Today's spotlight belongs to Tracy Spackman, a Gentle Sleep Coach of Quiet Nights Sleep Coaching Services.
Tracy has always been interested in family science, so she decided not only to study the subject but to take action and she has a full house with 5 little ones. When her youngest was a year away from going to kindergarten, she considered what she would do with herself with all 5 of her children at school. She was recruited to participate in the Kim West Sleep Coach training program by the Child Sleep Institute. She took the training program, became certified and have loved helping families ever since. She mostly talks to parents while her children are at school or after they go to bed but Tracy asserts that being a mom is still her #1 job. Take a look at a YouTube video of her talking about how she got into sleep coaching here.
As a gentle sleep consultant, she teaches parents how to help their child learn sleep skills at developmentally appropriate ages using gentle methods that support positive infant mental health and development. There are alternatives to the often suggested method of "cry it out" and since a lot of parents don't want to do that, Tracy teaches gentle and responsive methods that are evidence-based and completely successful without doing a non-responsive "cry it out" method.
So what separates her from other sleeping instructors? For one, she trains parents, not babies. She helps parents be the kind of parents that they want to be, to best support their baby, giving them the highest potential in emotional and physical development. She definitely will not suggest that you leave your baby to cry in their room to figure it out by themselves. There are many factors to successful sleep and Tracy looks at the whole picture and helps the parents learn to control as many of the sleep variables as possible. Once they have done that, the rest is up to the baby's temperament and she helps the parents figure out how to best respond to their child to help them go through a natural sleep learning process. She specializes in 'Alert' temperament Children.
As a gentle sleep consultant, she feels like she has so many amazing achievements but if she were to choose, her greatest would be her reputation as shown in the spontaneous testimonials that show up in social media groups. Her reputation has advanced and spread without her doing much more than helping all the moms who contact her. Her success rate is 97% so word gets around. Once she had a mom of 6 kids not sleeping. You can read about her in the early success stories on Tracy's website.
There are many factors that go into good sleep and therefore lots of ways to misjudge parenting scenarios. One thing is trying to focus on sleep training too young. Waiting until 6 months or later is a good idea, and she focuses on coping measures until at least 18 weeks. Nursing, holding, rocking and co-sleeping, are all fantastic coping strategies that help you get through the first six months. That’s what these crutches and sleep associations are for.
Another parenting misjudgment is trying to take all the feedings out of the night time. Many babies need to eat at night, especially young babies so this strategy can cause more harm than good. Feed your baby at night if they are hungry and focus on increasing daytime feedings. That can help. Reducing day feedings or increasing the time between day feedings can actually cause your baby to be more hungry in the night, the opposite of what you were intending.
Another parenting misjudgment is keeping your baby up late, thinking they will get super tired and then crash into sleep and sleep longer. This usually has the opposite effect. Getting good day sleep and getting to bed on time make night sleep easier by reducing the amount of extra cortisol (stress hormone) that the body needs to produce in response to over-tired times.
Tracy tries to take an Infant Development course each year for continuing education and find new ways to get appropriate information to parents. Last month she completed a course from Warwick university in the UK on “minding the baby’s mind” and she started an Instagram account offering tips to parents. Last year she took an intensive course from Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, Canada on infant mental health programs and started the hugely popular Facebook Group “Sleep Sisters Get Quiet Nights”.
She tries to find ways to offer her skills in the community, including free talks to mom's groups like the breastfeeding support groups at her local hospitals.
We asked Tracy to share her best tip for dealing with kids sleeping issues and here it is:
"My best tip is to hire a gentle sleep consultant if you are sleep deprived before you drive through your garage door without opening it. It's cheaper.
- Ensure they are getting enough food before cutting out night feedings. Young babies need night feeds. Increasing day feeds often decrease night feed needs.
- Make sure your baby is getting enough day sleep when you are working on night sleep. More day sleep=More night sleep
- Follow the tired signs. Look for early tired signs, what happens before yawning and eye rubbing? Use any tricks up your sleeve to get good day sleep. It’s OK to be doing different methods of support for nights and naps. Night sleep and Day sleep are controlled by different parts of the brain.
- Catch the right bedtime, it may be earlier than you think. (Look for the tired signs.)
- Putting your child to bed asleep or almost asleep (over 6 months old) deprive them of the chance to practice essential skills of relaxing and falling asleep independently. This practice helps with getting back to sleep when the child wakes between sleep cycles (which is perfectly normal).
- White noise and a totally dark room help immensely.
I have a YouTube video of me talking about these tips and many more from a hospital presentation I did a little while ago."
As a sleep consultant, Tracy works with families all over the world. She offers free 15 min sleep evaluations so you know who she is before you decide to hire her. You can Skype, phone, text, email, or send a Facebook message to her. She keeps her suggestions to evidence based methods and she has a lot of experience making mistakes on her own kids to understand just where sleep deprived families are coming from. She wishes she had known all the sleep knowledge she has now when her children were smaller. She has a broad perspective as a result. She's not just a mom who is telling others what worked for her but rather she took intensive training to have the right answers and she will personalize a sleep plan for you so you don’t have to read and study everything she did to get answers that are right for your family. She doesn't do cookie cutter plans. She works with you to find personalized solutions.
Before closing this interview, Tracy leaves us with this message: "There is a lot of bad advice out there and I want mom’s to feel confident and empowered. If you are trying to be a good parent, then good enough is enough, and your children will grow up and eventually sleep… probably. But with sleep coaching help, it gets a lot easier a lot sooner."