What does an infant sleep coach do?
Sleep coaching your infant or toddler is by far one of the hardest things you will do as a parent. Finding a good sleep coach can be a gold mine of information and support. So, what does an infant sleep coach do? A skilled coach will explore your goals around sleep with you, help you to understand what are realistic expectations based on your child’s age, and create with you a customized approach specifically suited to your situation and child’s temperament. An individualized sleep plan can take you from struggling and just getting by with the sleep you are getting to actually being well rested. Every family is unique and investing the time to explore the options to reach your goal is truly time well spent. Sleep training does not have to mean giving up night feedings or co-sleeping (if that is what you want to be doing) and it certainly does not mean that you have to let your baby “Cry it Out”.
Coaching services include everything from instructional video courses and books to one on one sessions to develop a plan and support you through the process, helping you evaluate and modify as needed. Coaches may offer in home support services and some will even do the process for you. A sleep coach can tease out the subtle things that may trip you up like ways you may be reinforcing the behavior you are trying to change. An outside set of trained eyes can save you a lot of backsliding, starting over and feeling like your child is just a “poor sleeper”.
Every baby is different, even when it comes to sleep, and what worked like a charm for your friends may not work at all for you. Some babies and children are naturally better sleepers much like there are children who can play a musical instrument or a sport with seemingly little difficulty. Sleep training is not a one size fits all situation. In order to be successful a plan needs to take into account parenting philosophies as well as the child’s age and temperament.
Do you have to sleep train your child? That is totally up to you and your situation. If you and your child are getting the sleep you need and you are happy with the sleeping arrangements then you are golden. If you are struggling from lack of sleep reaching out for support to shift things makes so much sense. Getting adequate sleep is vital for ourselves and our children’s well being. Sleep deprivation has a huge impact on our physical and emotional states and can worsen the symptoms of postpartum depression. Reasons parents seek out support with is sleep is varied, they may have tried before and been unsuccessful, they don’t know where to begin, there might be concerns about the child’s sleep or their own. Neither your child’s lack of sleep nor your decision to enlist the support of a sleep coach are poor reflections of your abilities as a parent. I am sometimes stunned by the tone and recommendations of some posts regarding sleep, sleep coaching, parenting styles, etc. I believe every parent wants what is best for their child. I also believe we were never meant to navigate through parenthood and it’s challenges isolated and alone. There is no such thing as ‘the only way’ or ‘the best way’ - It’s really about what is best for your family, your baby, and your situation.
It is important to be working with someone you can trust as this is, after all, one of the most difficult things you will do as a parent. You are entrusting them with two of the most precious things on the planet - your child and your sleep. Most coaches offer a complimentary discovery call which can be helpful to get a better sense of who they are and what it might be like to work with them than just the bio on their webpage. Testimonials from previous clients also found on their websites can give you an idea of what the overall experience of working with them might be like. In the last several years there has been a huge explosion of sleep coaches offering services. At this point in time (and hopefully this will soon change) there are no standards, licensing, or governing boards regarding sleep coaches - basically anyone can call themselves a sleep coach. The discovery call is not about solving the sleep issue but being able to talk with them about how they work, the method(s) they use, what you can expect when you work with them as well as to answer some general questions. It gives you a ‘feel’ of who they are. While a beautiful web page is enticing it doesn’t guarantee a good match or success. I personally would think twice about signing up for services with someone that did not offer an opportunity to talk with them first much the same way you would interview a nanny, pediatrician, or any other professional service.