Sleep Authors & Experts Interview: Dana Obleman

Q&A WITH DANA OBLEMAN

Author of The Sleep Sense Program

Question: How did you become a Parenting/ Sleep Consultant?

Answer: It has always been my dream to work with children. To make that dream a reality, I went to college to receive a BA in psychology and an education degree in the late 1990s and then spent a few wonderful years working as a first grade teacher.

Then I got pregnant with my first child, and my life took a detour I didn’t expect! My husband and I suffered from intense sleep deprivation during the first few months of my son’s life as we struggled to deal with his sleep issues and teach him how to get a good night’s sleep. None of the parenting books available seemed to fit our family’s needs… Some were way too harsh and didn’t take the children’s needs and comfort into consideration, while others basically said, “Suck it up, mom and dad, your child’s needs are everything and it doesn’t matter if you don’t get a good night’s sleep!”

Frustrated with the lack of practical advice, I did my own research and developed my own child sleep training program which became the basis of my first book, The Sleep Sense™ Program. 

Question: What is the overall sleep philosophy with the Sleep Sense Program?

Answer: I created The Sleep Sense™ Program because I feel strongly that healthy sleep habits make for healthy children. A well-rested child is curious, energetic, happy, playful, and eager to learn. I am more interested in improving a child’s sleep than preaching a particular sleep philosophy.

While most books and programs dealing with child sleep problems take philosophical stands (based largely around the issue of “crying it out”), I believe that your child’s sleep is more important than my personal views on the subject. That’s why I’ve placed so much emphasis on accommodating different parenting styles within The Sleep Sense™ Program.

My approach to improving your child’s sleep is pretty simple. I’ll give you honest information about WHY sleep is so important for your child’s well-being. I’ll lay out an easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan that lets you make some choices about what is the right approach for your child. And I’ll show you how to measure success.

Question: Are there specific sleep props you recommend parents avoid (or give up) to improve nighttime sleep? 

Answer: A sleep prop is basically anything your child thinks she needs in order for sleep to come. So for example, if a baby is rocked to sleep, then she begins to associate sleep with rocking and will have a very difficult time getting to sleep without it because she doesn’t know how. Sleep props prevent a baby from developing internal strategies for getting themselves to sleep, therefore they tend to wake often looking for assistance. When you begin to teach a baby to sleep well, then all the props you’ve currently used need to go so your baby can begin to learn some strategies that are all her own, and become a great sleeper.

Question: Do you have any advice for those parents like us, with toddlers who were good sleepers as babies, but then suddenly started waking up crying out in the night, climbing into our bed, etc.?

Answer:  There is always a point in a toddler’s life where they begin to push the boundaries around bedtime. I’ve never met a toddler yet, who didn’t develop some sleep challenges at some point. The problem is that it usually throws the parent off, as they are wondering why their child who has slept very well, is suddenly yelling the house down at bedtime. The parent then rushes in wondering what could be wrong and often starts to negotiate. When the toddler realizes that all this fuss gets a reaction, then you can be sure he tires it again and again, and quickly a parent can lose all control over bedtime.

My best advice is that parents understand that boundary pushing is a natural part of a toddler’s development, and that if they remain consistent and firm, the testing blows over fairly quickly. It is also very important to stick to a “one warning, then consequence” rule, so that the child doesn’t endlessly push for negative attention. 

Question: For parents who want one-on-one help, what types of services do you offer?

Answer: There is always the “Do it yourself” guide with video coaching. However, some people like to have a more personal touch so I’ve certified several Sleep Sense Consultants who are on hand and personally trained by me to provide parents with the support and guidance needed to get them to success!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dana Obleman is the author of The Sleep Sense Program which has been used by more than 32,000 families to get their children sleeping through the night. You can get a free sleep assessment for your child by clicking here or visiting her website at http://www.sleepsense.net.

Twitter: @SleepBabyDana / YouTube: youtube.com/user/sleepsense

Kid Favorites: Pillow Pets Dream Lites

Our kids, like most I'd imagine, are not big fans of the dark. But the scientists say for their eyes, and brain development, and many other reasons, the darker the better. Only a quandary a mother could understand.

I think we've found a good middle ground.

The Pillow Pets Dream Lites are stuffed animals with lights on their backs. Our kids each have one in their beds (the kids chose two bears and a unicorn). When it's time to turn the lights out, we turn these on so that there is sufficient light in their room while they drift off to sleep. You can choose the timer setting, so that they automatically turn off after 15 minutes.

Problem solved - it's light enough in the room to fall asleep, but dark enough for their health while they're sleeping. 

Now if only I could solve all of my kids' problems with a $20 pillow, I'd be all set.

 

Parent Tips: Falling Asleep in Your Toddler's Bed

At one and a half, we moved Sydney to a big girls’ bed because she’d started climbing out of her crib. The first time she did it, we hoped it was a fluke. The next time, we heard a THUMP and a WAIL, and we decided it was time to make the change. We started off with a mattress on the floor so if she rolled out, she wouldn’t have far to fall. She rolled out often for the first six months or so, but then settled in enough that we were comfortable putting the bed frame back in her room.

