It’s no secret that adjusting to life with a newborn on little to no sleep is one of the most difficult parts of becoming a parent. All babies have different sleep patterns, and figuring out what techniques and routines works for your itty-bitty nap-fighter is no easy feat. Whether you’re looking for tips on how to establish healthy sleep patterns for baby or having a tough time with a toddler who battles bed at all costs, a sleep consultant may be able to help. These professionals can offer a personalized approach to sleep training, and it might just be the key to getting you and baby some desperately needed shut-eye.
What Is a Baby Sleep Consultant?
A baby sleep consultant or baby sleep coach can help demystify the process of getting an infant to sleep better and for longer stretches. But before we get into the basics of what a baby sleep consultant is, it’s important to understand what a baby sleep consultant is not. Lots of parents are under the impression that they’ll be hiring someone to march into their homes as the sun sets and try out a bunch of different sleep-training techniques. Whether you’re into that idea or not, that isn’t exactly how baby sleep consultants operate.
“A baby sleep consultant will look at baby as a whole and try to figure out why they aren’t sleeping and how to get them more sleep,” explains Andrea De La Torre, founder and owner of Baby Sleep Answers, an online resource dedicated to helping babies sleep. Often, a sleep trainer will create and share a customized sleep plan for baby and follow up with one-on-one consultations to find the root cause of baby’s sleep issues. While these sessions can occur in your home, they’re almost always during the day, and can even be done in the form of a video conference.
“Most importantly, a consultant is available to the family while they go through the process of sleep training their baby to answer questions, addressing any concerns and support parents and baby as needed,” says Mary Vaughn, a pediatric sleep consultant at Mother Together.
Reasons for Hiring a Baby Sleep Consultant
Wondering whether your child’s situation warrants a call to a sleep consultant for some assistance? Vaughn shares a few common reasons to consider hiring help:
Frequent wakings. If baby is still waking multiple times during the night after 6 months, it could be more habitual and less about hunger.
Naptime issues. If baby has an erratic nap schedule, takes extremely short naps or won’t nap at all, you’ll have an overtired baby at bedtime, which can lead to poor-quality sleep at night.
Toddler bedtime battles. As they become more independent and mobile, toddlers can take bedtime battles to the next level.
family bed. It’s hard to get adequate sleep if a baby or toddler will only sleep in your bed instead of their own crib. What’s more, bed-sharing with an infant is deemed unsafe by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Early waking. An extremely early wakeup time makes it difficult for parents to get things done late at night or feel sufficiently rested in the morning.
Trouble falling back asleep. A baby sleep consultant can help if baby wakes up for long stretches in the middle of the night and won’t go back to sleep.
Additionally, some parents like to take a proactive approach to sleep training. Seeking out support in infancy is a great way to establish a healthy foundation through gentle sleep training methods.
When to Hire a Baby Sleep Consultant
Wondering if you should seek help right away or wait it out? The good news is that it’s really never too early or too late to hire a baby sleep consultant. Many parents choose to proactively bring someone in during the early months of infancy to ensure baby has the best sleep habits at each stage (all those developmental leaps and subsequent sleep regressions in the first year can wreak havoc on their routine, after all!).
On the flip side, if you’re at your wit’s end with a 3-year-old who refuses to sleep anywhere but your bed, you could be ready for some reactive help. Suffice it to say that there’s no right or wrong time to seek out a baby or toddler sleep consultant. “I think any time a parent feels lost or wants to learn more about sleep, it’s the right time to reach out for help,” says De La Torre. “I think it all depends on the parents, their mental health and their exhaustion level.”
How Much Does a Baby Sleep Consultant Cost?
You should always expect to pay for the services you’ll receive from a certified baby sleep consultant—but it’s difficult to estimate exactly how much you might pay. Each consultant has their own pricing structure, and since each offers slightly different services or packages, there isn’t a particular across-the-board fee. Vaughn says that her basic plan typically starts around $50 to $150, while personalized plans and support can range from $200 to $1,000. That said, she adds that most plans fall within the $250 to $500 range.
How to Find the Right Baby Sleep Consultant
There are two faces to finding the best baby sleep coach for your family. First, consider your needs. Are you feeling like you’re on the right track but just need help making a few adjustments here and there? A quick consultation might do the trick. But if you’re struggling with twins who wake up constantly through the night at different times, you’ll likely want and need a bit more comprehensive support.
Once you’ve nailed down the level of support and services you need in order to get baby sleeping soundly through the night, it’s time to start interviewing sleep coaches. While evaluating a baby sleep consultant’s certifications and training is important, understand that it’s not a highly regulated profession, and there aren’t any universal requirements—so you’ll want to do your due diligence to vet a sleep trainer’s experience. That said, Vaugn said she gives “bonus points” to anyone with multiple relevant certifications or degrees relating to children and families.
“Ask around in your local parenting groups online for personal reviews and recommendations. Trust other parents who have walked in your shoes,” advises Vaughn. Know that most sleep trainers will offer a free, short phone consultation too. You can use that initial meet-and-greet to ask questions and get a sense of their style and approach to sleep training. This will help you determine if they’re a good fit for your family.
The best baby sleep consultant is the one that makes you feel comfortable and confident. They should have a thorough understanding of your goals for baby and a willingness to work with you to see those goals come to fruition.
Andrea De La Torre is the founder and owner of Baby Sleep Answers, an online resource dedicated to helping babies sleep.
Mary Vaughn is the owner of Mother Together, where she offers her services as a pediatric sleep consultant and potty-training coach.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.