Call to regulate babywhisperers
The ‘‘baby whisperer’’ industry is best left to medically qualified health professionals and needs greater regulation, an Auckland baby sleeping consultant says.
Baby whisperers or baby sleep consultants use an evidence-based approach to help tired parents by helping come up with healthy solutions to help a baby and its parents sleep better.
Ministry of Health clinical advisor child and youth health Dr Janine Ryland said people should seek sleep advice for their baby from registered health professionals including midwives, their general practice doctor or nurse, Plunket or Tamariki Ora providers. The ministry also has good advice for safe sleeping on its website.
Amy Sherpa, co-founder of The Baby Sleep Practitioners in Onehunga, said baby whispering was a serious business which had lasting health effects on both a mother and her baby.
She said after two years in business she had seen a stagger- ing amount of conflicting and unhealthy advice doled out to mothers from unqualified baby whisperers which had led to inadequate baby nutrition and postnatal depression.
Concerning advice being given to babies under six months included not responding promptly to a baby’s cues, strict sleeping and feeding schedules and controlled crying - which involved resisting the urge to immediately pick up a baby when it cried, she said.
Sherpa and her business part- ner Elspeth Witton are registered nurses with a background in neonatal nursing.
They assess and address a baby’s medical issues, then work with families to identify and remove barriers to their baby’s sleep. Clients are sometimes referred onto a recommended lactation consultant, psychologist or paediatrician.
Sleep consultants should be required to have a medical background, with specialised training in infant health, Sherpa said.
‘‘In every other industry you need to be trained, so why not with baby sleep and wellbeing?’’
Baby Sleep Consultant New Zealand founder Emma Purdue said medicalising the industry could increase costs and put the service out of reach of those who need it most.
‘‘I don’t believe certified sleep consultants need to be medically trained, as anything medical is outside of our scope of practice.’’
She said a governing body should be set up to ensure a standard of education for baby whisperers.