There is certainly no shortage of information available to exhausted parents in search of tips and tricks on getting their babies to sleep longer at night. There’s the internet. There are books. There are friends who swear by this, and mothers-in-law who swear by that.
But, if you were to ask parents if they’d ever considered using an overnight sleep trainer to coax their little one into more shut eye, chances are you’ll get more questions than answers. To learn more about this kind-of-brilliant, kind-of-bougie sleep trend, we’ve partnered with Sleep Number to learn more about the fascinating industry of sleep training.
What The Heck’s A Sleep Trainer, Anyway?
Kim Schaf thinks all of the information out there can be too much for parents “in crisis,” who are desperate for more sleep. “It’s like trying to complete a puzzle using three different sets of pieces. It just doesn’t work.”
That’s when Schaf says a sleep-deprived mother or father might reach out to her. Schaf is a professional sleep coach whom parents pay for guidance on getting their sons and daughters to fall (and stay) asleep. Schaf, based in Chicago, works with clients by email, video chat, phone or ― perhaps most surprising to some ― in-person and overnight in a client’s home.
“I can’t believe people would spend money on that!”
And Schaf is far from being the only overnight sleep coach around. While the field of sleep coaches, consultants, trainers and whisperers is still relatively new, it’s rapidly growing. Searching the phrase “baby sleep consultant” on Google yields more than 90,000 results, with the bulk of these services offered in big cities. The cost of an overnight stay varies wildly, with most trainers charging between $300 to $2,000 a night. (Yes, in-home sleep training is expensive.) In fact, when a group of parents were asked about the service on Facebook, the majority scoffed. “I can’t believe people would spend money on that!” But people do, and many of those people said that, for them, it was worth the extra cash.
What Does A Sleep Trainer Actually Do?
The basic idea behind sleep training is to teach a baby to sleep without the aid of a “crutch,” such as being nursed to sleep by mom or rocked to bed by dad.The reason? Babies who fall asleep unassisted will be able to fall back asleep unassisted, experts say, when they wake up during a change in sleep cycles.
Natalie Nevares is a sought-after sleep coach in Manhattan who found her calling after being treated herself for depression and anxiety when she was a new mother. Today, she works in her clients’ homes offering day-and-night, hands-on-help for up to 72 hours with parents who are “ready” to sleep train. That means parents need to be comfortable with “some” crying (all sleep training involves some crying, she says), on “the same page” as their partners and willing to discern a baby’s “habits” from “needs.”
Author Greta Lambert (not her real name) is a former Nevares client. Lambert, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment, was suffering from the effects of chronic sleep deprivation and contacted Nevares with the “dream” of getting her baby and toddler to sleep in the same room, sleep through the night and nap at the same time. She and her husband also wanted to reclaim the sacred space of their bedroom. Lambert said her wishes “felt like science fiction.”
“It felt like I had died and gone to heaven.”- Greta Lambert
Nevares stayed with Lambert and her family for 72 hours. Among other things, Nevares advised Lambert on adjusting the children’s sleep schedules, tweaking details in their bedtime routines and distancing nursing and crib times. She also encouraged Lambert and her husband to avoid going into the children’s room when their daughter cried after being put to bed if they were cries of “frustration” rather than “distress.”
As with other clients, Nevares encouraged Lambert to go to bed and took charge of the baby monitor for the night. (Nevares will sleep for a short period when on the job but spends most of her nights awake in order to monitor, record and respond to wakeups and interruptions.) By day, they practice nap training. Lambert’s ruling after 72 hours of coaching? “It felt like I had died and gone to heaven,” she said.
Better yet is the realization that when your little ones snooze, you’re able to catch up on your own Zs. Parents oftentimes overlook the importance of their own shut-eye during their child’s first few years. But, it’s important to remember that though parents are likely to get less quantity of sleep during a child’s infant and toddler years, it’s the quality of those few hours of sleep that makes the difference.
Here are some tips to help parents snag some quality shut-eye:
But Be Wary ― Not All Training Methods Are The Same
Despite how thrilled Lambert was with Nevares, not all sleep coaches (and their methods) are created equal. Sleep training that involves allowing a baby to cry, for any amount of time, has its share of vocal critics.
It should be noted, however, that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the organization whose recommendations form the basis of pediatric preventive health care, has weighed in on some (but not all) methods of sleep training and concluded that parents can “feel confident using behavioral techniques for managing infant sleep.” The takeaway? Trust your gut in whether or not to use a particular behavioral methods to sleep train your little one.
How Can You Sleep Train Without Spending Big Bucks?
For parents who don’t want to reach deep into their pockets to hire a sleep coach but do want some bedtime advice for babies who are 6 months or older, take a look at these tips from the pros:
- Have your baby in bed at the same time each night
- Establish a consistent routine that signals it’s bedtime, such as a bath and a book
- Put your baby to bed while she is still awake
- Avoid sleep crutches. Don’t nurse or rock your baby to sleep
- Stay calm and show confidence when you say “goodnight”
- Don’t run to your child at the first sound of a wakeup. Give her time to readjust and go back to sleep on her own
- If you’re having trouble at bedtime, remember the mantra, “This too shall pass”
Experts say when you can’t get the 7 to 8 hours of sleep you need, focus on getting QUALITY sleep over quantity. Sleep Number customers who adjust the firmness of their bed — their Sleep Number® setting — are 58 percent more likely to have improved sleep quality.* SleepIQ® technology inside the beds lets you track and optimize your sleep so you know how to adjust for your best night’s sleep, and Sleep Number research shows people who used SleepIQ® technology experienced improved sleep quality and more restful time in bed.
*Increase measured in a 2015 Select Comfort study including 1,079 individual participants.