Do I NEED a Sleep Consultant?
The short answer is maybe. Some parents will benefit greatly from a sleep consultant, while others may be able to do a lot of the work on sleep foundations and behavioral methods completely on their own. What will make the difference is your baby’s temperament paired with the temperament of your family. Let me start by explaining what a sleep consultant actually is.
The professional sleep coach or consultant is a relatively new concept. If you tell your parents about them they may look at you like you’re crazy and dive into a story of “Back in my day….” But times have changed and with the explosion of the internet and all of the information available to new parents it’s easy to find yourself questioning if what you’re doing with your newborn is right. Scanning through Facebook posts or mom blogs about sleep, you’ll be bombarded with personal accounts of how sleep training will damage your baby and how it can cause your baby to break their attachment with you, setting them up for a lifetime of loneliness and failure. Rest assured this is not the case and a professionally trained sleep consultant will be able to provide research onto why. A well trained sleep consultant should be looking at the whole family, meaning how the pregnancy went, what the birth was like, and history of emotional wellbeing since the baby or child was born. There is a lot to take into consideration here, which makes the profession highly sought after and really should be valued.
There are a variety of different types of sleep consultants out there and there’s also a large range of pricing to take into consideration. Many sleep consultants will come to your house and spend anywhere from 1-5 nights with you, physically there to help you implement the behavioral methods in the sleep plan. Others may give a written plan to follow, which can include (or not) follow up support for a predetermined period of time. There are a lot of options and finding the right consultant should involve talking to a variety to find the right fit for you and your family. Ask for references, check yelp, and talk to them about their sleep philosophies and behavioral methods.
Now that you know what a sleep consultant is, do you really NEED one? I like to think hiring a sleep specialist is the same as hiring any other specialist for your child. If your baby was having digestive issues, you’d take him to a nutritionist. If they were having gross motor difficulties, you’d take them to a physical therapist. It should be the same for sleep. Putting in the effort early on to establish healthy sleep foundations will do wonders to create healthy sleep habits to last a lifetime. If your baby is over 6 months old and is still waking multiple times per night or cannot fall asleep on their own and it’s creating problems in your family’s life, then it’s time to start changing some habits. Doing your research and reading books on infant sleep can be helpful, but be careful with the ones that will tell you your baby should be doing (____) by age (____) or (___) pounds. Every baby is so different and they develop at different rates and oftentimes these books can just make us feel worse as parents, because we are made to feel that our babies are not performing up to par. For the most part, any behavioral method you choose will work so long as you are consistent, and it’s just about the road you take to get there.