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Sweet Dreams: Navigating Infant Sleep with Expert Insights

Motherhood is tiring under the best of circumstances, but when your child isn't sleeping, tired becomes an understatement. Pediatric sleep consultant Caryn Shender understands this better than most. Her sleepless nights resulted from the diagnosis her daughter received at two months old: a congenital heart defect known as ALCAPA which required two open heart surgeries and 73 days in pediatric cardiology intensive care. Once her daughter returned home, Caryn began navigating the stress of wondering if when her otherwise happy, unfussy baby woke up during the night, occasionally screaming, was she in pain from her heart, or were those wake ups just the normal development of a six month old?

Sweet Dreams: Navigating Infant Sleep with Expert Insights

As Caryn emerged from that first year with her daughter, she began to consider her next chapter. She had previously worked in the corporate world as an executive assistant and a human resources manager, and prior to that had done service work teaching in Tanzania. Helping others has been the common thread through all her endeavors, and the two pursuits she embarked on next both continued in that vein.

First off, she became a children’s author, writing a book that reflected the medical journey her family was on. Her daughter's life saving surgery left a scar on her chest, and for Caryn, this scar was a symbol of resilience and survival. She wanted her daughter to be proud of this mark and carry it with self-assuredness, a reminder of her strength. To inspire her daughter and people of all ages with scars from any circumstance, she wrote My Scar Is Beautiful. The book celebrates and empowers readers to see their scars as emblems of bravery and worth.

Her other calling was to facilitate the precious gift of sleep, something she recognizes as critical for the healthy functioning of both individuals and family units. Establishing good sleep hygiene in the early years can be a challenge for many families, even with the healthiest of kids. Caryn became a sleep expert by studying the research-based principles of safe sleep with the Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. She became a certified pediatric sleep consultant and founded her practice, Sleep Tight Tonight. While she's based in Atlanta and offers local workshops throughout the year, she works remotely with families across the country to help them make effective bedtime routines peaceful and stress-free. 

Caryn recognizes that every child's relationship to sleep is different, and every family's needs are unique, so her goal is to always meet a family where they are. Her compassionate, non-judgmental approach guides families towards the ABCs of safe sleep, considered the foundation of healthy sleep habits for children under one.

A. Alone. Infants should sleep without toys, blankets, crib bumpers, pillows, body positioners, etc.

B: Back. Infants should be laid down to sleep on their backs for the first year. If and only if they roll over on their own, they’re allowed to sleep in the position they choose.

C: Crib. Infants should sleep in their own designated space, either a bassinet, crib or pack n play, with a firm horizontal surface covered only by a fitted sheet. 

Each family may encounter their own obstacles en route to establishing the ABCs, and Caryn notes that neurodivergent children need differing types of support to establish a safe and consistent sleep routine. Regardless of circumstances, she offers steady and reassuring support to all families, as together they chart the course that best serves them.

Her website and Instagram contain a wealth of information, and she encourages all parents to take advantage of all the free resources she offers. Given all the information she makes available online, she relates that people often asked if hiring her is still necessary. Her response: "If what a family is doing is working for them, then no. But if what they are doing is no longer sustainable and they need a change. That’s where I come in.” She compares herself to a fitness expert in this regard. “People hire me for the same reason they hire a personal trainer. Just like an effective sleep routine, all the information for a good workout is available for free online... What a professional offers is one-on-one support, accountability, and a higher rate of success."

Her package is all-inclusive to ensure her clients are successful for the long-term. In addition to unlimited communication and guidance throughout the duration of the 3-week program, as well as custom tailored support for the family and child, she also offers check-in calls, a "graduation" resource packet, and one "SOS" call for sleep emergencies anytime for up to a year.

As a general outline, she recommends a bedtime process such as the following:

1. Final feed/dinner

2. Bath & brush teeth

3. Pajamas

4. Night-Nights (saying goodnight to rooms of the house, special toys, etc.)

5. Swaddle/sleep bag

6. Books

7. Songs & White noise

8. Affirmations, hugs & kisses, goodnights

Given the expert attention she gives to putting children to bed, Caryn admits that her own evening routine is simple and uncomplicated. After she puts her daughter down, she enjoys some relaxing time with her husband, checks in with clients, and goes to bed. As a parent, she laughs, she needs very little encouragement to call it a night.

Bio: Caryn Shender is a proud mama, a certified baby and toddler sleep consultant and safe sleep ambassador, owner of Sleep Tight Tonight, and author of My Scar is Beautiful. Using evidence-backed methods and customized sleep solutions and strategies along with in-real-time support, Caryn empowers families who are tired of being tired with the tools and knowledge to confidently teach their child(ren) to fall asleep and back to sleep peacefully without assistance. Sleep is not a luxury; it’s a necessity and the results are life-changing. Being a parent is hard. Being an exhausted parent is next to impossible. Together, we’ll make sleep easy. Caryn supports families privately 1:1 and in classes, both online or virtual. To learn more or book a free sleep consult, visit: 


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