Kim West is a mother of two teenage girls and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 20 years.
Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, Kim West has helped tens of thousands of tired parents all over the world over the last 17 years get a good night’s sleep without letting their children cry it out alone.
West has appeared on Dr. Phil, the Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC’s Bringing Home Baby, and CNN and has been written about in a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Baby Talk, Parenting, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, The Telegraph, The Irish Independent, and the Washington Post.
West is the author of three books: “Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy,” the “Good Night, Sleep Tight Workbook,” and “52 Sleep Secrets for Babies.”
Bundoo: What’s the most common issue you hear from parents?
Kim West: I hear, “Help! I’m desperate! My baby wakes up 10 times a night and I can’t function!” I find that parents are all told it’s going to be tough in the beginning, so everybody has tolerance for the first few months. But then they get to 6, 9, 12 months, and they’re like, “Why isn’t this getting easier?” That’s when parents come to see me.
So is that right about the age you start to recommend sleep training or other interventions?
Most of the research doesn’t support sleep training before about 4 months of age. From 4-6 months, parents can do gentle sleep training. After that, they can begin sleep training.
Is sleep training different than “cry it out”?
Most parents have been told by their pediatricians to let their kids “cry it out.” But a lot of parents can’t do it. They feel guilty, or they can’t be consistent and so actually make it worse. It only makes sense to cry it out if it’s a true “cry it out.” The most important thing is to be consistent.
So if letting their kids cry it out is so hard, what type of sleep training do you recommend?
The big argument in the sleep community is the “co-sleeping” camp versus the “crying it out” camp. They’re at war with each other, and I think it’s a shame. I tend to like the middle road. Why do we have to have a “camp”? I’ve developed something I call “The Sleep Lady Shuffle.” Everyone will tell you to put your baby into the crib drowsy but awake. That’s a fundamental rule for all sleep methods. But what happens after that? My method could be called “fading.” You stay with your baby next to the crib and offer physical and verbal reassurance until they’re asleep. You gradually reduce your role. I think of it as passing the baton. It’s great for parents who are tear-sensitive. I’m also a proponent of picking your baby up to calm them down. One of the rules of the “Shuffle” is you control the touch.
Safety is the big issue with co-sleeping. If parents are doing it anyway, what are some methods they can use to make it safer?
I think a happy medium is to get a co-sleeper like a three-sided crib that attaches to the bed. The mom can still breastfeed and even touch the baby. Another idea if the crib is in another room is to put a mattress on the ground with just a sheet. If a parent falls asleep with their baby, at least it’s not on a pillow-top mattress with sheets and pillows. The priority is family well-being. It’s not one-sized-fits-all. I always try to meet the family where they’re at.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019
I found that all of my kids needed to fuss/cry lightly for a few minutes before settling down at night and for naps. I did find that night time sleep fell into place faster than naps.
I did the cry it out method with both of my girls starting at about 4 months old and it worked well for us. It was hard at times to listen to them cry but I never let them cry for long periods of time, until they were closer to one years old and that is when we were getting rid of the pacifier. It really didn’t take long for them to start falling asleep on their own though so that method only lasted a couple of weeks or so.