For the Absolutely Exhausted Parents

Allana Robinson: We have an interview with Eva Klein from My Sleeping Baby. Eva is a very longtime colleague and certified sleep coach, and sleep is just such an important aspect of behavior. It’s what I call a base stressor, which means there’s really no way over it, no way under it, no way around it. You gotta go through it.

There’s no way to regulate out of it. Nothing compensates for a lack of sleep. Just there’s no compensation for being sick, having a lack of food, or needing to eliminate, the only way out of those stressors is to eliminate them. While I know a lot about sleep, both professionally and personally, I’m not a sleep coach.

I wanted to introduce you to Eva today because I really like her balanced approach to sleep learning. She’s very down to earth. She has a very similar straight talk approach to me, and I just love learning from her.

How you got into like sleep coaching. 

Eva Klein: Yes, this is accidental entrepreneurship, that its finest. Feel that I am a wife and mom of three. And I’m also a lawyer by training.

I graduated law school back in 2011 and then I gave birth to my first baby shortly after writing my last set of finals. This baby was thankfully the most, the easiest baby in the entire world. You just made me look like the best mom in the entire world ate when she needed to eat, slept when she needed to sleep which was exactly what I needed at the time.

I guess, given that I was working full-time as an articling student and studying for the bar all while having a baby at home, and so everything was great. A couple years later, I’m working as a lawyer now, and I gave birth to my second daughter. She, on the other hand was the complete opposite of my older one.

This baby from day one was very high needs, big personality. Very difficult, very vocal and Did not sleep.

Sleep was not something that came naturally to her, and so as a result, I had no choice but to open up all the sleep books and figure out what to do because I was dying.

I was not functioning. It brought out this really yicky side of me where I was just depressed and anxious and looking at the glass half empty all the time and just could not cope with everyday life the way that I was able to otherwise.

Unfortunately that’s just what sleep deprivation does to you.

Sleep is a basic necessity. No different than clean air and. Water and good nutritious food to eat.

Once I opened the sleep books and figured out what to do, I managed to make the situation a little bit better. By no means was I an expert, I was just making some changes that made it a little bit more manageable.

Which allowed me to have a little bit of clarity and have this realization, this idea that. I should maybe use up the rest of my mat leave to get my certification and become a sleep consultant.

I was not planning on ditching law because who the hell does that? That’s crazy.

Rather, it was just, I was hoping to be able to come back to my job on a part-time basis anyways.

I thought, you know what, this’ll be a fun side gig shoe money, right? I get a new pair of clothes, I get a new client, I go buy a pair of shoes. That was the intention!

When this business of mine actually launched things picked up a lot more quickly than I ever imagined because spoiler alert, when you help an exhausted, desperate mom get her baby sleeping, take a guess what she does.

She then goes and tells all of her fellow exhausted sleep moms, Hey, guess who I hired who ended up saving my life? All those friends then go and hire you because gosh, they don’t wanna be sleep deprived either.

Things ended up growing a lot more quickly than I ever imagined and six months into this arrangement, I ended up going out and doing this full-time and I haven’t looked back. So that’s the story!

That baby of mine is now nine and a half, so this has been an eight and a half year journey. The vast majority of the time I’ve been doing this full time,

I’ve had the honor and privilege of helping probably over 3000 families to date at this point get their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, consistently sleeping through the night like champs or almost sleeping through the night if they’re younger. The parents, especially the moms, can wake up feeling like a normal rested, functioning human again. 

Allana Robinson: And what a difference that makes. I know you know a little bit about my story. I don’t know if I’ve talked about it on this podcast much at all, but for those of you who are listening who don’t know my oldest was very similar to your second where he, I found out I was hypoplastic three weeks after he was born.

He had very severe food insecurity, and he wasn’t sleeping for that reason.

Plus, I don’t think sleep came naturally to him either. I think he just had the kind of baby personality where he wasn’t naturally inclined to sleep. He had no sleepy signs.

There people say oh, watch for when they’re rubbing their eyes.

Logan didn’t do that! he was either happy or he was ornery and there was no in between.

I got so sleep deprived that I was actually hospitalized when he was two and a half months old because I was going psychosis, like I was having hallucinations and things.

