“Wait, what do you do?” is a question I hear regularly. Sleep consulting for children is a new frontier and unless you are in the thick of it, as I am, it is unlikely that you have ever heard of this profession. Thanks to a group of brilliant women, the profession has grown and continues to grow across the world.
So, what is it? Pediatric sleep consulting is a consulting and coaching profession for sleep nerds like me who specialize in behavioral modification approaches to address sleep issues. We also know the ins and outs of child sleep and how a healthy child “should” be sleeping. A sleep consultant uses their professional knowledge to assist families who have a child or children that have sleep issues. Sleep issues that a consultant may address vary and can include; early rising, non-existent naps, multiple night wakings, night terrors, short naps, bedtime battles, and the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep on their own.
To address the sleep issues the sleep consultant typically begins their service by reviewing and discussing information provided by the family about the child’s sleep history, sleep environment, any medical considerations, and the family’s culture/style/beliefs. As long as a family’s pediatrician approves sleep training for the child, the consultant then comes up with a unique “sleep plan” for the family that is comfortable for all of the caregivers to follow.
Once a family has the “sleep plan” the consultant then supports and coaches them for as long as they have requested as they implement and carry-out the plan. Supporting and coaching can occur in-person, over the phone, by email, by text or even by Skype. At the end of working together, the family should have a better understanding of what healthy sleep habits look like for a child and their child should be sleeping fabulously.
Let me be frank for a moment. Not all sleep consultants are created equally. My education through The Family Sleep Institute was very comprehensive. We were taught multiple sleep training methods and reminded that not all families are alike. There needs to be flexibility and adjustments made due to work schedules, housing, personality traits (i.e. the feisty toddler), and multiple caregivers. Some sleep consultants are merely trained on one sleep training method with little knowledge of other approaches, therefore providing a disservice to their customer due to a lack of flexibility and options.
In my opinion, pediatric sleep consultants are a necessity in today’s world. With dual working households, the lack of multigenerational support, confusing messages from friends, a vast amount of knowledge on the internet and in books, there is a need for a professional/specialist to tell us how sleep is supposed to look for a baby, toddler or preschooler and how to achieve that great sleep. Thankfully sleep consultants are here to stay. I encourage any parent with a child who has even the slightest sleep issue to have a conversation with one to see if they may be able to help. I’m available if you happen to be ready to chat now!