a mom and dad hold newborn during photo session

Gentle Sleep Coach Interview: Rest Easy Mama

Family during in living room with toddler playing on floor

Sleep and babies – one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood in my humble opinion. As a mom of 3 I know how different every child is. And that crazy realization that most babies aren’t born just realizing that sleep is a key factor to life. lol 🙂 Every sleep journey is so different. Lack of sleep can cause so much mental and physical exhaustion for all parties involved.

There are so many different approaches out there for how to get sleep figured out for everyone involved. Gentle and kind is the setting you want for sleep but just how do you get there? You can take a course, you can take read a bunch of books, you can spend a lot of trial and error OR you can bring a cheerleader and coach on your side that can help you.

With a book or a course you don’t have the personal input like you do with a coach. Today I’m excited to share my interview with OKC Gentle Sleep Coach Kaila Nickel of Rest Easy Mama.

a little girl looks at camera during photo session.

Interview with Gentle Sleep Coach: Kaila of Rest Easy Mama

What is your philosophy around sleep?

Solid sleep is essential to everyone thriving—physically, mentally, and emotionally. We see a greater incidence of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders when sleep is fragmented, and we know that restorative sleep is critical for our little ones as well, as their brains and capabilities grow rapidly in that first year.

And while we know that good sleep is critical, we also know how important it is to be responsive to our little ones—day and night. As they form their understanding of how the world works, knowing that their caregiver will always come when called is essential to forming secure attachment and trust. 

So when you have a baby or toddler who struggles to fall asleep, or who wakes often throughout the night, it feels like an impossible situation for parents. How do you get everyone sleeping again while supporting attachment and remaining responsive? 

The advice we get from well-meaning friends and family—and even our pediatricians—is that we must choose: cry-it-out and finally sleep again, or respond to our little one’s cries and be stuck in the land of exhaustion forever. 

But there is an alternative (!!!) that, unfortunately, not enough parents know about…

Gentle sleep coaching allows parents to equip their little one with sleep skills while remaining present and supporting them physically and emotionally.

Mother and daughter sit together at Lake Arcadia.

How Do You Define Gentle Sleep Coaching?

Gentle sleep coaching involves parents working with their little one to give them sleep skills while supporting them physically and emotionally through the transition. It encourages parents to follow their intuition, to pick up their baby if they’re upset, and to give them the tools they need to fall asleep independently without resorting to cry-it-out. 

I liken it to riding a bike. When we think about teaching our children to ride a bike, we know we first need to get them comfortable on the bike. We work on balance a bit, then we’re running alongside them, holding on as they get acclimated and gain confidence. Then—very slowly—we’re letting go. We’re doing a little less as they grow in skill and confidence—until they’re off doing it themselves. We’re not going to put our kid on a bike, give them a big shove, and say â€śgood luck!” We’re going to support them until they have the skills to do it themselves. It’s the same thing with gentle sleep coaching. We’re helping little ones gain skills and confidence with parental support until they have the ability to do it on their own. 

What Got You Started Wanting To Help Families In This Way?

I read all the books, took birth and breastfeeding and parenting classes, and generally, I felt pretty prepared going into parenthood. Sleep was fine for the first few months, but then the dreaded 4-month sleep progression hit, and all the wheels fell off. We were at a total loss and suffering. My daughter was waking every 45 minutes, and I was an absolute shell of a human. Something had to give, but I knew I couldn’t do cry-it-out. So we co-slept, and for us, that worked great… until it didn’t. Around 12 months, no one was sleeping well, and we were all really struggling. We were simply exhausted. 

Around this time, a close friend mentioned working with a gentle sleep coach, which I had never even heard of. I had no idea sleep coaches existed, and I didn’t think sleep training existed outside of cry-it-out. With MUCH trepidation, I reached out to a gentle sleep coach that a close family friend recommended, and it changed my life. 

We were able to get our daughter sleeping while remaining in tune with our intuition, and we went from exhausted and depleted to thriving and RESTED.

That’s when the seed was first planted—what a gift it would be to be able to help families in this way. 

As someone who loves helping others, loves babies, and believes strongly in gentle and responsive parenting—this profession felt like the absolute perfect fit. So after using gentle sleep coaching to get all of my little ones sleeping over the years—then working with friends and family to get their little ones sleeping—I decided to make it official last year and become a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach.

A mother nurses her baby.

Why Would Parents Not Want To Hire A Gentle Sleep Coach?

Sleep training is, unfortunately, synonymous with cry-it-out. Given that, the biggest concern is whether gentle sleep coaching is just cry-it-out in sheep’s clothing. (It’s not!) 

Most parents who reach out to me do so because they don’t want to do cry-it-out. Maybe they’re tear-averse, or cry-it-out doesn’t align with their parenting philosophy, or they tried cry-it-out and it didn’t work. Whatever the reason, they’re looking for something beyond the traditional advice out there. They’re looking for something that feels right to them, and they’re not sure it even exists. 

What Training Did You Take?

