I Hired a Baby Sleep Coach and It Only Took Three Nights for My Six-Month-Old to Sleep Through the Night

sleeping baby

If I had a redo on my 40 weeks (actually, 41 in my case) pre-baby, I’d prioritize one thing: Reading all the sleep books so I had a firm sense of my plan for teaching my son how to sleep right out of the gate. Full disclosure: I had no clue.

Don’t get me wrong: I had a lot of thoughts about sleep. Mainly, that it would be a huge priority to teach my newborn how to do it successfully, but also to allow him time to get his footing in the real world. In other words, we gave ourselves permission to rock him to sleep for the length of the “fourth trimester”—all 12 weeks of my maternity leave.

But that was the problem. Post-fourth trimester, we still weren’t 100 percent confident on which sleep method we wanted to use. Would we do cry it out? Or try the no-tears method? We spent many a subway commute, each with a different sleep training book in our hand, discussing the pros and cons of various ways. And before we knew it, our son was fast approaching six months. Hence, my reason for recommending advance reading pre-baby: When you’re logging two to three non-consecutive hours of shuteye a night thanks to sleep regressions and teething and dream feeds, that is a tough time to begin your research.

All this is to say that after reading countless books about shuteye (from The No-Cry Sleep Solution to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) the minute my son hit the four-month mark, I caved and decided to go with an expert: My husband and I hired a baby sleep coach.

She came highly recommended. A close friend of ours passed her name along. “Kimberly Walker is a genius! She’ll change your life.” I poured over her website with testimonials that promised a lot of the same. Her method is also outlined there—she doesn’t believe in “sleep training” as much as she believes in “sleep teaching.” Another sentence that felt comforting to me: “Our technique is compassionate and caring and we are conscientious of making sure your child will not feel abandoned.” All words that felt on par with our goals.

My husband reached out first. Before committing, we arranged a brief call with Kimberly so that she could assess where we were at with our sleep routine. (This was to help her get a sense of our parenting style, our goals and also whether or not our baby would have a shot at success with her sleep teaching plan.) We explained our pitfalls (“we’re scared to take away the pacifier” and “we run into the room and scoop him up at every peep”), but also our fears (“we’re so sleep-deprived, we can barely function, let alone give our baby 100 percent”). She laid out our package options and a promise: She could help.

So we shelled out $175. This is the cost of what Kimberly calls a “limited” phone consultation (aka we would have a call without any time limit to lay out a sleep plan for our son, plus two follow up conversations by phone, text or email after we implemented the plan). Our task after the first phone call: To pick a night to start.

The biggest change was to his bedtime routine. Prior to hiring Kimberly, our strategy was to basically nurse him to sleep. The problem became that, over time, he associated eating with sleeping, so for every single wake-up, it became a requirement to pop him on the boob. No more. Per Kim, nursing would be the first (versus the last) step in our routine. We’d follow it up by doing something that sounds crazy: We’d basically wake him up with various steps like a diaper change, putting him into PJs and reading him books before setting him back down in his crib…awake. (He has to learn how to self-soothe somehow, right?)

Night #1 was the toughest. The plan after completing our new bedtime routine: To let our son cry and go in to check on him every five minutes (with help from a timer) to remind him that he wasn’t alone for as long as it took until he fell asleep. (Did I mention we cut the pacifier, too?) After a few minutes of tears, my husband—baby monitor in hand—was the first to cave: “It’s not working, we should pick him up.” I held him back. “This was your idea! Let’s give him 20 minutes total to see if he can work it out.” We checked in every five minutes—which, truth be told, only seemed to rile him up and make him cry harder. It took him 18 minutes to fall asleep.

The next two nights, we saw improvement. On night #2, it took just 13 minutes for him to pass out. (We checked in every five minutes still.) Night #3 was even better—only six minutes for him to shed a few tears, then fall blissfully asleep. (We didn’t check in on him at all this time.)

But did he stay asleep? That’s the kicker: He did. Up until sleep training, I’d been convinced that there was no way he’d make it through the night. (“He’s so sensitive to dirty diapers,” I’d explain to my mom friends.) But, strange enough, there was something about falling asleep on his own at the onset that helped him manage middle of the night wake-ups without us. (For example, when he did wake up, he might cry out, but within a minute or two, the cries would turn to whimpers and he’d be back asleep without our help.)

There is a caveat. To help improve our chances of success, I permitted myself one dream feed at 2 a.m. — we wanted to give him sustenance while snoozing in the hopes that this would carry him through to 6 a.m. (Kim was quick to remind us that, at six months and 15 pounds, this wasn’t a requirement — our son was fully capable of sleeping through the night.)

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks later. I can’t quite believe it, but everyone in my household is officially sleeping through the night (for the most part). I’ve maintained the dream feed for now, but I’m OK with a singular wake-up compared to before. The best part is not just how rested I feel, but also how rested my baby feels. He wakes up hungry, but cooing. (Seriously, everyone benefits from less disjointed sleep.)

So, was a sleep coach worth the cost? For me, it was. As a working mom, Kimberly helped me organize my brain, but also a strategy — the plan she delivered to us was almost like a paint-by-number to follow. Of course, a reminder I gave myself throughout: With step-by-step directions in hand, the truth with sleep training—and everything—is that you know your baby best. If you have to pivot or stray from the plan at any point, trust your gut. But also trust in the fact that teaching a baby how to achieve quality sleep is a life skill. It’s tough, but worth the investment (time and dollars, in my case).

Quiz What Method of Sleep Training is Right for You?

Rachel Bowie Headshot

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...