The New Yorker: Magazine profiles families that have turned to expensive sleep trainers to help them get their kids’ sleep schedules under control during the pandemic.
There is a telephone number that is passed among the parents of babies and young children in London who have reached the limits of their struggle with sleep deprivation. The number belongs to Brenda Hart, who is a sleep trainer. Hart’s Web site advertises other services, too: she can help with fussy eaters, potty training, and newborns.
But sleep is her overwhelming source of business. Hart claims to be the most effective sleep trainer in the city, and the bliss of unbroken nights is the reason that parents who have used her services speak of her with wonder and bewilderment and recommend her to friends, relations, and near-strangers whom they happen to meet by the swings and in whose eyes they recognize a dull and glassy look.
Hart, who is sixty-one, with shoulder-length, graying hair, was perched on the corner of our stained white sofa, inspecting our four-month-old twins, who were staring back at her. It was a warm September day. John and Arthur were born last May, just past the initial peak of the pandemic in London. My wife and I had been bearing up, more or less (we have two daughters, aged seven and four, so these things are relative), but the situation had really begun to fall apart a couple of weeks earlier, when the boys’ sleep had deteriorated. Starting at 11 p.m., while one of us slept in another room, my wife or I battled through until dawn, feeding and rocking the boys, falling into a bed next to their cot when they had settled, only to rise again when one of them stirred. We were getting an hour or two of sleep a night. When I heard our younger daughter bounce merrily out of her bed at 5:55 a.m., alert and brimming with schemes for the day ahead, all I felt was fear.