This is such a great question. Unfortunately, the sleep coaching field is unregulated, so anyone can call themselves a sleep coach—or even a gentle sleep coach. (Yikes!) Given this, I always encourage parents to ask about training. 

I was trained directly by Kim West, also known as The Sleep Lady, who is credited with creating the gentle alternative to cry-it-out/Feber. She has been a gentle sleep coach for over 20 years, and under her supervision, I completed over 90 hours of training and instruction—as well as clinical supervision and testing—in order to become a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach.

The Gentle Sleep Coach Training and Certification program I completed is the most extensive training program available for sleep coaches. 

I am also trained in TBRI, an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children, including those in foster care.

Questions Parents Should Ask A Sleep Coach:

Are you certified? How much training did you receive? Who did you learn from—and how much experience does that person have—is it someone who just started practicing themselves or a true expert in the field? Did you have any clinical supervision as part of your training?)

What Does It Look Like For Families To Work With You?

My work with families is customized to their needs. Typically, I work with families for two weeks—starting with an in-depth client questionnaire and a 2-hour Zoom consultationand with regular follow up calls to discuss progress and troubleshoot or course correctas needed. For families that are working to change many sleep associations or for parents who are particularly tear averse, I work with them over the course of a month, moving even more gradually with changes.

All of my work with families is virtual, so I have clients all over the OKC metro as well as across the country.  

​What Age Do You Recommend For Gentle Sleep Coaching?

I don’t recommend any sleep coaching before six months. I will work with parents to lay a solid sleep foundation or make very subtle sleep shifts (with FULL parent involvement and support) before six months, but gentle sleep coaching shouldn’t begin before six months at the earliest. And the reason for this is that babies really don’t have the skills to self-soothe before that. We never want to ask our little ones to do more than what they are developmentally capable of, so that’s why I encourage parents to wait until six months before starting any sleep coaching.

Mom poses at Myriad Gardens in OKC maternity photos.

Some of the kind words that clients have left about their experience with Kalia…..

“It cannot be overstated how much Kaila helped me and my baby get the sleep and gentle structure we needed. I thought I was blessed with an easy little sleeper since my son fell asleep and slept through the night from 3 months on. But around 11 months he would not sleep in his crib, and the only way for us to get any sleep was to co-sleep. I loved the closeness, but it wasn’t realistic in the long-run for us. What also wasn’t realistic was crying it out, which seemed to be the method that was being recommended to me left and right as the best or easiest way to fix this problem. But I knew in my heart that wasn’t right for me or my son and that there had to be another way that was more aligned with how I wanted to parent. Kaila was incredibly patient, kind, respectful, and so knowledgeable with helping come up with a sleep plan for me and my son. Most importantly, I never felt alone in the process, and I never felt like I had to compromise in any way when it came to the care I wanted to provide for my son. I cannot recommend her enough!” -Betsy D.

Kaila is THE BEST. We honestly don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t found her. Our daughter is HIGHLY sensitive, and because of that, no other form of sleep training worked for her. We had been tirelessly working on our daughter’s sleep for months, which felt like an eternity because nothing was working. We were so lost and desperate for sleep by the time we started working with Kaila. We truly were at our wit’s end. With her gentle, consistent guidance, Kaila helped us get to a place we weren’t sure we would ever reach when we first started. You can tell how much Kaila cares about her clients because she treats you like a friend and deeply cares about your family’s wellbeing. We feel so fortunate to have worked with Kaila and HIGHLY recommend her to anyone!” -Betsy F.

“We found Rest Easy Mama through the recommendation of a friend. We were desperate for a change in our sleep situation. Ever since the 4-month sleep regression with our first daughter, we struggled through cosleeping, and tried some form of sleep training, among other things. By the time I was through my first trimester with my second baby, my then 14-month-old completely regressed to wanting to sleep on top of me every night. Trying to encourage her own sleeping space ended up in nothing but escalated scream crying and eventually led to her throwing up. But with cosleeping she was still restless. Nothing was working. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. I broke down in tears on my discovery call with Kaila and I decided to go all in. Within a month of working with Kaila, we went from reintroducing her crib and room with lots of protesting and constant wakings to my daughter willingly ready to lay down in her crib for bed after lights out and sleeping almost 12 hours every night. Another month after continuing all we learned, my daughter began saying bye to me or my husband as we walk out of her room saying goodnight. It’s the most hilarious thing and a complete 180 of our situation just months before that. I can’t recommend Kaila enough and I’m looking forward to working with her to build those foundational sleep skills with our second girl when it’s time. Kaila is such a joy, and every mom needs her coaching services in their life!! Thank you so much Kaila!!” -Veronica H.

Woman in a green shirt.

Reach out and connect with Kaila at her links below

Website: www.resteasymama.com

Instagram: @rest.easy.mama

Hey there! Thanks for reading this post! I’m Charis a lifestyle newborn photographer serving the Oklahoma City area. Lifestyle sessions focus on the connection, joy and love that is abundant in your family. With over 5 years of experience in serving families, Charis loves helping families to feel relax and have fun at their sessions. She is a member of PPA and National Association of Child Photographers.

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