“Yes, I wanted a child, and I was prepared for him. I had clothes, toiletries, a bath chair, a crib, bottles, toys, and a rocker waiting for him at home. It turns out I had concentrated only on the fluffy aspects of parenting a newborn. I was not prepared for the sleepless nights stacked in front of me… I had totally undermined the demands on my physical and emotional well-being. My exhaustion had reached its peak and somehow managed to plummet deep underground. My desperation forced me to hunt for a solution. That’s when India’s one and only baby sleep training consultant came to my rescue.” – Ms. Seth.
It’s very easy to spot a new parent – the droopy exhausted eyes, the forced smile, the marginally low display of patience, and the auto-parent mode that is enabled at all hours of the day.
The ‘new parent look’ is attributed to sleep challenges such as the baby howling at bedtime, frequent night wakings, multiple-night feeds, doing the guesswork on which physical need the baby is signaling every time he cries out, and this is on loop – every single day!
As the parent and child battle this stretch, parents build on their ‘sleep debt’, which is very hard to pay back. If this debt persists over time, it can have serious ill effects on the parent’s health.
Fortunately, parents’ sleep deprivation eases once their precious little one begins sleeping through the night (six to eight hours). According to the Nemours Foundation, this starts at around three months of age for most babies.
If your child is five months or older and you have not found respite from your sleep-deprived state, there is one woman here in India who can help you. She specializes in training babies to sleep independently through the night. And no, it has nothing to do with the cry-it-out method!
Meet Ajita Gopal Seethepalli – Child Sleep Consultant, a Child Eating Habits Consultant, and a Women’s Mental Health Coach. Just like any new mom, she entered a state of deep sleep deprivation with her firstborn, but unlike most parents, she refused to accept sleepless nights as a side effect of raising her kid. Over nine months that were filled with research and trial and error, she managed to successfully erase her dark circles and find a permanent solution to her son’s irregular sleeping habits.
She formulated the Sleep Right Program, which she uses to guide parents into sleep training their children to achieve the bliss of a good night’s sleep.
Kidskintha sat down with the sleep expert for a brief chat. Read on as she takes us through her tumultuous journey into sleep training and explains how simple hacks could reverse the curse of tired exhausting sleepless nights.
You can thank us after you have cleared your sleep debt!
Hello Ajita! So thrilled to have you here! A Child Sleep and Food Habits Consultant is a unique choice of profession. What made you enter this unchartered territory in India?
I entered this space as an exhausted mom who was desperately hunting for answers. As a baby, my son was a terrible sleeper. This made me knock on every door asking, “How do I make my son sleep uninterrupted for just a few hours ?” I remember asking family members, my gynecologist, general physician, friends with kids, pediatricians – really everybody! I will never forget the response a pediatrician gave me. He said, “Why do you think I had only one child!” But that was not a good enough answer for me. So I continued searching.
Back then, we didn’t have Whatsapp or a mommy group to guide me through my sleepless tunnel. There were times I felt doomed in my situation but I was not willing to endure this lifestyle for the next few years!
Those days my son and I traveled a lot overseas with my husband. These trips introduced me to the world of sleep trainers. It gave me solace to know that help was available. During these trips, I met with sleep experts and read up a lot on the topic of baby slee.
By the time my son was 9 months old, he was sleeping like a charm! I had finally managed to sleep train him.
The adventurous journey of sleep training my son turned sleep into a fascinating subject for me. So I decided to train myself to become a certified pediatric sleep consultant. It was never a conscious decision to walk down this path, but it has evolved into a beautiful space for me.
People in India are warming up to the idea of hiring a sleep consultant for their child’s sleep training needs. What, according to you, are the reasons people are looking for sleep consulting services?
In the past, parents were not really aware of how important sleep is for the overall development of their baby. Parents now understand that it isn’t normal for their child to not sleep well. Lack of sleep can have negative physical, mental and emotional repercussions for the child and parent. It isn’t just an inconvenience but a necessity for a healthy life!
Today’s parent is highly involved, aware, and will not settle for less. Motherhood experiences are being shared on various platforms across the globe. This has given sleep its due importance and priority.
Are there any signs that highlight the need to hire a baby sleep consultant?
You hire a sleep consultant for your baby or toddler when you know your baby is waking up for comfort too many times in the night or day, thereby impacting the quality of his sleep and perhaps yours too. Often times mothers may have the information but don’t know how to apply it. Your sleep consultant will guide you on how to get it right and fulfill your sleep goals.
Do you perceive a lot of skepticism in your field of work?
When I started my practice, the level of skepticism was high. Before booking a sleep training session, parents would often interview and interrogate me. After all, I was the first and only sleep consultant in the country and they were entrusting me with their most precious creation. So, building the trust took time.
There is so much content online on sleep training. Why doesn’t that help parents?
There is an ocean of information on sleep training online, but the missing link is how to tailor the various methods to suit your particular situation. When it comes to sleep training, we need to look at multiple factors – is the baby feeding enough in the day? Are the feeding habits well established? Is breastfeeding well established? How is the intake of solids? Is food given at the right time? Is there gassiness or indigestion? We also need to understand the personality of the child and the parent, and their parenting style. When you come to a trained sleep consultant, she creates a personalized sleep plan taking into account your unique situation. This is what makes the difference and translates into a successful sleep training journey!
