The Most Frequently Asked Questions of Desperately Sleep Deprived Parents…
On the fence about changing sleep habits with me or at all? You are not alone! Changing sleep habits can feel intimidating and overwhelming. I’ve been there, and I get it. The questions I am asked most often are addressed here in an effort to put your mind at ease and help you decide whether the support I offer is a good fit and whether now is the right time. If you feel ready to get started after reading them, you can follow these instructions for new families. If you have additional questions and prefer to speak before deciding whether or how to proceed, feel free to schedule a complimentary call.
First and foremost, all are welcome here. I am happy to walk with you on the path to better sleep regardless of race, faith, age, marital status, sexuality, gender identity or immigration status. Everyone needs and deserves to sleep!
Will this work?
Yes. Case closed…Just kidding. I’ll let the families I have worked with respond to this one for me. Read what they have to say about working together on my testimonial page as well as on my Facebook page, Google, and Yelp. Are you a member of the Main Line Parent Facebook Community? Search my name in the group (Erica Desper and/or Confident Parenting) and see for yourself how many families are sleeping better after working together.
Is what my child is doing out of the ordinary? Have you seen anything like this before?!
I get that all the time! While I don’t know the particulars of your situation, I can confidently say I’ve probably seen it before. Most families who come to me are coping with a child who needs LOTS of help to fall asleep, will only fall asleep in one particular way (feeding, rocking, standing on your head), is waking as often as every 45 minutes overnight (mine was too!), and taking naps only on someone or skipping them entirely, or taking very short ones when in the crib. That is if you can even manage a ninja like transfer to the crib at all (Spoiler alert – that often stops working as your child gets older!) Many are waking bright eyed and bushy tailed way too early in the morning even if they fell asleep too late the night before (Hello? Ever heard of sleeping in kid?!). Many have reflux, GI issues, feeding issues or eczema. I’ve had children who are fighting sleep and crying for hours in arms or at the breast, children who throw up and children who faint. I’ve seen children who were historically excellent sleepers until they climbed out of the crib or hit a new developmental stage or traveled. I’ve worked with parents who are climbing into the crib to get their child to fall asleep there or driving their child around in the car every time they wake overnight as it seems to be the only way to get them back to sleep. There really isn’t anything I haven’t seen or heard and helped families work through. I’m confident the same will hold true for you and yours. And this is a judgement free zone -It doesn’t matter how you got to be where you are – You’re ready to be somewhere else and that will be our focus.
What is your approach to improving sleep and supporting families through the process?
My approach is to educate you about the science of sleep with a focus on the common causes of frequent night waking, short naps, early rising, and a child needing lots of help to get to sleep. We want to ensure a solid foundation for healthy sleep is in place (ideal sleep timing/schedule, routine & environment) and, armed with that understanding, cover strategies that can get you from where you are now to where you want to be. And that looks different for everyone. My role, as I see it, is to walk you through several options, as well as their pros and cons, so you can decide which option is the best fit to reach your goals. Ultimately, you will be creating the plan based on the strategies we cover together. There is no one size fits all approach or solution and there is little to no value in me insisting on a strategy you can’t implement.
Is this sleep training?
I prefer to use the term sleep learning. While we don’t often think of it this way, sleep is a learned skill, much like crawling and walking. We aren’t training your child to sleep per se– we are setting the scene to allow them to discover their own abilities as well as clearing any obstacles to their success and healthy sleep out of their way. Additionally, we are deciding how you feel comfortable supporting him or her through the learning process. Is sleep training or sleep learning equivalent to crying it out? I address that below.
How long will this take?
This often translates to, “I am willing to try something for 10 minutes / 1 night / insert your fantasy timeframe here.” If we frame this process like any other learning process, you will better understand why it is hard for me to say. Like learning to walk, some children catch on incredibly quickly and others take their time. It is unlikely, even for the most adaptable child, to undo months and years of habits in ten minutes or one night. Your child’s temperament and the approach you choose to take will dictate how slow or rapid progress is made. Many families see results within just a few nights and others, who choose to make very gradual changes, take several weeks to get to the same place. Additionally, things such as physical and cognitive leaps, teething, and illness can all delay progress and are entirely beyond our control. Think of them as speed bumps…they may slow us down but we will still get where we are going.
Why did you start offering sleep support?
You can learn more about my story here but, in short, I began offering sleep support after my own 15 month long journey with severe sleep deprivation. My adorable and ginormous son was sleeping in my bed and nursing on demand (and boy was he demanding, lol) and I was patiently (much like a slow low functioning zombie) awaiting the time when he would not need that so much and start sleeping better. Dr. Sears told me that would be around the year mark so I obliged. (If I ever see Dr. Sears in the flesh, he better be ready to put up his dukes.) Instead he began waking even more often than he had before and staying awake overnight for hours at a stretch. And there was a lot of crying…mostly mine! The good news is that we were able to address our sleep struggles and that experience led me to my calling – helping other families do the same.