The issue with the new bed was that she wouldn’t stay in it unless one of us fell asleep with her. We tried many ways to get her to fall asleep on her own, but nothing worked (especially since we were really big wimps with our first!). And Sydney is a very strong-willed child. So, sometimes I’d bring my book in and enjoy some quiet reading time while she drifted off. But other times, I grumbled about taking an hour to lay in bed with her when I had so many other things to do. 

The worst part was that if she woke up in the night, she couldn’t get herself back to sleep without one of us sleeping next to her either. 

With Sabrina on the way, it was even more critical to get Sydney out of the habit. A friend suggested I try the “moving the chair" routine. I was very, very skeptical. Here are the steps:

Step 1 - Instead of lying in their bed, you start out by sitting in a chair next to their bed.   When Sydney asked about the chair, I told her that I knew she could fall asleep on her own and that I was going to prove it to her.

Step 2 – After 2-3 nights, you move the chair a little closer to the door and away from the bed. 

Step 3 – Keep moving the chair a little bit farther away until you’re literally in the doorway.

Step 4 – Move the chair outside the door into the hall.  This was Day 8 of our experiment, and Sydney was not happy about the fact she couldn’t see me anymore.  She called out for me and I popped my head back in and said, “I’m right outside the door in the chair, reading my book.” 

Step 5 – Remove the chair entirely. I reminded her that she could officially fall asleep all by herself. She knew it was true and didn’t fight it at all!  We implemented the “I’ll come back to check on you” language.  Eventually, I put the chair back into her room and for a couple more days, I hung out in the kitchen where she could hear me making noises putting the dishes away, etc.  I’d poke my head back in every 10 minutes or so. 

That was it.  I really couldn’t believe it worked. I’d been lying in bed with her to get her to sleep for nearly a year and it only took 10 days to break the habit. The best part was she could get back to sleep on her own in the night as well. Out of habit, I went to lie down on her bed one night after she woke up and she said, "Mommy, I don't need you here. Go back to your bed!"

Sometimes, daughters really do know best!

Parent Tips: That Last Nightly Bottle...and Pacifiers

I read A LOT of books about getting babies to sleep when we had Sydney. There were tidbits in all of them that I used to try to get Sydney to sleep through the night, and eventually, they either worked or she was tired enough and wired appropriately to sleep ten or eleven hours straight. But we still had a lot of challenges with her sleeping through the night consistently until she was four.

                            Sabrina Miller - Four Months Old

                            Sabrina Miller - Four Months Old

When Sabrina came along, she was a pretty good sleeper by three months, but she was still waking up once a night for milk. A friend recommended the book Twelve Hours' Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old: A Step-by-Step Plan for Baby Sleep Success by Suzy Giordano. I'd read it when Sydney was a baby and didn't see how in the world I could follow it successfully with her. There were so many rules to follow, including how many naps they could take during the day and how often to feed them. But I was determined to try it with Sabrina and end the middle-of-the-night wake-up. I followed the 12 Hours in 12 Weeks format of reducing her last bottle by a half ounce each night. It worked like a charm. By the time I got down to two ounces, she stopped waking up in the night for a bottle. She probably figured it wasn't worth the effort for two measly ounces. Things were going well in the sleep department.

At five months, we had another hiccup. Sabrina suddenly started waking up and crying out three or four times a night. Sometimes she’d go right back to sleep when you put the pacifier back in her mouth. Sometimes she'd stay awake crying for an hour or more. I was convinced it was the pacifier after a little online research. Everyone recommended going cold turkey. They warned it might be a painful week, but from then on, Sabrina would be sleeping through the night again.

So, I had our wonderful night nanny, Janis, come take care of Sabrina and got a great night’s sleep to prepare myself for the challenge. Then I rounded up every pacifier in the house, backpack, diaper bag, both cars and my purse, put them all in a bag that I hid away, and declared that Sabrina would no longer be using them. (I'd tried to implement a no pacifier policy before and other family members and nannies just ignored me. But it's impossible to ignore if they can't find them!) By the end of the week, she was only waking up once in the night, and in less than a week, she was sleeping 12 hours straight.  And Sabrina did that consistently until the next hiccup, at age 2.5, when she started climbing into our bed in the middle of the night. That's a topic for another post...

It's amazing how different our three kids are - in so many ways, including sleep. I'm happy to report that with Luke, we never had to do a thing about sleep. He took care of it all by himself, sleeping twelve hours a night by two months. He's woken up during the night less than a handful of times since.

Parent Tips: Getting Your Kids to Stay in Bed

I have read many books about parenting. There's always something in every book that ends up working for one of our three kids. So I wanted to write a book encompassing ALL the ideas that worked for our toddlers. But since there are so many parenting books out there already, I figured maybe blogging about it would be best. So here are the ideas that worked for us, one tip at a time...

Parent Tip #1: Getting Your Kids to Stay in Bed

Our 5-year-old and our 3-year-old girls (who share a room) suddenly decided it would be fun to get back out of bed after they were tucked in. Over and over and over again. It became an epidemic. We have a consistent, restful nighttime routine, so that shouldn't have been the issue. They were clearly tired (if they did stay in bed, they fell asleep within 10 minutes), so that wasn't it either. It seemed like they just discovered it was fun to do. And they didn't want to miss anything, like most toddlers. 

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