OWLET: How did you get into helping children sleep?
JILL: It all started with my sleepless first baby! As a psychotherapist, I thought I would have no problem getting him to sleep. But when my son was 8 months old, he had a sleepy sleep problem. I was the ultimate "wimpy mom" when it came to crying – I couldn't bear to hear him make a beep! At night, I hurried to my baby when he cried – and breastfed and changed paci over and over – and during the day I strolled him through Central Park for hours to make him nap. My husband and I were so tired that we literally hit the walls.
OWLET: I'm sure many moms and dads reading this will be able to relate! So what did you do?
JILL: I talked to anyone and everyone who would listen to my sleep problems, and those with older kids said I would stand back a little and let him solve it. It sounded like torture to me and to him. But then I hit a wall and got some support from a local parent center. I finally had a plan, and although I was terrified to follow it, to my surprise Jake took it pretty quickly and became a fantastic sleeper. When I moved from New York to LA a short time later, I realized that apparently every parent I talked to had a sleep problem. That's when the idea of a company agreeing to support parents through this process was born.
JEN: At the same time because Jill and I were good friends – we actually met as roommates in college! – I've been watching closely for all of Jill's sleep problems and we were constantly talking about how many parents needed help with this. So I created my own sleep practice in Chicago, and then a few years later I moved to LA and we joined. We feel incredibly lucky to be such good friends who also run a business together!
OWLET: So you actually created the area for child sleep consultations!
JILL: We did. When we started 20 years ago, there was just one other person on the East Coast – she started about the same time we did.
OWLET: It's fantastic. So how long have you been in the business now and how many families have you worked with over the years?
JEN: We have worked with children and families for 40 years together. During that time, we have helped more than 500,000 families help their children get the rest and good "sleep nutrition" they need.
OWLET: So what's the secret to your success in helping kids sleep?
JEN: When we started all these years ago, there was nothing like education for this field, because the field didn't exist yet! So what we did was take our background in child development and family systems as master level professionals, gathered all the research and science we could find on children and sleep and started experimenting with different methods to see what worked best. We then refined and refined these methods over the years to help families get through the learning process as quickly as possible and with the smallest possible tears. That was our goal when we started 20 years ago, and it is still our goal today!
JILL: We wanted to give families a very personal, personalized experience that took into account their particular child's development and sleep patterns – there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to children and sleep because each child is unique and different. And we really wanted to keep parents' hands on the emotional side of sleep learning. It is NOT easy to see your little one getting frustrated when learning new skills – even if that frustration is inevitable and temporary! – so we spend a lot of time helping parents find a method that feels best for their head and heart. We would never suggest that a parent simply closes the door and walks away leaving a child to "scream it out" alone.
OWLET: Most parents understandably have a lot of trouble with their baby crying. What do you say to parents who worry about it?
JILL: This is what we know for sure: A little crying – for a few minutes at a time, for a few nights, with the parents lovingly supporting their child – does not hurt that child at all. How do we know? Because after 20 years and after helping hundreds of thousands of families, we never once received an email or a phone call after their children learned to sleep and say: Uh-oh, my baby's attachment has changed or she's not OK. Not once! There are research studies that show the same thing, but our direct experience has been our best teacher on this.
JEN: Learning to sleep is like learning to ride a bike. For starters, you are wobbly and unsteady – and you may feel pretty insecure about it all. But after a little practice, you trample and steer and enjoy the ride! But helping your child sleep well is also a big part of a parent's responsibility to take care of your child. If your child was fussing in the car seat while you were driving, you wouldn't say, "Oh, I'm so sorry you don't like your car seat baby, why won't you sit in my lap instead?" The reason there is a safety issue at hand – and as every parent knows, you sometimes have to be willing to keep the projection of your child's (temporary!) Accident when you make a decision in their best interest. It's really the same thing with sleep. The child may not be happy with the changes you make first – but they learn quickly, and there is nothing like the peace of mind you get as a parent when your child sleeps well because you know you take good care of them.
JILL: We feel incredibly fortunate to be able to help families with something that is an absolute bedrock in a happy and healthy family life. I know first and foremost what it is like to be sleep deprived, and how much that can endure not only your child's well-being but your own – as a person and as a couple. And I also know first of all how it feels to turn that ship around and get a great sleep and feel more attached to each other than your child because you are rested and present during the day. There is very little in life that can be up and down on a Wednesday, and right side up again very shortly later. Helping children sleep better is one of the rare challenges of life that can solve very quickly with the right plan and support!
Why are you excited about Dream Lab?
JEN: It has always been a dream of us to be able to offer the same level of customization that we provide to our private customers but on a much broader scale. Owlet couldn't be a more perfect partner, because what we've done is marry the heart and the customization and solid information we provide to families with Owlet's incredible technology and platform.
JILL: It's extremely exciting to be able to deliver this level of help digitally! It's like having a sleep consultant in the palm of your hand. We are delighted that Dream Lab has such a tremendous ability to help parents with the specific sleep problems they have with their children – and to make it feel to parents as if we are there with you in your living room and coach you every step of the way.
Read more about Dream Lab here.