Tell me about your background/credentials/experience?
You can learn more about my training and experience at the bottom of the My Story page and see where I’ve been featured on the News page. At the time of this writing, I have been working with families for over 7 years and have helped over 750 children improve their sleep.
I have already read and tried everything, and nothing works/works consistently/sticks. Why would working with you be any different?
Nearly every family says this and yet, it always goes better together! No, there is nothing magical that I offer that isn’t out there somewhere. The “magic” is in how we boil down all the available (and often conflicting) information, filter out what won’t work for your family and child, and avoid the common pitfalls that prevent parents from making progress on their own. The other big difference is that you can’t ask a book a question. So, when things don’t play out the way they “should”, what then? Additionally we can use any remaining time to look ahead and prepare for the common life events that trigger setbacks.
Do you subscribe to a specific method?
I subscribe to the method that can get you from where you are now to where you want to be. And to the method you can implement consistently until your child catches on. There is no one method that would fit that bill for every family. I offer several options and variations of those options and you decide which is the right one. You also get to decide our timeline – are we making one big sweeping change for a faster process or tackling the issues (bedtime, overnight waking, naps) in several stages over a longer period? Slower isn’t always gentler but there is also little value in being too ambitious if you can’t see it through. These are the things we will evaluate at length together.
I can’t afford your one on one support options. Do offer any alternatives or a payment plan?
Yes! You can view upcoming group classes here and these are a great way to at least get started on a better path. I also offer an online video class designed for children 4 months and older. All payments go through Paypal who offers 6 month financing at checkout if you’d like to break up the cost of one on one support. Gift certificates are available in any amount if Grandma and Grandpa or perhaps some other kind soul are feeling generous!
Will I always be working with you/the same person?
Yes. All interactions in person, and via phone and email will be with me. (Yes, I have control issues.)
My baby is under 6 months and I’ve read that sleep training is inappropriate under that age. Is he/she too young for your techniques?
Many experts recommend waiting until 6 months or older for formal sleep learning. That recommendation is based on the fact that the capacity to self soothe emerges between 4-6 months of age. So, when we need to make a blanket statement that would apply to every baby, waiting until 6 months would be it. That being said, I have used my techniques with many, many 4 and 5 month old babies with great success. Most are ready and capable. Additionally, there is much we can work on that isn’t formal sleep learning using behavioral methods. The foundations for healthy sleep (timing, routine, environment) and loosening sleep associations can be tackled at any age and often bring great improvement. So, if your situation feels sustainable and you want to wait for that 6 month mark, go for it. But if you’re ready to pull your hair out and resenting that baby, let’s make a change.
My child is not a baby. Do you work with toddlers/preschoolers/older children?
Yes. I work with newborns through age 5 and, depending on the scenario, older children as well. Most of my clients have children between 4 months and 3 years of age.
Does addressing sleep issues mean I have to night wean?
That depends. My goal is to help you reach your goals so if it is your preference to maintain one or more overnight feeds, we can certainly build that into our plan. At a certain age though (generally 8/9 months and older) this pick and choose approach can cause confusion for a child and, when it does, it is best to reduce and eliminate night feeds altogether or offer them in a way that eliminates any potential confusion. We will cover all available options and the decision will be yours. This is your baby and you are the expert.
Does addressing sleep issues mean I need to stop breastfeeding altogether?
No! We can maintain your nursing relationship while reducing or eliminating night feeds (depending on your goals) and improving sleep patterns. I breastfed and am a Certified Lactation Counselor. I understand your concerns as well as how to protect your supply and nursing relationship.
I want to continue bed sharing/room sharing. Can we still address our sleep issues?
Yes (probably). If your goal is to continue sharing a room or a bed, we will create a plan around that. However, some children will not be able to sleep better overnight until they are in their own space. If that holds true for your child, we would need to reevaluate or celebrate whatever progress we were able to make in the shared space. Every child is different, and it is hard to know in advance how this will play out for your child.
Will my baby have to cry it out? Will he or she have to cry at all? Can sleep learning and attachment parenting coexist?
You can hear my thoughts on this here and here. Your child has preferences and expectations surrounding sleep likely based on months or years of history and reinforcement. Any change we make, even if it is small, gentle, and supported will not fit those preferences and expectations. Hence, your child will find a way to tell you, “This feels new and hard and different and I don’t like it!” That is typically communicated via fussing and crying. Our goal is not to prevent that communication. Rather it is to decide how you feel comfortable supporting him or her through the learning process and responding, “I know. I know this is new and it is harder than what we usually do. But it is what we’re doing now and I’m here to help.” I don’t promise a no cry process as change is hard. I do promise your child will not have to cry alone without a response and perhaps without you ever leaving the room.
