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Lessons Learned from Running an Enormous Baby Sleep Group on Facebook

January 9, 2017 |  by  |  parenting

Two years ago I launched the Precious Little Sleep Facebook Group on a whim. I would like to tell you I had a mindful strategy for it, but that would be a lie. As I frequently do I figured, “Sure why not!” and launched it. I expected a few hundred people to join and the group would give them a place to troubleshoot sleep issues and support each other in the struggle.

Within a week there were 1,000 parents, with another 500 waiting in the approval queue and I immediately made this face:

So I did what any rational being would do, I immediately made a few other people admins and then emailed them to let them know I had given them an unpaid job. It’s exactly this sort of behavior that makes me so beloved among friends. That and my propensity to persist in the use of “on fleek.”

The group quickly blew up. In 2 years we grew from nothing to 31K members and are currently adding over 1K a month. It’s been a crazy journey of mostly great things. But also some not great things including:

  • Getting trolled by other groups that exist solely to troll other groups
  • Keeping out a host of icky spammers
  • Having 1,473,280 discussions on “is CIO child abuse” (TL:DR no, no it is not)
  • Handling a relentless barrage of complaints (why did my post not get an answer, why did my post get deleted, why don’t you personally answer all questions, who are you anyway, why can’t you spell)
  • Navigating some pretty challenging discussions around postpartum depression, anxiety, unsupportive partners, single parenting, etc.

Which all sounds pretty terrible doesn’t it? I see why community builders get burnt out. It’s all so relentless.

And also awesome…

  • An amazing and dedicated admin team who are not just enormously helpful, they’re my friends
  • Hundreds of gold star members who pop in daily to lend a hand
  • Thousands of people reaching out to each other with kindness and grace
  • Understanding, intelligent discourse, and adulting that renews my faith in humanity

In the past two years I’ve spent an unconscionable amount of time on the group but I think it’s been worth it. That it’s been a vehicle to foster connection between good people. And that it’s made a people’s lives better.

And I’ve learned a lot.

Key Lessons Learned

So. Many. Lessons.

  1. Most people are awesome. It’s easy to focus on the complainers, the freeloaders, people who come ask a question and leave. But most are so great. Really, really great. And great people are what makes a great community.

  2. Facebook is a terrible platform to manage a group.  It’s like trying to make dinner with a spoon and a sandwich baggie. You can make it work but it’s awkward, time consuming, and nobody is entirely thrilled with the final product. But we’re stuck with it.

  3. Moderating a large group is hard. Moderate too little and desperate people with time-sensitive pleas for help get lost in the shuffle of “what do you think of this sippy cup?” posts. Moderate too much and people bristle, because it’s hard for them to see the bigger picture.


    For example we started turning off comments on questions that had been answered. Not to be mean or shut down discourse, but because doing so created the opportunity for unanswered posts to gain more visibility. But regardless, shutting down comments gives people the feeling of being “shut down” so we had to back off on that.

  4. Community culture needs to be cultivated. It took me a long time to come around to this truth. As a rule I try to be inclusive of all parenting/sleep philosophies so people would join the group and want to talk about the sleep lady shuffle, Babywise,  essential oils, and all sorts of things that are not my thing. And what started happening is that the core philosophy of the group got diluted. We moved from the “Precious Little Sleep Group” to the “Whatever you want to talk about group.”


  5. Ironically it was this odd little video about the Red Yo Yo club that really coalesced the issue for me. It’s not that those things are bad, it’s just that they’re not who we are. We’re about safe, evidence-based, effective approaches to improving sleep outcomes for families. We’re the RED Yo Yo Club.

  6. 50% of the people in the group don’t know who I am or that they’ve joined the Red Yo Yo Club. This gets back to “Facebook is terrible at groups.” There’s no good way to convey information within the group. The header art is pretty clear but is virtually unseeable on the phone. It’s very hard to be the Red Yo Yo club when a substantial population of the group doesn’t know they’ve joined the Red Yo Yo Club.
  7. The group only works due to the persistent and dedicated team of admins to keep it working. It’s not about me, it’s about them. Full stop. And it’s incredibly draining for admins to constantly orient thousands of new parents each month about who we are and what it means to be in the Red Yo Yo Club. That independent sleep is essential. That sleep training is OK. That we can always find ways to make things better. This is an essential part of keeping the group cool, but it leads to admin burnout.

