Melenie Duval has more than 24 years of experience in both lactation and newborn care. As the owner and founder of Goodnight Baby Montana, she has established herself as the go-to expert for helping families establish healthy sleep hygiene from day one. On this episode Melenie explains what it looks like to support families through sleep training in-person.
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Intro: Welcome to Becoming a Sleep Consultant! I’m your host, Jayne Havens, a certified sleep consultant and founder of both Snooze Fest by Jayne Havens and Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. On this podcast, I’ll be discussing the business side of sleep consulting. You’ll have an insider’s view on launching, growing, and even scaling a sleep consulting business. This is not a podcast about sleep training. This is a podcast about business building and entrepreneurship.
Jayne Havens: Hello, I am here today with a Center for Pediatric Sleep Management student, Melenie Duval. Actually, Melenie, I’m going to let you introduce yourself before we get started on this conversation today.
Melenie Duval: Great! Thank you so much. Thank you again so much for having me. So, I have been working with families now for 25 years–it was 25 years in April–largely in the field of lactation. But as anybody who works in our field knows it’s much more than lactation. You get questions about all kinds of aspects of baby care, including sleep. Then a few years ago, probably five years ago now, as my kids got older, I have grown children, I started getting a lot more questions about sleep specifically. I started being greatly concerned about the families that I was taking care of and the amount of sleep deprivation, postpartum mood disorders. I really, truly believe that there’s a link between the two. And so, I decided that I needed to walk out what I was saying as far as like building community and how we support families. I became, essentially, like a night nanny. I started working with families, usually from the very first night at home from the hospital.
One of the important things that I do and one of the things that my business promotes–I’ll talk about my business in a second–is healthy sleep hygiene from the very first night. So, how do we set infants up as newborns to understand daytime and nighttime sleep? How do we help them start connecting sleep cycles? How do we support parents in doing that? That’s where I started. Then I formed my business, which is Goodnight Baby Montana. We started working with families older. Because what happened is people found out that I was helping tiny babies. They said, “Can you help my 6-month- old? Can you help my 10-month-old? Can you help my 18-month-old?” I kept setting these limits. Well, not over 12 months. Then not over 18 months, not over 2 and not over 4. Then I was always doing kind of those things.
So, I decided to take the course so that I could get more information about sleep training older kiddos. I know how to do it from newborns, but I needed more information about older kiddos. I wanted to be much more effective and in what that looked like. Then of course, I chose this program, also, in part because of the entrepreneurial piece, the business piece that you offer. So, yeah. That’s what I do.
Jayne Havens: Perfect. That is a great round up of your business. The reason for why I wanted to bring you on to chat today is because I love the way that you’re supporting families. You’re specifically supporting families through sleep training in-home, which is something that I don’t have experience with myself. It’s not something that I’m really teaching inside of Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. But because we have a lot of postpartum professionals enrolled in the program, those ladies are already supporting families in-home. They are getting that request to do in home sleep training. And, you know, what does that look like? How do I do it? So, I wanted to bring you on today to chat about that, and for you to share your process and your expertise.
So, I guess my first question for you is, what is the onboarding process look like? Does it look very similar to that of the process when we’re supporting families virtually? Are you doing a discovery call? Are you still writing a sleep plan? What is your process for starting with a new family?
Melenie Duval: Sure. Families contact me in a variety of ways. They contact me via phone, text message, email. That’s the first start. You know, usually it comes on. I’m going to just give a great example. Because the typical age is 8 to 10 months. It’s the lot of the calls I get. They say, “I need help with my baby. My baby doesn’t sleep through the night. My baby wakes up every two hours. My baby is still sleeping in bed with me.” So, I reached out to them. That leads to a phone call or a Zoom meeting. We go over kind of like where they think they’re at, how they think they got there. I asked a lot of questions like bed sharing. When did you start bed sharing? Did they start at the beginning? Did they start at four months? Then I try to get as much information as possible on that very first call. Then I do send a questionnaire, a follow-up questionnaire, in case there’s anything that I might have missed. I want to make sure that I’m getting all the pieces of the puzzle. Then I send a proposal. My proposal does offer remote support. But I’ll tell you, I don’t get a lot of requests for remote support. I think it’s because we built the reputation of doing in-home on sleep coaching and sleep training.
