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Quirky work: Sleep trainers

Sleep trainer Natalie Barnett coaches Lucas, 17 months,

Sleep trainer Natalie Barnett coaches Lucas, 17 months, to sleep. (Credit: Ryan Thatcher)

By Marlene Naanes

Natalie Barnett’s office is a baby’s nursery, and some of her working hours are spent sleeping on the floor — and coaching an infant to follow suit.

As an infant sleep consultant, Barnett is charged with teaching babies to fall asleep on their own, and giving their parents techniques for sound sleep.

Much of the advice focuses on consistency, and sometimes babies are given toys  and sound machines to act as sleep aids.

Barnett spends about three nights a week in her clients’ homes, on the floor of their babies’ rooms, observing, coaching and, getting some z’s, too.

“It’s not for everybody,” said Barnett, a mother of two who’s expecting her third child. “I love it so much that I would do it for free. It literally changes people’s lives, and it’s just the most amazing feeling.”

Teamwork

Barnett, who has a Ph.D. in quantitative genetics and has done postgraduate work in pediatric sleep medicine, began working for Dream Team Baby last fall.
Dream Team Baby, one of several sleep consultant firms in the city, employs a team of experts on sleep, psychology and other fields, who teach wannabe consultants about sleep and child development from birth to two years, the age range of their tiny clients.

After finishing courses, new consultants observe others at work. Training can take two to six months.

Then they’re out on their own, coaching a baby bedside.

Who can do it
“There are certain personalities that make you a better sleep consultant,” said Conner Herman, a former consultant and Dream Team Baby’s CEO and co-founder.
“You have to be a compassionate person. You have to be someone who’s willing to help a person achieve a goal when they’re in doubt.”

Job details
Consultants make a little more than $400 a night, spending on average three nights a week on a nursery floor. A two-week consultation usually consists of one night with a consultant on the nursery floor — up to three nights with a particularly fussy baby — and about six check-ins by phone after that.


Dream Team Baby consultants are mothers — some are former clients — who like being able to work and be with their own children during the day.
Even though she’s up during the night, Barnett said she usually gets five to six hours of sleep on a mat on the nursery floor.

“It works out really well,” she said. “I can fit it around my schedule. I want to be with my kids.”

Results
Kimberly Jetnil and her husband called in Dream Team Baby after their 17-month-old son, Lucas, was keeping himself up throughout the night. They were skeptical, but after Barnett spent a night with them and checked in afterward, Lucas went to sleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. “It’s a major life change,” Jetnil said. “It’s amazing.”

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