The journey of first-time or any-time parenthood is accompanied by a bevy of emotions, milestones — and a whole lot of lost sleep.
Any semblance of time by which the rest of the world operates disappears as parents’ lives revolve around their new baby’s eat-wake-sleep cycle. With the seemingly infinite resources online and off offering to dictate when an infant’s sleep should happen (and for how long and in what conditions), it can understandably become overwhelming.
Truckee resident Chelsea Johnson and her husband, Ryan, experienced just that with their baby boy, Rowan, earlier this year. At around 3-and-a-half months old, Rowan underwent a sleep regression that had him waking up five times a night. In addition to the regression, Chelsea and Ryan were trying to transition Rowan out of a SNOO baby bassinet, out of his swaddle, and out of their room.
Chelsea described their experience with trying to find a solution: “There’s so much nuance in these situations and each baby’s different … You’re trying to do all the research yourself and all the sources are conflicting or have, like, these magical sleep recipes that don’t really work for you.”
In their hour of desperation, Chelsea and Ryan turned to Tracy Chaney, a local pediatric sleep consultant and Tahoe/Truckee resident of 15 years. Chaney has been working as a sleep consultant since mid-2021 after receiving training through Sweet Sleep Academy, and is the area’s only certified sleep consultant for infants.
It was through her day job that she realized such a service was needed in the Truckee/Tahoe community.
“I work at [Tahoe Forest] hospital [as a customer care navigator] here and we do a lot of perinatal programs,” Chaney told Moonshine. “I already knew that there are birthing classes and breastfeeding classes afterwards and baby massage classes and nutrition classes. But I was like, hmm, there’s nothing for sleep yet.”
Chaney’s side hustle services as a pediatric sleep consultant vary from hourly consults to one- to two-week packages to home reviews.
“If somebody is looking for me, they find my website; they would fill out a form on that,” she explained. “Then I give them a call. We talk for about 20 minutes, and they tell me what’s going on, what issues their little one is having, and what their goal is.”
In the same call, Chaney shares how she operates: Conversations with and detailed sleep plan guidance for parents take place over emails, texts, and calls, and by the end of the service, Chaney leaves her clients with a sleep plan to continue with.
Chelsea Johnson had first heard of Chaney’s consultations during a birthing class with local doula Andrea Schwartz, when Chaney had presented about baby sleep and her services. Then, when a friend raved about working with Chaney months later, Johnson knew she wanted to connect.
During the free consultation, the Johnsons outlined the transitions they were working Rowan through. They signed up for Chaney’s one-week package, through which Chaney helped the family tackle goals day by day, the ultimate aim being to help Rowan self-soothe when he woke up during nighttime.
“Each day there was a goal; we’re going to focus on this,” Chelsea Johnson recalled. “In the morning we would debrief, and then Tracy would adjust from there. It wasn’t a set out plan for us; it was step by step. She was listening to what was happening and then making, like, little tweaks and adjustments based on what she was hearing, which was so helpful.”
Chaney, Johnson continued, took credence with her and her husband’s observations. “When she would offer something, and we said, ‘Well, you know, we have noticed that Rowan is X, Y, Z’ … She’d be like, ‘Okay, well, in that case maybe we don’t do that, but we do it a little bit differently.’ She really touched on the observations we had.”
Chaney has experienced the power of sleep training personally. She’s a mom to two children: Ryker, 3, and Cadence, 1. Ryker, Chaney said, wasn’t a good sleeper until he was almost a year old and she had learned the skills to help him sleep.
“He was 10 months or so when I finally, finally got some sleep. And for [Cadence], right around the 4-month mark, I finally felt like a human again,” Chaney said, describing the application of sleep training as game-changing. “It’s a completely different game with baby number two, now that I knew the skills … I’m not immune to the sleep issues. We still struggle through regressions and teething and illnesses, but they always get back on track afterwards.”
While Chaney agreed many websites and apps today can tell parents when exactly to put babies down for sleep, they don’t give grace.
“What if your baby didn’t sleep for an hour, then what?” Chaney posed. “I’m the human factor in it. Sticking to a schedule, I’m the what-if — what if [your baby] took an hour to go to sleep? Do we still wake him up at seven this morning? It’s the baby factor because they’re not robots.”
Her favorite success stories, Chaney added, are teaching 4-month-olds how to sleep by themselves. “Not only does that make me so happy, but the parents are thrilled that they can just set their baby down awake and say goodnight confidently and leave the room.”
On Aug. 27, at 9 a.m., Chaney is hosting a Zoom class about the foundations of sleep for parents of newborn to 6-month-olds. Sign up at tracychaneysleep.com/upcoming-classes.