The Top 10! Q & A with Lisa Dinnie, APSC Member and Owner of “ Cherish Your Sleep” in Australia.
1. What made you decide you wanted to become a sleep consultant?
To be honest, it felt like a natural progression for me. I had qualified as an early childhood educator when I was 19 (I’m now almost 42) and had only worked with babies and toddlers. The study I undertook at that time was very hands-on, practical work, and was the upgraded course from being a mothercraft nurse, so it had a lot of child development and parenting subjects with practical placements in the houses of mothers with young babies (which I loved). After almost 20 years in that industry and having had my own three children in three years, I knew working in care settings wasn’t for me; but I knew I wanted to continue to work with children and families. A lot of my girlfriends had become mums and used to ask me for advice all the time and one girlfriend in particular (along with my husband who was worried that if I stayed home any longer it would result in a 4th child) really urged me to do the course and after pondering for a good six months, I knew it was what I wanted to do.
2. What do you love most about your job? And what is the most challenging aspect?
I love knowing that I am making a difference to someone: a baby, a mum, their family and their parenting experience, imparting my knowledge on them so they can help their little ones. It is incredibly rewarding.
Most challenging - those same families that you are helping - the parents are often so incredibly sleep deprived that they are incredibly emotional and sometimes irrational. They cannot see the the trees through the forest and at times feel like they can unleash their inner most thoughts about everything and anything onto you, at any time of the day or night.
3. Most common sleep difficulties encountered?
The majority of families that I work with are feeding their little ones to sleep and then feeding them every time they wake in the night because they don’t know what else to do to get their little ones to sleep. They also don’t want their baby to cry so can’t see that there is any other way. Probably the other most frequently asked question I get is about how to solve early rising.
4. What has changed in the industry (e.g trends, research, products) since you started your business – for better? Or worse?
I’m not sure that it’s necessarily changed, but rather things are evolving all the time. I have definitely seen more of a trend toward attachment parenting which can impact greatly on how parents feel about sleep training as such. There are a lot more people who want to work on their little ones sleep and ask for a no cry solution because they “do attachment parenting”.
I feel that there is a lot of new aids and products that can certainly help sleep but aren’t the known cure to sleep issues, some of which I agree can help, others which feel really may just be a fad.
5. How have you evolved in your knowledge, and approach to sleep consulting since you first started with your business?
When I look over my first sleep plan that I sent out and my first client questionnaire… WOAH… that is where I see my biggest changes. I used to write down all the additional questions I would ask after getting the questionnaire back when I first started and now I feel that when I get that back I know everything there is to know. I have really fine-tuned the sleep plan process whilst still keeping it very pertinent to the individual.
I have done additional courses in the past 18 months that have given me a very different insight into how to help families through their sleep issues and have very much learnt to look outside the box. When I first started I will be honest and say, that a large portion of my clients did sleep training like controlled crying, however more recently I am getting clientele that are not keen to do that. So with the knowledge I gained from these other courses and the knowledge that I already had, I have really been able to help those families out by thinking outside the box.
6. Most challenging client experience to date?
I think I am still working with them now – haha. Little baby who for the first six months was held in a carrier for all naps and co-slept ON TOP OF mum at night with the boob in her mouth ALL NIGHT LONG. Whilst we have certainly made improvements we still aren’t at the end of the journey and mum is getting frustrated. I am certain that part of the issue is consistency on mum’s behalf, but also mum not wanting baby to cry AT ALL!!!
7. Most rewarding client/professional experience to date?
A little 2.5yr old boy Charlie, who had been to sleep school twice, another private sleep consultant, and was on melatonin and Vallergan for sleep. The day we started working together the parents took him off medication and whilst it took a good month, by the end of that month he was sleeping through the night, settling happily on his own and mum’s anxieties had diminished greatly. And it was all very gentle and respectful.
8. What is one piece of advice you give to all clients, regardless of their circumstances?
I actually say three things:
They haven’t done anything wrong -they have done what they needed to do to get sleep.
There is no overnight fix to sleep issues – that it is not a race, but a journey.
The best thing they can do for their baby is offer consistency.
9. What advice would you give your former self, or another consultant starting out in this industry?
Work-life balance is key - not to take on too much, too soon. I used to think I had to say yes to every client that came my way and I quickly realised that I had put myself under too much stress and felt it starting to impact on my health and the time I had with my own family. I actually now purposefully plan days off and stick to that even if a desperate client calls.
10. How do you want to leave your mark on the industry?
I’m not sure whether “leaving my mark” is necessarily what I want to do. What I want to achieve is a reputation for being compassionate, meeting the individual needs of all clients, and providing a quality service that reflects my passion for helping families.