What does a baby sleep coach do?
August 8, 2009 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever hired a "sleep coach" for their baby?

What does a sleep coach do exactly - is it just a variation of the controlled crying techniques described in books by Ferber and Weissbluth? Also, they seem rather expensive, was it worth the money?
posted by mushroom_tattoo to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What they do depends very much on what school they subscribe to. They're really like dog trainers -- they're not there to train the dog/your child so much as they're there to train you. They're there to teach you the method by demonstration, and then stick around to make sure you stick to it.

Probably the most common coaches you'll find, depending on your area, are either students of Ferber or of Tracy Hogg (her website, babywhisperer.com, appears to be down right now), which favors what she calls an up-and-down method that's a little gentler than Ferber.

If you have the discipline to read up on whichever school of thought you want to follow and actually follow through with it, then no, they're probably not going to give you anything you couldn't get from books. But if having someone hold your hand, encourage you to stick to the plan, and reassure you that your baby is doing just fine is something you'd benefit from, then I'd say go for it, if you can afford it.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:57 AM on August 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We had some difficulties getting our baby to sleep through the night and were starting to go a bit crazy we hired one. As middleclasstool said, they helped train us more than the baby.

When it came down to it, it was more of a question of will power than knowing what to do.
Much like anything baby related there are a billion schools of thought, none perhaps more right or wrong than the other.

What worked for us:
Needing to get the confidence we were not breaking our baby
Doing a gentler Feber-like plan.
Have a bed time routine (bath-time -> bottle or boob -> book -> bed) at the same time every night
When it was time to go to bed, say very nicely like "It's time for bed, we love you very much, if you're still awake, I'll be back in 5 minutes" and then put her in her crib
She had a little lovey rag like thing and a pacifier to keep her company
Then if she still was crying in 5 minutes, come in and say "Hi sweetie, you should be sleeping, we love you so much, time for bed, if you're still awake in 10 minutes, we'll be back"
Then if she still was crying in 10 minutes, come in and say "Hi sweetie, you should be sleeping, we love you so much, time for bed, if you're still awake in 15 minutes, we'll be back"
Then if she still was crying in 15 minutes, come in and say "Hi sweetie, you should be sleeping, we love you so much, time for bed, if you're still awake in 15 minutes, we'll be back"
We then did the 15 minute thing every 15 until she was quiet or went to sleep
It took maybe a week or two, but it worked, and she is now sleeping happily through the night

Everyone is _so_ much calmer and happier for it.
She's 13 months now and sleeps through the night, previously she was waking up every hour.

Good luck.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:06 PM on August 8, 2009

I did not hire a sleep coach, but my sister (who has six children) assisted me in getting my first child to sleep on his own. She is a Ferber devotee.

I got her help very early on, so there wasn't any crying to sit through -- basically her method is, from six weeks or so, to nurse them just before bed but then to wake them up a little by changing their diapers and swaddling them, so that they go into the crib awake but sleepy. They then learn to fall asleep alone in their cribs, with nothing in their mouths, and if they wake during the night, they can settle themselves. He still had a couple of wakings until he was 5 months or so, but it was because he was hungry -- he'd do a big nursing, rather than just take a little nip and drop off again, like babies do when they just need the habitual sleep trigger.

She came over and showed me how she does it a few times, at around 11 p.m., and then I did it myself through the night.

I guess I could have read and come up with a strategy on my own, but there are a couple of benefits to outside intervention: (1) having someone with a lot of experience show you, then watch you do it, so you feel comfortable that you're doing it right; and (2) if he'd been a little older and habituated to a different way of getting to sleep, and had therefore done some crying, it would have been better to have someone a little more dispassionate to encourage us to stick with the prescribed response, rather than rushing in to do the same old thing.

Disclaimer: with our second child, I got lazy and didn't stick to the method -- brought her into bed to nurse, we both fell asleep nursing (well, dozing, for me) -- and she was a freaking nightmare, waking 4 times a night for months and months. We had to do the real-deal Ferberizing at 11 months. Man, I was tired by then.
posted by palliser at 12:15 PM on August 8, 2009

I found I could do it on my own by doing what Bottlebrushtree did, but by going back every 1 minute the first night, 2 min the second, etc. It took a bit longer, but I felt it was less jarring for my child and I could "own" it.

From what I hear, the sleep coaches are a bit more down with Ferber. So it depends on how you feel about Ferber -- Ferber is supposed to be okay after 6 months, but I was an attachment parent (whose baby had previously slept through the night from 3 weeks to 8.5 months!!!) and I wasn't able to dive into that approach.
posted by acoutu at 1:31 PM on August 8, 2009

One of my friends is actually a (very successful) sleep coach. She doesn't believe in crying it out, but beyond that, I dont' know her specific game plan. She does say that 90% of her job is training the parents to follow through consistently with whatever approach they have decided to use.
posted by gaspode at 4:37 PM on August 8, 2009

Mod note: comments removed - nothing personal parents, but the question is fairly specific and if you're not even indirectly answering it you should maybe think about email instead, thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:18 PM on August 8, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you. It has been very helpful to hear everyone's experiences.
posted by mushroom_tattoo at 9:08 PM on August 8, 2009

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