Meet my mom friend: Allison Egidi, pediatric sleep consultant
Can you share a little bit about yourself and how you became a sleep consultant? My need for sleep, and my struggle to figure out how to get it for my whole family, resulted in my obsession with it.
I like to think of myself as someone who, for the most part, has been able to accomplish anything I set my mind to. That is until my first daughter Addison was born. As the months went on, sleep went from minimal to virtually non-existent. Everyone said it would get better…at four months, at six months, at twelve months…eventually?
And then my second daughter Ainsley arrived and I reached my breaking point… seriously, it was the lowest I’ve ever felt in my life. I was so tired, and the extreme exhaustion was bringing out all sorts of anxiety. It was awful. We decided to hire a sleep coach to help.
That was the turning point…. After implementing the sleep plan we got from the consultant, the entire house was sleeping. My nearly two years of sleep deprivation was over and my obsession with sleep began! Once I was able to think straight, I started reading all the books I could get my hands on and digging into sleep research. I earned my pediatric sleep consultant certification from the Family Sleep Institute and created my sleep coaching business so I could help parents avoid the unnecessary exhaustion, stress, and anxiety that I experienced for nearly two years.
We’re all about self-care here at Love, Mishka ;) So I have to ask, can toddlers be taught to put themselves to sleep? Or is it more creating the right environment for them to sleep faster and better? Environment is important, but building your kiddo's confidence around sleep is the most critical piece. I've been joking that 2019 is my year of the three-year-old because I've worked with more parents of three-year-olds than any other age group. The most important thing parents need to know is that it's never too late to teach your child healthy sleep habits. I’ve helped many parents teach their kids to confidently put themselves to sleep and back to sleep. One great thing about the preschool age group is that you can communicate the entire plan with them.
What are some easy ways parents can empower their toddlers with healthy sleep habits? The two biggest missteps we make with our toddlers and preschoolers is around bedtime and consistency. If you're little one is struggling with sleeping soundly for 11-12 hours at night, the first thing to do is to make sure bedtime is no later than 7pm. The second step is having a plan for how you'll handle the bedtime resistance or any night wakings and then commit to being consistent. Follow through and consistency is everything. This age group thrives with structure and limits. It's the structure, limits, and consistency that builds confidence and reduces anxiety around sleep.
I remember when I first spoke to you, I was unsure if Mishka was simply going through a phase I should ride out, or if we needed actual intervention. And you told me as long as the sleeplessness was disruptive to our family, we could make changes. What type of sleep issues can you help address? I help families struggling with a wide variety of sleep challenges. I help families who: - Have a child struggling to sleep through the night or resisting sleeping in the crib - Are dealing with bedtime battles and/or early wakings - Are ready to transition from co-sleeping - Are struggling with naps, nap schedules, or are going through a challenging nap transition - Are struggling with the crib to bed transition or have a child who won’t stay in their bed
What kind of training method do you recommend? Do you have your own method? There are a lot of options out there. Each family I work with is unique and their needs and desired outcomes vary. I begin by getting an understanding of the child’s current sleep challenges, the child’s personality, and the parent’s parenting style. Based on that information, and the child’s age, I walk the parents through the methods I think will be most effective, and then I work with the parents as they choose the best method for their family.
I remember you told us not to play music while Mishka slept, and recommended we stick to white noise, as it’s not habit-forming. Any other major no-nos for healthy sleep? A huge no-no for toddlers and preschoolers is ever looking under the bed to confirm there are no monsters or using "monster spray." Those two things only fuel idea that monsters “exist.” Acknowledge their worries, but quickly and calmly remind them that there is no such thing as monsters and they never need to worry because you're always nearby.
There are def moments earlier on, when I would rock Mishka or let her fall asleep next to me. Then I would feel guilty for indulging her or creating bad habits. In your opinion, is a certain level of “bending the rules” OK or should parents stand their ground completely? I'm a total sucker for bringing a sick child into my bed. I break every rule under the sun if I have any anxiety about their health. One of my kiddos always tries to take a mile when I give an inch, so with her, I always bend the rules knowing we'll need a little reboot to get things back in order. You know your kids and how flexible you can be while still keeping things on track. If things start to go sideways, just have a plan to correct course sooner rather than later so you don't create habits you were trying to avoid.
I know you have a sleep workshop coming up. Please share deets! My upcoming workshop on November 20 is around ending bedtime resistance. It's ideal for moms with two-and-a-half to five-year-olds. I'm also offering a unique opportunity for 35 moms to join me while I create a new online preschool sleep course and coaching program. To register for the workshop, click here.