Your baby will have many influences throughout his or her life: teachers, coaches, grandparents, friends. Inviting a new one to join their life in their infancy can be a big decision. There are many things to take into account before hiring a sleep consultant. We reached out to some experts to see what they recommend considering before hiring a sleep consultant. Keep reading to see what they had to say.
Five Things to Consider Before Hiring a Sleep Consultant
Every parent of an infant has both joys and struggles they can bond over. The most notorious one: sleep. This mysterious phenomenon, once just a normal daily duty, has now become a coveted prize. Will my baby ever go to sleep? Will he stop waking during the night so much? Will I ever sleep again? If these are questions you ask yourself, you’re not alone.
Being a parent to a baby myself, I fully understand this mystery of figuring out how sleep now works. Many parents, in desperation for rest, seek out different methods to get their baby to sleep better. One of the most popular methods is hiring a sleep consultant, better known as sleep training. Sleep consultants often use different methods of sleep training to teach babies to self-soothe, such as crying it out, consoling from a distance, etc. If you find yourself in this boat, there are things you may want to consider before taking the deep dive.
- Age of Baby. Sleep training is often recommended after a baby is four months old, and is usually begun between the four to six-month mark when a baby hasn’t gotten used to rocking or nursing to sleep. During this phase, babies are often ready to learn how to fall asleep on their own. Training may still be effective after this age.
- Nap Schedule. Parents might think the key to their babe sleeping at night is keeping them awake all day. However, that is the opposite. Consider finding a good nap schedule based on your baby’s age and needs, the right amount of naps along with the proper length of naps. This worked wonders for getting my daughter to sleep better during the night! Having an overtired baby, or one that has napped too much during the day, sets the stage for a rough night ahead.
- Environment Leading Up to Sleep. It is important to consider the environment and activity of your baby during the day and how the bedtime routine looks. Giving your baby enough sunlight during the day will help set their circadian rhythm. Additionally, setting a bedtime routine every night helps signal the baby’s brain that it’s time for bed. This could be reading a book, taking a bath, getting into pajamas, turning down the lights, etc. Keeping a cool, dark room at bedtime, maybe with a sound machine, will also help the baby recognize its time to sleep.
- Cost of a Sleep Consultant. Hiring a sleep coach can come at a pretty penny. Different coaches vary in price. The highly popular consultant costs $75 for a 40-minute phone consultation, $79 for a newborn course, and $179 for the 5-24 month course. Another provider has three-month virtual consultation services starting at $600, and in-home at $800. Some parents may say that the results of better sleep are worth the upfront payment, while others may argue that the price is too high for an unguaranteed result.
- Baby Waking or Needing Comfort is Normal. While the methods of a sleep consultant are no doubt effective and life-saving for some parents, all need to recognize that the sometimes unpleasant baby sleep tendencies are normal. It is normal for a baby to sometimes wake during the night, especially during sleep regressions. It is normal for babies to want comfort and solace when falling asleep or waking to a dark room without their caregiver close by.
If you find yourself not able to afford sleep consultation or have tried and it didn’t work, that is okay. Babies are all unique in their way and methods that work for some may be different for other infants.
Overall, baby sleep consultation can be highly effective for both babe and parent. But for some, it may not be the best route, and that is okay. Considering the pros and cons before jumping into the pool of sleep training will help you figure out if it is what’s best for you and your baby.
Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hiring a Sleep Consultant
A baby that isn’t sleeping well leaves their parents feeling stressed out, frazzled, and well, sleepless. Getting a little one on a sleep schedule so that they can learn to self-soothe and nap just about anywhere is the key to not only giving mom and dad more time to get things done, but also the freedom to grab some ZZZs themselves.
For those who need assistance getting that “golden ticket to parent paradise” (i.e., the sleep schedule) set up, a sleep consultant definitely can help. However, before hiring your sleep whisperer, it’s important to consider several important things.
1. Am I truly having troubles with my child’s sleeping habits? A child that consistently wakes up three times a night and is unable to go back to sleep right away is one sign that their sleeping habits aren’t quite right. This is a sign that a sleep consultant is needed so that your child can get into the healthy habit of sleeping soundly all night long.
On the other hand, if you simply have a newborn and you want to get them on a schedule right away to instill healthy sleep hygiene, then you may also opt for the guidance of a sleep consultant.
2. Are other habits interfering with sleep? Not only should you hire a sleep consultant if you have a child who doesn’t sleep through the night or if you simply want to instill those good sleep habits in your infant from the beginning, but dependency is also a solid reason to enlist a sleep consultant’s help. For example, if your little one needs a bottle to fall asleep or has a dependency on being rocked or held and will not go to sleep without these little helpers, then you should contact a sleep consultant to get your baby back on the right track.
3. Is self-care a thing of the past? Parents everywhere need to realize that their mental health and well-being are important as well. It’s hard to care for a sleepless infant when you haven’t even had a few hours of rest as well. If you’re suffering from extreme stress, think that you may be struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression, or just want your baby to nap for a few hours so that you can as well, then it’s time to bring in the pros.
In many cases, parents reach out to a sleep consultant as a last resort. This is perfectly fine. Sleep consultants operate in a judgment-free zone, and they understand that parents who’ve tried every trick in the book and are now feeling lost and confused often reach out to them while praying for a miracle. Again, sleep consultants operate in a judgment-free zone, so you’ve got a green light to ask for help.
When it comes to getting your child on a healthy sleep schedule, there’s nothing wrong with getting the help that you need, when you need it. There are no stigmas, no judgments. The only thing that matters is the healthy sleep hygiene of your baby…and of course, yourself!
