All About Bedtime With Jessica Sawicki Of Luli Sleep

Parenting workshops are back! We’ve tapped early childhood development expert Evelyn Mendal of Hatch + Bloom to lead a five-part series on the issues most affecting caregivers and their children (think: sleep, nutrition, behavior, discipline and more).

Because the number one parenting complaint we hear about is related to sleep, or lack thereof, we've asked Jessica Sawicki of Luli Sleep to join Evelyn for a special session on Wednesday, November 3rd. In case you miss this talk, or don’t live in Miami (although you can Zoom!), here’s some valuable advice from Jessica, who is a certified sleep consultant and mother of four. We discussed all things snooze-worthy, from establishing bedtime routines to approaching the crucial crib-to-bed transition. (Hint: There’s no rush!)

How did Luli Sleep start?

Eight years ago, I became a certified sleep consultant using the Gentle Sleep Coach Program, and I have successfully worked with many children ages zero to six. This summer, I increased my certification to work with kids up to age 10. I also have four kids myself, so I know what it’s like to be a parent. I am based in Miami, but I help families all over the world on a whole host of issues around sleep. There are so many layers to this, from nursing and medical conditions to behavioral issues and, most recently, Covid-19.

How has the pandemic changed or disrupted sleep behaviors?

One, moms are nursing longer. Two, parents are home more, and they have less help than before. They need their child to nap while they are on a Zoom call. Parents are so tired, and they will do anything they can to go back to sleep, but short-term solutions don’t always work. What may seem like a quick fix, such as having the child sleep in bed with you, can turn into a long-term problem.

What is your method? Do you physically teach children how to sleep?

No, it’s more one-on-one coaching with the parents based on what the issues are and their goals. They are working on it with their child and I’m coaching and guiding the parents. Exhausted parents often ask me to come over their house and do the sleep training for them. But that’s not useful for the family. Yes, I could do a weekend, but what happens on Monday when I leave? The parents need to know what to do. I work behind the scenes. With the older kids, I’ll do a FaceTime call. They call me the “Sleep Nanny.” I also have experience with twins and triplets.

The crib-to-bed transition is pivotal. What are the biggest pitfalls here?

That’s a big one. In this transition, the sleep can fall apart. The crib is an enclosed safe space. In the bed, they are allowed to come out. The question is when is the right age and stage to make this transition so it doesn’t cause sleep regressions when they do move to a bed? There’s no hurry. If a four-year-old is sleeping in their crib with no issues that is fine. Sleeping in a crib is not an indication of their IQ level. When I had my first child, I was not in this industry. I moved him into a bed at 19 months. When my second son was 21 months old, he started to jump out of the crib—at nap time, nighttime and in the early morning hours. We were exhausted and it’s what led me to become a sleep consultant. My next one slept in the in crib until age four, and my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter is still in the crib. Why rock the boat and move her out if she’s fine?

What are best practices for bedtime?

Keep to a schedule and rhythm. Set up a routine and do the same thing every night. For example, dinner time, bath time, wind down time, brushing teeth time and book time. Kids thrive on routine and predictability. I suggest a visual chart too so they can see what is next. Make it fun. It’s the end of the day and everyone is rushing. Kids feel our anxiety and exhaustion, so don’t go into bedtime in a stressed manner.

What types of problems do older kids have with sleep?

Anxiety and bed sharing. They need a parent in their room to fall asleep. The mom will come and sleep with them for five minutes or the child wakes up and comes into bed. They are scared of the dark or have nightmares. A second child or third child changes the family dynamic, too. I can assist with all of this.

These parenting workshops are so informative. How can caregivers find you after?

I love working with Evelyn and State of Kid. I’ll always come back! I have a  website with many resources, including my favorite swaddles and white noise machines. Parents can also listen to my podcast, which is called Sleepy Qs, where I answer common sleep-related questions such as how to maintain your child’s sleeping habits while traveling.

To join our workshops, including the upcoming session with Jessica, click HERE. For those who are not local to Miami, you can join virtually.