By Erin Moran
Melissa Doman calls herself a “professional aunt.”
One of her two nephews is 6 years old and has trouble sleeping at night. But when he has a particularly bad night, Doman’s sister just texts Doman and asks her what to do.
Doman, a therapist at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Wyndmoor, started Melissa Doman Sleep Consulting, a service that helps parents teach their children how to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
As a certified Sleep Sense Consultant, Doman helps parents locally and abroad using the Sleep Sense Program, which was developed by sleep expert Dana Obleman.
“I saw how successful it was, and I just decided this is fantastic. I love the program,” she said. “So I went ahead and got myself certified in teaching other parents to sleep-train their kids.
“I’m a full-time therapist … so I work with kids all of the time, and that is my primary passion. But also just working with the kids and their parents in the office, I can see the struggles that they have with sleep. When you have sleep-deprived parents come in and out of your office, you want to be able to help them as best you can.”
In order to help parents teach good sleep habits, first Doman has them fill out a questionnaire about their child’s nap times, bedtime routines and sleeping environment. Then, she has an hour-long phone consultation with the parents to target key programs and develop a personalized program. After the consultation, parents have full access to Doman’s help via email for at least two weeks and at least four follow-up calls to check on their process.
Doman said two weeks makes “a world of a difference” for many of her clients. “I think the most rewarding part is that by the end of two weeks, the parents are just totally different,” she said. “You see that parent the first time, and they’re totally exhausted. Sometimes they’re at the brink of tears if they’re not crying already about how tired they are and how much of a struggle it is and how lost they feel. By the end of two weeks it’s not just that they’ve fixed or they’re greatly improving the sleep problem, but they feel really empowered about what they’re doing.”
Doman said that although she is there to guide parents through the program, the parents are the ones doing the “legwork.”
“They’re like, ‘I taught my child that; I’m giving them all of those great sleep habits,’” Doman said. “And for me, that’s the most rewarding thing. Not only have I helped that family, but the families feel like ‘I did it, I’m giving my child those tools.’ It’s just wonderful, that transformation over two weeks.”
To be successful, Doman said, parents should remain consistent throughout the program, build healthy routines and try to get their children to bed earlier.
Noel Hevener, who lives in Pipersville, is one of Doman’s clients. Hevener’s son Liam, now 4 years old, struggled with sleep for a few years until Noel met Doman through a mutual friend. Noel said Liam took hours to fall asleep and would wake up several times throughout the night. He also woke up too early in the morning.
Noel said it only took a few weeks for Liam to build new sleeping habits with Doman’s program. Now, Liam goes to bed at 7 p.m. each night and falls asleep “fairly quickly.”
“I think the biggest hurdle is bedtime gets pushed earlier, so it changed our schedule,” Noel said. “But it’s just like anything else. You get used to a new schedule. The tips and tricks she gave us were things we never thought would have affected his sleep.
“I was actually kind of surprised how well it worked. I was certainly skeptical. I’m surprised how well it worked, so even if you have a skeptical mind, give it a try because it could definitely change the sleep patterns of your children.”
Doman said her main role in the process is to help identify the challenges a child faces in regards to sleep and to act as a guide and support system for parents as they help their children.
“I think a lot of parents go through it thinking sleeplessness is supposed to be part of the job description. I’m out there to tell them that no, it really doesn’t have to be.”
For more information, call 267-342-4498 or visit www.melissadomansleepconsulting.com