The Progress-Index Weekend - - HEALTH - By Melissa Erick­son More Con­tent Now

While get­ting ba­bies to sleep through the night has al­ways been an is­sue, mod­ern par­ents are turn­ing to sleep coaches to help the whole fam­ily snooze soundly. “Sleep is a learned skill, just like a child needs to learn how to walk or ride a bike,” said Joanna Clark, cer­ti­fied Gen­tle Sleep Coach and founder of Bliss­ful Baby Sleep Coach­ing. “We should view it as cre­at­ing the right cir­cum­stances and en­vi­ron­ment to teach the skill of sleep to a child. A sleep coach can help man­age the process in a way that will make it eas­ier on baby and par­ents and help par­ents and child to feel em­pow­ered to learn this life­long skill.”

Many peo­ple who turn to babysleep coaches are work­ing par­ents but “just as many are stay-at-home par­ents who are strug­gling, con­fused, over­whelmed or who have had sick ba­bies who haven’t man­aged to form good sleep habits nat­u­rally,” said Emma Pur­due, cer­ti­fied sleep con­sul­tant and founder of Baby Sleep Con­sul­tant, based in New Zealand.

“I think more par­ents are find­ing that we no longer have a ‘vil­lage’ we once did as a cul­ture, and tap­ping into oth­ers’ knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence can help you be­come a bet­ter par­ent just like it did many years ago with ex­tended fam­ily,” said Ni­cole John­son, pres­i­dent and owner of The Baby

Sleep Site, which has been in busi­ness for more than 10 years.

Sci­ence and val­ues

Fam­i­lies are hit­ting chal­lenges at 6 months and for­ward, said Clark, who stressed that new­borns need to be held, rocked or nursed to sleep or af­ter wak­ing dur­ing the night. That in­ter­ac­tion helps develop a par­ent-child bond and nurs­ing re­la­tion­ship, she said.

Some older ba­bies — 7, 8 or 9 months — who were sleep­ing suc­cess­fully in the new­born phase change sleep habits. “Pe­di­a­tri­cians look at sleep from a med­i­cal per­spec­tive,” Clark said. Sug­gest­ing a baby “cry it­self out” may not fit per­sonal par­ent­ing style or val­ues, she said.

Turn­ing to the in­ter­net and read­ing books on sleep can con­fuse and frus­trate par­ents, John­son said.

“Par­ents are bom­barded with in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially in the par­ent­ing space,” Pur­due said. A cer­ti­fied sleep coach can ex­plain the dif­fer­ence be­tween myths and facts and help par­ents work through op­tions while find­ing the best way to get a child to sleep and with­out com­pro­mis­ing par­ent­ing style, Pur­due said.

What they do

For chil­dren older than 6 months, sleep coaches use be­hav­ioral-based tech­niques, Pur­due said.

“Some strate­gies you might hear are things like pick up/put down, grad­ual with­drawal, con­trolled cry­ing, grad­u­ated ex­tinc­tion, camp­ing out, breast­feed­ing to calm, pop-outs and ex­tinc­tion,” she said. “There is a big spec­trum from very, very gen­tle to ex­tinc­tion, which is the tech­ni­cal term for ‘cry it out.’” A good sleep coach will help par­ents dis­tin­guish their child’s sleep tem­per­a­ment and pair this with a sleep train­ing tech­nique that doesn’t make the par­ents feel like their par­ent­ing style is be­ing com­pro­mised, Pur­due said. “Hir­ing a sleep coach should be as nor­mal as hir­ing any other ser­vice pro­fes­sional. Sure, you can change your own oil, but why?” John­son said.

“A sleep coach can help tired par­ents un­der­stand their new baby and their sleep needs, we can give them a range of strate­gies to try in or­der to fig­ure out the best way to get their baby to sleep,” Pur­due said. “Hav­ing some­one to bounce ideas off and learn from gives par­ents ed­u­ca­tion and em­pow­er­ment over their own sit­u­a­tion and par­ent­ing jour­ney.”

While you can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep, fees for sleep coaches vary widely de­pend­ing on train­ing, ex­pe­ri­ence, suc­cess rate, geographic re­gion and how ser­vices are de­liv­ered (in per­son, by phone, on­line), Clark said.

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