Becoming a Sleep Consultant as a NICU Nurse
Updated: Oct 28
Are you looking for a career change? Ready to be done working random shifts? Ready to do something that still serves babies, but gives you a little more freedom and flexibility so you can still be with your babies??
We’re coming to you today to share an opportunity that could change your life. If you’re a NICU nurse looking for something different, becoming a sleep consultant might be the perfect fit for you! We (Ashley Olson and Katelyn Thompson) founded The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness in 2021, and it’s been our mission to elevate the field of sleep consulting ever since. We launched our signature sleep consultant certification program, The Sleep Consultant Academy, and, according to our graduates and students, have done just that - elevated the field of sleep consulting - with our courses and the resources we provide!
And, we want YOU to learn about a firsthand experience from one of our own graduates. Amber Ochoa-Sanchez is a wife, mama to two boys, pediatric sleep consultant, and NICU nurse.
Let’s dive into her interview below!
As a NICU nurse, 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?
There are a couple of reasons why I decided to get my pediatric sleep certification.
I had been a NICU nurse for 2 years before I had my first son, Anthony. I thought that since I had a lot of experience with preterm and newborn babies at my job, that having a newborn of my own would be a cakewalk…until I realized I knew nothing about about how to get my super strong-willed newborn to sleep! After a lot of research about baby sleep, my husband and I decided to sleep train Anthony at 4 months old. Within a week he was sleeping through the night. We saw our once overtired and overstimulated baby turn into a happy and well-rested infant. After this experience, I realized that I had a lot more to learn about child health and development.
I also realized how important sleep was for our children and for me as a parent. I had always struggled with anxiety and during those long sleepless nights in the newborn stage, my anxiety was amplified. However, once Anthony started to sleep better, I saw my mental health improve quite drastically. As a NICU nurse, I see mothers not only struggling with the fact that their baby is in the NICU but also struggling with their own mental health issues that are amplified during their baby’s NICU stay. So during this time, I have found a love of supporting mothers and I found that same passion in helping mothers get better sleep too.
Being a NICU nurse, I love the black-and-white thinking when it comes to diagnoses and treatments for pre-term babies and newborns…and I realized that the science of sleep really works the same way. For example, if you diagnose a baby with respiratory distress and give them steroids and breathing treatments…over time they won’t need oxygen anymore. The same goes for sleep. If you tap into how sleep works (ie supporting circadian rhythms, understanding sleep states, etc.) and support that in your child, they will start to sleep longer and better.
The last reason is…I just LOVE sleep. One of my fave hobbies is sleeping…why not support that hobby for other people too?!
How do your skills as a NICU nurse help you with your sleep consulting clients? Can you give a few examples?
A lot of what I’ve learned as a NICU nurse and sleep consultant goes hand-in-hand!
I get a LOT of hands-on experience with pre-term babies and newborns 3-4 times a week for 12 hours at a time! I usually have anywhere from 3-4 babies at a time and have to assess them every 3 hours. This means that I not only have to wake them up and assess them, but I also have to feed and put them back to sleep every 3 hours. Of course, when it comes to pre-term babies, they usually go right to sleep after a care time, but newborns are a different story. So if you add up the number of times I have to put a baby to sleep per 12-hour shift - 3 babies on average X 4 assessment times - that’s 12 times per shift! This hands-on approach helps me to figure out new ways to put newborns back to sleep, how to read their sleepy cues, and how to cater to their cares around their sleep.
Becoming a master in multi-tasking is a big skill I have picked up as well. There is always something going on in the NICU.
I’ve also needed to become comfortable with teaching parents about their baby’s health in the NICU, and that has certainly transferred over to me feeling at home with my sleep clients! I have found a love of teaching in both the NICU setting and the sleep consulting setting.
A big lesson I have learned in being a NICU nurse is that EVERY BABY/CHILD is different. For example, one patient may catch onto feedings fast while another baby may take twice as long to learn how to feed. This is based on developmental hurdles and the temperament of the child, as well as also based on parental involvement and culture. The same goes for clients I work with as a sleep consultant. One child may have an easy-going temperament and responds well to a quick sleep method while another child may be strong-willed and need a more gentle method.