So, I do give them several options to choose from. There are a variety offering from remote all the way to 100 hours of in-home support over a two week period. So, that’s quite a range. Then they let me know kind of what works for them. Then we set up a time to meet in their home. That’s usually when I meet their kiddos for the very first time. I want that to be a positive experience. I always tell families, we’re going to sell this as being something new and exciting, and we’re all going to do this together. So, kids are pretty excited the first time they meet me, at least. I get a layout of where is everybody sleeping, what are the sleeping arrangements, who’s sleeping where, who’s sleeping with who, what do the beds look like, are they in a crib? Especially if I’m going to be in someone’s home in the dark, I want to have a good idea where everything is.
So, that’s a great opportunity to just visit with them in their own environment. I get a great sense of, kind of, what their parenting style feels like, what their relationship is with their baby or their kiddos to help me really develop a good sleep plan. So, I don’t talk about all of the logistics of it in front of kids, because I find that that’s not super helpful to kids. So, we’ll have that visit and then I… At that time, they usually sign the contract. Sign the contract, and then payment is due by the very first night. I don’t wait and fill out later. Everything is paid up front. I go home. I write a sleep plan. We visit again, either via phone or via zoom, and kind of make some decisions to make sure that we’re clarifying exactly what’s going to happen, exactly what their expectation is of me, what my expectation is of them.
Jayne Havens: Can I interrupt you for a second?
Melenie Duval: Yes.
Jayne Havens: You send the written sleep plan to them, and then you get on to another, like, phone or Zoom call to review it? Am I understanding that correctly?
Melenie Duval: I shouldn’t say that. I should say, after I write the sleep plan, I visit with them either via phone or via zoom. They don’t see it until I come the first night.
Jayne Havens: Okay. That’s interesting. So, you’re having a conversation, sort of feeling them out and getting an idea for what they would be comfortable with, and what it’s going to look like. The sleep plan, at first, is really for you to wrap your own head around the plan. Then you share it with them that night so that you have it all in writing, and they can see what’s going on.
Melenie Duval: Yes. I might go over like some techniques to make sure that we’re honing in on the ones that are going to work best for them. One of the things I always ask parents is what their limits are. If crying is a no-go for them, I want to have a really good conversation about what crying means, and what it looks like. We talk about different types of crying. We talk about different levels of crying. But I want to know what the parent’s threshold is up front before I come into their home and start implementing a sleep plan. So, we have that conversation, and then I finalize the sleep plan. I bring it with me when I come on the very first night.
Generally, there are things that I have the family do in the days leading up to me coming. Maybe we have an infant that wakes frequently. So, we talk about helping them get all their calories in during the day. We might talk about setting up some healthy nap schedules ahead of time. If it’s toddlers and preschoolers, we really want to hype up this exciting thing that’s about to happen. We want it to be really positive so that they’re excited when I come. I wouldn’t say they were excited about the second night, but they’re excited when I first arrived. Before implementing reward charts, we want to start talking about that. So, I want everybody to kind of get to prepped in the days leading up to the event of me coming.
Jayne Havens: Okay. Let’s talk about the logistics of, like, moving in for a couple of days. What does that look like? You know, I asked this as somebody that has literally never done it. So, you know, walk me through. What do you pack? What do you sleep on? Do you have it in your contract that they need to provide a certain, like an air mattress, or do you not sleep? You know, fill me in. What does that look like?
Melenie Duval: Sure. I don’t know if everybody knows I live in Bozeman, Montana, and so I have been with families in part Madison and Gallatin County, So, three counties surrounding us. I actually got snowed in at a client’s house about a month and a half ago, but I don’t intend to stay more than just the night. And so I kind of bring the things that I need to support me through the night. If we have toddlers or preschoolers, I might bring things like reward charts, or we might have nightlights or whatever, whatever we’re gonna have for that.
I don’t typically sleep under these circumstances. One, because if a three-year-old jumped out of bed, I want to make sure that I’m alert and ready to redirect them back to their room. So that if mom and dad is… Sometimes parents are right there and involved, and sometimes they’re not at all. But I want to make sure that they don’t make this mad dash across the hall. So, that way we’re setting it up where parents can get some sleep, and then whatever. I don’t sleep. I don’t often lay down. But like I said, my children are grown. So, I go home in the morning and I sleep.
