What made you decide you wanted to become a sleep consultant?
When my second daughter was a baby, she used to nurse to sleep and back to sleep very frequently in the night up until she was 18 months old. I was stressed out, sleep deprived, and constantly ill until I got professional help from a sleep consultant. It changed my life. Back then, I didn't know there was such a profession and was thrilled to find out later on that there were tons all over the world. I knew that there were lots of sleep deprived moms out there and I wanted to be the first child sleep consultant in my country (Malaysia), to support parents who are needing help like I did!
What do you love most about your job? And what is the most challenging aspect?
I love it that I get to not only help families restore sleep, but to teach parenting aspects like how to respond to tears and tantrums, how to use play and laughter to connect, and how to ease frustrations and fears in children. I love the ‘Ah ha’ moments that parents experience during our private sessions. It's like watching an empowerment light bulb goes on for them!
The most challenging aspect would be managing parent’s expectations - especially when many of them are frustrated and desperate for a quick solution to their child’s sleep difficulty. I do tell them upfront before they start working with me that I don't offer quick fix approach (as I don't offer the cry-it-out method) and it would generally take longer for them to achieve their big goal.
Most common sleep difficulties encountered?
When breastfeeding to sleep, or rocking to sleep four to five times per night is no longer working for them.
What has changed in the industry (e.g trends, research, products) since you started your business – for better? Or worse?
I feel that more and more studies and research is being done to the child sleep industry - which is a good thing for sleep consultants who apply a more holistic approach to sleep.
How have you evolved in your knowledge, and approach to sleep consulting since you first started with your business?
For me, I'm very pleased that I found Hand In Hand Parenting organization and Aware Parenting by Aletha Solter. I have very special interest in their parenting philosophy. I have been trained by their instructors on how to use their approach to support the families that work with me, and I also use the approach personally with my own children.
Most challenging client experience to date?
It would have to be this bright two-year-old girl who had all the fundamentals of sleep habits in place: nutrition was good, sleep environment was good, naps were on point, and mom was consistently doing a calm and connecting bedtime routine. However, we finally saw a breakthrough when mom applied some loving limits during the night (when the little girl asked to be cuddled back to sleep). It's not that the cuddling was an issue, but despite giving lots of cuddles and reassurance, she would wake up five to six times in the night demanding to be cuddled back to sleep.
We also tried lots of power reversal play at bedtime too. And that helped with loving limits that mom applied during the night wakings. Mom also got some sleep herself when she went away for a business trip, so that when she got back, she was more than ready to listen to some big feelings in the night that kept bothering this little girl in her sleep. Finally, after eight weeks of working together, she started sleeping through the night for the first time in her two years of her life! Mom is beyond thrilled and pleased.
Most rewarding client/professional experience to date?
The most rewarding experience is when parents thank me for listening to them! And that meeting me for that first session brings such a relief for them.
What is one piece of advice you give to all clients, regardless of their circumstances?
Reach out for support! Friends, mom, neighbors, nanny - we are not meant to do this alone especially when we're already sleep deprived.
What advice would you give your former self, or another consultant starting out in this industry?
Find your niche and parents who resonate with your sleep approach. You are unique and do what you believe in your heart is right, even though everyone else thinks you're different. Different is always good in business!
How do you want to leave your mark on the industry?
I want to be remembered as the first sleep consultant in the country who brought sleep awareness to parents. I want to have at least changed one family's lives either through my free talk, online workshop, blog, my social media posts or any of my offerings. That would be very fulfilling for me.
Sarah Ong, Sleep Champ Baby