Sleep coaches for babies: big scam or great help for parents?

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baby sleep coach
Coaches deny making money on the backs of vulnerable parents. They would fill the gaps in the medical system when it comes to supporting young parents. (© Adobe Stock)

“It’s a scam. To qualify the profession of baby sleep consultant, Dr. Marc Rey, neurologist and president of the National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance (INSV), contacted by news.frdon’t mince words.

Since 2018, baby sleep specialist sites have been popping up on the Internet. And when you click, there is reason to wonder: consultants, who are also called coaches, do not need a diploma to practice. But above all, their advice is sold at exorbitant prices.

So, juicy business or valuable help for young parents? We take stock of this profession not supervised by the State, in full boom.

Would we take “a coach to learn to walk or talk”?

The birth of a child can be a difficult time for parents, because the child does not know how to sleep. “As he cannot speak or walk,” underlines the INSV doctor.

All of this you will have to teach him. “In our societies, we think that parents do it badly, but not at all, it just requires learning time”he adds.

Using a sleep consultant is like having a coach to learn how to talk or how to walk.

Dr Marc ReyHead of the Sleep Center of the National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance (INSV)
Marc Rey
Doctor Marc Rey was in charge of the Sleep Center at the Timone Hospital in Marseille. He is now president of the INSV. (©INSV)

An abuse of weakness

Despite the criticisms, the demand is there. Vivian, 32, and her husband Matteo, 39, are the parents of a baby girl born by surrogacy in Canada in 2019.

Despite a consultation with the doctor and participation in a workshop for young mothers after childbirth, Vivian, contacted, fails to accompany his daughter to the arms of Morpheus.

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After the four months of their baby, the couple decides to have recourse to a sleep consultant. “The nights were very complicated with multiple awakenings, she slept more during the day than at night,” explains the 30-year-old, dad for the first time.

From there to to feel responsible : “I felt guilty: is it because we are an atypical couple that we can’t do it? “, he recalls.

And this is one of the problematic consequences for the neurologist. For him, coaches take advantage of the parent vulnerability, which arises from their own lack of sleep. “We are in the case of an abuse of weakness,” he says.

Sleep coaches are aimed at women who are exhausted from waking up every night, involved in society and hyperactive. They tell themselves that the only solution is to ask for help.

Dr Marc ReyHead of the INSV Sleep Center

And to get the “solution”, you have to pay the price.

Golden nights

From our observations on various consultant sites, a consultation costs 70 euro on average. For a follow-up over three weeks, the bill goes up: count between 200 and 450 euros depending on the service provider.

To be accompanied by a coach, Vivian and Matteo paid 275 euros for four 45-minute sessions, or 75 euros per session (except for the first which cost “only” 50 euros thanks to a promotion).

“It’s still a sum. Not all households can afford it, ”recognizes the one who works in sales.

Guarantee a return on investment

But at this price, does it work? For Vivian and Matteo, the sessions seem to have paid off. If he did not see “a lot of improvement” in the first 15 days, it was “by testing small things” that the girl began to sleep through the night.

“Rather satisfied” by the experience, the Lyonnais still has some reservations: “could we have find the solution on their own ? Maybe,” he tells us.

On the side of the consultants’ sites, the opinion of the parents is put forward. At Fée Dodo, one of the market leaders, “100% of parents are satisfied”.

Contacted by news.frKsenya Gerasimova, the founder of Mes Nuits Profondes, explains that her company cannot promise a “return on investment”. But “improvement of some kind” is guaranteed. As proof, she adds that she has never had “parents dissatisfied” with her services.

For the neurologist, this is not surprising: “Of course, when a coach accompanies you over three months, the child will gradually learn to sleep,” he notes.

Monetized sleep

It’s the fact that sleep has become monetizable which is a problem for Marc Rey.

He assured us: he has nothing against the profession, provided it is free. This is also why he is pushing for the strengthening of parents’ houses, these places that allow parents to discuss parenthood. The idea: to get young parents out of isolation who have no one to turn to for advice.

Paying for sleep shows that we are in a society that commercializes everything. These coaches haggle over a natural difficulty in setting up.

Dr Marc ReyHead of the Sleep Center at INSV

He also fears that the development of sleep coaches will open the way to other practices in the family register. “We must fear an inflation of the life stage marketing with coaches for everything,” notes the neurologist.