Most sleep-deprived parents go through a series of trials and errors before coming to me, like maintaining sleep logs and implementing sleep strategies to sleep train their child. By the time parents come to me, they are often desperate to get out of their current situation and resolve their baby’s sleeping issues. I often become their only glimmer of hope.
What is the aim of hiring a sleep consultant for babies?
The idea is to help the child develop specific skills to get the rest he needs allowing him to grow and thrive as a baby. We need the baby to fall asleep by himself every time he wakes up at night. When you have a well-rested baby, the rest of the family also gets the time to recoup.
When is it the right time to hire a sleep consultant?
If you teach the right habits early on, then often there won’t be a need to correct negative sleep associations or sleep train the baby. And even if you do need to train them, the training is much easier and simpler. When parents have sleep trained their first child with me, they are better prepared the second time around and will often work with me in the last trimester of pregnancy or as soon as the second baby is born. So the right time to hire a sleep consultant would be as early as your last trimester. Earlier is always easier!
What is the ideal age to start the child on sleep training? Is there an upper limit for sleep training a child?
The ideal age to start sleep training a child is between five to ten months. It is the easiest time to sleep-train because the baby’s habits are not yet deeply rooted. As the child gets older, it could get more challenging but it is not impossible
If the child’s sleep habits are not corrected by the time they are six or seven years old, I feel it is next to impossible to work on it.
Tell us a little about your ‘New Baby’ program?
The New Baby Program caters to expecting moms and mothers who have recently given birth. Often times expecting mothers focus their energy on the fluffy aspect of having a baby, such as the clothes, the baby room, and so on (I did that too). This aspect is important but it leaves expecting mothers unprepared for the rollercoaster journey that lies ahead of them.
Through the New Baby Program, I provide an armor of information to the expecting or new mothers, like how to create healthy sleep habits from birth without rigorous sleep training, age-appropriate schedules from birth till six months of age, anticipating and preparing for the fourth month sleep regression, feeding patterns and habits, colic, babies sleeping/bed arrangement, swaddling, discussion on mum’s emotional well being including recognizing and understanding signs of postpartum depression and many more topics.
My aim is to mentally prepare parents and thereby allow them to make informed decisions. Prevention is better than cure.
How do mothers handle sleep training when they are suffering from postpartum depression?
This does happen! When mothers are dealing with PPD, it is good if the father or another family member helps with the sleep training. Often, mothers are silently struggling with postpartum depression, and the lack of sleep lands up amplifying the problem.
What do you wish parents knew about sleep training?
I wish parents knew that there is nothing barbaric about sleep training. Very often, when parents come to me, about six out of ten parents feel like they are doing something wrong.
Parents have absolutely no reason to feel guilty about sleep training their children. Also, there are so many sleep training methods that can be used. Parents shouldn’t associate sleep training with only the ‘Cry it out method.’ With sleep training, you are giving your child the opportunity to learn to sleep independently and adequately. Teaching the baby to sleep through the night has a positive impact on the child’s physical, mental and emotional health. By sleep training, you are empowering your kid with a skill that will aid his overall development.
What are the common sleep-related mistakes that parents make?
One of the most common mistakes parents make is keeping their kids awake for long hours in the evening. This almost always backfires since overtired children are unable to sleep well.
Early on, when parents set a routine for their child, they often don’t discard the unhealthy sleep associations like rocking, feeding, etc., and as the child grows it causes sleep-related troubles.
I always tell parents don’t introduce a habit that they can’t sustain in the long run. For example, it’s easy to rock a two-month-old baby. They weigh nothing, and they don’t move from their place. It is joyful to rock them to sleep. Now the same baby at ten months is heavier, and the five minutes rocking becomes 25 minutes. So getting your baby to sleep becomes very tiring. Be careful of the habit you are creating.
What advice would you give to first-time parents?
During your pregnancy, gather all the information you can about babies. Talk to moms who have just had babies. Find out what their challenges are, how they handled them, and get tips from them. Get informed! There is no book out there that is going to tell you everything! So read a few of them, talk to a lot of people, and use your mommy groups. Your baby is going to be uniquely different!
Early on if you teach the right sleeping habits, both baby and you will be well-rested. Those nine months of pregnancy is the time for moms to gear up for their new life ahead.
What happens when a parent enrolls in the Sleep Right program?
I first email the parent a detailed questionnaire that helps me understand the child’s sleep history and his daily routine along with the parent. On the day of the consultation that lasts roughly about 90 minutes, we discuss every minute detail like the child’s current habits and schedule, diagnosing problem areas and explaining how they are impacting the sleep, creating age-appropriate bedtime and activity schedules, checking the baby’s weight gain and activity levels, discussing baby’s solids intake and milk intake and many more aspects as well.
I then create a comprehensive and customized sleep plan for the child and explain it in detail to the parent during the consultation.
We then have two follow-up sessions where we discuss the progress of the sleep training, its effectiveness, and if we need to tweak the custom sleep plan to better suit the child and the training program. I am always available on WhatsApp and email, boosting the morale and confidence of determined parents.
Get details on the sleep training packages at www.KidsCenter.in
Write to Ajita on Ajita.Gopal@gmail.com