Jayne Havens: How long is the shift? Is it 10 or 12 hours?
Melenie Duval: There’s four different options currently for sleep coaching. There’s the remote option. Then the next one is, they’re all two weeks. So, they get three nights with that one over the course of two weeks, where I can kind of come in and maybe make a few changes, maybe help the family get some sleep on the night after they’ve had a couple of hard nights. Those are 8-hour shifts. For option three and option four… Option three is five nights. I do the first five nights in their home. Those are 10-hour shifts. Then option four–which is kind of like the grand package–they have the first five nights I’m there 10 hour shifts, so they have 50 hours the first week. The parents do two days or two nights by themselves implementing the same techniques that I’m using. Then I come back and do another 50 hours. So, another five nights of 10-hour nights.
Jayne Havens: Are you charging hourly, or is it like a block price that’s just like what you deem worth your while for that service?
Melenie Duval: Sure. It’s actually a block price, but it’s based on my hourly rate for infants under six months. It’s interesting. If anybody goes to my website after this, I am revamping the prices just because I have raised prices on other things. The cost of living, like everywhere, has gone up. So, I want to make sure that that’s all balanced out.
Jayne Havens: Sure. Okay. Perfect. What about like meals and snacks? I guess, are you coming late enough after dinner? Are you not worried about eating? I asked this because like, I don’t know. I think for somebody who’s not used to going in-home and doesn’t know how to be in those situations, do you just like bring a cooler bag, or do you pack yourself some granola bars and a water, and call it a day?
Melenie Duval: Well, I always have coffee. I’ve run on coffee. There’s no mistake about that. Typically, these look like 8 to 6, and so I come in at bedtime. I bring, usually, a couple of snacks to kind of get me through the night. But I don’t typically bring meals. Families are always like, “Do you want food? You can have anything you want?” I’m like, “No, I’ll bring my own things.” It always feels a little bit odd to me to rummage through people’s cupboards.
Jayne Havens: I agree. Yes, I know. I agree. That’s why I was asking. Another thing… Moving away from the logistics, let’s talk about like the meat of this a little bit, which is, you know, when I think of in-home sleep training, I get asked to do it all the time. I always say no for a few reasons. One, it’s just like it doesn’t fit in with my life. Two, I’ve always sort of felt strongly that teaching your child that there are boundaries–which is really all this really is– is something that should come from the parent. I asked you this question. We’ve spoke about it offline, and I know how you feel about it. But I’d love to have that conversation on camera as well. Because, you know, I think that this is a concern that a lot of sleep consultants have. It’s like, you know, is it really beneficial for a stranger to come in and set a boundary for a three-year-old? Shouldn’t the parents be setting that boundary? What are your thoughts on that? How do you handle it with the families so that they actually can implement the boundary once you leave?
Melenie Duval: Well, I think that’s a great question. I think it’s really, really important to talk about if you’re going to do in-home sleep coaching. Because I absolutely 100% agree with you that parents should be setting all the boundaries, not just around sleep but around all of the things in their home and all the things in their life. I couldn’t agree more. What I found is that, I think sometimes parents want to do that. They just don’t either don’t know what it looks like to actually set boundaries with children, or they don’t know what it looks like to hold the line on that. Sometimes… Actually, not sometimes. Every single time, I am doing just as much direct parent coaching, in-home parent coaching as I am in-home kid coaching. So, the parents are watching me hold those lines with their kids, setting up clear boundaries with their kids. To date, knock on wood, they’ve been able to follow those, at least around sleep, once I leave. Where I think it works really well is, like I said, in that 8 to 10-month group, where maybe they haven’t really started implementing boundaries. Maybe they feel like, “My child’s not going to like me if I set up boundaries,” or, “I don’t know how to talk to my child in setting up boundaries that are healthy.” So, I get to have that opportunity to model boundaries for them and then support them while they’re doing it.
There are many times when I’m standing outside of a nursery door with a mom, and we’re listening to the crying. We’re doing the check and console., and we’re listening to crying. I’m coaching her on, “Okay. We’re going to go in. This is what we’re going to say. Then we’re going to come out, and we’re going to set the timer.” I really just spend that time alongside them holding their hand while they are implementing those boundaries with their kiddos. So, that’s kind of what that looks like.
