There is almost nothing more frustrating in early parenthood than sleep training. While some infants develop sleep habits early and relatively easily, others really struggle with sleep. And for tired parents, this can feel like a crisis. We are so lucky to have Jessica Schaffer, MA working with us at the PWCB to provide infant and child sleep support to our families. Jessica comes with a masters in counseling, and so deeply understands the psychological processes for both babies and parents when it comes to sleep.
Enjoy an interview with Jessica below!
What was your journey that led you to working with babies and parents on sleep?
My appreciation for eating and sleeping routines originated, believe it or not, was at my sleep away camp in North Carolina I attended 2 months out of the year, year after year. In my mid 20s I began my journey as a mindful meditation practitioner and a student of many Buddhist teachings. Then when I met my dog Roxy, she was only 1 and I learned traditional behavioral methodologies used to train shelter dogs. While in graduate school studying mental health over the lifespan, I had my second baby and was struggling to get her to sleep in a way that was congruent with what I was learning about early attachment and the development of the nervous system.
So practiced what I was learning in my masters program and from the overwhelming number of sleep websites, Facebook groups and books. Soon I had two amazing sleepers. I ended up helping my friends get their kids to sleep. And I remember talking to a friend of a friend who lived in a different state and a few other distant friends....
I soon realized I needed to educate myself formally and took the course at the Family Sleep Institute which was and still is I believe the best organization to receive training in the area of pediatric sleep.
I then helped a dear friend in California who made a generous post about me on social media and soon I had a cohort of mamas in Southern California.
I have continued to blend my experience and education in mindful psychotherapy, play-therapy and sleep coaching to support families locally and all over the world including China, Dubai, Italy and Israel. It has been and continues to be an organically growing journey and I look forward to meeting new families along the way.
What is infant/child sleep important?
Why? We all learn, integrate and regenerate when we sleep. It’s a biological necessity to function as a human organism. It’s a common point of view that “all babies learn to sleep eventually.” Unfortunately, this isn’t supported by the growing epidemic of insomnia in our country. Sleep is a natural thing, healthy sleep is a learned behavior. Let’s teach our children from the beginning healthy habits that support their growth.
If you had to share one or two basic thought/tips/strategies for infant sleep what would they be?
It’s about being able to set boundaries and compassionately reinforce them. Know that most of sleep issues is also eating issues. It’s a dance we help our babies learn.
For most heathy (people) over 4 months old, eating on a schedule is super helpful. 5 times per day- breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner. This does not have to be a rigid schedule, but the predictability helps the metabolism and the psyche relax.
The sleep part of the dance is that we want to offer consistency and predictable and simple in environment. Where and how your baby falls asleep at bedtime is where they expect to wake up in the middle of the night and how they expect to fall back to sleep.
And lastly, tears are normal when learning something new. The important thing is that your baby can cry while being in relationship with you. Same with adults- crying is normal and can actually be good in the presence of a compassionate listener.
Do you have a favorite website on sleep?
I don’t often use a website as a reference. I find that there is simply too much information and it’s overwhelming!
Do you have a favorite book on infant/child sleep?
I keep Dr. Weisbluth’s book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child and Dr. Ferber’s Solve your child’s sleep problems easily accessible. Both have extensive evidence based practices.
To schedule an appointment with Jessica, click HERE.