Sleep training services have become more popular but how does it work and how do you find the right professional sleep consultant? Here are 7 must-know tips to find the right fit based on my 15 years of experience as a pediatric sleep consultant.
Why Sleep Training Services?
When your baby is not sleeping, it can be exhausting and frustrating. But, when you’re sleep-deprived, figuring out how to help your child sleep better can be confusing and daunting. Just like you hire other professionals such as an accountant or auto mechanic, hiring a sleep consultant can give you better results and get the task done faster. Here are just a few things a sleep consultant can give you:
- Knowledge – Just like other experts, a sleep consultant has done extensive research and training to become a professional.
- Experience – Sure, your friend might have a dream sleeper but they have the experience of just one, two, or a few children. A professional sleep consultant with years of experience can tap into the experience with hundreds if not thousands of children. For example, with over 15 years of working with at least 8 children per month already puts me well over 1,000 families. We know the potential pitfalls and red flags to look for.
- Third-Party – Sometimes you are too close to your own situation and it’s hard to see the forest among the trees. In addition, sometimes two parents don’t always agree on the strategy to use. In most cases, a third party can provide a solution that both parties can get on board with or explain why one way is not the best fit.
Now that you know why utilizing sleep training services is a good idea, learn some tips for finding the right fit.
7 Tips for Hiring a Professional Sleep Consultant
Sometimes when hiring a professional you’ve never used before, it’s hard to even know what to ask. That’s where a seasoned professional can help you out! Based on my experience, when you are looking to utilize sleep training services, you’ll want to keep these 7 tips in mind:
1. Match the Method of Communication
All sleep consultants have a preferred method of communication and you’ll want it to match yours. There are some sleep consultants who only work with you in-home while others only communicate virtually via e-mail, phone, Zoom, text, etc. and some have a combination of both. Keep in mind that if your sleep consultant visits your home, you will want to make sure the sleep training services come with virtual support when they are gone. Babies and toddlers change a lot over the course of months or even a mere few weeks!
2. Learn Their Philosophy
Many sleep consultants will give you a free sleep assessment. Ask the sleep consultant what their philosophy is in regard to teaching your child healthy sleep habits. How do they view the process? For example, I view the process as teaching your child a skill they will use forever, however, they are children and will need a parent’s support sometimes. I do not expect 100% independence but we strive to match age-appropriate independence. In addition, some sleep consultants will believe your child should be night-weaned very early while I maintain that some babies, especially breastfed babies, may need night feedings for a bit longer than others.
3. Learn Sleep Training Methods Used
Some sleep consultants adopt a specific sleep training method that they use with all of their clients. However, in my opinion, and experience, not all babies are the same. In addition, some sleep consultants will adopt a Cry-It-Out Method such as The Ferber Method that might make you uncomfortable. We don’t have a “right” or “wrong” method. It works best to match a sleep training method to a baby’s temperament but we favor gentle sleep training methods here at The Baby Sleep Site, for example.
4. Learn How to Get More Support
I will talk more about cost below but budget can be a big factor. While you might want a sleep consultant to come to your home, for example, it might simply be out of your budget. Similarly, some sleep consultants have a flat fee but paying that over and over can get costly quickly. Find out if the sleep consultant has add-on sleep training services such as a 30-minute follow-up phone call or two e-mails.
5. Read Testimonials and Happy Families
Can the sleep consultant provide references in the form of testimonials and happy families? Word-of-mouth is the best way to find a professional that will be a good fit but if you don’t know anyone who has worked with a sleep consultant before, reviews will be a good place to look.
6. Learn How Much Training They’ve Had
If the sleep consultant is new to the field and doesn’t have many years of experience, consider what type of training the sleep consultant has undergone. In my 15 years of experience, I’ve seen a lot of programs pop up. But, one thing I’ve noticed is that some programs come with mentorship and others don’t. This is important because when I’ve trained my own sleep consultants to work on my team, I’ve found it takes at least one year for them to become knowledgeable and experienced enough to be able to work with a wide range of families and scenarios. (And, just when you thought you’d heard it all, something new comes up!)
7. What Type of Promises?
Is the sleep consultant promising success in 3 nights? Does it sound too good to be true? In my experience, the average time for most families to achieve their goals is 1 to 3 weeks. The experience varies quite a bit so while some families will finish in 3 nights, I can’t (and won’t) guarantee it for ALL families. I have seen it take as little as one hour to as long as 6 months.
Now that you know the things to keep in mind when looking for a sleep consultant, let’s discuss the cost.
How Much Do Sleep Training Services Cost?
Sleep training services cost anywhere from $200 to $20,000 per package. Costs vary widely given some professionals are visiting you in your home which will naturally cost more. In addition, some sleep consultants are working with celebrities. Most sleep consultants charge between $100 and $200 per hour or $200-$1000 per package. But, again, there are things to consider when comparing packages:
- Does the package come with a written plan? For example, for our new clients, we make over 50 decisions and create what we call a Personalized Sleep Plan®, a day-by-day plan that is written just for you so we can start on the same page. It doesn’t mean the plan will go exactly that way but it helps to see it laid out in front of you.
- How much support comes with the package? Many packages come with two weeks of e-mailing, for example. In my experience, that isn’t always long enough. That’s why our packages are usually 30-60 days.
- Does the package address schedule, nighttime sleep, and daytime sleep? What about other factors such as feedings and the sleeping environment? Establishing healthy sleep habits should take a holistic approach.
- What happens if baby gets sick or something urgent comes up? I can’t tell you how many times a baby will get sick in the middle of the plan. Find out the policy on pausing your sleep consulting service. For example, we allow one pause for up to 30 days without a fee.
- What happens if you need help beyond the predetermined amount of time? Babies and toddlers change significantly in the first three years. What if you need more help with your immediate sleep problems or new ones pop up? Ask the sleep consultant what add-on options there are.
Can You Pay For Sleep Training Services With HSA or Insurance?
Depending on the background of your sleep consultant, insurance might cover the service. However, the service would need to be provided by a medical provider in order to be covered by medical insurance. On the other hand, check with your HSA because sleep training services are often an eligible expense for an HSA. The good news is that many sleep problems can be solved without a medical background!
Once you’ve found a sleep consultant in your budget, how do you get started with sleep training services?
How to Get Started With Sleep Training Services
To get started with sleep training services, first, purchase a package, and then most sleep consultants will give you a comprehensive intake form or questionnaire. This gives you a space to share all of your concerns and goals. It can also be therapeutic. And, your new sleep consultant will learn a lot about you and your family! At that point, they will share the next steps whether it’s in-home or virtually. Most will make an appointment with you or simply send you your sleep plan so you can get started!
I hope this article helps you decide whether sleep training services are for you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I wish I did this sooner!” So, don’t delay! Get started, and good luck!