Change Commeth

This last lesson is leading to some changes in 2017. When the book comes out (it’s so close you guys) the group will be changing so that new members will need to be book readers.

No this is not to sell copies of the book. The book will sell itself, because it’s awesome (she says of the book she wrote – HA). It’s to enhance the community culture by establishing that while you don’t have to buy into everything PLS, this is in fact the PLS group and not “a random baby sleep group.” It’s to discuss specifically tactics and strategies suggested by the PLS book/blog/podcast. #redyoyoclub

Until the book is available new members will have to nominally visit the blog one time to fill out this brief form. They’ll have to at least peek at what is probably the most essential piece of information baby sleep available and answer a one word question about it. Yes this is a bit of a hassle and not nearly as fun as simply clicking the “join” button on Facebook. But hopefully this change will help reduce the amount of new member orientation required, will help keep the admin batteries at full charge, and will help us stay the Red Yo Yo club.

As always we’re trying to keep the awesome and we hope these changes will do just that. If you’ve got any thoughts, questions, or insights I would love to hear them in the comments!


37 Comments


  1. So what about current group members? *bats eyes and smiiiles* You mention new members having to fill out the form (which is great idea!)…

    Victoria

  2. Wow, I had no idea all the things that are involved in managing a facebook group! I’m not on FB, but your ideas to make some changes sound like great plan!

    • Hi Sam,

      Yes it’s been A WHOLE THING. Mostly awesome. But definitely BIG.

      😉

      Most people honestly don’t care what goes on behind the scenes but I like transparency and switching the way new people join is kinda huge (keep in mind we’ve got 1,000 – 2,000 people signing up monthly) so I wanted to write a huge post about it.

      Speaking of “gold star” people YOU ARE ONE OF THOSE TOO!!!!

  3. Such a great idea.the group and the blog are lifesavers and u and admins are goddesses! Baby sleep issue slayers! But it can be really frustrating even as a follower to see all the irrelevan questions from people who havent read the blog at all. This is a great idea. I cant wait to get my book. Also i think that u should ask for donations again, cos ur worth it!

    • Baby Sleep Struggle Slayers! KABOOSH!

      (that’s the sound it makes)
      #redyoyoclub

    • Lauren Hightower

      I agree! Time to roll out the tip jar again. I will gladly tip again and again and again. My kids are the best sleepers of anyone we know and it’s because of this blog! It’s coming up on the 5 year anniversary of the night I googled and googled and by true miracle found this site and never looked back. You Alexis will forever be our sleep superhero ❤

  4. You are pretty darn amazing! I can’t even begin to imagine moderating a group that big! Thanks for all you do! While both my girls are older, I spent many a night reading this blog while rocking my girls.

  5. I always love reading what you have to say. And because of you and your information, I have twin boys (10 months) who sleep 12 hours/night and nap twice a day for two hours each nap. It was because of you that I went straight to the information you provide to find out quickly, through sleep deprived eyes, what we needed to do. Good luck in the future, and keep it up!

  6. Thank you, Alexis! As someone who has studied the website (printing out blog post after blog post, as a step by step recipe for sleeping training – color coding and all!), let me say, without your blog posts, I would have been in utter despair! As a mother of twin girls (almost 11 months now), I was EXTREMELY unprepared for motherhood. I am a rule follower and needed someone to be my Yoda. Thank you for being my Yoda. I can happily say my girls are sleeping well, independently, and its because I followed your guidance. From one jedi mother in training, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

  7. Thanks for all that you do! I love the group and I can see the tremendous effort the admins make to keep the ship steering in the intended direction.