When you say sleep is this base need that we have, it’s so true and not just for us.

Parents seem to think that, when kids are sleep deprived that it’s okay that if they needed to sleep, they would sleep…But that’s not the case, is it? 

Eva Klein: No, a hundred percent, no! And I also just wanna point out, make a really important point that a lot of people might be listening to this and be going “well, I’m not that tired, Allana. I know that you were like super, super tired that you landed up in the hospital. It’s not that bad for me.

Allana Robinson: I didn’t think I was that tired 

Eva Klein: Exactly. Therefore I’m going to downplay just how bad it is when the reality is. When you’re so unbelievably exhausted that you are hallucinating, that is, a different level of rock bottom that I think most people aren’t even aware of. By no means does that invalidate no anything less than that. 

Allana Robinson: When I was at that rock bottom, I didn’t realize I was at that rock bottom.

Like in hindsight, I needed help months before that, like way before that!

Even while I was hallucinating, I was like, this is okay. This is just, this will pass and It wasn’t until a doctor was like, no, this is not going to pass. You need to go to sleep. When I really realized how bad things have gotten, and I think you’re right, Parents do tend to minimize it both for themselves and for their kids, where they’re like, it’s really, it’s not that bad. Yeah, this is normal. We’re gonna let this ride. It’s normal.

Eva Klein: all parents are tired when they have a baby. I can’t expect my baby to be sleeping 12 hours straight.

Of course I’m gonna be tired and the responses, of course, your four month old might not be able to sleep 12 hours straight just yet, but he can sleep eight.

An eight hours straight is a heck of a difference than two hours straight or 90 minutes straight or three hours. Where you’re waking multiple times. That’s a game changer!

Allana Robinson: And as I said, like it doesn’t just have an impact on us. It has an impact on kids, right?

When children are tired, They can’t behave well, they can’t learn. When you’re sleep deprived, it’s like you’re drunk.

Eva Klein: Yes. Yes. There is research that shows that it is just as dangerous to be behind the wheel when you are intoxicated as it is when you are sleep deprived because your reflexes, your peripheral vision your concentration, your ability to make quick sound decisions in that moment are inhibited no differently than when you are drunk or high.

Allana Robinson: Exactly. When you think of a kid, people like joke that toddlers are like living with a tiny frat house. It’s not entirely untrue if that toddler is sleep deprived. 

Eva Klein: I’ve got a lot of big messages out there for the mom community.

This doesn’t need to be your normal just because it’s common!

It’s important. There is a big difference in the definition between common and normal.

I’m putting on my lawyer hat here for a second because you never get an outta of me no matter what. You can take me outta the practice of law, but you can’t take the lawyer out of someone.

I talk in bullet points all the time. You’ll just see, I can’t change that up about me.

Common implies that it happens frequently.

Normal, on the other hand, implies that it is healthy and that there is nothing that you can do about it, cause it is, normal and to be expected.

Two very different terms right there.

So is it, common that we see sleep deprived babies and toddlers and preschoolers and parents, a hundred percent!

But it’s not normal! It shouldn’t be your normal!

If you want that changed, you can get that fixed despite your little one being the most strong-willed human on the face of the planet.

Allana Robinson: What do you tell parents, because this is something I hear a lot where parents are concerned about the impact to their attachment with their child. I know from experience that. In fact, when your child’s is sleeping better, that your attachment improves because you are not like, as you said, like angsty and angry and depressed.

I remember like yelling at my child,as I was yelling at him, thinking at the back of my brain this is not okay. I need to stop, but being completely unable to because I was so tired that I couldn’t actually control myself. What do you say about that? 

Eva Klein: I just say it’s not true.

Where is this research that you speak about, that shows that sleep training causes harm?

Because it doesn’t exist. Period.

Allana Robinson: There are a lot of opinion pieces, 

Eva Klein: But that is an opinion piece! Just because someone has a PhD or an MD next to their name, it doesn’t suddenly make their opinion fact!

It might give their opinion a little bit more legitimacy, but then you’re gonna wanna do a search and see how many other differing opinions there are with people with just as many qualifications. I think that it’s important to recognize that we do have quite a bit of really good quality clinical data on sleep training, which shows that it is safe and effective.

