Liza Montanino is a Certified Sleep Consultant through Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. She is also a Sleep Health Expert with TintoApp, a children’s book editor and a mom of two. Since launching her consulting agency Rock-a-Bye-Baby-Sleep, Liza has supported families one-on-one as well as led numerous sleep webinars and workshops for parents both locally and abroad. On this episode of the podcast we discuss:
– The importance of identifying your WHY when starting a business
– How Liza’s WHY evolved as her business grew
– The secret to success in business and entrepreneurship
Join our Facebook group to learn more about Becoming a Certified Sleep Consultant
Jayne Havens: Liza Montanino is a certified sleep consultant through the Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. She’s also a sleep health expert with the Tinto app, a children’s book editor, and a mom of two. Since launching her consulting agency Rock-a-bye-baby Sleep. Liza has supported families one on one, as well as led numerous sleep webinars and workshops for parents both locally and abroad. Liza, welcome to the show. I’m so glad to have you here today.
Liza Montanino: Thanks so much for having me.
Jayne Havens: So today, I would love to unpack the why I think that in order to be successful in business, it’s so important to identify your “why”, and really keep it in front of mind so that you can successfully grow your business. You enrolled in the center for pediatric sleep management in June of 2021, actually looked back, I checked, and you work full time, and you have two young kids and you have an overall really busy life. So what was your Why? Why did you decide to add to your already full plate and get certified to work as a sleep consultant?
Liza Montanino: Well, my why was really made up of a bunch of different things. I’ve always been borderline obsessed with sleep, at least since my son was born a little over four years ago because he wasn’t a good sleeper. And I didn’t realize at the time that I actually wasn’t doing anything to help him sleep better, because I just didn’t know differently. I didn’t know about “weak windows”. And I didn’t know about the feed plate sleep routine. So I was feeding him to sleep for every single nap, I was doing tons of contact naps, I was having him nap on the go in the stroller because it was easier for us to get naps that way. So when we hit that point around, like three months or so, those things were no longer working. And he was just waking up constantly. I reached out to a sleep consultant for help. And really, after three nights, he was sleeping through the night, and I was able to start getting him to nap in the crib. And, that took a little bit longer. But he was well-rested. And I was well-rested and felt so much better. That people in my mom group started asking me like, what was I doing? How was he sleeping? And so I just sort of started naturally helping friends. And I really enjoyed it. But I have always wanted to work in publishing, which is my full-time job. And I never really even thought about leaving and switching careers or even adding another career to my plate until last May when there were some big organizational changes at my company. And they were ones that didn’t really feel like they aligned with what I wanted anymore. Which has also changed as a result of the pandemic and the freedom of working from home and seeing my kids more and moving to the suburbs and having a very different life than I ever thought that I would have. So my husband was actually the one who suggested that I become a sleep consultant, he’s like, you’re already obsessed with it, why don’t you try to learn more, more about what it means. And then when I learned about your program, about CPSM, I saw that it wasn’t just about sleep training methods, but why we need sleep and how to grow it into a business. It reframed for me, I think what I thought was possible with sleep consulting. And so I just immediately realized this was the next step for me. Yes, and I just can’t imagine not doing it now that I’m doing it and loving it.
Jayne Havens: But let’s go back to the “why”… Was it that you were feeling unfulfilled in your day job? Was it that you were seeking a passion project? Was it that you were really moved by the experience of sleep training your own child and felt called to help others, which was sort of like the driving force, that made you feel like, this is why I’m going to do this.
Liza Montanino: All of those things really, I wasn’t feeling as fulfilled as I had wanted to feel and used to feel by my day job. I also felt like thinking about the lack of connection that we all experienced as a result of the pandemic. It reframed for me just how important relationships are and also how important mental health is. And so I just started thinking about all of the things that impact our mental health and how we can be supporting one another and how much joy and fulfillment I got out of helping people with their babies sleep in an informal, unofficial way. And it sort of seemed like this was just the right next venture for me to take what I knew a little bit about and dig even deeper, and then really feel like I was making a difference and connecting with people and helping them through a really stressful time.