“Some understood that there was a business to be done”

These criticisms on the price of the consultations, the actors of the sector accept them. And understand them. This is the case of Ksenya Gerasimova, the founder of Mes Nuits Profondes, who takes a critical look at her profession.

Ksenya Gerasimova
Ksenya Gerasimova trained in the profession remotely for six months, via an organization in the United States. (©Ksenya Gerasimova)

” As there is always parents in difficulty, there is always demand. Specialists have understood that there was a business to be made. We can quickly do a little online training”, regrets the one who worked in human resources before turning to coaching after the birth of her son.

There are many people who come from marketing or communication who start this job and who make themselves known easily on social networks thanks to their knowledge.

Ksenia GerasimovaFounder of My Deep Nights

Social media partnerships

Between two publications on the methods to favor with your child, you can find partnerships with brands on the My Deep Nights Instagram page. With its 9,700 subscribers, the account does micro-influence.

Blackout blinds, baby beds, children’s apps… No promo code on the horizon, but contests or simply a long description of the product. Ksenya Gerasimova explains to us that the objective is to make known everyday objects that are worthwhile.

Of the buying tips which are also done in consultation, she assures us.

Other brands are even expanding beyond coaching. This is the case of Fairy Dodo. The company founded in 2019 is one of the leaders in the sector. Today, she is followed by nearly 93,000 people on Instagram.

In its wake, three other brands were created:

  • Happy Nanny, which offers training on the theme of positive parenting. “Connect to your teenager” is a 12-week follow-up for a total of 840 euros;
  • Sleep Angel, which offers consultations on adult sleep;
  • Madame Miam, who offers to support parents in food diversification, but also to solve “eating disorders” of the child. Unlike the other services, these are supervised by a health professional (a pediatric nutritionist).

The company has even created its own training school. 480 hours of training with early childhood professionals are offered to aspiring coaches.

Filling the gaps of physicians

Caroline Ferriol, the founder of Fée Dodo qu’ has contacted, is convinced that sleep coaches for babies meet a need that the medical system does not support.

“Normally, we should go see the doctor as soon as we have a problem. But parents have no choice but to turn to us, because the field of health does not provide enough information,” she says.

Caroline Ferriol
Caroline Ferriol’s company now has 25 sleep consultants. Each can work with eight families per month. (©Olivier Ramonteu)

Doctors are technically trained in sleep, but absolutely not in ” the pedagogical aspect” that it induces, according to the researcher in human sciences by training.

There is a real lack on the issue of children’s sleep that cannot be filled by health professionals, who are few in number and who have other things to do.

Caroline FerriolFounder of Fée Dodo

But far from it the idea of ​​replacing health professionals. Moreover, if the sleep coach identifies a medical problem in the child, she refer parents to a doctor. “We do a job of parental support,” thunders the founder of Fée Dodo.

And this expression is important. Indeed, it is the only legal framework on which sleep experts can rely.

A brief framework

Provided for by the order of May 19, 2021, the National Parenthood Support Charter is a benchmark for sleep experts who wish to provide a framework for their activity.

In particular, it establishes that volunteers or professionals who intervene within the framework of the parental support must have “training in this area”.

Online training

In France, to practice as a sleep consultant, no diploma is required. Since there is no official diploma, many training courses with heterogeneous content exist on the Internet.

Due to the recent development of the profession here, French people wishing to embark on the voice of sleep coaching are turning to Canada or the United States, reference countries in this field, in order to be trained.

But today, “many professionals are not aware of the government charter,” laments Caroline Ferriol. And therefore, do not apply it.

Furthermore, the charter offers a blurred frame to coaches. Indeed, there is no mention of it linking it to sleep consultants. It is aimed more at childcare facilities (nurseries, kindergartens) where childminders work.

A necessary regulation

This profession, which is gaining momentum, needs regulation to avoid excesses and scams. Many players in the sector are calling for it, including the founder of Fée Dodo. “The more we regulate, the more things will go in the right direction,” she hopes. The latter also calls for unity at INSV, in order to work together.

Doctor Marc Rey is skeptical: “I’m quite defeatist about the supervision of wellness practices and no health. When we see how difficult it is to supervise the profession of beautician… We will have to wait. “What allow coaches to sleep for a while longer on both ears?

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