Mom's Lullaby

"Baby coach" Suzy Giordano has made a cottage industry of helping parents like Paul Schneider, right, get infants like 4-month-old Elizabeth to sleep through the night. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post; Bottle By By Tina Rencelj -- Istockphoto)
By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 12, 2005

Claire Shipman is at that new-mom place where the exhaustion from the feeding routines has descended into the bones, and the thought of sleep -- real, uninterrupted, soul-satisfying sleep -- feels decidedly like the promised land. She is the classic mother of an infant: There is no makeup applied for the benefit of guests, and the wardrobe involves sweatshorts and a T-shirt. The hair is tousled. If she seems a bit disoriented, well, there's a reason -- a few minutes ago, she fell asleep on the couch while talking to her mother-in-law.

Shipman, senior national correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning America," and her husband, Time magazine correspondent Jay Carney, have a 4 1/2 -week-old baby and a 3 1/2 -year-old toddler. They celebrate five-hour sleep nights, they're not so sure where they left things -- maybe it's somewhere over there in the kitchen? -- and they don't know when they'll next have time for each other, let alone themselves.

But they have Suzy.

Suzy, as in "You have to get Suzy" or "Do you have Suzy's number?" or "You won't survive without Suzy" -- in other words, they are the lucky ones. Shipman and Carney had to wait a few extra weeks after newborn Della came home from the hospital. Suzy was booked, and her client was a friend of Shipman's, and the friend had twins ("You can't compete with twins," Carney explains), but now it's their turn.

"Suzy," Shipman says, "is the guru."

Suzy is Suzy Giordano, aka "the baby coach," a petite, Brazilian-born woman who is an underground legend in the Washington area for her ability to teach newborn babies how to achieve that parenting nirvana: sleeping through the night.

Sleeping through the night: Only four simple words, but what power they wield over the energy-sapped, stressed-out parents of newborns. The end of 2 a.m. feedings, of nights spent rocking, holding, pacing, pleading. The last 4 a.m. jolt awake because the tiny "eh, eh, eh!" emanating from the baby monitor is a sure harbinger of a full-fledged wail soon to come.

It is possible, in this day and age, to outsource a tremendous amount of the work of parenthood, far beyond the more basic necessities like child care and homework help. There are people who will teach your child how to ride a bike without training wheels. There are day-care centers that take over the potty-training process, sending home detailed directions to the parents on how to "assist" in what is essentially their project.

This is different. This is another category altogether. This is about sleep, that great restorative for body and soul. As D.H. Lawrence wrote: "And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower, then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created."

Sleep can inspire a fetish-like devotion, a pining. "Life," journalist Fran Lebowitz wrote, "is something to do when you can't get to sleep." We watch the sleep ads on television with rapture -- the one with the green butterfly cocooning a woman swaddled in 400-thread-count sheets; the guy who lassos the moon. But you can't take a baby to the Valley of the Dolls. That would be so wrong.

Hire Suzy, and she swears that at approximately 12 weeks of age, your baby will start sleeping through the night -- and, by that, she means in the neighborhood of 12 consecutive hours. Twelve hours.

"Sleep," says Tia Cudahy, a Giordano client who has a toddler and infant twins, "is the difference between misery and joy when you have a newborn."

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