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Q&A With Dream Lab Sleep Experts Jill & Jen

June 21, 2021

OWLET: How did you get into the field of helping babies sleep?

JILL: It all started with my sleepless first baby! As a psychotherapist, I thought I’d have no problem getting him to sleep. But by the time my son was 8 months old, he had a doozy of a sleep problem. I was the ultimate “wimpy mommy” when it came to crying - I couldn’t stand to hear him make one peep! At night, I would rush to my baby whenever he cried - nursing and replacing the paci over and over - and during the day,, I would stroll him through Central Park for hours to get him to nap. My husband and I were so tired we were literally bumping into walls.

OWLET: I’m sure lots of moms and dads reading this will be able to relate! So what did you do?

JILL: I talked to everyone and anyone who would listen about my sleep problem, and those with older kids told me to stand back a bit and let him work it out. That sounded like torture for me and for him. But then I hit a wall, and got some support from a local parenting center. I finally had a plan, and though I was terrified to follow it, to my amazement Jake took to it quite quickly and became an amazing sleeper. When I moved from New York to LA a short while later, I realized that seemingly every parent I was talking to had a sleep problem. That’s when the idea for a business entered around supporting parents through this process was born.

JEN: Meanwhile, because Jill and I were good friends - we actually met as college roommates! - I’d been closely following all of Jill’s sleep problems, and we talked all the time 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 forces. We feel incredibly lucky to be such good friends who also get to run a business together!

OWLET: So you actually created the field of pediatric sleep consultations!

JILL: We did. When we started 20 years ago, there was only one other person on the east coast - she started right around the same time we did.

OWLET: That’s amazing. So how long have you been in business now, and how many families have you worked with over the years?

JEN: We’ve been working with kids and families for 40 years combined. In that time, we’ve helped more than 500,000 families to help their kids the rest and good “sleep nutrition” they need.

OWLET: So what’s the secret to your success in being able to help kids to sleep?

JEN: When we started out all those years ago, there was no such thing as training 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 masters-level professionals, gathered every bit of research and science we could find on children and sleep and started experimenting with different methods to see what worked best. Then we refined and honed those methods over the years to help families get through the learning process as quickly as possible and with the fewest possible tears. That was our goal when we started 20 years ago, and it’s still our goal today!

JILL: We wanted to give families a very personalized, customized experience that took into consideration their particular baby’s development and sleep patterns - there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to kids and sleep because every child is unique and different. And we wanted to really hold parents’ hands on the emotional side of sleep learning. It is NOT easy to see your little one become frustrated while 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 to their head AND their heart. We would never suggest that a parent simply shut the door and walk away, leaving a baby to “cry it out” alone.

OWLET: Most parents understandably have a very hard time with their baby crying. What do you say to parents who worry about that?

JILL: Well, here’s what we know for sure: A little bit of crying - for a few minutes at a time, for a few nights, with the parents lovingly supporting their baby - does not harm that baby whatsoever. How do we know? Because after 20 years and having helped hundreds of thousands of families, we’ve never once gotten an email or a phone call after their child learned how to sleep saying, Uh-oh, my baby’s attachment 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 one.

JEN: Learning how to sleep is like learning how to ride a bicycle. At first, you’re wobbly and unsteady - and you might feel pretty uncertain about the whole thing. But after a little practice, you’re pedaling and steering and enjoying the ride! But helping your child sleep well is also a big part of a parent's responsibility to take care of your baby. If your baby fussed 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 don’t you come sit on my lap instead?" Reason being, there’s a safety issue at hand - and as every parent knows, sometimes you have to be willing to hold the projection of your child’s (temporary!) unhappiness when making a decision in their best interest. It’s really the same with sleep. The baby may not be thrilled about the changes you’re making at first - but they do learn quickly, and there’s nothing like the peace of mind you get as a parent when your baby is sleeping well because you know you’re taking good care of them.

JILL: We feel incredibly lucky to be able to help families with something that is an absolute bedrock of a happy and healthy family life. I know firsthand what it is to be sleep-deprived, and how much that wreaks havoc on not only your baby’s well-being but your own - as a person and as a couple. And I also know firsthand what it feels like to turn that ship around and get amazing sleep, and feel more attached than every to your baby because you’re rested and present during the day. There’s very little in life that can be upside down on a Wednesday, and right-side-up again a very short while later. Helping children sleep better is one of those rare life challenges that can resolve very quickly with the right plan and support!

Why are you excited about Dream Lab?

JEN: It has always been a dream of ours to be able to offer the same level of customization we give our private clients but on a much broader scale. Owlet could not be a more perfect partner, as what we’ve done is marry the heart and personalization and solid info we offer to families with Owlet’s incredible technology and platform.

JILL: It is incredibly exciting to be able to deliver this level of assistance digitally! It’s like having a sleep consultant in the palm of your hand. We are thrilled that the Dream Lab has such enormous capacity to help parents with the specific sleep problems they’re having with their babies - and to make it feel to parents like we’re right there with you in your living room, coaching you every step of the way.

Learn more about Dream Lab here.

Author Bio

Channing Merrell

Hi! I'm Channing and I'm a proud member of the Owlet team!