what the pros do: Baby planners help moms-to-be sort out the must-haves from the don't-needs, plus plan showers and design nurseries. The price? About $50 to $150 an hour.
is it worth it? "Members of my family are older and don't know the latest trends, so it was so helpful to have someone show me around the big baby store and tell me what was worth getting," says Mandy Carter, a mom in Columbus, OH.
Beth Smith (not her real name) of Washington, DC, agrees it saved time. Smith hired someone because, she says, her friends are equally clueless new moms and her family is too far away to be of much help. "The expert helped me navigate through all the options: Did I really need the video monitor? Was it worth splurging on the Bugaboo?" she says. In fact, Smith's only regret is that she didn't pay for a follow-up visit. "I ended up buying a crib on my own and it's caused me endless frustration."
bottom line: Save the bucks. If a friend can't help you out, check out Parenting magazine's Baby Must-Haves, a mom-tested guide for all the gear you really need.
what the pros do: Some will coach parents in person and over the phone. Other experts will come to your house and actually train your child. The cost can start at $300.
is it worth it? "A kid who's not sleeping has a huge impact on the family," says Paul, who's not a fan of outsourcing but makes an exception for sleep training. "It's more difficult to learn from a book because each case is individual."
"I wasn't successful doing it on my own. I needed someone to hold my hand and show me how," says Silver, who was trying to get her little co-sleeper into a crib. "I did have a few sleepless nights after the consultant left but the whole thing gave me confidence -- and everyone's sleeping through the night now."
bottom line: "Compared to the amount of money parents spend on 'stuff,' I'd say a good night's sleep is worth a thousand organic Onesies," says Paul. One way to find a coach: Go to the library or bookstore; many sleep-training experts publish their contact info, and this way you can check out their training philosophy and see if it's right for you.
Sasha Brown-Worsham, a mom of two, has written for Babble.