Why You Should Ensure That Your Sleep Coach is Adequately Trained!
Updated: Feb 17
Many new parents will at some point search for a sleep coach to help their baby or child sleep better, or sleep through the night. Whilst many of these coaches may well be very experienced and highly trained in paediatric sleep, there are also many who are not.
SO... how do you know if your sleep coach is expertly trained and qualified enough to advise on such an emotive part of life for many families? And why is it so important that they are adequately trained? In this blog post, we will explore the importance of ensuring your sleep coach is properly trained or certified and provide some tips on how to find a good one.
It is important to note that the sleep coaching/sleep training industry is completely unregulated and anyone can set themselves up as a self proclaimed sleep ‘expert’, having perhaps only completed a short weekend course, or practised on family and friends, with no (or limited) background in childcare or family support. There are no actual ‘qualifications’ in child sleep. However there are numerous courses that are accredited with highly respected organisations such as the Open College Network, which regulates the quality of the training accredited through them.
When families are at the end of their tether and possibly in a sleep crisis and only just managing to get through each day, it is extremely important that the person they work with is at least adequately qualified and experienced in supporting them fully and is able to look at the whole picture rather than just use set routines and strategies that don’t suit that individual child or family's needs. Often there can be underlying health or feeding issues that could easily be missed.
At best, the family can feel that their fears are justified if the person they are working with tells them their child ‘should’ be sleeping better and that they have all the answers and at worst, it can be highly risky for an unqualified or inexperienced sleep coach to work with a vulnerable family and potentially give wrong or dangerous advice that could mean families feel pressured into leaving their little ones to cry unattended when they don’t want to, perhaps end breast/chest feeding earlier than planned, or try to force their little one into a routine that doesn’t suit their developmental stage. This can be stressful and anxiety provoking for the whole family when it doesn’t ‘solve’ the problem, and can then leave parents feeling unsure about trusting their own instincts and reading their child.
You should always try to speak to the consultant you are planning to work with if you can, before booking anything - many will offer a free exploration call, to discuss whether you are a good fit for each other or not. You can ask about their training and experience during this call, and you should also have a good look on their website, and see what training they have completed and familiarise yourself with the content and level of the course(s). You could also explore whether they keep their training up to date across a broad range of subjects relating to children, families and sleep. Ideally you would be looking for Level 3's or 4's (or higher) for general courses in childcare and related CPD, but a minimum Level 5, or even better, Level 6 in Children's Sleep so that you know they will have covered all aspects of sleep in great depth.
Beware of claims that coaches are ‘certified’ directly through an independent sleep training course or company, without checking that that training is of a high quality and provided by someone qualified enough themselves to provide this training. A certification doesn’t really count for much if the quality of the training is below par. Advice can be given that isn’t evidence based and important aspects may be overlooked.
Every child and family is completely different – there is no ‘’one size fits all’’ approach to follow when it comes to sleep coaching, but there are always multiple solutions. Making sure you find a Sleep Coach whose approach aligns with that of your family and who is highly trained and experienced will mean that you can rest assured that you are in expert hands and that you will soon be on your way to more sleep and easier times ahead!
My Own Training
I myself am trained as a Level 6 paediatric/children's sleep practitioner through the Holistic Sleep Coaching Programme, the most comprehensive training in infant sleep currently available in the UK. This has an evidence based, scientific approach to sleep with a gentle, holistic approach covering new-borns to older children. Level 6 qualifications are equivalent to Bachelor's Degrees with honours, Graduate Certificates and Graduate Diplomas. This means the training and coursework completed with HSCP is as in depth as that of a Bachelors Degree, though isn’t a degree in itself. I am also a member of the IACSC (more details below).
All my strategies are holistically focused, with a bespoke family-centred approach. This is tailored to each child's unique needs and developmental stage. I support natural breast/chestfeeding or bottle feeding, I will advise on the ethos around bed sharing, focus on attachment, and, most importantly, I will never advocate or recommend any method that means leaving babies or children to ‘’cry it out’’ or not be responded to.
What is the IACSC?
The IACSC, or International Association of Child Sleep Consultants, is a non-profit educational organisation ‘’formed to bring together the growing number of child sleep consultants, establish a standard of professionalism and educational training for its members so that the medical and parenting community has a trusted resource of educated Child Sleep Consultants’’. It is a highly trusted organisation providing up to date and informed ongoing training based on the scientific studies and information needed to support sleep coaching to the highest level.
The IACSC ensures continued education in all areas that influence sleep practises. This covers many aspects of infant sleep including: *Child psychology *Nutrition and feeding
*Child development, and many others as it pertains to sleep.
Being a member of the IACSC means that there is a set standard of excellence in this area of practice. Their goal to the parenting community is to ‘’provide families with members who are experienced, well-educated and informed in the science of children’s sleep’’. In order for a sleep consultant to join IACSC, there is a minimum requirement that must be met:
1. Child Sleep Consultant Certifications/Training should include a minimum of 50+ hours of training with a qualified instructor.*
2. The certification program should be taught/instructed by an experienced Child Sleep Consultant who has been practising solely as a Child Sleep Consultant for over 10 years.*
* Not including self taught on-line training/certification (no instructors present).
Membership to professional associations such as the IACSC shows that a Sleep Coach is dedicated to completing excellent training, ongoing professional development and building on their knowledge base.
Sources: IACSC http://www.iacsc.com/membership-information
References and Recommendations In addition to checking qualifications, it’s always sensible to look at references and recommendations before hiring a sleep coach, or anyone in a role which involves caring for your little one.
You’re looking for someone who is a good fit for your environment, and family. It’s useful to make a list of your expectations and what you’re looking to achieve from a sleep coach. Interview a few sleep coaches. Take notes, ask lots of questions. And trust your instincts – they’re usually right! Sweet Dreams,