Jayne Havens: Yes, I love that. And you touched on this a little bit earlier, but what did your family think about all this? It sounds like your husband was really supportive if it was sort of his idea. But yeah, we have a full-time job, like you had a career you still do. Where you were doing your thing, and then all of a sudden, you’re like, I’m going to try something else. You know, what did your family have to say about that?
Liza Montanino: My husband was very supportive, I don’t think and he continues to be so I think I was probably the one who was a little bit more nervous. As much as I wanted to make this change. I was really nervous about whether or not I can actually do it, because like I said, I had been in publishing, it’s been 14 and a half years now. And my family, my parents are just like, very proud of my identity, as an editor did something that they just took a lot of pride in and would talk to their friends about and it hasn’t been often that I’ve thought about making any kind of big life change. And thinking about leaving publishing is a huge decision. And the person that I always used to go to for advice on any kind of big decision was always my dad. But, I know that you know this… I lost him to COVID in April 2020, very early on in the pandemic, which is part of why I think I was also looking for some other way to connect and find a sense of community and fulfillment. And as I was thinking about making this career change, I just couldn’t help thinking about, like, what he would think. And if he knew that I was considering this big jump, would he still be just as proud. And then something kind of amazing happened. I had my first client, who found me through a thread that I had just randomly commented on in a Facebook group. And we set up a console. And through talking to her, I learned that she lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is where I grew up. My mom still lives in the house that I was raised in. And, through talking, she told me that she was a lawyer, and my dad was a lawyer. And she was actually a law professor at AU. And my dad was in law, an adjunct law professor at AU when he passed away, and she actually knew my dad. He was very highly regarded in the DC area. And I mean, it honestly took everything I had not to just start crying during that call with her. But I really took that as a sign that my dad knew what I was doing. And he was cheering me on. And really after that, I just, I never second-guessed my decision. And even though I have definitely had moments of doubt, like, Can I do this? I’ve never wondered, should I do this? Because I know the answer is yes.
Jayne Havens: First of all, thank you for sharing that story. Second, I have goosebumps, like you would not believe. Like, that’s just incredible. And I’m really glad that you sort of jumped into this new venture and that you were able to have that little moment so that you could feel confident that your dad was supporting you and watching over you, I think that’s just really amazing. And the world works in crazy, crazy ways. You have to know that of course he would be proud of you. You’re doing really impressive, incredible things. So how could he not? It’s little, little things like that probably give you what you needed to feel that way even though everybody around you would have felt that way. It’s like I feel that way for you. But it doesn’t matter what I think it was, it was probably just that little like, touch that little moment that you needed to feel like, okay, like this is this is the right decision and both my parents would approve of this.
Liza Montanino: It definitely felt like that for sure.
Jayne Havens: Yes, I love that. When we were talking offline, when we were preparing for this interview, I had asked you if you originally had evolved, and now that you’re up and running and actually taking on clients, you said that it has evolved? Can you share a little bit about what feels different from the like, why you got into this in the first place to like, and why you’re still doing this now?
