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.

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