I actually worked with a sibling parent not that long ago, a two-year-old and a four-year-old. I think one parent was ready to hold the boundaries, and the other parent wasn’t. So, there was some good discussions that happened during that time when I was there. After three nights, the dad was like, “Oh, we’re never going back. This is great. This is the best thing. I haven’t slept in the same bed with my wife in two years. This is the best thing that’s ever happened to us.” I think a lot of it is equally parent coaching as it is good coaching, and how to set them.
Jayne Havens: Then you’re moving to some level of virtual support after you do in-home work, so the parents do have that opportunity to reinforce the boundary once you’ve already established it.
Melenie Duval: Correct. That’s correct. I do follow-up after that two-week mark, just not as frequently, and kind of check in and see how things are going and where things are at. But it’s really clear in my proposal and in my sleep plan that boundaries are important, and we need to set healthy boundaries with our kiddos. I remind parents that when we regress, or we change course, or any of those things, what we’re really doing is causing a lot of confusion for infants and toddlers and preschoolers. I said, “We’re setting them up for failure.” Every time we do that, we’re asking them to start over. I use the analogy of we’re playing a game. Imagine you’re playing a game with somebody. Maybe you start winning, and then they say, “Oh, wait. We’re going to change the rules of the game.” Then you start winning again, and then they change the rules again. They keep doing that. Of course, we’re going to be frustrated. Of course, we’re going to be crying. Of course, we’re going to be screaming. It’s the same thing that they’re doing to their child when they keep changing, either held the technique that they’re doing or they’re inconsistent. So, I just remind parents that that’s like almost the key piece in making all of this happen. That and confidence. They have to be confident with their kids.
Jayne Havens: Yes, I completely agree. Let’s shift to another topic. I was asking around within our community to see what does everyone want to learn from this conversation today. Something that came up was the topic of multiples and how you handle sleep training multiples. So, I would love for you to share what that looks like for you. Maybe share a case study or a recent client. Tell us a story, and show us what it looks like to support families with multiples in-home.
Melenie Duval: Sure. Some of that happens in the really early stages. I’ve worked with twins and a family with triplets, and they all actually started in infancy. Not necessarily as newborns but definitely in infancy. A lot of that comes with, you know, there’s this negative idea about scheduling meetings or scheduling sleep. Really, that’s a healthy routine for all of us to be in. For multiples, or NICU babies, or preemies, they come home on a routine. So, I always encourage parents to keep routines.
When we’re talking about multiples, to keep parents from feeding 24 times a day or 26 times a day, I always say we want them on the same feeding schedule, the same sleeping schedule. When one is hungry, then we feed both of them. When one is going to bed, we put both of them to bed. We set them up, kind of, in that routine already.
When we’re thinking about sleep coaching multiples, it’s still the same idea. The bedtime routines are the same. The going-to-bed is the same. We handle waking the same. Parents often asked me, “Well, should I have my twins or my triplets in the same room together?” Then we say, “Absolutely!” Because they will learn to adjust to each other’s noises and noise levels and sleep disturbances and all of that. There’s no reason to separate them. What I often find is, one does not wake up the other. That just doesn’t happen. When we’re doing multiples, it’s important, again, to set up routine and make that exactly the same for both of them.
I’m going to give a great example. I’ll use the family with triplets. Because triplets, I’m sure, could be a daunting task. The first time somebody called me and asked me to do it, I was like, “I don’t know.” Because twins felt kind of overwhelming. What we did with the triplets, we set up, of course, the same bedtime routine. I said, one of the most important things we can do with little tiny people is have those positive sleep associations. When we set up a routine, I always tell parents we start turning down the lights. We might do bath time. We do feeding time. I don’t do feeding as the very last thing, because I don’t want feeding and falling asleep. We do feeding, and then we might do sleep sack, and then singing, and then put them in bed. That’s what we did with them. We said right after dinner, everybody gets a bath. Everybody gets a bottle. Then we turn down the lights. We turn on the sound machine. We get the little sleep sacks out, and everybody gets laid down in their bed. That’s what we did. We put them to bed. It’s interesting, because they still have sleep sacks so they don’t climb out of bed. The minute they get the sleep sacks on, they are like closing their eyes and ready to go to sleep. They have made that association. I
think the most important thing, if you’re talking about multiples, is there has to be a positive routine. There has to be positive sleep associations, and we have to be doing the same thing at the same time so everybody’s getting the same treatment. In fact, I don’t charge double or triple for twins or triplets. I do charge slightly more but not tremendously.
