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Good night, and good luck

Parents rest their hopes on baby sleep specialists

Never mind the Bugaboo stroller. A personal sleep consultant is the latest must-have for the Hollywood parent.

Casting director Bonnie Zane read all the books on infant sleep, but her 5-month-old daughter kept waking up at all hours. Zane finally left a sobbing message at 2 a.m. for Jennifer Waldburger, co-owner of Sleepy Planet.

Within days of her appointment, Zane’s child was sleeping for up to 12 hours at a stretch.

“People told me I was crazy to spend the money,” Zane says. “But now she goes to bed with a smile. This was miraculous.”

It sounds like hocus-pocus, but infant sleep consultants say it comes down to math. They work with parents to create detailed daily schedules for their children to follow, with intricately plotted nap and feeding times.

Most advocate putting babies down to sleep while they’re still drowsy but awake, not feeding or rocking them till they nod off. Otherwise, “babies wake up and they don’t understand why mommy is gone,” Waldburger says.

Many consultants work via telephone, which allows a Pacific Palisades parent to connect with experts like the Gotham-based Julie Ross of Parenting Horizons, who specializes in toddlers with sleep troubles related to the transition from crib to bed.

Baby sleep doesn’t come cheap. Sleepy Planet’s most popular service, a package that includes one in-office meeting and seven days of follow-up phone calls, costs $590 and is rarely covered by insurance.

Nonetheless, demand remains high, with many consultants reporting waits of up to a month for appointments. Zane got assistance quickly via a loophole: Her breakdown came during the Jewish holidays, traditionally a slower period for Sleepy Planet.

While many doctors refer patients to nighttime gurus, others are more guarded. “I don’t recommend sleep consultants for children under six months,” says Santa Monica’s Dr. Jay Gordon, a co-sleeping advocate who recommends parents try to maintain a flexible schedule during their child’s first year and learn to nap when their babies sleep.

However, sleep therapists say telling parents to toughen up is unrealistic.

“Families are more separated and more women are in the workplace,” says Marsha Podd, a consultant based in the Marin County. “Many people don’t have the luxury of sleeping in.”

V Life Weekend rounded up the experts that can help you (and your bundle of joy) get a good night’s sleep.

THE SLEEP LADY
Consultant: Kim West
(410) 974-1600; SleepLady.com
Cost: $150 and up
Wait for an appointment: One to two weeks
Strategy: Allows parents to pat or shush but not rock or nurse an infant asleep

SLEEPY PLANET
Consultants: Jill Spivak and Jennifer Waldburger
(310) 230-1823
Cost: $295 and up
Wait for an appointment: Three to four weeks
Strategy: “There is no way to get through this process without some tears.”

PARENTING HORIZONS
Consultant: Julie Ross
(212) 765-2377; ParentingHorizons.com
Cost: $250 and up
Wait for an appointment: Two to three weeks
Strategy: “Work First, Play Later” bedtime routine that emphasizes hard work like tooth brushing before fun stuff like reading stories

MARSHA PODD
(415) 883-4442; GoToSleepBaby.com
Cost: $100 and up
Wait for an appointment: One to two weeks
Strategy: “I tell people their choices and ask them to decide what feels right for them.”

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