SNAPSHOT: Sleepy Bug is Philadelphia’s first sleep coaching company and is aimed at helping families understand and solve their baby’s and toddler’s sleep through educational and consultative services.
PHILLY BABY BUMP EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ANDREA ELOVSON, OWNER:
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a sleep coach?
A. Before I had children, I was a television documentary producer. I planned to go right back to work after I had my first child, but I decided to become a stay at home mom. As a new parent, the most difficult part, hands down, was the sleep deprivation. While the birthing and nursing process was difficult, I could easily find answers to most of my questions. I was shocked that I couldn’t easily find people or resources to answer my sleep questions, so I decided to educate myself and become that resource.
Because I was trained as a journalist, I did a lot of research and was able to speak to leaders in the pediatric sleep field such as Jodi Mindell. The advice and knowledge I gained from these professionals was incredible and just wasn’t coming out in the books that parents, including me, were reading. Most books focus on one way of doing things and it just doesn’t work. The sleep behavior of children is so much more complicated that that.
I began applying the knowledge gained to my children and Sleepy Bug began to take shape when I started to help friends with their children’s sleep problems. My friends began telling their friends and word of mouth spread.
Q. What services do you offer?
A. I offer telephone, in-person, and virtual sleep coaching consultations, primarily in 90 minute time blocks. I start by sending the family a sleep questionnaire that seeks to understand the sleep problem while gaining insight into some other areas that at first may seem unrelated to the sleep problem. For example, I ask how many bedrooms do you have in your house?
I then combine my knowledge of pediatric sleep and child development issues with information about your child’s temperament, environment, and personality to develop a personalized sleep plan. The seemingly unrelated questions come in handy at this point because if you have an extra bedroom, I may recommend that you and your partner switch sleeping in that bedroom and alternate baby duties when the going gets tough.
I think its important to highlight that there is not enough focus on child development and its relationships to how children sleep. For example, I need to know whether a child is crawling, sitting, or standing as all of these can cause sleep irritation. Language development is another example of an area that can affect sleep tremendously.
Q. What are the myths or misconceptions about child sleep
A. Myth #1 – If I push back my baby’s bedtime or cut down on the number of naps, they will sleep in the next morning.
No, this method assumes that children sleep like adults. But they don’t. If adults don’t take a nap all day or go to bed late, we may be more tired at night and sleep in to make up for that. If a baby doesn’t get enough naps during the day, they will be over-tired by the end of the day. They will NOT crash, however. Instead, they will be over-stimulated and have too many hormones trying to keep them awake. They will be cranky, restless, and when they finally do fall asleep, they will be unable to sleep in and will wake up still cranky.
Myth #2 – You should never rock or bounce a baby to sleep in a stroller, carrier, rocker, etc. because the baby will never learn to sleep on their own.
There is so much change that happens to babies, especially the first 6 months. Find the things that work for you and keep on doing that because the most important thing is allowing the baby to sleep! Babies feel better when they are close to you and want movement so it’s no surprise they fall asleep when these techniques are used. My advice is, for the first 4 months, focus on doing the things that are safe and work for you. Your child is going to learn how to sleep on their own, I promise.
Q. What is the ideal bed time for my child?
A. Bed time is a always a big shocker for parents. Between 6 months to 5 years of age, research has shown that children are most tired and ready to go to bed between 6-7pm. If you start to put them to bed later than this, children become overtired, get really cranky, and may cry for a while before sleeping. There really is a huge difference between a bed time of 7pm vs. 9pm.
Even though a lot of parents work and the ideal bed time is earlier than expected, there are still things that a parent can do to implement this bed time. For example, ask whether the day care provider can give your child a big snack at 5 or 5:30pm so that you don’t have to have a heavy, involved dinner at home that is going to result in a later bed time.
Another tip I like to give parents, especially first time mothers, is that you don’t have to give your child a bath every night. Use that time to change out of your work clothes, make that mental transition, and spend quality time with your family before you start the bedtime routine.