Consultants Should Understand the Family’s Needs
When parents are struggling to function without enough sleep, the last thing they feel equipped to do is to think carefully and clearly about anything. This seems unfair since the choice of a sleep consultant to help them remedy the situation is a really important decision and requires some serious consideration. There are so many sleep consultants who offer one specific formula to “solve all of your baby’s sleep problems in five steps” or “seven days” or whatever particular timeframe their method or set of variations promises to deliver.
Yet each human being is unique and unrepeatable. That goes for parents as well as for the baby, and also for anyone else who is in the family and household. Figuring out which of these many specific and structured options will work for your unique family and situation can feel overwhelming. Even using the same sleep consultant that worked out well for your best friend might not work out for your family if you and your best friend happen to be examples of the “opposites attract” type of friendship.
The most important first step in finding the right sleep consultant to match with your family is finding a sleep consultant who listens to you describing the kinds of personalities in your family. They should hear and understand the implications of complex family needs and dynamics, such as needing to do a school run for an older sibling during “nap time,” slight differences in sensory processing, or intolerance for extended loud crying when the parent is already overtired and overwhelmed.
We know from developmental neuropsychology that a baby’s mental health is their parent’s mental health, because without a mentally healthy parent, the baby cannot develop a secure attachment and be mentally healthy either. We also know that sleep deprivation can be used as a form of torture to break people, so sleep-deprived parents can be in a fairly vulnerable situation. This is especially true when they have any history of trauma (whether related to pregnancy and birth, or in another facet of their lives).
While shaping the baby’s sleep appropriately, a sleep consultant also needs to know how to identify signs of emotional and physical traumas (both past and present) and understand the parents’ basic mental health needs to avoid inadvertently pushing a situation of tolerable stress into a crisis of toxic stress. Looking for a sleep consultant who understands to listen for and to hear the unique dynamics of each family is an important first step. Weed out the consultants who will not have the skills and understanding to match the family’s needs.
For parents, it could well be that a sleep consultant with just one offer might be the ideal match for your family. It is more probable that you will have to work your way through many of these types of sleep consultants before hitting on one who happens to match your own family’s complex characteristics and needs.
My best advice about finding a sleep consultant is to look for someone who has a wide array of techniques and approaches that are based on the reassuring foundation of scientific knowledge about infants’ and parents’ needs and development, and who is experienced at tailoring an individualized approach that meets all of each family’s needs. It is also important that the consultant feels comfortable and is in harmony with the unique personalities, mental health needs, and core values of the family.
Making decisions as a parent is hard, and making those decisions when parents are sleep-deprived is even harder! Wading through a sea of “take it or leave it” choices can take a long time, whereas searching for a sleep consultant who is highly experienced and thoroughly versed in the science of sleep, and can support its healthy development in a wide variety of ways, gives parents the best value for both their time and their money.
Research Different Consultants
The first thing parents might want to decide is how much involvement they require. Do they want a face-to-face experience, or will it be enough to get in touch with the sleep consultant via phone? In-home consultations can give the professional a chance to get to know the baby better and identify any potential issues that might be affecting the little one’s sleep.
Online consultations might be a good solution for parents who want to ease into things. They can begin with just short consultations via phone, especially when parents want to ask several questions before purchasing an entire sleep program for their baby.
Next, parents need to learn more about the sleep consultant’s methods. The rule here is that parents should be comfortable with the chosen approach. For instance, if the consultant uses the “cry it out” self-soothing method, it might not work in some households, which may call for a different professional.
Parents should also consider whether they want their sleep consultant to be a medical professional. It might take more time to find someone with a medical background, but such sleep consultants might be more likely to notice any underlying issues that may be affecting the baby’s sleep.
Consider the Consultant’s Values
Hiring a baby sleep consultant can be helpful for parents who are having no luck with getting their baby on track with a sleep schedule. It can ease some stress and worry to have someone to support you and your baby to ensure everyone in your home has a good night’s rest.
However, there are some things you should consider before hiring a consultant. One of the main concerns is, does the sleep consultant share the same values as you when it comes to training your baby?
There are many methods of sleep training, some of which involve letting your baby cry it out, which is a much more hands-off approach. If you do not believe in this, you should research consultants who practice different methods.
Another thing to consider is that you will have to continue the training once the consultant is gone. This can be taxing for parents, and if you know you will be unable to follow through with all of the suggestions, you might not get the results you were looking for. You need to make sure you are fully committed before hiring someone.
And lastly, always read reviews! When searching for a consultant, always choose someone who has great testimonials. Even better, find someone who works with someone you already know. This person will be in your life for quite some time, so you want to make sure they are a good fit for your family.
Determine the Consultant’s Philosophy
One of the most important things parents must consider before hiring a baby sleep consultant is their philosophy. Do they believe in Cry It Out (CIO)? Some parents may not be comfortable with this type of sleep training.
Other things to consider are the consultant’s experience, how much they charge, and what services they provide.
Parents should also ask for referrals from friends or family members who have used a sleep consultant in the past. It’s important to do your research and read reviews before hiring a baby sleep consultant.
Find a Knowledgeable, Compassionate, and Supportive Consultant
Parents need to consider whether the baby sleep consultant is professionally trained with the various sleep training methods or if they prioritized only one method.
You form a close relationship with the baby sleep trainer as working with someone to overpower any challenge is always a bonding experience. Your baby sleep consultant must care about your baby and honor your parenting style. So, whoever you choose, make sure it offers the more gentle baby sleep training techniques.
It’s not a quick fix to teach your baby how to sleep through the whole night. You need to consider whether the baby sleeps coach can guide and support you during the baby sleep consultations. If yes, don’t forget to check what the support consists of and how long it lasts.
This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.