Liza Montanino: Yes, so my why has evolved. As I’ve worked with moms, in particular, noticing the anxiety that moms have around their child’s sleep. I think I mentioned earlier that I had really bad postpartum depression and anxiety after my son was born. And I remember going to my six-week postpartum appointment with my OB, and answering the questions that are meant to screen for severe postpartum depression. And I remember feeling like they were just really inadequate questions like I was able to answer them, honestly. But I also felt like I needed a little bit of help. But the doctor seemed totally satisfied with my answers. And like, wrote me off as okay. So I thought maybe I was just feeling things differently because I had two kids now. And that in and of itself was a tough adjustment. So I realized, over the first few months that with my daughter I had had like the baby blues, and they went away. But with my son, I noticed that I was feeling worse and worse as the weeks went on. And, part of that was due to the sleep deprivation until we sleep trained. But even once I was sleeping better, and talking with my therapist once a week, I didn’t feel as great as I thought I would. And so I have just over the past several months of working with moms been thinking about how in general, we really lack the kind of support network that makes having a newborn, in particular, feel manageable, particularly for first-time moms, when it’s all so new. And so now, as a sleep consultant and talking to a lot of moms and being on the other side of that anxiety, oversleeping, I’ve just been thinking in a much bigger way about how our country is lacking in resources and support systems for women in the postpartum period. And there’s so much care and observation throughout pregnancy and childbirth. But then once the baby arrives, it’s like, alright, you have two or three days in the hospital to learn how to change the diaper, learn how to try to swaddle and maybe how to latch, and then you’re, you’re out of there, and you have this little baby, that is dependent on you for absolutely everything. But you yourself are emotionally, hormonally and physically compromised. So my goal is to be a sleep consultant, and my why has sort of morphed into two things really. The first is I feel really passionately about the conversation around sleep training and making sure parents know that sleep is not a luxury, that it is essential to our health and well-being. And the other side of that coin, and what I want to also help fight against is when moms do open up about their struggles to get their baby to sleep and just the hard time they’re having with motherhood in general. And the response that we see. And I know we’ve talked about this in some other CPSM groups like the response that moms get, like, you’re not sleeping, like welcome to motherhood, or my son is 15 months old and he still doesn’t sleep through the night or just wait, you’ll miss this time one day like people treat not sleeping as a badge of parenting honor. And it really drives me nuts because I personally think you can love your baby and hate the way they sleep. And it doesn’t make you a bad mom. I just really worry about how damaging the rhetoric is for parents and for moms in particular that you should just accept and expect not to sleep when you have an infant. Because then the message that comes with mother is this expectation of pushing through your own exhaustion and finding a way to deal with whatever negative effects come with that. And for the sake of your baby, and we’re almost telling women that not only has your entire identity shifted now that you’re a mom, but you should be prioritizing your baby’s health and well-being above your own. And the truth is, those two things are intrinsically linked, right? Like, you can’t be the healthiest version of yourself, if you’re sacrificing all of your needs for your baby, even if you’re doing it instinctively, or subconsciously and out of love.
So when I’m working with families, I start by acknowledging how hard parenthood is, and that I’ve been there and I get it. And my Y has turned into not only helping individual families get more quality sleep. But I really want to create a space for women to feel seen and heard and receive quality, postpartum care, and support through creating healthy sleep habits and sleep training, beginning with the fourth trimester, but continuing throughout your baby’s first year. So I’m working on how I can bring that to fruition now in a bigger way. And when I can share more about it, I totally will.
Jayne Havens: Totally relate to every single thing that you just said, I 100% identify with it when I was thinking about it. I’m so glad that we decided to have this conversation because you and I are just very much aligned in this conversation topic. And when I was thinking back before we started our conversation today, I was thinking, Okay, I’m gonna ask Liza what her why is. And like, do I even do I have the same why that I had when I started my business. And it’s interesting because I think our paths, like our mental paths, are very much similar. I started this work because I was a little burned out as a stay-at-home mom, I was feeling like my brain was mush. I wanted to continue to stay home with my kids and care for them. But I also wanted to feel alive again, and do something a little bit more productive and mentally stimulating. And that’s how I got into this. And when I think back to my original why it’s like, I didn’t want to go back to work work, but I wanted to work. And so I always think about that as my business grows, like, my why was to be home and to be present with my children. So like, let’s not get too busy, because that’s taking me away from my original “why”, right? But then I also feel like I’ve completely evolved in the way that I think about sleep training and sleep consulting. And I often think about how, when new parents when you have a