What exactly is a sleep coach?

I always get a reaction when I tell someone I'm a certified sleep coach. Given that it’s not a typical job, some responses are more positive than others. Many are surprised to hear that sleep coaching exists as a professional service, while others may have a friend, sister or neighbor who has hired a sleep coach. Regardless, the conversation usually turns into either a variant of ’You do sleep coaching? Thats amazing! My 3 year old won’t go to sleep anymore’/ ‘I have a 2 month old and I read online that even newborns can sleep through the night, how soon can I train my baby?’/‘My twin nephews are up all night, I’m going to tell my sister to call you.’ On the other side, I’ll get a more edgy response like ‘I don’t understand why people would need to pay you for this…I just put my kids down and walked out of the room; they cried for a bit and then they were fine’ or ‘Sorry, but how are you helping unless you’re actually staying in the house and doing the sleep coaching?’

To tell you the truth, I really don’t mind any response because I welcome the opportunity to explain what I do as a sleep coach. These days, there are so many awesome resources for parents that it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that you can find someone to help you get your family sleeping better. In case you are one of the people wondering what exactly I get paid for, I’ll tell you right now.

  • Taking a history. If you’ve hired me, I don’t offer you advice until I hear more about your child and your lifestyle. It’s important for me to know what your days (and nights) look like, your living space, your family dynamics, your child’s temperament and if you’ve attempted sleep training before. These details will be helpful to our collaboration, as well as help me direct you to the appropriate medical professional if anything jumps out as a red flag.

  • Checking out your daily log. I’ll ask that you keep a log of when your child is sleeping, for how long and what you needed to do in order to get him to sleep. Depending on your circumstances and age of your child, there may be other things included in the log.

  • Consulting and creating a plan together. Once I’ve gotten all of the information I need, we can get together and work out a plan. In addition to lots of general sleep education, we’ll talk about your child’s unique sleep needs and the steps you need to take in order to create a more positive sleep environment. Then comes the big stuff. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about sleep, reading about sleep, strategizing about sleep and training with sleep experts, as well as experts in the fields that often overlap. That means I’m familiar with numerous sleep training methods and parenting philosophies, which means we can really figure out the best course of action for you. It’s true that I have my own beliefs about what tends to work well, but I won’t push anything on you because it’s not my child we’re helping. My methods are gentle forms of behavior modification that incorporate a whole-picture, holistic approach that supports lasting change. We'll discuss all the things you need to have in place in order to begin coaching, as well as timing that will set you up for success. By the end of our consultation, you’ll have a plan and a start date.

  • Following up. A huge part of what I do comes after the consult. Once you start sleep coaching your child, we’ll continue to talk as you implement your plan. The support I offer as you go through the process is important because accountability and encouragement helps us stay consistent even when we’re exhausted. Plus, we can make changes and tweak things as necessary. The way your child reacts to coaching will better inform us on how to move forward. By the time you’ve achieved your sleep goals and your situation has improved, we’ll wrap it up. You will be better rested and have information on what’s likely to happen in the next stage your child reaches, as well as what to do in cases of regression, illness, travel and other potential obstacles.

That’s the gist of it. I don’t have a magic wand and I can’t snap my fingers and get your baby sleeping 12 hours straight but I can offer you knowledge, guidance and support as you teach your child the most invaluable skill of sleeping independently. Now that you know what a sleep coach does, the question is…do you need one?