Is there a benefit to meeting in my home versus meeting over the phone or on a video call? We’re not local. Can you still help?
This is entirely a matter of your personal preference. I can gather all the same details through the history form you complete in advance of our meeting and over the phone or on a video call, Our results will be the same regardless of the option you choose. Distance is no boundary. While based just outside of Philadelphia, I’ve worked with clients as far as Ireland, Holland and Mozambique. I can help wherever you are.
Will we address naps as well as nights?
Yes. I take a very holistic approach to improving sleep. Day and night sleep are very closely tied together so we cannot improve one without addressing the other. We will look at the timing of sleep, the routines preceding sleep, the sleep environment, the bedtime process, your overnight responses, and the nap process as well as nap length.
If you do come to my home, do you need to witness the sleep process, and can you implement the changes for me?
I do not need to witness your sleep routine or process. In fact, I don’t want to – I probably know what it looks like before you even describe it (after over 750 children I should hope so!) I can gather all that information via the questionnaire you complete prior to our meeting and during our consultation. I do not implement the changes for you. My goal is to empower you to implement the plan yourself. It takes more than one night to see improvement so hiring me for one night at an exorbitant cost will do you little good. You will still need to take over after that as well as help your child get back on track after setbacks down the road. You’ve got this! If you are too exhausted to implement a plan, I work closely with many doulas who can be hired separately to swoop in and take over with our plan while you catch some needed hours of shut eye.
Can/should my child be present when we meet?
That is up to you. While I love to meet each child, you may find your attention is very divided and you may not get as much as you’d like out of the consultation. Many parents choose to meet when their child is asleep or when someone else can watch them. If that isn’t an option, that’s okay too. I type up the main points we discuss and the instructions for your plan so no worries if you miss or forget something.
If I choose to start with the consultation only, can I add the follow up support later if needed?
Yes. You can view the add on options for returning families. These can be added immediately after the consultation or anytime down the road, so long as we are discussing the same child. If you plan to take a slower, gentler approach, plan to discuss more than one child, or want time to look ahead to schedule changes, setbacks and more, the consultation bundled with follow up support is likely the better option.
How soon can we meet? How soon after our meeting can we start implementing our plan?
Availability varies but, in general, I can get you in within about one to two weeks. Once I receive your payment, you will receive a scheduling link and can choose the next available time that works for you. Once we have the consultation, you can dive in right away. Most families prefer to wait until they receive the typed summary of the plan we create together, which you will receive within 24-48 hours of our meeting. Some families want to create a plan now but hold off on diving in until a future date (such as after an upcoming holiday or trip). That is also fine and, if that is your plan, we will wait to start the clock on the four weeks of follow up support.
We both work out of the home. Do you offer evening or weekend consultations?
Yes. These spots are more limited and more popular than daytime spots so often book farther in advance. Availability varies but generally I can get you in within 1-2 weeks for an evening or weekend spot.
Can my partner and/or my child’s caregiver be included in the consultation?
Absolutely. Ideally anyone who handles your child’s sleep would be present to create the plan. If your partner is not involved in the sleep process but you want him or her to be, the same would apply. Anyone who can’t be present can get caught up on the plan by way of the summary I send to you and can also be included on the follow up calls and emails.
Do families meet their goals within the 4 weeks included in the consultation with follow up support?
In most cases, yes. For many families it is more time than they need to reach their goals and we use the remaining time to look ahead to impending schedule changes and how to handle setbacks such as teething, illness, etc. The families who do not wrap up in the allotted time are usually those who choose to make sleep changes super gradually, a process which takes longer than average timelines. In that case, families can choose to continue with the plan on their own or to add on as needed using these options.
If we need additional support down the road, will we need to start over with a new consultation?
If you are returning to discuss the same child (recurring issues or new ones), no. You can use these smaller options for returning families to reconnect. If you are returning to discuss a new child, yes, you would purchase a new consultation or package for that child.
I want to address sleep for two children of varied ages or twins. Do I need to make two separate purchases?
Yes. To address two children of mixed ages or twins of the same age, you will need to purchase the consultation with follow up support as well as the add on for a second child.
My child is in daycare. Can we still tackle our sleep issues?
Yes. We can create a plan to mainly address home sleep and make progress there. However, day and night sleep are closely tied together so we will likely need to collaborate with daycare to make sleep as ideal as possible.. When we can’t, it may be fine, or it may mean sleep is better but not perfect. Most of the daycares I have worked with are open to suggestion and happy to help.
