As someone who recently brought twins into this world, you can trust me on this: Babies don’t sleep as well or as long as grownups do.
A cranky baby in the middle of the night is guaranteed to make a cranky parent, too. Often parents resort to tactics that can create bad sleep habits (such as feeding the baby every time he or she is fussy) or get desperate and bring the baby into bed with them, which experts say is unsafe.
What’s a bleary-eyed mom or dad to do?
“Baby sleep is different than adult sleep. A lot of the stuff that drives us crazy is developmentally normal behavior,” says Gwen Dewar, an anthropologist who has studied cognitive development and founded ParentingScience.com.
Maybe your baby’s day/night cycle is off. Maybe baby’s hungry. Or there was too much excitement right before bed. Or maybe you were too quick to intervene at the first cry, which reinforces temperamental behavior. Or maybe you’re traveling, which thrusts your baby into unfamiliar, and often brighter, surroundings. So, you think, some trial-and-error will help you get to the bottom of things — except an irregular routine that follows from trial-and-error can also be a sleep disruptor.
It’s no wonder that many parents, exhausted from all those nights of just three hours’ sleep, are turning to professional sleep coaches for help in maximizing zzzs for baby (and themselves).
Seriously? A sleep coach?
A sleep consultant or sleep coach is an expert parents hire to come in and help condition the baby to sleep, and to help the parents establish the proper routine to encourage that sleep.
I know that sounds like a gilded-spoon child-rearing solution. And since parents have been raising children without such coaches for thousands of years, there are plenty of naysayers.
I, too, had my doubts until we backed into hiring a sleeping coach. We actually hired a night nurse three nights a week, and that night nurse turned out to be a certified infant sleep consultant.
And now I’m sold on their benefits, and I wonder how many parents are pushed to the edge of a nervous breakdown that could be avoided with a little outside expertise.
Sleep consultants start at approximately $300 for a consultation and two weeks of follow up consults, according to this Wall Street Journal article. Of course the price is much higher for longer consultation periods or overnight care.
What I got out of it
So, our goals with bringing in the sleep consultant were twofold: We wanted to get better sleep, as parents, and we wanted our new babies to get as much good sleep as possible, too. Here’s how the coach helped:
She had much more experience with getting babies to sleep longer, earlier than I ever will.
She taught us techniques for soothing and calming the young ones, to stretch the time between feedings further and further.
She helped create schedules that worked for our children's age and for our family.
She taught us how to swaddle and helped us understand the meaning of different types of cries.
What you can do now
Some experts say sleep training shouldn’t begin until the baby is 6 months old — or they achieve a target weight, which might move things up to 4 months in or could be as early as a few weeks of age.
The most important thing you can do for your young’un is establish a set pattern: A regular feeding and napping schedule, set time and routine for bedtime, e, a ramping down of activity followed by alone-time in the crib. And the darker the better, as you want to keep those curious eyes from spotting things of interest in the midnight hour. We also took our sleep consultant’s advice and bought a reliable white noise machine for naps and bedtime.
And forgive the self-promotion, but if you’re traveling for work, for pleasure, or just making rounds with the family to show off your new little bundle, a SlumberPod can be a godsend. It’s also great for in your own home, if you’re after a very controlled environment for baby.
SlumberPod gives your child a sleeping space that’s nice, quiet, dark and familiar. So even if there’s a flashing neon sign outside your Motel 6 or nanna needs to keep that hall light on for her treks to the kitchen, your baby’s got his or her best shot at a good night’s sleep.
Here's to more nighty nights!
Co-inventor of SlumberPod