Jayne Havens: Okay. That was actually going to be my next question. So, I’m glad you answered it. You don’t charge double. You charge slightly more, which I think is reasonable. Because multiples are more work, right? Actually, let’s dig into pricing a little bit, which we touched on earlier. I’m not going to ask you to share what your pricing is. But I guess what my question is, how did you land on your pricing? I think this is something that a lot of sleep consultants really struggle with: it’s how to place value on the work that they’re doing. Is it just, are we charging for our time? Are we charging for our expertise? Are we charging for the result? There’s a lot of factors that go into play when setting your pricing. How did you come up with your pricing? Did you always feel good about your pricing? Do you feel good about your pricing now?
Melenie Duval: That’s a good question. Like I talked about in the more intensive in-home support, it’s based on my hourly rate for newborn infants. So, it’s largely based on that–100 hours, 50 hours, kind of what does that look like. If I’m writing a sleep plan, I do want to factor in–my time is valuable–my time in making phone calls or answering phone calls and emails and zooms and going to their home. All of that has to be factored in, how much time I’m spending.
I think that I’ve gotten more efficient at writing sleep plans, for sure. I have different sleep plans for different ages. I can just kind of put information in and make a few changes. But I want to make sure that my time is being compensated. I worked in community health for over 10 years. Not that that’s not great, not that I don’t love it. But you start to feel like, is my time valuable? Is my 25 years valuable? Is the thousands of families I’ve worked with valuable? All of those pieces.
I do offer a slight discount for my completely remote support to the three night package. It’s actually a pretty significant discount. I wanted there to be a reasonable option for maybe families who are not going to be able to meet the 100-hour but still needed more direct support, needed that in-home, direct coaching. I felt really good about making that choice.
If ever a family is like, “We want to do remote support,” and then they go, “Actually, we’d like to upgrade and have you come in and do 50 hours,” I do apply their first package to packages going forward. I do offer that. But I do feel good about it. I do have another sleep coach in Bozeman. There’s actually another person, and she offers solely remote. We actually have very different philosophies on sleep training and methods that we use, which is great. I think our prices are fairly comparable as far as remote services.
Jayne Havens: So, you’re feeling good about the work that you’re doing, and you’re feeling good about the money that you’re making, which I think is the most important thing. Because the work that we do is hard work, and it’s valuable. Our knowledge is valuable. Our experience is valuable. The results that we’re getting our clients are extremely valuable. I want to make sure… I think it’s really important to note that it has to be worth your time, your energy. It has to let you up. Otherwise, it’s just hard work for nothing, right?
Melenie Duval: Yes, absolutely. I say all the time, doing in-home support is really draining. I love it. I love it so much. I love seeing the results. But at the end of a 50-hour week or 100 hours of two weeks, holding hands with parents and holding hands with little people, in redirecting little people and being up all night, it is pretty exhausting. So, I want it to be also financially worth my time to devote that much time, energy, mentally, physically, emotionally into it. It’s interesting. Because I had somebody tell me one time, “Well, do you have a platinum package?” I said, “Everybody gets the platinum package.” So, I just want to make sure that I’m not shorting myself either for the time that I’m putting into it.
Jayne Havens: Before we wrap up, I would love for you to share one piece of wisdom, maybe for somebody headed out on their first in-home sleep training job. Any any words of wisdom to share?
Melenie Duval: Sure. I thought a lot about it in preparation for this. I would say confidence, confidence, confidence. When you are talking with parents, when you are talking with children, when you are going into someone’s home, being confident in your training, being confident in what you have to offer, being confident that this is going to work. Parents, usually, by this point, have tried a lot of different things. They have kind of dabbled in different techniques. So, they’re not feeling super confident. They need somebody to come in and really kind of boost that up. That’s an opportunity that’s very different that you have when you’re in-person. You’re standing right there outside the door with them, holding their hand sometimes and reassuring them that we’re all headed in the right direction. Confidence is important.
