Before I became a mom, no one told me that babies don’t sleep. I was honestly shocked and confused when I brought my first baby home only to discover that he would often fight his sleep throughout the night. I expected he would want to eat every few hours but I didn’t realize that instead of going peacefully back to sleep with a tummy full of milk, he would scream and cry. What was his deal?!
I started doing research and reading books, desperate for a solution because I could barely hold it together. I didn’t feel good about letting him “cry it out,” so I searched for a no-cry sleep solution. And wouldn’t you know it? There’s a book in existence with that very title. I devoured it from cover to cover, but I still felt lost. As a new mom I didn’t feel confident about how to go about sleep training. That’s when I decided to hire a sleep coach.
The idea seemed silly to me at first. I had never heard of a sleep coach before and I was almost certain that this was a trendy new fad that only us silly millennial parents would fall for. But I decided to take the leap, because I was desperate! My son wasn’t sleeping well at all and it was affecting my own health and my marriage.
I ended up getting a very basic package with a sweet and supportive sleep coach. We emailed back and forth a few times. I told her about my worries and she was able to give me personalized advice that directly helped me improve my son’s sleeping habits. If nothing else, it was nice to have someone I could email at 3 in the morning when I was at my wit’s end cradling a crying baby.
That baby is a five year old boy now and sleeps just fine. I started thinking to myself, “Is hiring a sleep coach truly worth it?” Maybe my son would have learned to sleep eventually with or without a coach. Often times it feels like the advice they give out is simple common sense anyway. Do we really need to spend good hard-earned money on sleep coaches? How did moms of yesteryear get their babies to sleep? And am I only asking these questions because I have forgotten how awful sleep deprivation is?
I talked to Kelly, a mom of one with another on the way. She hired a sleep coach when her baby was 10 months old. Her daughter would wake at least twice a night and Kelly was exhausted and ready to hit her breaking point. After reaching out to a sleeping coach and getting advice, her baby girl was sleeping through the night in about 3 – 4 weeks. Everyone in the household was much happier. Kelly shares, “It was absolutely worth the expense. In fact, it was some of the best money we’ve spent and I would do it again.” However, she has this warning for moms and dads, “I would caution parents to make sure they hire a coach that fits their parenting style. There are many sleep coaches with differing approaches, so parents need to find a coach that works best for them.”
Indeed, this is great advice. When I was trying to train my baby to sleep I felt uncomfortable with the idea of having him cry and cry. I wanted a gentler approach and needed someone who would support my wishes. There are, however, others who adhere to the cry-it-out method and need a coach who will help them stay strong during the difficult process.
Still, there are plenty of books and articles which address sleeping woes. What does a sleep coach have to offer that we can’t get from a book?
Emily McMason, who is a sleep coach herself, has this to say, “There are hundreds and thousands of articles and blogs and books about kids and sleep. But they aren’t specifically about your kid and sleep. And each household is unique, and so while there are definitely best practices and solid techniques, each family will be adapting them to their own needs.” This is so true as I learned. Sometimes well-meaning friends or family members would offer advice based on what worked for their own kid, but unfortunately, it wouldn’t work for mine. I thought something must surely be wrong with me or my baby, but there wasn’t. He just had a different temperament and we were dealing with a different set of issues. McMason goes on, “And that is where a sleep coach comes in—helping parents learn what to do, and how to do it at their house. A sleep coach also has the expertise and experience to know what to change when, and when to keep going, because change is just around the corner.”
At the end of the day, I believe parents need to do whatever they need to do in order to survive. I was not a happy mama when my baby was waking me constantly throughout the night. I didn’t like feeling exhausted and irritable. And my baby was also exhausted and irritable! Not everyone needs a sleeping coach, but if you’re as tired as I used to be, than maybe a sleeping coach is just what your family needs.