Every few months or so, a new study emerges claiming that babies make it hard for parents to get quality shut-eye. It’s a somewhat obvious observation, but one that’s been backed up time and time again, with the latest research positing that new parents won’t sleep well for the first six years of their child’s life.
While a lot of the reporting on this current study (and its predecessors) has focused mostly on the bleak results they yield, I thought it would be more interesting to chat with someone who’s actively working to fix the issue.
Enter Natalie Nevares, mom, baby sleep trainer extraordinaire, and founder of Mommywise, a company dedicated to children’s sleep… or, rather, lack there of.
Though Nevares is based in New York City, she’s trained consultants all over the United States in her tried-and-true method of transforming fussy babies into full on slumber champs. To learn more about her business (and the sleep training tricks she’s picked up along the way), I caught up with Nevares for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
What inspired you to start Mommywise?
I had my first child in 2004 after experiencing infertility. I went through the usual first-time mother issues with breastfeeding, birth trauma, and sleep deprivation. I felt alone with my struggles, and alone with a baby I didn’t know how to care for.
I registered the Mommywise domain name and started writing a blog about my experience as a mother, and later, a mother who worked full-time. I wanted to create more awareness of how hard things are. I thought that if parents weren’t so blindsided, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard.
How did you become interested in children’s sleep?
I had postpartum depression that manifested as insomnia, and slept eight hours a week for two years. Once I was treated, I started giving lectures about new motherhood. I’d read a lot of sleep-training books while I was pregnant, and everyone knew my babies were sleep trained early. When parents began asking for help, I showed up and volunteered. As demand grew, it evolved into a business.
So Mommywise was born.
The thing people needed most was in-home help to get their babies to sleep. I started staying with families to help with sleep training. I decided there was no way to see what was happening with the family and baby if I wasn’t there.
You train your consultants to stay with families?
Yes. We usually stay for 72 hours. When parents are sleep-deprived, they can’t see what might impact their baby’s sleep. We watch the baby and let them tell us what they need. We empower babies to sleep independently, and empower parents to go into bedtime without fear.
How do you do that? I know some parents who think their babies will never be good sleepers.
I speak with our clients personally, and from there I know what the challenges will be depending on the baby’s age. If a baby is used to falling asleep on a human body or being bounced, that’s what they’ll look for every time they wake up. We take away associations that aren’t helpful for a baby and substitute good sleep hygiene.
You can’t help a baby crawl, and it’s the same with sleep. Modern parenting culture urges us to attend to a baby’s every need, but babies don’t need help to sleep. They need more space and fewer crutches— pacifiers, rocking, bouncing, nursing.
Do most babies have similar sleep issues?
Typically, yes. Maybe they’re trying to nap in a room without drapes, or the baby is being kept up too late. We make sure the baby isn’t full of adrenaline, which happens when they’re overtired. Parents often think their baby isn’t tired at bedtime because they seem hyper-alert, but it’s really adrenaline.
Does your treatment require “crying it out?”
We minimize tears as much as possible. Crying can represent an adjustment period for the baby. The adjustment isn’t harmful or bad, it’s just unfamiliar. We observe body language and listen to the baby’s voice to assess if there’s a need that requires a response. We never leave babies to cry for hours, and always respond to genuine needs.