I am also able to better understand the sleep needs of children who were born prematurely. It is a BIG connecting and trust factor when I say I am a NICU nurse to parents who are thinking of working with me.
In opposition, do you feel your sleep consulting certification helps you in your work as a NICU nurse?
Yes! I used to rock my newborn patients to sleep or feed them to sleep, but after getting my pediatric sleep certification, I have learned more productive ways to get them to sleep (placing them in their crib and placing a firm hand on their chest, and using a sound machine). I have also been able to educate a lot of parents on how these small changes will transfer well into the infant and toddler stages when it comes to settling their children down for sleep.
I have met a lot of parents whose views differ on how sleep training should be approached based on their own biases and through this, I have learned how to respect parental wishes while also making sure their child’s sleep needs are met. Because of this, I have a way better understanding of why parents push back more when it comes to certain treatments for their babies in the NICU setting.
How did you feel about the training from The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness to become a certified sleep consultant?
I love how the course is self-paced and you can complete it on your own time. When I first started the course, I had an infant and had another baby on the way. I am glad that I could read through and complete the quizzes and assignments in a time frame that did not stress me out. It works quite well for busy moms!
The biggest thing I love about this training is all the scientific studies referenced. Everything that is in this course is BACKED UP by credible sources. This has been extremely helpful for referencing parents who are weary about sleep training.
I love the talking videos done by Katelyn and Ashley. They are straight to the point and easy to understand. Having these videos really catered to me since I am a big auditory learner. Also, the visual graphics used as well were great.
Lastly, I loved how the final exams encouraged us to create our own sleep plans for different ages based on specific scenarios given to us in the course. Though this final section took me the longest to complete, but it helped me to understand how I wanted to organize my sleep plans and it better prepared me for taking on my first few clients.
What would you tell other nurses who are considering adding a sleep consultant certification to their repertoire?
DO IT! It has helped me tremendously in my job as a nurse and being a nurse has also helped me in being a better sleep consultant. Since I work with children as a nurse, it has helped broaden my knowledge of both physical and cognitive developmental milestones for not only newborns but for infants and toddlers as well. It has also fulfilled my passion for helping children and families as well (specifically mothers).
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?
Name of business: Sleep A Bye Baby LLC
Free resources and blog: www.beacons.ai/sleepabyebaby
For my newborn services, I offer a DIY guide for ages 0-16 weeks old. I believe the newborn stage is all about bonding and setting up sleep foundations that can carry into the infant and toddler stages. With that being said, I do not offer 1:1 sleep training services until 4 months and older.
For my infant (4 months to 18 months) and toddler packages (>18 months to 3 years), I offer 3 packages of 1:1 sleep support:
Basic Package ($250): For the DIY mama who wants all the info and deets, but minimal support! This package includes:
Intake Form Assessment,
Personalized sleep guide
60 minute 1:1 consultation call
3-Week follow-up call to check progress
Sleep Survival Guide to tackle future sleep disturbances
Essential Package ($350): For the mama who is overwhelmed and in need of some immediate guidance and hand-holding support
Everything from Basic +
2 weeks of in-app direct messaging support
In-app sleep logging access
One 45-minute 1:1 phone call per week of support to go over sleep progress
The Ultimate Package (Virtual or In-Home) ($475): For the mama who is at her wits end and in desperate need of ALL things sleep support!
Everything from Essential +
Nursery Assessment (virtual or in-home)
One 4-hour shift of overnight sleep support (virtual or in-home) per week of support
One 1-hour nap assessment (virtual or in-home) per week of support
So insightful! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience, Amber!
Why a NICU Nurse Would Make an Amazing Sleep Consultant
Picture this: you are a NICU nurse who spends hours upon hours working with newborns and their families, helping them navigate the challenges of those early days. From feeding difficulties to sleep disruptions, you've seen it all. You've honed your skills in understanding the unique needs of infants and have become a master at creating safe and nurturing environments for little ones to thrive.
Now, let's apply that wealth of knowledge and experience to the world of pediatric sleep coaching. A NICU nurse turned sleep coach would not only have a deep understanding of proper sleep practices for infants, but also be well-versed in the various sleep training methods out there. She’d be equipped to guide parents through the process of establishing healthy sleep habits, while ensuring their child feels secure and comforted along the way.
