What made you decide to become a sleep consultant/coach?
Erica: I was a doula for close to two decades and a lactation counselor for many years before having my own baby. When he turned 1yr, I found a sleep coach training that really felt in tune with the compassionate and exert care I was already providing for parents. Working virtually allows me to reach clients everywhere and this is really fulfilling for me.
Nicole: I was a nanny for a few different babies way back when. During that time I worked with the families to “sleep train” and I noticed the huge difference in their child’s personality once they were sleeping well. So I decided to get certified not only as a sleep consultant, but as a holistic sleep consultant.
Generally speaking, how do you feel that you most help parents during your work together? What do you offer that they can’t get from a book or mom blog?
Erica: I find that in the time we spend together, parents are able to let go of unrealistic expectations, build more confidence, and be at more ease with the sleep coaching process. Every family and baby is different and deserves an expert and outside perspective as they learn new skills, one day at a time. With a coach they get a method, but also hand-held support, and in depth care.
Nicole: I most often help parents in easing their anxiety around their child’s sleep by helping them weed through the overwhelming information out there. I act as an educator but sometimes like a sleep therapist too!
What’s your favorite age to work with a why?
Erica: I adore working with parents with babies under 6mo so that they walk away educated, and empowered to be the parent they want to be. I like to think I fill in the missing pieces that aren’t found in books or Pediatric visits. I also love working with parents whose babies are 6-12mo as this is an easier time for babies to learn new skills.
Nicole: I love babies in the 6-8 month range. It’s a great time developmentally where babies are generally growing quite well and also do really well on a fixed schedule. Usually at this time, parents are able to see great changes fairly quickly.
What’s one thing you can admit to that is less than “perfect” in your own family sleep reality?
Erica: No one has a perfect sleep reality! My secret: we still room share and my child is almost 3. Why? I have only one bedroom, I am a single parent, and I like it! Any situation can receive the compassionate and expert sleep care it deserves. Every situation can find a solution.
Nicole: My children didn’t sleep through the night until they were 9 months old (each of them). We had health challenges and growth issues and I was never comfortable doing sleep training. So they were never sleep trained but I still paid tons of attention to sleep science and they are fantastic sleepers now!
If you could tell a new parent 3 things they need to know in order to cope during the first 6 months, what would they be?
- Learn your baby’s cues and create a comfortable sleep space for both of you
- Stay in the moment: know what’s important for each month of development and stay present with baby’s needs as they come.
- Know that infant sleep is complex; babies need touch, comfort, assurance, and a feeling of protection. They don’t need a schedule. When they get older (6mo+), they’ll be ready for “skills.”
- P.S. Ask for help, everytime you need it!
- Ask for help from other family members. It’s really hard to navigate the first few months by yourself.
- Not all babies sleep well initially and that’s ok and normal!
- There’s so much information out there…too much…so find a blog or book or website that resonates with you and stick with it. Too much information is overwhelming and creates anxiety.
Nicole Cannon, The Sleepy Mama, is a certified sleep consultant through the International Maternity and Parenting Institute and member of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants. Nicole recently completed a certification in Infant Mental Health through the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto and is finishing up a Maternal Mental Health certificate course from Postpartum Support international. Although she had previously done sleep work with families she nannied for, it wasn’t until Nicole had her first child in 2013 that she was able to experience how difficult sleep deprivation can be on both children and parents. Now a mom of three very different sleepers, Nicole looks at the entire picture and uses a variety of sleep techniques and methods with families to help everyone get more rest.
Erica Shane Erica Shane is AfterThird’s Community builder, working with the provider community on AfterThird. Erica is also a seasoned childbirth doula, CLC, and facilitator of virtual New Parent Support groups. She works full time now with her Gentle Sleep Coaching practice, catered to parents who are exploring their own parenting styles & sleep goals. Erica works with newborns to toddler age children. Erica is known to guide her clients to naturally refine their own self-care while working on their child’s sleep goals. The well-being of the entire family is always at the center of her work.
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