Helping parents and children sleep better and thrive
Veronica Martin caught up with Isabel Page, Certified Pediatric Sleep Coach, Newborn Care Specialist & Founder at Savvy Sleep and Sara Nanetti, Certified Pediatric Sleep Coach, Accredited Dunstan Baby Language Educator & Partner at Savvy Sleep to discuss how Savvy Sleep assist parents in navigating their child’s sleep journey, the potential consequences of a lack of sleep for parents caring for a baby and the benefits of a good night’s sleep for children’s development and well-being.
How do the Paediatric Sleep Specialists at Savvy Sleep assist parents in navigating their child’s sleep journey?
Having worked with more than 550 families as Certified Sleep Specialists, we understand that sleep training can be a sensitive and emotional topic for many parents and our goal is to provide support and guidance in a compassionate and non-judgemental manner.
Because we are mothers too and have been in our clients’ shoes before, we want to make sure that we do not work for the parents, but with the parents, taking into consideration their parental philosophy as well as their daily routines and needs. Whether mom wants to take a more gentle approach and does not have a nanny or grandma to help or dad wants faster results and they have 3 other kids, we are able to adapt to the family situation and the child’s personality and struggles.
What are the potential consequences of a lack of sleep for parents caring for a baby?
Well, first of all, sleep plays a crucial role in the growth and development of a baby’s body and brain. In fact, lack of sleep can impair cognitive or physical development. Many studies prove that babies who do not get enough sleep may also become irritable, fussy, and have difficulty regulating their emotions. This means that they may be more prone to tantrums and behavior problems. Moreover, sleep is important for the development and function of the immune system. A lack of sleep can weaken a baby’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
What are some of the benefits of a good night’s sleep for children’s development and well-being?
Babies who get enough sleep are more likely to meet their developmental milestones on time both on a physical and cognitive level. They are also generally happier, more energetic, and active and tend to feed and digest food more easily. Last but not least and super important, adequate sleep has been linked to a lower risk of SIDS, which is a leading cause of infant mortality.
Of course, our main focus is the child’s sleep but we also place a lot of importance on how the parents sleep. A parent that is well rested is more alert, makes better decisions, and feels more energetic when spending quality time with their child. When we are sleep-deprived, we tend to be more irritable, moody, and short-tempered. This can affect the way we interact with our children, making us more likely to snap at them or respond in a less patient and empathetic manner. Sleep deprivation can affect our ability to concentrate and pay attention, making it harder to be fully present with our children so, in the end, sleep really affects a child directly and indirectly.
What services does Savvy Sleep offer for parents and families to improve sleep quality?
Our key services include 1:1 sleep training programs for new-borns, babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. We also offer specialized sleep guides available for purchase on our website. In-person and live online support services are available with the aim of helping parents navigate the very first phases of sleep training that, in some cases, can be pretty challenging.
Can you explain the “Your Sleep Coach in your Pocket” service offered by Savvy Sleep?
This service allows the sleep coach to virtually be present with the parents throughout the process of implementing the sleeping technique on their child. The coach will connect to the baby monitor and provide parents with guidance through an earpiece. It’s like having a sleep coach right there with you though they are not present in the room which could be too stimulating for the child.
How can parents determine whether their child is getting enough sleep, and what signs should they look out for that indicate their child may be sleep-deprived?
A baby who is excessively fussy or cries a lot might be overtired. They might also have difficulty falling asleep since cortisol levels in their system are too high. Sleep-deprived babies usually wake up frequently and might require some sort of help to be put back to sleep. This is due to an imbalance in their melatonin levels and the fact that they haven’t learned any form of self-soothing technique. They may also lack interest in entertaining activities or surroundings and not have enough energy to play or explore.
Can lack of sleep during infancy and early childhood have long-term effects on a child’s development and well-being, and if so, how can parents mitigate these effects?
Absolutely, lack of sleep during infancy and early childhood can have long-term effects on a child’s development and well-being. Adequate sleep is essential for the healthy development of a child’s brain, as well as for their physical, emotional, and cognitive functions. Lack of sleep can cause several problems, including struggling with impaired attention and memory, irritability, hyperactivity, and difficulty controlling emotions, problems in their physical health, (lack of sleep can lead to obesity, diabetes, and being more prone to falling sick) and, lastly, poor sleep quality and quantity have been associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression in children.
There are a few things that we, as parents, can do to mitigate the effects of lack of sleep, such as:
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine
- Create a sleep-conducive environment
- Set limits on screen time
- Encourage physical activity
- Ensure that your child is eating a healthy diet
- Be consistent in your boundaries, schedules, routines, and ultimately your approach
- Always consult and be aligned with your trusted paediatrician
What advice would you give to new parents who are struggling with getting their new-borns to sleep through the night?
First of all, we want you to have clear expectations of what your baby can or cannot do at a given age. We want to meet each child where they developmentally are when we work with the family. Some babies will be ready to sleep through the night earlier than others, and that is totally ok.
What we fundamentally want is to establish a good and healthy foundation right from the start. A good bedtime routine and knowing when exactly when to offer sleep to your child is already going to help a lot. Make sure you follow age-appropriate wake windows and try to give your baby time to calm themselves before you quickly go and assist. We know it is difficult, but this helps a lot. With newborns, it is all about practice, practice, practice. They may be able to fall asleep unaided one morning and need help in the afternoon and that is fine. Practice is key.
Some of our newborn clients have successfully been able to “skip” formal sleep training just by laying the right foundation. Take Isabel’s experience: her third baby is now 6 months and she has been putting herself to sleep from the very beginning and sleeps 11-12 wonderful and uninterrupted hours every night unless she is sick. Heaven, huh?