Do you offer guarantees or refunds?
No. Your child’s success hinges on your consistency and I have no way of knowing if you are being consistent. Parents (including myself!) have been known to “cave” in hard moments, unintentionally confusing their child and sabotaging progress. As hard as that may be for you to fathom (wink,wink) I’m sure you understand why I can’t offer a guarantee of your results or a refund for a lack of them. Fortunately, there is a science to how sleep works (and when it isn’t working, why it isn’t) and to modifying behavior. If we understand that science and create and consistently implement a plan that reflects and honors it, your child will be successful. You can hear from parents who had similar concerns and were thrilled with their results here. They are all 100% legit. You may even see someone you know! At the time of this writing, I have worked with over 750 children. If they could get through this learning process, yours can too.
What is your success rate? What if this doesn’t work?
The only time this “doesn’t work” is when there is an underlying medical issue or, much more common, when parents intentionally or unknowingly confuse their child. If I could subtract those instances, I could confidently say 100%! Even in the case of an underlying medical issue, once that is addressed, sleep will improve. Sadly, a small percentage of parents find they can’t be consistent with the plan they created or any alternative. These families are welcome to return when the time is right, and, at that time, we can revisit the options and implement a plan with better results.
I’m sure your techniques work with other children, but you’ve never met my child! He/she is SO strong willed. What if I have the only child that can’t learn to sleep?! Have you worked with high need children and do you have special techniques for working with them?
No, I’ve never met your child. But I have met mine and he has the strongest will I’ve ever encountered. (Lucky me.) Over the years I have also supported many parents of higher need and/or strong willed children. Just as surely as your tenacious little guy or girl can learn to walk or adapt to a babysitter or new sibling, he or she can learn to sleep in a new way. We just need to create and implement a plan that factors in their levels of intelligence and persistence and allows for zero confusion. I actually find that strong willed children, while they give you a hard start, respond very quickly when we work together.
My child has reflux/eczema/food intolerances/other underlying medical issues. Can we still address our sleep issues?
Yes. However, we will need to clear your goals and our plan with the pediatrician/specialist and you will need to consider whether you will be able to implement the plan consistently if your child isn’t 100% comfortable. If an underlying medical issue is not yet well controlled, we may not be able to reach all of your goals until it is. In most cases, there is much we can work on and toward in the meantime.
My child is wearing a helmet or other device. Can we still tackle our sleep issues?
Yes. I have worked with children who wear helmets or braces 24 hours a day. They can get through the learning process like any other child. We do need to be on top of when these items need to be adjusted however to ensure they are as comfortable as possible.
My child is teething or sick. Can we still work together? What if he or she gets a tooth or illness while we are working together?
Yes. While it is not ideal to introduce change while your child is coping with teething or illness, we need to weigh that against the reality that windows of opportunity without these challenges can be few and far between. So, if you see a window in the near future, wait for it. If not, let’s dive in and get your child as comfortable as possible throughout the process. If a tooth or illness pops up after we dive in, we will troubleshoot ways to maintain progress that has already been made but without pushing for additional changes or progress until he or she is feeling better.
We are moving/traveling/introducing a new caregiver/returning to work soon. Can we still work together?
It depends. I would not implement a plan you will need to put on the back burner a week later when you travel or return to work. It won’t be fun or feel fair to anyone to start and stop and start again. Often however we can troubleshoot ways to keep things consistent through those changes. Or we can meet now to create a plan you will wait to implement a bit down the road. Often there are smaller elements to the plan we can be working on or toward in the meantime.
I want to tackle our sleep issues, but my partner does not. Can we still work together?
This is a tough one. When a parent is not ready for change for whatever reason, the tendency is to unintentionally, or sometimes intentionally, sabotage the process. This will cause confusion for your child and stress between parents. My goal would be to find an approach that both parents feel comfortable with and can agree to implement.
If I wait long enough, will my child start sleeping better without intervention?
It depends on who you ask but you are here asking me, so I’ll give you my answer…it’s unlikely. Yes it is entirely within the realm of possibility but that is different than the realm of probability. Many parents who take the wait it out approach suffer through sleep deprivation for many years before their child naturally begins sleeping more soundly or independently. And many more are still waiting. Sleep is a learned skill and most sleep issues go unresolved and/or continue to deteriorate until that skill is mastered. Together we can create a roadmap to get your family to your happy sleep destination!
If you feel ready to get started now, follow these instructions for new families. If you have additional questions and prefer to speak before deciding whether or how to proceed, feel free to schedule a complimentary call. I look forward to helping you and your family get more sleep!