    I’m sure it’s way too late to switch from Facebook to another platform, but Reddit seems to be a good place for groups to form that feel more curated, if you will. The culture there is definitely more heavy handed in the admin department. Facebook groups in general seem to be a chaotic shit show free for all most of the time

    • TOTALLY with you in Facebook. But not sure I can fully embrace Reddit either. Reddit is like swimming in a swamp bog. For the most part it’s OK but the waters are deep and murky and you can’t see what’s really going on down there.

  8. I’m just laughing at the Sippy Cup part. It’s the parent small talk equivalent of talking about the weather. Every boring mom’s group discussion always ends up there. Spoiler alert: they all leak!!

  9. Alexis, you are the reason I have joy in my house again. So so so greatful for you and the admins.

  10. Hi Alexis

    I just wanted to let you know that you are an amazing woman and your posts about sleep issues was a life saver for me with my first child (back in 2012 when you were troublesometots). I have been directing friends to your website ever since, as I feel it is a wonderful place to go for information and for good, hearty belly laughs. I hope you understand the gravity of what you are doing and how you are helping tired moms and dads out there. Your book needs to be in every parents toolkit 🙂

    Lots of love!

  11. Thanks for all the guidance in the last several years. As a full time Postpartum Doula I constantly refer parents here. Your info makes so much sense.
    Now I’m just waiting for your kids to get older so you can help us with the teen years!!! Trust me in this.. this parenting stage lacks support and info.

  12. Alexis, you are doing a wonderful job and I ❤️ you.

    That is all.

    End of comment.

  13. Thank you for all you do to help spread the word on good sleep habits for kids. This group included. For real – you and your team made a huge difference in our house. I wlll buy your book for every baby shower from now til eternity.

  14. To the lady who gave me confidence regarding baby sleep when I had none … and taught me what “SMS” was and not to let it kick in too much … THANK YOU ALEXIS!

    And thank you to those admins who help us all soooo much! Cheers!!!

  15. I somehow luckily found you back in the pre FB days when it was still the Troublesome Tots (amazing) blog and you answered questions even back then as yourself, LOL. This post is just perfect and I am forever grateful to you as I have two really great sleepers now!! I second that your book is something I would purchase and give to every new mom out there…PLS is PURE gold! Thank you to infinity and beyond Alexis!

  16. I think this is a brilliant idea. About to try sleep training number 3 but she has played her trump card of being poorly. So I’m still being her human dummy . Can’t wait to buy your book!

  17. I think this is great on so many levels. You and the PLS Facebook saved my sanity two years ago when my child would.not.sleep. I was literally just marveling the other day about what a good sleeper he is now, thanks to the techniques that I tried and the support that I got from the group as we tried them. I am so excited for the book to come out so that I can give it to all of my friends who are expecting babies. And I manage social media for my day job, so I totally get the headaches of admin work and everything else that goes along with running a Facebook group, so from a professional standpoint I say good on you for drawing some boundaries, and also as a user I say good on you for drawing those boundaries to keep the group as useful and targeted as it needs to be to be helpful. (And thanks for grandfathering us old fogeys in!)

  18. Wow, I had no idea the Facebook group was such a big (or)deal! Like everybody else from the troublesometots days, I am so impressed with what you built. Can’t wait for the book to come out so I can start giving it as a gift (I hope to soon be done with training my own kids). Great work, Alexis! My partner and I are very grateful (is there ever a man who posts here? My partner does read the posts and listen to the podcast, but never comments.)

  19. So… When an acquaintance in a nursing mothers lounge referred me to you, it was like the stars had come out in a long, dark night. We still struggled with sleep (due to 1 bedroom apartment) but there was hope. So many of my friends had easy sleepers. I got a PhD in self-flagellation for all my attitudes and behavior caused by lack of sleep. But we made it through, and I am so thankful! I feel like I am a better person for going through it and am so happy to refer others here. Thanks for making it ok to be human. You’ve found a way – however challenging and flawed – to make real, vulnerable connection possible in our disconnected culture. Thank you!

    PS Baby number 2 is cooking – and we will do things MUCH differently this time! 😉

  20. I just filled out the form to join….it’s like I’ve found my people!!! I’m in several science-based parenting groups, but none specifically about sleep. And my 2 and a half year old’s sleep is poo. So excited about joining!

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