A Coach at the Crib And a Consultant at the Potty

By Annys Shin
 Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 8, 2008

Maria Zimmitti didn't set out to become, in her words, the potty lady. The Georgetown psychologist fell into the role of toilet-training coach. She mastered potty training while working with children in an early-intervention program in the District in the late 1990s. About five years ago, she shared her techniques with a few groups of mothers. Word of Zimmitti's skills soon lit up local Internet discussion groups.

Now eager parents line up to pay her $250 for a consultation, with topics like quelling a toilet rebellion and pointers on how to avoid one.

"Sometimes a parent will say, 'How about I pay you $5,000 and you potty train for me?' " Zimmitti said. "They're halfway joking."

Zimmitti is part of a niche service sector that has appeal among busy, anxious and often well-heeled parents in the region who want help with some of the most important and intimate child-rearing duties. Many simply want to carve out more time to spend with their children. For them, paying a personal shopper $30 to spend an afternoon tracking down a coveted tutu for a 2-year-old is money well spent. For other parents, the baby-services sector is a lifeline that can rescue them from sleepless nights or protect their children from getting hurt at home.

The prices for baby-specific services run the gamut: $85 for an hour with a lactation consultant, several hundred more for childproofing gear and someone to install it, $4,000 for five nights with a sleep trainer -- all before a baby is out of diapers. In all, the government estimates, middle-income households spend an average of $10,600 for a child's first year. Click Here to view full article.

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