Meet Kerry O’Neill, a member of The Sleep Nanny consultant team;
Tell us a little bit about yourself;
Hi, I’m Kerry, I’m based in Hertfordshire, but the beauty of what we do is and how we do it is that I get to work with families all over the world. I have an 18 month old little boy who is happy, cheeky and a total whirlwind – he definitely keeps us on our toes!
Why do you want to help sleepless families?
I know how it feels to be sleep deprived – it is so exhausting and there doesn’t feel like there’s an end in sight, but I also know how amazing it is when you find a solution to the sleep challenges that your child has, and they, and you, start to sleep soundly and well. I want to pass this feeling on to other parents; it’s so hard to know what the best thing to do is when you’re exhausted, and there’s so much information out there to trawl through, so I want to be there for them to make the way clearer and offer a solution that’s right for them and their family.
Describe your approach to ‘sleep training’
I would say my approach is gentle, empathetic, non-judgemental and encouraging. I think it’s really important to listen to the exact situation each family are in and design a solution based on the individual challenges being faced – no child is the same, so no solution can be the same. What remains constant though, is that the approach I offer is gentle and isn’t overwhelming for the families; I break it down in to small steps, we review progress regularly and tweak the approach according to what’s happening.
Do you have any particular areas of specialism?
My particular area of interest is babies and children with a super alert temperament and personality. They are the children that take in everything around them, reach their developmental milestones early or on cue, and are very determined to get what they want. They also have a much harder time shutting down, and as Mum to a super alert little boy I know the challenges they face when it comes to sleep.
Identifying exactly what a child’s temperament is and establishing the right approach to sleep training for them is key, but I know that when you’re in a sleep deprived state this isn’t easy, so I want to help parents of these super alert children work out what will work best for their child and them as a family.
What are your top 3 sleep tips for parents?
1. Consistency is key, whatever approach you choose to use then go for it…if you stop half way through it will be confusing for your child but it will also teach them to hold out until you give in, which can cause more problems in the long run.
2. Sleep is a learned skill, some children just get it, other’s don’t and need more help, particularly those with a super alert temperament. Understanding this, and establishing the right way to help them learn how to fall asleep on their own is so important.
3. Naps really do help – getting the right amount of sleep in the day will contribute to better night time sleep, the old saying ‘sleep breeds sleep’ is true!
In your experience, what are the most common mistakes parents make?
I have definitely learnt from experience here, I’ve made so many mistakes, but hopefully I can pass on some tips to help other parents avoid them:
1. Sending confusing messages – for example, giving in when your child wants to come in to your bed if it’s past 5am, but not before, can be really confusing for a child – they won’t know why they sometimes can do it and sometimes can’t, so will hold out to get what they want. Consistency really is key.
2. Thinking your child doesn’t need much sleep – limiting naps, or putting your child to bed later may seem like it’ll help them sleep better at night time, but this only creates an over-tiredness issue, which can lead to trouble settling, early rising and night time waking.
3. Thinking that if it works for someone else’s child it’ll work for yours – all children are unique, and so have unique sleep needs depending on their temperament. Work out what’s best for them as an individual, and you as a family, and be consistent with your approach
What would you say to someone who is afraid that nothing can help them in their situation?
It will get better! I know how confusing all the conflicting advice out there is, and how hard it is to know what to do and how you question yourself when you’re exhausted, but take it from someone who’s been in your situation, there is a solution to the challenges you’re facing. I’m here to help you establish what the right thing to do for your child and your family is, and soon you’ll all be sleeping soundly and well.
What do you love about your job?
I love everything about being a Sleep Nanny, but for me the best thing about the job is getting to know each individual family, and then working with them to establish the best solution for them and their child – seeing the results and hearing how happy, and well rested, the parents are is so rewarding.
If you have your own sleep issues then click on the link below to book a free 15 minute call with Kerry.