parents.
Designed for babies under the age of six months, the focus of sleep shaping is on sleep hygiene and identifying the methods used to get baby to sleep. The purpose is to slowly make adjustments in how your baby goes to sleep so that you may not have to sleep train.
Appropriate to consider for babies six months or older, sleep training is where you use a specific method, over a specific amount of time, with the end goal of removing sleep crutches so the child is able to self-sooth and fall asleep unassisted.  Sleep crutches are actions that the baby needs to fall asleep that the parent provides.

There are many names for sleep training — methods such as extinction, cry-it-out, graduated extinction, time checks, fading, pick-up-put-down, The Shuffle and many more.  Jen does not use “cry-it-out” and she always encourages slow removal of sleep crutches when possible.

Jen does sleep shaping with parents of children from 4 ½ to six months old and sleep training with parents of children from six months to five years old. For parents of babies under four months, she consults with them on how to set up healthy sleep habits from the start and, if appropriate, how to gently sleep shape.
Jen is based in San Diego and works with clients throughout the U.S. – including Colorado, South Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia and Texas – via online video conferencing consultations.
Jen Varela holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Services with an emphasis in Counseling from California State University Fullerton, California. She is a member of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants and a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach® trained by Kim West, The Sleep Lady®.
Please ask them. Contact Sugar Night Night directly.
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