It doesn’t mean that then you must sleep train. It just means that if you want to, you can.

If you don’t want to, if you enjoy bed sharing with your little one.

If rocking your little one to sleep is working, if nursing on demand throughout the night is legitimately what you want to do, you don’t have to change anything.

None of this is harmful.

No one is gonna come and arrest you for breaking any sort of, mom/baby law here, rather, it just means that if all of this is not working for you, you have options!

These options are not going to harm your little one.

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In fact, the additional clinical data that we have shows that it’s actually going to improve maternal attachment with your little one, because it means that you will have the wherewithal to actually be responsive.

I know that a lot of people will say no, I’m totally calm around my little one.I’m not, overtly yelling and screaming and losing my cool and that might be the case to a degree. At the same time, even if on the surface you’re keeping it together, your little one knows.

Allana Robinson: YES! That limbic resonance that we’re always talking about is in there, where your child is picking up on the fact that you’re white knuckling it. 

Eva Klein: Yes, that you are stressed, that you are literally at your wit’s end. You’re at, you’re almost you’re at your breaking point.

You’re just not physically exploding externally. You’re exploding internally and they’re picking up on that.

We need to come to terms with the fact that if this sleeping arrangement is not working, your little one is picking up on it.

When you do make those changes that are going to work for everyone and allow everyone to get the sleep that they need, your attachment with your little one is going to improve.

It really doesn’t make logical sense to say that when your little one is crying with you responding for a period of time.

A big misconception here is that the only way to get your little one sleep trained is to just leave them to cry it out, and it just means you put them in the crib. You say goodnight, you leave the room, you don’t go back in.

No, there are absolutely approaches that you can use that allow you to be next to your little one in a supportive manner. To be checking and consoling at certain intervals so that they’re not going through this process alone.

Yes, they’re still going to push back because these changes are different than what they’re used to.

How is that any different than a baby who was pushing back on being stuck in the car seat for forty-five minutes when you’re stuck in bumper to bumper traffic?

Is that baby now suddenly traumatized for life because you weren’t able to get out of your car in the middle of the highway to go and respond to your baby in that moment?

No, that’s ridiculous!

If that was the case, then every single one of us should just stop saving up for our kids’ college fund and just put it towards their lifelong inevitable therapy bills because every single one of us has been in a position where our little one hasn’t been able to get what they wanted in that moment.

Forget being stuck in the car. What about the babies who just hate being in the car seat? What should we do?

Should we do what our grandmothers did and put our babies in a laundry hamper? With a bunch of blankets around, that was how my 70 year old uncle, 70 years ago was transported, in the car.

He was literally in a laundry hamper in the front seat, buckled in with a bunch of blankets around and he was happy as a clam.

Is that what we should do so that the baby doesn’t cry? Or should we prioritize their safety over the fact that they might not like the car seat?

W need to come to terms with the fact that babies cry sometimes, and toddlers and preschoolers, are going to cry sometimes when we’re not giving them what they want in that moment. It doesn’t mean that we’re harming them, it just means that they are upset.

Being upset is okay.

Yeah. There’s a difference between 

Allana Robinson: Yes! There’s a difference between stress and toxic stress.

Toxic stress is chronic. It’s ongoing and it’s unsupported, which I think is the key part when it comes to sleep training is your child is not being sleep trained unsupported.

They have support. You are their support and therefore it cannot be toxic stress because they’re in relationship with someone who is taking care of them. Even if it’s not how they want to be taken care of in that particular moment. 

Eva Klein: That’s not an example of toxic stress by any means.

Plus, on top of that the research that is often quoted by, these people who are completely against sleep training is research that pertains to, and the term is long-term childhood stress. Situations where these babies, these toddlers, these preschoolers are unfortunately not getting their needs met and addressed day in and day out over a long period of time.

One of the problems is that there’s so much information out there that implies that it is so easy to traumatize your child, that all you need to do is do this.

You do a few days of sleep training, traumatized for life. You say no to them. You put ’em in a corner to help them calm down. Traumatized for life!

For better or for worse. Thankfully, I would say for better – takes a heck of a lot more than that.

