Baby Sleep Whisperer Shares Sleep Tricks for Families
It’s one of the most pressing questions for new moms and dads: how do I get my baby to sleep?
The reality is that every child is different, and what works for your friend’s baby might be totally wrong for you child.
So what can you do to help your baby get to sleep—and get some all important shut-eye yourself?
We turned to the “Baby Sleep Whisperer,” Ingrid Prueher for answers. Prueher is the founder of BabySleepWhisperer.com and a contributor to top parenting magazines and websites like the Huffington Post.
She answered our most pressing questions about new baby sleep.
It was actually a name my clients created for me. I was originally known as “Savvy Mom On Call,” helping families navigate the daunting phase of being pregnant and looking for resources.
I began to focus on sleep when I was sleep deprived myself, working full time in the finance world. In the process of working with other families, they began to call me the Baby Sleep Whisperer!
Tell us a little about your own family life.
I’m a mom of two boys, ages 8 and 5. My husband and I and the boys live in Fairfield, Connecticut. I used to work in the finance world, as a finance analyst at a venture capital firm.
I still analyze data, but now it’s everything from sleep patterns to nutrition to lifestyle patterns that might prevent a child from sleeping. It’s a very different kind of analysis, but I’m still using my analytical mind to come up with ways to help people.
Being a parent of a new baby is such an emotional thing; can you really cure a baby’s sleep troubles by looking at data?
Well, for example, in one case we discovered a child’s sleep trouble was because he was eating a specific type of yogurt. It might have been a reaction to the sugar or that he was allergic to the dairy and it was upsetting his stomach. It’s not always behavioral—it can be something else triggering the problem that we wouldn’t find without looking at data.
If you think about it, it’s stuff that can prevent adults from sleeping well also: eating too much, going to bed off your normal schedule, and so on.
We always hear people say new moms should “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Is this good advice?
It’s unrealistic to say “just sleep when the baby sleeps.” Many times moms don’t or can’t get to sleep, because they’re holding the baby! And we know it’s unsafe for parents to sleep in bed with their newborns. Furthermore, how can a new mom even manage to take a shower if they’re supposed to sleep when the baby is asleep?
This is why you need a realistic sleep schedule for your household. You have to teach your baby to sleep, and this means making the child’s sleep a priority. If the TV is blasting all day long and parents are always on the go, it certainly doesn’t create an ideal environment for sleep.
Sometimes, the ones that have the hardest time making sense of this are the parents, but think about yourself: would you be able to sleep through a kids’ soccer practice? (No!) Then why do we expect our babies to do that?
Ok, so we’ve established that you need to go into the process with sleep as the number one priority. Then what?
When I work with families, I have them fill out an intake form answering a number of questions about their family and their lives. Then, we create a log and they log everything for a minimum of two days. This includes their sleep (both parents and baby), baby’s moods, diaper changes, feeding times, feeding amounts, and feeding type (comfort feed versus real feed).
Also, I suggest moms track what they’re eating and when, because it takes 24 to 48 hours for what you eat to make it through your system to your breastmilk. This logging process allows me to analyze their habits and identify patterns.
Next, I come up with a draft plan based on their log information and our one-on-one discussions. Typically I work with families for two months. This allows us to work through all sorts of scenarios that affect sleep, like teething, colds, travel, etc. so the families are empowered. They feel that when we’re done, they can get back on track from any situation that might come up.
Prueher suggests you create your own log at home, which may help you identify certain triggers that are affecting your child’s sleep.
Every family is different, and that’s no doubt why people enlist your services. For our readers at home, do you have any general tips for helping babies and parents sleep better?
Make sleep a priority. Really try to clear your schedule of social events that are not necessary for two to three weeks so you can focus on sleep.
When it’s time to get ready for sleep, start giving your baby cues that will be associated with bedtime. Turn off TVs, lower the lights.
Then, give your children time. Know that when you start sleep training, it’s not going to be over and done with in a couple days. It’s going to depend on the method that you use, but you typically have to give at least two to three weeks to see results no matter which plan you choose.
Let’s talk about plans for a minute. Are you referring to different methods like the “cry-it-out” (CIO) method?
I’m not a fan of the label “cry it out.” Anyone who says there’s such a thing as a “non cry-it-out” method should be a millionaire! They’re going to cry. It’s only natural. But it doesn’t have to be traumatic.
When babies cry, they’re learning to communicate that something is wrong—whether they’re tired or they need a diaper change. It doesn’t mean something terrible is happening to them.
The main difference between sleep methods is whether you’re close to your child and teaching them or you remove yourself from the sleep environment. You have to choose a plan that works with your parenting philosophy.
And remember–it’s a safety issue when a parent is very sleep deprived. Driving while you’re sleep deprived is comparable to being over the legal alcohol limit. So sleep for new parents really is very important.
Can families like our readers work with you, even if they’re not in Connecticut?
Yes! I’ve worked with families from the Philippines to Ecuador to Canada. The best thing to do is to reach out via babysleepwhisperer.com. Parents can book a free 20-minute “get acquainted” call to see if working together might be the right fit!
For more information on sleep training for babies or to book an introductory call with Prueher, visit BabySleepWhisperer.com.