The students in The Center for Pediatric Sleep Management’s (CPSM) sleep consultant certification course come from many different backgrounds. Some are educators, others have worked as nannies or babysitters, some students have a medical background, while others come from a completely different career path. Sleep consulting can be offered around your current job, in a completely unrelated field, or added on to your already existing list of services if you happen to work in a similar industry.
Lately there has been a growing interest from birthworkers who would like to find out more about adding sleep consulting to their business. A birthworker is someone who provides both emotional and physical support as well as general care and advice during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.
I had the opportunity to speak with Shannon Lee, a graduate of the CPSM certification program and owner of Blessed Births and Beyond. She has worked as a birth doula, breastfeeding counselor, Hypnobabies childbirth instructor and postpartum doula. For Shannon, becoming a certified sleep consultant seemed like a great next step, since the pandemic had just started and more and more families were becoming open to virtual support.
Luckily, Shannon already had sleep consulting on her radar, and as a birthworker and postpartum professional, becoming a certified sleep consultant was a natural progression for her. She already supports families through pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. Helping families to establish healthy hygiene around early sleep routines and moving on to teaching their children how to fall asleep independently allows Shannon to continue her relationship with existing clients. She is also able to expand her business to serve a different client base who may have older babies and children. I met with Shannon to ask her some of your most pressing questions around adding sleep consulting to her thriving doula business. Here’s what she had to say.
Jayne: Did the onset of COVID prompt you to look into becoming a certified sleep consultant or was it something that you were already looking into?
Shannon: I started looking into becoming a certified sleep consultant partly because I love working with my families and I want to continue to see them because you grow relationships and get to know each other. So that was part of it, but also when COVID started we were all basically just sitting at home. During that time I quickly learned about virtual support with my clients doing childbirth education and I thought, hey, I can do this. I can talk to people on the phone or on a video call and provide support, so that’s how it started.
Jayne: How did your clients take to transitioning to virtual support for doula work? Were they open to it?
Shannon: Well, that’s most likely no one’s preference when it comes to giving birth, but we quickly adapted. I did a lot of virtual care during the first few months after COVID started, which is not ideal but it worked and we learned a lot.
Jayne: An interesting thought came to mind, although I’m not technically a doula, I stay up to date on what’s going on in the industry. I heard some chatter about virtual support and how some doulas were feeling really anxious and did not want to get involved, while others were all about it. At the same time, there were families who were open to it, while others were not. The work I do as a sleep consultant has always been virtual, which brings me to my next question. Is the work that you’re doing now as a sleep consultant all virtual or are you supporting families at all in-person through sleep training?
Shannon: Most of the work I’ve done so far has been all virtual, either through writing sleep plans or providing Ask Me Anything calls. It’s been working out great. I have also worked with a few clients who want in-person support, and I do offer packages specifically for newborns that integrate my postpartum doula work with sleep shaping. This can look like anything from establishing healthy sleep routines, to how to soothe babies and how to swaddle. It’s sort of like newborn baby basics with a heavy emphasis on establishing healthy sleep hygiene from day one while still providing solid newborn and postpartum doula care.
Jayne: There are a lot of postpartum professionals that come to me and ask how they can transition from their clients wanting to be only supported in-person. They are wondering how to change the dialogue to be able to support families virtually, and it seems like you figured out a really nice way to do that. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Shannon: Yes, you can definitely continue to support some families in-person. You just have to start talking about virtual support because families may not know that you have this option. Once they are aware that you offer services virtually, it can seem advantageous because it’s more affordable and reduces their risk of getting sick by not having extra people come to their home. During this time, I think we’ve all had to learn skills to be flexible and adaptable and meet people where they are.
Jayne: Yeah, I love that. I’m all about meeting people where they are, and I think you are too, which is why I loved having you in the program. What was it about CPSM that drew you in specifically? Did you consider other programs, or did you know that CPSM was the right fit?
Shannon: I did my research, and was looking at three different programs. And honestly, what drew me to working with you was the fact that you were accessible. You answered my questions and were willing to talk to me over the phone. I’m part of an awesome doula group here in Central Iowa that is supportive and non-competitive. The members of that group build each other up, and that’s exactly what I saw in your group. That is honestly what drew me in. Having community with other professionals who do what you do and helping each other out is the key to success.
Jayne: I love how supportive the community is, and I feel like every time a new person joins CPSM, the program improves because with each added member to our community, there’s something new that can be learned from that person. Everyone brings a different expertise in a certain topic, or a certain level of experience that none of us had before. As long as we continue to support each other then it just keeps getting better. When you first decided to get your sleep consultant certification, what was your goal for your business?
Shannon: I would say it was two-fold, one was just looking for other avenues to add an income and the other was looking for a way to stay in touch and continue to support my current clients. That was one of the biggest reasons, I thought about what more I could do that would help them be more well-rounded and feel as if they’re accomplishing the goals they want to meet.
Jayne: From both a personal and business perspective, I think that’s incredible that you can continue to support the families that know, love and trust you. You’ve developed a way to support families through every life stage from labor and delivery, to the earliest of days postpartum, to developing healthy sleep habits early on, all the way through to the toddler years.
Shannon: One of the most fun things about this is that I have helped parents who’ve had children in the past six months and some parents of toddlers who I had worked with when they were babies. It’s been three or four years since they’ve had their baby and now we get to connect again.
Jayne: The interesting thing about this work is that you can make it work for your own lifestyle and you can make it work for the family’s lifestyle. It doesn’t have to look one way or the other and it’s constantly evolving. There’s so many ways to support families and it seems like you’ve really mastered supporting them at every single point.
Are you ready to create a business around your life and interests? One that is both rewarding and flexible? No matter what your career looks like now, whether you’ve just heard of sleep consulting or you have an already established business as a birth worker and want to add additional services to your repertoire, becoming a certified sleep consultant may be just what you’re looking for. Join our Facebook group to ask questions, network with other professionals and watch exclusive interviews with CPSM graduates. Ready to get started? I’d love to welcome you in as the newest member of the CPSM.