By Kim West, LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady
It’s 2:00 am. You’ve been up with your baby for what feels like a million times tonight already. You’ve read all the books about sleep your friends recommended. You’ve even given a few of the methods a short try. You’re exhausted, but you’re still overwhelmed at the thought of training your child to sleep through the night. Maybe it’s time to consider hiring a sleep coach.
Sleep coaches (or sleep consultants) are trained individuals prepared to educate, create an individualized sleep plan, offer advice, and support you through the process of teaching your child to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep through the night and naps. While there are sleep coaches specializing in sleep through all different stages of life, most sleep coaches work with children from birth to age 5.
These coaches work with you to create a plan to address your child’s specific sleep needs. They will first assess where your child is at in terms of their sleep abilities and will design a plan from there. Some coaches come to your home to physically assist you through the sleep training process, while others may work with you via video chat, telephone, or email. Many coaches will provide follow-up care, checking in and tweaking the plan they create as the need arises.
If you determine you need a coach to help you and your little one get a better night sleep, you may wonder where to begin. Interview a few coaches – differences in personality or parenting philosophies could be detrimental to your satisfaction if not addressed beforehand. As you’ve likely not interviewed a sleep coach before, here are a few questions to get you started:
#1 What’s your background and training?
There are currently no regulatory bodies that oversee or certify sleep consultants so its up to you to do your due diligence. Someone calling themselves a sleep coach could have a background in psychology, nursing, or social work. If so, they will have completed high levels of training in their profession and perhaps taken some advanced courses in the science of sleep as well.
Many sleep coaches will have gone through a training program and passed an exam. Many also practice under the supervision of a more experienced coach until they have become proficient at sleep coaching individually. You want to know how much and what kind of training your coach has received.
#2 How long have you been in practice? How many families have you served?
While everyone has to start somewhere, you don’t want to be surprised to find out you are the first family a coach has worked with. However, don’t be swayed away from someone simply due to the fact that they are early in their coaching career. Ask if they have any references or if you could get in touch with a previous family to verify their abilities.
#3 What is your sleep coaching philosophy?
If you’re completely anti cry-it-out, a coach who bases their plans around a method that will require you to leave your child alone to go to sleep is probably not going to be a great fit. While a sleep coach should be able to adjust their plan somewhat to suit your child’s specific needs, you need to have a general idea of how they plan to accomplish the task.
#4 How are the services provided?
Some coaches come into the home and physically assist with the coaching process. Others provide a written plan for you to follow alone. While others offer an initial consult, a sleep plan and follow up calls or emails. Find out exactly how the coach plans to help you.
#5 What is the cost of using you as a sleep coach?
Make sure you know what you will be paying before you get started! Is the rate an hourly fee or a flat rate? Are there different tiers of costs with varying levels of support? Generally speaking, a coach who comes into your home will cost more than a coach via telephone or email.
Regardless of who you choose to help you coach your child, it is incredibly important that you clear any coaching plans with your pediatrician. Now is the time to discuss nighttime feedings, wakings, and expectations for your child. If you have concerns regarding underlying medical conditions, please bring them up during this conversation.