You don’t need to do everything perfectly all the time in order to not traumatize your child, nor do you need to respond with everything that they want in that moment in order to not traumatize your child.

It takes so much more neglect!

Allana Robinson: So much more neglect! It’s odd to say out loud, but that it’s true!

Eva Klein: I say, I like to say things as unfiltered as possible, to get people thinking wait a second does it make sense that a few days of sleep training my baby in an otherwise loving, caring home, where she is getting her needs and wants met during the day?

Is that the equivalent of a child being neglected all day and all night and potentially landing up in the foster care system or in an orphanage in, somewhere in Yugoslavia.

Is that really the equivalent of that or being surrounded by gang violence and gun violence and, in, objectively clear amount of instability. Is that really the same?

The answer is unequivocally not and if that was the case, we would have research to back that claim up.

All it is an opinion and someone has a right to their opinion. It doesn’t mean that their opinion is correct!

Allana Robinson: Absolutely. I love it. I love it. Okay, so in that same vein, can you talk to a bit of the difference between night weaning and sleep training?

Eva Klein: Yes. They’re actually technically two different things that we sometimes do simultaneously.

Sleep training is a term that describes teaching a baby or a child of any age, how to sleep independently. How to be able to, get to that end point where you are able to tuck them in, say goodnight, leave the room, and have them fall asleep by themselves.

Again, we’re not gonna get there in a cold Turkey overnight manner, the way that cry it out would necessarily say, but that would be what the end goal is when you’re going through some sort of sleep training process.

Where they’re learning how to fall asleep and how to fall back to sleep without any assistance, and sometimes it means that we’re gradually reducing the amount of assistance that they’re used to.

Sometimes it means that, as I said, we are checking on them intermittently while they learn to resettle themselves.

Sometimes it means that you are sitting next to them, cheering them on throughout the process while they learn how to do this.

Night weaning on the other hand, is a completely different process. Night weaning involves transferring some or all of your little ones calories from the nighttime to the daytime.

Depending on the age of your baby, if you have, an otherwise eight to nine month old corrected healthy baby who is, eating well and meeting their milestones and gaining weight beautifully.

Typically, that baby is developmentally and nutrit able to go 11 to 12 hours uninterrupted without eating.

So if they’re not, And they’re waking up and they’re legitimately hungry at least once or twice a night, then part of the solution would involve going through a process where we’re gonna transfer those calories over to the day.

More often than not, we are Infusing both of those processes together because you usually have a baby that needs a bit of both or a lot of both, depending on the situation.

That’s how that works and it’s important for me to emphasize that night weaning doesn’t mean that those calories just disappear into thin air, that your little one doesn’t need them, because a lot of moms especially, are so hesitant to go through this process because they’ll see that their baby is waking up and really eating.

They’ll say to me, but S so hungry, what am I supposed to do? Starve him? No, of course not.

You’re telling me that my one year old doesn’t need to eat at night? Why is he, taking down two eight ounce bottles as if he’s never seen food before?

Part of the reason for that is because your little one’s body got used to eating more at night than necessary.

This is known, otherwise known as reverse cycling. There’s a bit of a reverse eating cycle here, and so part of the solution, it does need to involve gradually, but not too gradually transferring those unnecessary calories to the daytime so that your little one is still getting those calories, just not at 1:00 AM, at 1:00 PM.

Allana Robinson: Yes. Yes, during the day when we’re awake and we’re able and willing to feed them.

Thank you so much, Eva, for coming and chatting with us today because I think this is a really important conversation. Many of my clients, and I know so many of my listeners, this is a topic that gives them a lot of anxiety and you’re no nonsense. As you said, unfiltered method of talking about it, I think is really reassuring to, at least to me, even though I’m already past this stage with both of my children and went through it, and I can say now that I completely, 100% attribute my children’s ability to go to sleep now. L

They are able to easily go on sleepovers. They’re able to easily put themselves to bed, even now that they’re older children to those early sleep training experiences.

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About Allana

Hi, I’m Allana. I teach parents of toddlers and preschoolers why their children are misbehaving and what to do about it without yelling, shaming, or using time-outs. When not teaching parents about behaviour you can generally find me chasing around my two boys, reading cheesy romance novels, or hanging out with my own parents.

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