But here's the clincher: as a NICU nurse, you know full well how important sleep is for a child's overall well-being and development. You’ve witnessed firsthand the incredible transformation that can happen when newborns finally get the restful sleep they need. And now, you’re on a mission to spread that knowledge and help tired parents regain some much-needed shut-eye.
Imagine having a pediatric sleep coach who not only understands the challenges these parents are facing, but also has the expertise to guide them through the process with compassion and care. A NICU nurse and pediatric sleep consultant would be their biggest cheerleader, their go-to resource, and their partner in helping their child (and themselves!) get the sleep that they deserve.
So, if you're considering becoming a pediatric sleep coach, don't overlook the incredible potential you would have in this role. Your unique background and experience would make you a perfect fit for understanding the needs of both infants and exhausted parents. Plus, with your heart of gold and commitment to helping families, your clients can rest assured knowing they’re in the best hands possible.
The Benefits of Working for Yourself
As a pediatric sleep coach, you would likely own your own business, and there are several benefits to working for yourself that you should know about:
Flexibility: Being your own boss allows you to set your own schedule and work at times that are convenient for you and your clients. This flexibility can be especially beneficial if you have other commitments or obligations (like a shift at the hospital).
Autonomy: Working for yourself gives you the freedom to make your own decisions and establish your own methodologies and approaches. You have the flexibility to tailor your coaching techniques to suit the individual needs of each child and family.
Personal Fulfillment: Helping families overcome sleep challenges and witnessing the positive impact it has on their well-being can be incredibly rewarding. Knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of both children and tired parents can bring a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
Higher Income Potential: As a self-employed pediatric sleep coach, your earning potential is not limited by a fixed salary or hourly rate. You have the opportunity to set your own fees and can increase your income as you build your reputation and client base.
Continuous Learning: Working for yourself as a pediatric sleep coach allows you to continually learn and stay updated with the latest research, trends, and techniques in the field of pediatric sleep. This ongoing professional development can enhance your expertise and provide added value to your clients.
Being Your Own Brand: When you work for yourself, you have the opportunity to build your own brand and establish yourself as an expert in the field of pediatric sleep coaching. This can lead to increased visibility, referrals, and potential collaborations with other professionals in related fields.
It's important to note that working for yourself also comes with responsibilities such as marketing, client acquisition, and administrative tasks. However, for many pediatric sleep coaches, the benefits of working independently outweigh the challenges.
How We Can Help You Reach Your Goals
At The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness, we are dedicated to helping our students achieve their goal of becoming certified sleep consultants. We offer a comprehensive and holistic certification program that equips aspiring sleep consultants with the knowledge and skills needed to work with families and support healthy sleep habits in children.
Our sleep consultant certification program is designed to be self-paced and built on evidence-based methods. We focus on providing our students with the tools and resources they need to graduate and start working with paying clients confidently. Our goal is to eliminate overwhelm and confusion, ensuring that our students are prepared to hit the ground running and build successful sleep consulting businesses.
Throughout the program, we cover a wide range of topics related to pediatric sleep, including sleep science, sleep training methods, understanding sleep disorders, assessing sleep environments, and working with families to create personalized sleep plans. We provide comprehensive training that addresses the unique needs of children of different ages, from newborns to toddlers and beyond.
In addition to the certification program, we offer specialized courses to further expand our students' knowledge and expertise. For example, we have a Certified Newborn Sleep Consultant course, designed for certified sleep consultants who want to enhance their skills and support families specifically during the newborn phase.
Our approach is focused on a wraparound approach to sleep training, ensuring that our students have the knowledge needed to support each individual family's needs. We aim to empower our students to make a positive impact on families' sleep and well-being through effective sleep coaching strategies.
By joining our certification program at The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness, students not only gain valuable knowledge and skills, but they also become part of a supportive community. We believe in the power of collaboration and provide ongoing support, resources, and opportunities for networking with other sleep consultants through our collective.
We are committed to elevating the field of sleep consulting and providing our students with the tools and support they need to succeed as certified sleep consultants and make a difference in the lives of families.
We hope you join us!