(This article was written by Allison A. Curley ’04.)
For many bleary-eyed parents of infants and toddlers, sleep is a seemingly unobtainable goal. Lori Brier Strong ’98, a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant based out of Austin, Texas, is helping to change that, one family at a time.
“If the child’s not sleeping well, the family’s not sleeping well,” she said, “and that can lead to such problems when everyone is exhausted!” Strong works with parents to establish a sleep routine that is individually tailored to each family’s situation. She noted that, once they make changes, most see progress pretty quickly.
Before she was teaching parents, Strong spent almost a decade as an elementary school educator. Education is in her blood — her mom and dad are both teachers — and growing up on Long Island (N.Y.), she loved being in school and had always wanted to be a teacher.
While at Colgate, Strong majored in English and obtained a certification in elementary education, completing her student teaching in nearby Waterville. After graduation, she was hired there full time to teach second grade and obtained her M.S. in reading from SUNY-Cortland. She went on to teach fourth grade in Buffalo and serve as a reading specialist in Philadelphia.
Strong and her husband, Brett ’98 (whom she met in Russell Hall in 1996), moved to Austin shortly before their first child, Jonah, arrived in 2006. She remembers learning in a birth class that babies can sleep anywhere, but “that was not what we brought home from the hospital!” she said.
Like many new parents, Strong found herself without a lot of information about how to get her baby to sleep, and soon, desperation led to an obsession. Amid exhaustion, she read every book on the subject she could find. After six months, her research had paid off. Jonah was sleeping 12 hours a night and taking regular naps. His new habits stayed with him, and Strong is happy to report that he’s still a good sleeper.
By the time her daughter, Simone, was born in 2009, Strong knew how to provide a good sleep environment from the start, so the family avoided many of the sleepless nights they had spent with Jonah.
Word of Strong’s expertise spread among her family and friends. It seemed almost every mom needed help with her child’s sleep, and Strong began to see an opportunity to make a difference.
Strong obtained her Infant and Child Sleep Consultant certification through the Family Sleep Institute in 2012, after several months of research, case studies, and hands-on training. Her consulting business, Strong Little Sleepers, followed soon after. “Education was always my main passion. It still is — I’ve just shifted gears. Instead of teaching kids, now I’m teaching parents to help their kids,” she said.
She works with infants and children up to age 6. The parents fill out an intake form so she can learn about the child’s sleep history and the family’s sleep goals. Along with one-on-one consultations, she conducts small-group seminars and teaches local classes that help parents learn to establish good sleep habits, such as creating a consistent sleeping environment and schedule, early on. She’s now working on her certification as a Happiest Baby Educator — specialist training in soothing newborns that will complement her other sleep methods.
Strong never imagined that she’d be running her own business. It’s challenging, she said, but very rewarding. “Parents say I’m changing their lives, which is really satisfying.”