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Becoming a Sleep Consultant as a Doctor

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Uma Khusnutdinova, a doctor of medicine and certified sleep consultant about her background and experience in becoming a sleep consultant with a background in medicine.


If you’re a pediatrician, specifically, you may find this article (and this one) interesting!


Keep reading if you’re ready for Uma to spill the tea!


What is your medical background?

Uma shares, “I graduated from Tashkent Medical Academy as a general practitioner. I worked as a primary care physician in a family clinic before moving to the US and becoming a mom. I worked with entire families, treating a variety of ages ranging from infants, toddlers, and adolescents to expecting families, those who had just welcomed new babies, adults, and elderly people.”


As a doctor, an add-on sleep consultant certification seems like a no-brainer. Can you share more about your decision to add this certification to your credentials?

“After moving to the US and becoming a mom, I really wanted to spend more time with my baby. At the same time, as someone with a medical background, I missed working and interacting with patients, as well as helping families,” says Uma.


We find that this is typical of many women after they welcome their own children; They’re looking for something more flexible while still allowing them to make a difference in their work.


Uma continues, “As a new mom, I was sleep-deprived. It was during another 2 AM feeding when my daughter, looking at me with her beautiful eyes, smiled without any sign of falling back asleep anytime soon. She wasn’t getting the sleep she needed, and neither was anyone else in the house. I thought to myself, ‘It shouldn’t be this hard; there must be solutions’. You might think that as a doctor, I should have known what to do. But despite my baby being perfectly healthy, I had no idea how to get her to sleep. As a physician, I was aware of sleep doctors, but I had no idea that sleep consultants existed until I became a mom and spent many sleepless nights searching the internet for ‘why is my baby not sleeping’ and ‘how to get my baby to sleep through the night.’”


See?! Even doctors who are parents have the same struggles that almost every other parent has when it comes to getting their child to sleep well!


“After learning more about the science and behavioral aspects of infant sleep, overcoming challenges, and finding solutions for my two little ones, as well as for friends and family, I realized that combining my medical background, desire to help families, and experience as a mom was a great foundation to become a sleep consultant. This role allows me to connect one-on-one with families, similar to my previous work as a doctor. Now, seeing parents and babies well-rested and happy continues to inspire me every day,” she shares.


How do your skills as a doctor help you with your sleep consulting clients? Can you give a few examples?

Uma shares her thoughts: “As an individual with a medical background, I strongly believe in a holistic approach and in looking at the bigger picture. Sleep is complex, and every baby and family is unique. When I analyze sleep logs or intake questionnaires and create a sleep plan, I approach it as if I am creating a ‘treatment plan’. It is important to find the root of the issue.”



This is why we train all of our students and graduates that a one-size-fits-all approach often does not work. It’s vital to look at every angle of a child and family before writing a sleep plan for them.


Uma adds, “In addition to sleep associations, schedule issues, for example, there might be other challenges that require the attention of other specialists. For example, some little ones may have sensory issues that affect sleep, while others might face different feeding challenges. There could be signs of possible sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or even potential iron deficiency, all of which can impact sleep. As a sleep consultant, I do not give medical advice. However, my background helps me identify these possible signs, and work in collaboration with other professionals such as lactation consultants, pediatricians, ENTs, chiropractors, pediatric dentists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, potty training consultants, daycare providers and more.”


In opposition, do you feel your sleep consulting certification helps you in your work as a doctor?

“I have not practiced as a physician since moving to the US, but I am sure it would definitely help. As a sleep consultant and as a mom, I now understand better what actually happens with families outside of a doctor's office. I know the struggles, and I have learned about the behavioral aspect of sleep, an area in which doctors often lack formal training. Advisories like ‘encourage good full feeds during the day’, ‘the baby should sleep in their own space’, or ‘try to get some help and sleep’ – even ‘let them cry it out’ – are not always helpful,” Uma shares.


Preach, Uma! And that is one of the reasons we started The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness - so that families who hire sleep consultants from our program get practical, researched backed advice.


She continues - “Families need more education about how babies actually sleep, what ‘sleeping like a baby’ really looks like, and they should be given practical tools on how to get babies to sleep safely in their own safe sleeping spaces. Unfortunately, doctors often don't have the time to thoroughly educate and provide all these tools, but most importantly, to offer the kind of support that sleep consultants can provide throughout the process, as this cannot be covered in just one visit.”


How did you feel about the training from The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness to become a certified sleep consultant?

“I completed the Newborn Sleep Consultant Program through The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness, and I have nothing but good things to say about this program! It is thorough, backed with science and research. This program provided me with all the necessary information to expand my practice as a baby and toddler sleep consultant, allowing me to add services for families with newborn babies. It thoroughly covers all the issues that families experience with newborn sleep and how to address these challenges. Now, I work with expecting families and those who have just welcomed their babies to establish healthy sleep habits from day one!” she says.


In our years as sleep consultants working with families directly, and with mentoring our students and graduates, we find that deepening your knowledge in a certain area can certainly allow you to expand your services and what you can offer to families.


Uma had a similar experience. “Thanks to this program, we now also offer in-home sleep services for families with newborns. I highly recommend it!” she says.


What would you tell other doctors who are considering adding this certification to their repertoire?

She shares, “As medical students, we did not receive in-depth education on the behavioral aspects of sleep for infants, toddlers, and older children. While we did learn a lot about sleep disorders, their management and treatment, the focus on infant and toddler sleep, particularly, the science and behavioral side, was lacking. Many doctors need additional education in this area and the solutions needed to help families tackle these challenges. Having this certification can broaden their knowledge and understanding of these issues and also add additional services to their practice.”


We love that she brings up the behavioral vs. medical discussion because so many sleep certification programs out there only cover behavioral training. However, if the root cause is due to something medical, behavioral interventions may fail. It’s critical that sleep consultants understand this and know what questions to ask families to ensure that behavioral sleep interventions are a good fit for their child.


She continues, “And, if you are someone like me, who previously worked as a doctor and now choosing to stay home with little ones, wanting flexible work hours while still maintaining that one-on-one connection with families to help them to address their sleep challenges, this certification offers an amazing opportunity!”


We agree, Uma!


Tell us more about your business and the packages you are able to offer with your background and education. Where can people find you and connect with you?

“At Little Pumpkin Sleep Solutions, we provide virtual sleep coaching services for families with little ones aged 0-5 years. We also offer in-home, one-on-one sleep coaching for families in the DMV area and will soon be expanding these services to other states. We take our time to learn about each family's unique sleep challenges and goals, and based on that knowledge, we create comprehensive sleep plans. We support families every step of the way. Additionally, we offer troubleshooting consultations, guides, and free resources for families. You can find more about our services at www.littlepumpkinsleep.com and follow us on Instagram at @littlepumpkinsleep.”


If you’re interested in learning more about our courses or our sleep consultant certification program, we invite you to paruse our website to learn more about if The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness is a good fit for you!


Wondering what kind of a sleep consultant you would be?

There are so many women in our program with varying backgrounds, yet we all are passionate about the same thing: Helping families thrive when it comes to sleeping well! Take our quiz and find out what kind of sleep consultant you would be!

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