baby, the first thing you do if you’re trying to breastfeed, the very first thing you do is you call a lactation consultant, right? Every single new mom has a lactation consultant, the hospital even provides one, right. And, and, and but what about sleep, like sleep and feeding are the two sort of top priorities for every new parent, and everybody is getting support with feeding without the blink of an eye, without any sort of hesitation. But then when it comes to sleep, for whatever reason, parents are waiting to hit rock bottom to be in this deep dark hole of postpartum depression and or anxiety before they seek out any type of sleep support. And my sort of more recent Why is to really try and change that I would love to make sleep consulting, I would love to make sleep consultants more accessible to more parents and, and to make this type of support more commonplace so that everybody has access to help. I was talking to a client the other day and she was saying, all my friends, our sleep consultants were telling us she made it seem like every single one of her friends had a sleep consultant. It was fun. The way she said it was so funny and I smiled from ear to ear that every single one of her friends had a sleep consultant that made me really happy because they were all getting the support that they needed. And I think it’s really unfortunate that this right now, it feels like a luxury good, a luxury service. And it should be this is the type of support that every new parent should have access to at varying price points and varying levels of support. And my why recently has sort of shifted to making this type of support more accessible and more commonplace. One thing that people ask me when they’re interested in becoming a sleep consultant is, are there too many sleep consultants? Is the market is oversaturated? It’s like, no, most new parents don’t even know what a sleep consultant is. Right? Like there’s most new moms who have never even heard of sleep consulting. Right? So to me, that means like, there’s so much work to be done. There is so much more like a land cover. And we all need to work together to get in front of these parents and say, You know what, there is support. You don’t need to be a martyr, you can be well-rested and happy and a good mom at the same time.
Liza Montanino: I completely agree with all that. And as long as people are still having babies, there’s always going to be a need for sleep consultants and people who need help with their kids’ sleep.
Jayne Havens: Yes, for sure. For sure. Let’s pivot a little bit, I want to ask you something that I’ve asked a few other CPSM grads on this podcast. And I want to ask you, one of the objections that I hear most often, for those that are interested in getting into this line of work, is that they just don’t have the time. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Because you work full time you have two young kids, and you’re managing to grow a sleep consulting business. So like, first of all, how are you doing that? And second of all, like, how is your WHY driving that passion to be successful? Even when you feel really crunched for time.
Liza Montanino: Time.. Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, we’re all busy, all of us. So I think there’s never going to be enough time in the day for all of the things that you want to do. But I think saying you don’t have enough time has almost become just like a reflexive response. And it’s a really convenient excuse, because it’s hard for someone else to challenge that argument, right? Like, no one else knows your time and your schedule better than you. So I think it boils down to taking a step back where you feel like you can, sort of like trimming the fat off your schedule in places whether that’s like five minutes here, 15 minutes there, and really being creative about finding time. Because there are only 24 hours in the day, how you allocate your time to various things is sort of the only way that I think you’re going to be able to get everything done that you want to. I’m also a big multitasker when it’s appropriate. Like I’m the queen of talking to text while I’m driving so that I can respond to my clients in real time as much as possible. And I think part of it, too, is treating yourself with respect and valuing your own time. So what I do, and this kind of this might sound a little bit weird, but like, if you think of yourself as a third party person that you are in business with, and someone whose deadlines you need to meet, and someone you don’t want to let down, it becomes a lot easier to take yourself seriously and set boundaries that you’re not willing to cross. And then you wouldn’t expect someone else to cross if they were in business with you. So I find that that helps me and the overall reason why I do this definitely drives me to because whether or not I feel like I have enough time in my day, doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone out there who is struggling and in need of support.
Jayne Havens: I love that. Yeah, I think I think that it’s really actually more important than I didn’t realize until you just said that, that like your why has to drive your time management, right? Because if your why is true, right, like, if you’re being really true with yourself about why you’ve decided to get into this line of work, then then nothing should get in the way of that right because that’s that’s your purpose. That’s your drive. So you have to make time, you have to stop scrolling Facebook for 45 minutes before bed, you have to wake up 30 minutes early to shower so that you’re ready when your kids get up, like you have to be purposeful so that you can live out your own truth, right. I mean, it sounds cheesy, but I think that’s what I think that’s what it is. Yeah, so okay, so give us a quick rundown of what your day looks like speaking of time, what does that look like with your day job and your clients and your kids?
