Tali Kleiner of Brooklyn, NY helps exhausted mothers restore calm to their homes.
Although I always loved babies, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grow up, even once I grew up. I have many creative interests, and just couldn’t narrow down a career path. My parents encouraged me to start a college education while I explored my options.
What I learned very quickly was that an academic profession wasn’t where my heart lay. So following in my mother’s footsteps — she’s a well-known sheitelmacher — I started dabbling in hair and wigs on the side, until I felt confident that this was something I’d enjoy doing full time.
I was living in Israel as a young married, starting my sheitel business, when my bechor was born. My mother, who’d always been great at keeping kids on a schedule, gave me a book, 12 Hours by 12 Weeks. The techniques it taught for getting kids onto a good sleep schedule worked well for me. Although I’m good at intuiting what kids need, he was also a naturally easy kid.
Still, people saw that I seemed to know what I was doing with babies. Friends and neighbors began to ask me for advice, and I guess I did know something, because I was able to help a lot of people. They began to ask me, “Why don’t you do this professionally?” and I’d be like, “Really? Is that even a thing?”
Then I had my second. In terms of sleep and schedule, she was a nightmare — even now that she’s older and well-trained, she’ still a spirited kid. She tests me in so many different ways, I’m sure Hashem has given her to me to practice my skills. I’ve learned so much from caring for her unique needs and personality.
At the same time, I was writing a small food blog, which gradually morphed into lifestyle and baby topics, and it began to attract a small following.
By the time I moved back to the US to be closer to my family, COVID had hit, and with more spare time to fill, I announced I’d be opening three sleep-training spots. I was able to really help my first clients, and it took off from there.
Passion turned profession
Helping others learn to manage their kids’ sleep has become my everything. I never knew I could enjoy work so much.
While some people learn childcare from their families, many don’t have that resource. Someone I know Googled “How to change a diaper.” And sleeping is a lot more complex than that. And just as critical. Personally, when my kids sleep, I’m a better wife, mother, and human being.
Of course, teaching Baby to sleep isn’t only about the mother’s convenience (not to underestimate the importance of mom’s sanity!). It’s a habit that will serve the child through adulthood.
Clients come to me when they’re ready to give up. “My kid just can’t be trained!”
I help them with a four-week one-on-one training program. They don’t need information they can get in books — they need tailored advice. My clients will call me to say, “She fell asleep in the car on the way to the doctor’s office, what do I do now?” or “I have to leave to a wedding before bedtime tonight, how do I handle that?” and I give them real-time advice and troubleshooting.
While it typically takes about four weeks to effect the total transformation, I find that clients who do the work usually see a difference within about a week. The only true failures I’ve had were with clients who didn’t follow through with the plan we made, like the client who paid but never even made contact for the initial phone call.
Another atypical case was the mother who succeeded during our four weeks together, but relapsed significantly afterward. When she reached out again for help, we discovered that she didn’t have the ability to stick with the program once I was no longer in constant daily contact with her.
“It’s like any other area of chinuch,” I told her. “If you aren’t willing to teach your baby to sleep, how will you set limits when your three-year-old hits his sister?” That gave her pause — she realized her very soft parenting style, and her overall unwillingness to set limits, was sabotaging her efforts.
I’m this super hands-on mom who is on the floor every second with my kids. But I send my kids out to school as soon as they’re ready — we all need our space, right?
Best feedback I ever got:
An experienced mother, who’d already raised several children, was just not managing. After we worked together for four weeks, she was amazed at the change in her baby. She reported back that she now had time to give her other kids attention, and her husband didn’t have to keep making supper every night. “I thought there was something wrong with my daughter,” she confided. She was so relieved to see there was no real problem.
No Two the Same
I don’t stick rigidly to one method; that doesn’t work for most people. If babies read the instructions in the books and followed them, mothers wouldn’t need me.
I’m not a big fan of crying it out. My approach is pretty middle-of-the-road. And I pride myself on doing what’s best for the individual client, and what that is depends very much on their comfort level. I share my knowledge and experience, but I personalize it to the mother.
For example, I use the three-minute-rule a lot. When breaking a bad habit, such as nursing or being rocked to sleep, I encourage mothers to put the baby to bed sleepy but without the crutch, and let him cry for three full minutes before going back in to soothe. But I’ve learned that there are exceptions to everything, such as the baby who vomited every single time he was left to cry for even a minute. That mother needed a more gradual approach, sitting with the baby and slowly withdrawing.
No two clients have the same personality, family dynamic, or even work schedule. A stay-at-home mom will have a very different picture of success, and means of attaining it, than a full-time working mother.
Sleep is a huge field. The school I’m currently enrolled in covers topics like nursing, SIDS, toddler behavior, separation anxiety, and a whole host of other subjects that impact sleep. Even aspects of the family dynamic that seem unrelated can impact the overall situation, too.
A common problem is the toddler who regresses when there’s a new baby around. Just briefing the older kids: “Hey, it’s really hard for Dovi to adjust to this new interloper, maybe you could pitch in a little? Read him a book or build some Lego?” can go a long way to bringing the whole family on board as a team.
When I had one kid, people told me, “Let’s see if you’ll still be able to stick to a schedule with two.” Now I have two, and it’s, “Just wait until you have three…” While I wait to see what surprises Hashem has in store for me, I feel confident that He gives mothers the tools they need to handle their challenges, and I’m grateful to be able to be part of the support system to help mothers overcome them.
Top Training Tips
1) Before starting, ask your doctor whether your baby is developmentally ready to sleep through the night.
2) Crying never hurt anyone; kvetching is one of the healthiest things babies do. It’s their practice in self-soothing. If you frequently hold a baby unnecessarily, it hampers their ability to self-soothe.
3) Even though you can’t train a baby before three to four months, you can lay the groundwork from day one. Try to keep to a rough schedule, and don’t hold your baby around the clock unless he really needs it.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 768)
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