Jayne Havens: I think that’s a really, really fabulous advice. I think that translates to those that are listening or watching that do virtual support as well. Because if you can’t come into a situation that’s stressful with a certain level of confidence, I think it makes it really challenging for all parties involved. I think our clients need to feel that they are being led by somebody that knows what they’re doing. If you don’t feel like you know what you’re doing, then that’s a problem. Right?
Melenie Duval: Yes.
Jayne Havens: We need to figure out how to gain confidence. You know, sometimes that comes with experience. Sometimes it comes with additional training. Sometimes it comes with just committing to always wanting to learn more. This is something I am constantly trying to drill down within the CPSM community. My course is just one course. I think that there’s so much to be learned out there. Actually, I spent all day yesterday on a training about sleep science that was led by another sleep professional within the industry. If you’re not doing those things, then you’re not working on your expertise or your craft. You have to constantly be willing to learn, so that you can feel more confident and better position to support your clients at the highest level.
Melenie Duval: I agree. I would even say, in the last few years, I don’t think I’ve read any books unless they’ve had to do with infant sleep. I always tell people, read The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Read the books out there that you don’t agree with, or that you don’t like, the techniques. Because you are going to run into families who have used them or tried them. Having really a good, solid base knowledge of what is out there is important.
I know just as much about other sleep consulting packages that are available online as I do about what I’m offering. I have books in my office that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend. But I want to make sure that I’m having those conversations with families and that I do understand where they’re at, what they’ve seen, and where they want to get to.
Jayne Havens: You’re speaking their language, really. I’ve just got off the phone with somebody–I can actually see on my phone she just hired me–who’s using a method that she read in the book that I can’t stand. I have the book on my bookshelf. Because like, moms are reading this stuff. They are using it, and it’s not working. Then they hire me. I need to know what they’re reading, so that I can undo it, you know. That’s really, really important.
So, going back to your point of having confidence, where does that confidence come from? It comes from being willing to continue to learn. Right? If you’re not willing to continue to learn, then you’re going to lack confidence because you’re not going to know everything. I think the more you know, the more confident you feel on what you’re doing.
Melenie Duval: It’s true. It’s so true. I always say, I’ve been doing lactation for 25 years. It’s funny because people will call me an expert in the community. I’m like I just cringe when I hear that, because I think there’s much to know. There’s not much that I know. I’m constantly learning. It’s the same thing with infant sleep. We’re constantly learning. There’s more research that comes up all the time. There’s new books being published all the time.
I think it’s important to know what’s available and then use the base, either in your experience, or your knowledge, or your education to kind of say this is going to work for me, and this is not going to work for me, or I can see that this works for parents, and this doesn’t work for parents. Because families are going to come at you and say, “Well, how come you don’t use that book? How come you don’t use that technique?” You’re going to want to have a good, solid answer as to why you don’t support that. That’s not going to happen unless you’re out there learning.
Jayne Havens: Absolutely. Before we wrap up, tell everybody where they can find you. Do you want to share your website or social media?
Melenie Duval: You’re going to like make me remember all my handles for all of them.
Jayne Havens: You don’t have to. We can leave it all in the notes below of the interview. If you don’t remember, no pressure.
Melenie Duval: I mean, obviously, I remember my website.
Jayne Havens: Okay. Well, share that.
Melenie Duval: goodnightbabymt.com, I’m on Facebook. I’m on Instagram. I’m learning how to use TikTok. I’m learning more about Pinterest. I’m constantly learning, too.
Jayne Havens: Okay. We will link all of your links in the shownotes. Thank you so much for chatting with me today, and sharing your expertise with this audience. I’m really grateful.
Melenie Duval: Great. Thank you so much for having me. I really do appreciate the course. I feel like I’ve learned so much already. So, thank you.
Jayne Havens: I’m so glad.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Becoming a Sleep Consultant Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, it would mean so much to me if you would rate, review, and subscribe. When you rate, review, and subscribe, this helps the podcast reach a greater audience. I am so grateful of your support. If you would like to learn more about how you can become a certified sleep consultant, head over to my Facebook Group, Becoming a Sleep Consultant or to my website thecpsm.com. Thanks so much, and I hope you will tune in for the next episode.