Liza Montanino: Sure, yeah. Every day is really a little bit different, and I feel like many people feel the same way. But I start by getting my kids ready for school and checking in with all of my clients. Seeing how the night went and discussing a first nap of the day. And then I answer emails. I tend to answer all of my sleep client emails first before my editing emails because that is where my passion is. And then once I’ve done that my day is really divided between taking meetings about the books that I’m working on and taking consulting calls with prospective clients and doing sleep support, check-in calls with existing clients. I do a lot of lunchtime workshops where I am talking to moms about setting healthy sleep habits. You know, I am sending off a lot of connection emails trying to network with preschools, pediatricians, and other health service workers. And then in the afternoon, I take my son to OT a couple of times a week, and I’m helping my daughter with her activities and doing some homework. And once the kids are in bed, I usually then do a little bit of research on social media, I try to post a couple of times a week. And I do a lot of my workshops and webinars in the evening when most kids are in bed and parents can really devote the time to getting answers and getting help. And I eat a lot of ice cream. A lot of ice cream every night.
Jayne Havens: I think you’re a really true multitasker, which I think you have to be if you’re going to have a full time job and do this, like you have to know how to juggle. Right? Totally. And it sounds like you’re pretty good at that. So I think I think you’ve only launched your business like five or six months ago, right? And if so, would you mind sharing a little bit? Like, how is that going? How many families are you supporting? A week or a month? What does your client load look like?
Liza Montanino: Yes, sure. So yeah, I started in October. And since then, I have over 50 families that I’ve supported in that time, which feels like in and of itself a milestone, so I keep trying to thank them. So I have, in general, been hovering between like, six and ten clients a month. And, not all months have been the same, I feel like February was closer to eight, and then March in particular has been a really, really busy month. Because I’m just trying to stay really active about getting my name out there. And connecting with moms in these workshops has oftentimes led to a lot of private clients, and then word of mouth spreads and that kind of thing. So yeah, I mean, things have been busy, but they’ve been good. And in terms of looking for other ways to support moms during this postpartum time. I recently started a virtual sleep support group that meets on a weekly basis, which is just like a drop in low cost program. It’s essentially like a group asked me anything. But then from there, a lot of people do follow up with scheduling one on one consultations. And I’ve gotten a lot of new clients that way. So I mean, sometimes it can feel overwhelming, but it’s also really exciting. And that makes that keeps me going.
Jayne Havens: Yes, I’m really excited for you. I love hearing about your success. And it sounds like your business is totally thriving, which just makes me super happy and super proud.
Liza Montanino: Thank you.
Jayne Havens: And speaking of success, I get asked all the time, like what the secret to success is, and I knew that you were going to be successful, it sounds weird to say but like I can tell when people are going to be good at something, and I knew that you were going to be successful. But in the same breath, I’m not really quite sure how I pinpoint that I just sort of have a feeling. So I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on what the secret to success is? And yeah, like, Do you have any idea what sort of separates those that make it from those that don’t?
Liza Montanino: It is a really good question. And first of all, thank you for that vote of confidence. I feel like you believed in me probably before I believed in myself. So I really appreciate that, probably. But I think the biggest difference is probably a few different things. I think you really need a lot of tenacity and you have to be able to persevere. But I think you also have to be really patient and be willing to lay the groundwork and understand that it’s not going to happen overnight. There’s actually one thing that my therapist said to me that has really stuck with me and guided me through some of the slower periods of my business. which is to remember that a slow week or a slow month doesn’t mean utter failure in the same way that one great week or great month doesn’t mean total success. And I thought that was brilliant because it takes a little bit of the pressure off of each individual day and each individual week and even each individual month. I think you just have to understand that going into this business means you’re going to be in it for the long haul. And it means that even if the people aren’t showing up, as long as you are showing up consistently, the clients will come. And like I said, I mean, there’s always going to be people having babies. So there are always going to be people in need of our help.