What You Should Know About Being a Pediatric Sleep Coach
It’s been just over a year since Oh Baby Consulting opened its doors to helping families across the nation get the sleep they need. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a sleep coach, how people view this profession, and what I can do to make sure I’m always meeting my clients’ needs.
Unfortunately, there are so many misconceptions about what exactly my job entails – “Do you tell parents to let their babies cry all night?” “Are you anti-breastfeeding?” “What the heck even is sleep training? Isn’t sleep a natural thing?”
With all the different philosophies and advice, I can see how one can get lost in the whirlwind of conflicting information. No matter what sleep philosophies you adhere to in your family, I encourage you to read on and learn a little bit more about how I help families get better sleep.
“Sleeping Through the Night” is a Misnomer
In reality, no human goes to sleep and stays asleep all night. We all wake up several times throughout the night as part of our natural sleep cycles. However, when you have independent sleep skills, you can put yourself back to sleep from these normal “micro-awakenings”. Some children are naturally gifted sleepers and figure out how to do this without any extra effort from you, but many children will only learn the skill of putting themselves back to sleep if they are able to practice falling asleep on their own at nap and bedtime.
I’m Not Asking You To Starve Your Baby
So often people believe that sleep training means you must drop all night feedings. In general, healthy, full-term babies over six months who are gaining weight normally are biologically capable of sleeping through the night. For many of the parents I work with, their little one is “asking” to be fed during the night because they need help falling back to sleep, not because they need extra calories.
That being said, if your little one is younger than six months, lighter than 13 pounds, has any medical conditions requiring nighttime feedings, or you simply prefer to continue waking up to feed your little one, you can still practice healthy sleep skills and continue night feeds.
Unsure if your baby is waking for comfort or calories? Here’s how to tell!
I Do Not Sleep Train Newborns
At Oh Baby, I begin offering formal sleep training at 16 weeks (adjusted age). Newborns are not cognitively or emotionally capable of falling asleep without at least a little bit of assistance. They are still learning how to regulate their body’s systems and transition between states. Additionally, even in circumstances where they are able to fall asleep unassisted, they are certainly unable to sustain a regular sleep schedule and often their tiny tummies need frequent feedings.
However, at Oh Baby we also love working with newborns because there is still a ton of skill building that can be done during the first few months of a baby’s life. I’ve supported many parents during their baby’s first few months as they’ve laid a healthy foundation for independent sleep habits. Most times, more formal sleep training never even became necessary! Their little ones graduated into being great sleepers as they became developmentally able to sleep through the night.
Sleep Training Does Not Equal “Cry It Out”
This is a big one. Many people hear “sleep training” and immediately think of shutting the door on their screaming baby and leaving them to cry all night long until finally, exhausted and alone, they fall asleep. While “Cry it Out” is one method of sleep training, it is certainly not the only method. In fact, my approach to sleep training is a holistic one that takes into account a variety of factors that impact the ability sleep well. I believe that all skills take practice and encouragement and learning to sleep is no different. I encourage parents to be right by their little one’s side throughout this process, gently guiding their child towards independent sleep.
While no parent wants to hear their baby cry, in my experience, babies will do some protesting during sleep training because change is hard and they are frustrated you’re no longer doing the work for them. I would protest too! However, I never ask parents to ignore their little one’s cries, especially if they are not comfortable doing so. Instead, I teach parents some appropriate boundaries and coach them on when to step in and offer some support and when to stand back and give their little ones some time and space for learning to happen.
Remember, when a baby is given the necessary space to learn what it feels like to take control over their body and allow themselves to transition from awake to asleep, they will eventually (and usually pretty quickly) learn how to fall asleep on their own.
I’m Not Moving In
Another common misconception is that hiring a pediatric sleep coach is the same as hiring a night-nurse. People believe that in order to have a sleeping baby, a stranger has to stay overnight in their home and get paid by the hour work some type of voodoo magic. While there’s certainly a space for night nurses and in-home sleep training, this is definitely not the case with Oh Baby. In fact, I rarely have the pleasure of actually meeting many of the families with whom I work.
Instead, I connect with you (in-person or virtually – thank you technology) and provide a comprehensive plan to help you teach your children healthy sleep habits. Even though I’m not in your home for weeks at a time, all packages still include extensive follow-up support that is 100% virtual and customized to your needs. YOU are the expert on your baby and family; I am not in the business of taking over the parenting of your little one. So forget the dishes in the sink, keep your PJs on, and join me on a video call.
Sleep Solutions Are Not One-Size-Fits-All
Many parents believe that all sleep coaches use the same strategies as the books available for $9.99 on Amazon or the method your college roommate blogged about when she taught her baby to sleep. However, what makes Oh Baby so unique is that sleep plans are comprehensively tailored for your child and your family’s unique needs, wants, and goals.
My main goal during our work together is to support you as you teach your child to fall asleep without assistance. If something I recommend makes you feel uncomfortable, I usually have Plans B-Z in my back pocket. I also offer free sleep evaluations prior to booking a consultation to explain my packages and answer any questions you might have about the process. I always want my clients to enter into our services with their eyes wide open and understand what to expect during this process.
I often get questions about why I don’t record “evergreen” classes or sell sleep plans without any follow-up support, and even though that might make me a bit more money, I honestly feel as though it would go against everything that I believe in when it comes to this work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tweaked awake times after a week of crap naps or how many tricks I’ve had to pull out of my back pocket when babies weren’t responding to certain strategies in a “textbook” manner. I’ve also learned that parents don’t need another book to read or class telling them what to do; they need a supportive partner with some expertise about the whole “sleep thing” to work side by side with as they find a comfortable (and effective) solution for their family.
Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to support so many families as they’ve gone from sleep deprived and frustrated to well-rested and thriving. I am constantly blown away by the level of dedication, commitment, selflessness, and persistence these families exhibit; it turns out that quality sleep is a really powerful thing.
A big thank you to everyone – clients, colleagues, contractors, family, friends, cheerleaders – who has been a part of our first year in business, and here’s to even more sleeping families in Year 2!
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!