More About Marni

MSW, Certified Lactaction Counselor, Certified Gentle Sleep Coach

Now, after 11 years of being a mom I have learned there isn't one right way to do something and that it all depends on who my baby is and what he needs in that moment and time. I've learned to trust myself more and trust in my relationship with my children. And I know I can help you, too. 
Having lived and worked with families in LA, NYC, and New England for the past 25 years, my family now lives in Overland Park, Kansas where we are exploring all of this new open space and getting to know the heart of the country. And of course cheering on some new sports teams- shhhh, don't tell my family in Boston      .
I have a Bachelor's in Family Studies from The University of Massachusetts, a Master's in Non-Profit Managament and Social Policy from Brandeis Universtity, and a Master's in Social Work from Columbia University. After years of studying and working in the field I assumed once I had a child I would have all of the answers...wow, was I wrong!
I was shocked that I felt overwhelmed by the never ending needs of my baby, confused by all of the conflicting advice and exhasuted by sleep deprivation. I was obsessed with my baby's sleep and development and worried so much about whether I was doing 'the right thing' or not.

MyPhilosophy on Sleep

By raising 3 littles of my own and working with families on their children's sleep struggles I have learned that although many babies find their own natural rhythms and figure out how to sleep well, many more children need help to learn how to fall asleep on their own. Through my extensive training and personal experience I have learned what makes us into good sleepers, what prevents us from sleeping and how to help families develop healthy, long-term sleep habits for their children beginning in infancy. I don't believe in letting children cry themselves to sleep, nor do I believe that it's ok to try to force sleeping through the night before a baby is developmentally and cognitively able to do so. I use a gentle and proven approach to help you learn the strategies to get your child sleeping through the night with minimal tears and step-by-step support and follow-up. You will not have to figure this out alone- I will be there alongside you. 

What is a Gentle Sleep Coach?

The Gentle Sleep Coach (GSC) Program is the first and most extensive professional sleep coach training and certification program available. The program involves over 80 hours of training with a faculty panel that includes 2 medical doctors, a psychologist, an attorney, lactation counselor, postpartum doulas and a family therapist. Each coach must pass an exam and participate in case mentorship with Kim West, LCSW-C (a.k.a. “the Sleep Lady”) who has been helping tired parents for over 20 years. Clinical mentorship and ongoing advanced training are required to maintain certification as a Gentle Sleep Coach.

Some of my training topics included:

  • Basic counseling and child development

  • Sleep science and behavioral modification techniques to help parents of children age 0 to 6 years old.

  • Secure attachment theory

  • Support for the breastfeeding mother

The training also consisted of lectures from top specialists, including:

  • Postpartum Depression from Dr. Shoshana Bennett, author and leading specialist on Postpartum Depression

  • Medical Conditions and Sleep Apnea in Children led by Dr. Lewis Kass, Director of Children’s Sleep Center

  • GERD and Sleep led by Dr. Anthony Loizides, pediatric gastroenterologist

The GSC Program also includes an exclusive advanced training specifically focused on how to gently work with babies 0-5 months of age. Some of the curriculum training topics include:

  • In-depth knowledge of the importance of attachment and infant mental health

  • The sleep science behind the first six months of life

  • What special considerations need to be taken when working with and supporting families during this delicate period.

  • Specialized instruction on how to evaluate families in the first six months

  • Guidance on how to assess when the baby is ready for sleep coaching based on current research and evidence-based strategies

  • Review of gentle sleep solutions and strategies that are developmentally appropriate, breastfeeding and attachment friendly and promote a solid foundation for sleep learning and long-term healthy sleep patterns.

This specialty training is designed to give Gentle Sleep Coaches the knowledge, education and all the tools and resources they need to successfully work with families of newborns through 5 months of age in a safe, healthy and developmentally appropriate manner.

My Approach

When I work with your family, I listen to your concerns and help you figure out how to meet your sleep goals. I will help you navigate the various information and recommendations you have heard and simplify your path, with constant support along the way. My approach is to empower parents to take the steps necessary to improve their child's sleep. As a sleep coach I am there to guide parents in this process however I believe it is important for parents to do the actual training for several reasons:

  • This helps children to understand that their parents are the ones taking care of them, and will be there for them when they are scared or unsure

  • Children respond more authentically with their parents making it easier to determine when to modify the strageties

  • You are the one living in your house with your children and really know your children and family dynamics- I am there to help and guide you but won't be there forever

I help parents transition and grow into the role of parent with support and compassion by helping them to find what works best for them and their family. Over the years, I have helped many parents learn how to:
  • establish routines and structure,
  • foster and support their children's development,
  • address behavioral needs; and
  • improve sleep and feeding issues

Do you use a specific method?

We have a general approach that is called fading out, which means you will lessen the amount of sleep support you provide to your child over a finite amount of time. The way we do this is to help you figure out what is and isn't working with what you are already doing, and tweak it to achieve your goals. Every parent and child is unique and has their own needs. My job is to provide you with the strategies and tools to support your child in learning to fall asleep independently of sleep crutches or long term intervention; and to give you the confidence to tackle any challenge that may arise as they grow.

Why don't you sleep train babies under 6 months old?

The period of newborn through 6 months is a period of rapid growth and change. Babies are learning about their world and taking time to bond and attach to their caregivers. The sleeping expectations for babies under 6 months old are varied and just beginning to become organized. Therefore it is not recommended to try to sleep train babies in this age group and I do not believe it is beneficial to parents or child. Sleep training a child under 6 months can often backfire later and cause more sleep disruptions as they get older. 

What services do you provide for babies under 6 months old?

For this age range I offer a variety of services:

  • Tips and tools to begin shaping your baby's sleep- establishing routines and practices that lead to healthy sleep habits

  • Education and strategies to foster healthy social, emotional and physical development

  • Breastfeeding support

  • Speciffically designed for family with babies under 5 months old is my Oh Baby! package which focuses on monthly sleep tips and child development guidance and support along with text , email and phone support.

What is your belief on letting babies cry it out?

Current research has shown that although some unattended crying is ok for infants, long periods of unattended crying can cause shifts in attachment, mood regulation and brain chemistry. I take a more gentler approach called fading out, in which we slowly fade out parental support over a length of time to acclimate your child and help them learn to fall asleep independent of parental intervention or periods alone to cry themselves to sleep. This doesn't mean your child won't cry, but if they do you will be there to support them and let them know they aren't alone.

What else is included in your offerings?

Included with every service I deliver is the most up to date child development research and information as well as support in finding your parenting path. It's impossible to talk about sleep, feeding, or behavior without understanding how children develop socially, emotionally and physically; and what role you, as parents, have in encouraging and fostering their development. By working closely with you to determine what your parenting goals are I am able to help you navigate your parenting journey and help you become the parent you want to be.

This sounds great!

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 Support Hours: 1:30-3pm and 8-9pm CST

These are the hours in which I will typically return phone calls, emails, and texts

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