Bay Area Parents Hiring Baby Sleep Coaches To Stop The Crying

by Jennifer Mistrot

(KPIX 5) — Virtually any new mom and dad would tell you the sound of their baby crying is a nerve-wracking experience, and attempts to sooth a crying baby back to sleep can tire out even the most patient parent.

Now, a growing number of new parents are hiring “baby sleep consultants.” The consultants coach new parents on how to get their babies to go to sleep. Consultations can range from phone calls to actual overnight visits, costing anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000, depending on how much “coaching” a parent feels he or she might need.

The advice is practical. Melissa Zdrodowski of the firm Sleep Sisters advises parents to follow The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s gudielines for safe sleep, which includes “using a firm sleep surface such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, dressing your baby in ‘sleep clothing,’ such as a one-piece sleeper, and always placing your baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night.”

“I view my role as a certified sleep consultant as helping educate parents about how sleep works for infants,” explained Zdrodowski.

Former baby nurse and sleep consultant Vivian Sonnenberg also stresses consistancy is key. Sonnenberg says a good sleep plan for parents includes putting your baby down at the same time every night. Sonnenberg is also not in favor of pacifiers, or “binkies.”

“No binkie. No swaddle,” said Sonnenberg. “No bouncing, no rocking … calm before (the baby) goes down.”

Sonnenberg’s client, Lisa, said the coaching can sometimes be less about the baby and more about mom or dad.

“She’s definitely training me,” said Lisa.”She definitely is. I think she is an important resource for me as a new mom. In our society now days we don’t necessarily have the aunts and the grandmas and all of that support around us.”

Stanford Sleep Clinic’s Dr. Shannon Sullivan agreed about the impact geography and distance can have on new families with young children. Shannon explained that in past generations, older relatives helped new moms and dads with new babies because they lived nearby.

But she also suggests parents do their homework, and advises that baby sleep consultants are currently not required to have state licenses. So consultants’ training and experience can vary.

“Families are white-knuckling it and going it alone and looking for advice where they can,” said Sullivan. “It’s important to do as much research as possible, look carefully at what the alternatives are.”

But for new mom Susan Sanders, having a baby sleep consultant worked. Sanders, a doctor herself, says Zdrodowski had her baby daughter, Zoe, sleeping through the night in just a few weeks.

“Like anything, you really want someone who is educated,” said Sanders.” And as a doctor I was drawn to someone who has an evidenced-based practice.”

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