So your child refuses to sleep … Dominique is offering help
If your child isn’t sleeping, Dominique Robinson says she can help.
The certified sleep therapist offers customised, virtual instruction for parents of newborns, toddlers and older children who haven't yet learnt what night-time is for through her business, Nurtured Yawns.
"It's not too far off from my official trade if you will," said Ms Robinson, a social worker who quit her job with Child Protective Services in April of 2020 to spend more time with her two children and develop her company.
"Nurturing a family has always been in my core. And then my oldest really opened me up to what motherhood is …. particularly the lack of support that occurs after baby is born, when you're kind of expected to just figure things out.
"My faith in God is my core reason for nurturing. He has created us so intricately and I fully believe in helping to ensure we steward our little ones and our own bodies well, especially in the form of sleep."
She was already offering her services as a post-partum doula, a person who provides "information and support on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents". Sleep consulting seemed a natural fit.
"I did sleep training myself for my own kids but then decided to become officially certified.
"It was a bit of a bridge. I definitely like to think of parenthood as 'servant-hood', if you will, because we really do jump into that servant role in a loving and endearing way as parents. We put our children before us."
Nurtured Yawns had its official launch in October. Clients who sign up for a two-week package receive a personalised sleep plan, unlimited text message and e-mail support between the hours of 9am and 9pm and two 30-minute phone consultations.
"Maybe one day your kid is napping great and the next day [is not]. Likewise, some nights might seem better than others. So I really walk them through that sleep training process, not just implementing the methods but also figuring out how to adapt on those days when your kid is not necessarily going according to the book.
"Throughout that two-week span that I work with them. I'm very accessible in terms of, let's troubleshoot this, and helping them to get on track. I work with children as young as three months all the way up to five years currently. It's customised for each family according to their preferences, and I lay out guidance for different methods that they can implement as well as what it will look like in the night-time, what it will look like in the daytime."
With infants, the most important thing is to establish a routine that they know to follow when they are older.
"For the most part children will go with what they're used to," Ms Robinson said. "So if they're used to being able to do certain things or thinking that they need certain things to fall asleep, then that’s the pattern that you will continue to see.
"Sleep training really does bring some of that structure. It is much like telling your child not to touch a stove or not to run around with a knife; it's also implementing those boundaries appropriately so that your child can be safe and get the sleep that they need."
If you think you are doing everything right and your infant is still refusing to sleep, consider the tips below by sleep consultant Dominique Robinson.
Knowing when sleep is necessary
“[It is often] underestimated how important daytime sleep is to the night-time sleep process. Naps are crucial and if parents are not properly reading those sleep cues that are there and giving their children, longer wake windows than the child can handle, then the child will start to become overtired and their body is in overdrive just trying to stay awake. They are trying to figure out how to cope.”
Do wake a sleeping baby
“The old saying never wake a sleeping baby is not in fact true. Particularly as they reach five months and up you don't want them to be napping for more than two hours at a time because you don't want them to start to get day and night confusion.”
When you feed pumped milk is important
“Milk that's produced in the evening – and especially in the night – has melatonin in it which, of course, would help a baby to sleep at night. Milk that's produced in the morning and during the day has cortisol to help wake babies. So if you're pumping first thing in the morning and if you then give it to dad for a night-time feed, that might also be playing a factor into why baby is seeming pretty awake. Vice versa, if they're seeming extremely drowsy during the day, because you're feeding what you have pumped during the night, that can also that can also be a factor.”
While sleep is essential for children's growth and development rest is also "crucial" for parents, she added.
"Sleep affects our mood; sleep affects our thinking and processing. Even with driving, research has shown that it's worse to drive when you're overtired than it is to drive drunk.
"So if we have these parents that are trying to be high-functioning while not getting sleep at night, it makes it very difficult for them to then turn around and be the best that they can be in their endeavours outside of the home as well. That’s why a sleep consultant is such a great investment for a family because it really does go beyond that two weeks of support."
Clients have said how grateful they are to once again be able to enjoy time with their partner instead of having to "tag team who is going to go lay with their child or rock the child" until they fall asleep.
"It is being able to have that structure and to also be able to have a bit of a break," Ms Robinson said.
She stressed that consistency is the key to success.
"If one day you're enforcing a bit of structure around bedtime and the next day it's oh well, you can go to sleep whatever time you want to, that’s not helping the child."
The bedtime routine should ideally start 30 minutes before the child should be in bed. Parents then have the time to bathe or massage their child, read or sing a lullaby before "giving them that opportunity to fall asleep on their own".
"[That] is of course where the independent sleep skills or the sleep training comes in," Ms Robinson said. "But just having that bedtime routine that is repeated in the same order every evening is a great starting place.
"With newborns, of course you can't put them on a schedule but you still can do a bedtime routine that looks very similar to that. So bedtime routine is key and after that consistent implementation of whatever method you choose just so that you're helping to set that boundary and share that expectation."
For older children, communicating about the process can make a big difference.
"Talk to them throughout the day about what's going to happen in the evening time and set those boundaries."
For more information www.nurturedyawns.com. Follow @nurturedyawns on Instagram and Facebook