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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: Emily Smith is the founder of The Blissful Bebe and a newborn care specialist based out of Southern California offering overnight, 24/7, and travel support for families during the fourth trimester. She is also currently growing her business to support families virtually, both for newborn consults and sleep support. As a former educator and nanny, Emily found her love for supporting families in the fourth trimester and beyond, paying particular attention to the emphasis on parent education, setting a family up for long-term success, and the importance of building rapport and trust within the caregiver and parent relationship. Emily, welcome to the podcast. I’m so excited to chat with you today.
Emily Smith: Thank you so much for having me, Jayne. I’m so excited to be here.
Jayne Havens: When we were chatting offline trying to figure out the topic for today’s podcast, you had suggested that we discuss how to best empower families through education and coaching. I just thought that that sounded fabulous. I would love to hear what your process looks like when you are supporting families. What sorts of things are you doing in your day to day with your clients that leave them feeling super empowered?
Emily Smith: Sure. That’s a great question. So it’s kind of been some trial and error, and then recognizing what family’s needs are. When I started recognizing those needs, it became a lot more intentional in the work that I was doing. I remember when I was like, I don’t know, I think it was in college. It was a career exploration class. They were like, “Well, think about what you did when you were a kid, or think about the things you did growing up that you enjoyed, and that’s how you end up choosing a profession intentionally but not intentionally.” I remember I stumbled into teaching after college. I thought I was going into the classroom to teach kids. I realized half of the role, if not more, was working simultaneously with parents and coaching them. I taught kindergarten, so it’s a lot more hands-on. People are sending their kids off to school, and you start to see academic challenges or behavioral challenges. Really, the way that you solve those problems is by working in tandem and hand-in-hand with parents. So I realized I had this knack for coaching parents just as much as I did kids.
When I started working in newborn care — I didn’t realize it at the time, but I remember my first client. I thought I was going and you look back at some of the newbie, not mistakes but experiences. I was like, “Okay, I’m going to care for this baby overnight. It’s going to be great. Then I’m going to leave, and they’re going to take over.” What I started to realize, the family that I was working for at the time, with that first client, they had a five-year-old. So they were really out of the game. Yes, five years seems like a short amount. But really, a lot happened in the baby world, which I think it does continuously change all the time. And so really, what that family needed was a lot of coaching. They hired me. They were like, “Our first baby, he didn’t start sleeping at night until he was a year old.” I was like, “What?” I don’t know a ton about sleep but I know that doesn’t seem like I don’t want to say normal, but it just didn’t — Because there’s got to be more that you can do. As I continued to support clients and my business grew, I realized there was a huge need for coaching and empowering parents. That’s really where I thrive. I love taking care of babies. Who doesn’t like snuggling a brand-new newborn? But in order to be successful and to set a family up for success long-term, which is really what I focus on, you have to guide parents regardless if they have 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 kids. Things change so much and needs are so individual to the family, that the coaching piece really comes in. I feel like that’s where I thrive as well.
Jayne Havens: Now that you’re more experienced — I love that you told that first story. Everybody has a first story. I can think back to my first sleep consulting client, actually. Oddly, it was a six-and-a-half-year-old girl. It was my first ever sleep consultant client. Here I am getting into this business, thinking I’m going to sleep train babies and toddlers. My very first paying client was a mom of a six-and-a-half-year-old, and she couldn’t get out of her bed. So we all have those stories that light up in our own mind, those memories of our very first clients before we have all the experience. Now that you have so much more experience, can you maybe highlight a more recent example of a family that you supported, and give some point to some actual things that you did to coach them through something or educate them in a category where maybe they just didn’t know, something that you thought they should know. Give us some examples, if you can.
Emily Smith: Sure. It is funny now. Because you start to think how things have evolved over time and how you’ve gotten better, but you also just learn how to work with what you’re given, which I think is the beauty of this work. Because you get exposed to so many different things and experiences that help you refine your craft. I’ll tell you about a recent experience and how I supported that family. The last client that I worked with, they were brand new parents, super excited. The funny thing about new parents is that they come in with all of these expectations, right? They read books. The world of social media, I think, has created so much access for families and for new parents. So they had all of these ideas, but they’re like, “We literally don’t ever hold babies. We have no idea how to do things, and so we have this picture in our head of what this is going to be like. But obviously, we hired you because you know what it actually is like.” I was with them for about 10 weeks from the time the baby was born. And so really, what that looks like, a lot of it was assessing their needs, understanding what do they do, how do they function as a family, what are their parenting styles—which is going to evolve in that period of 10 weeks. It’s going to change all the time, I think, until you get your footing. Their primary goals were really to be focused on sleep. They were going back to work. Mom went back to work at six weeks, actually, and had three months of paternity leave. So they wanted to figure out how do we set baby up for a really healthy sleep environment. How do we fine tune if we, down the road, need to sleep train, and you’re not here? We really want to avoid that. So what can we do to set the baby up for success? Then also, I think a lot of it was educating them on safe sleep practices. I think that’s the thing that comes up a lot with families. It’s really difficult, I think, as a new parent to distinguish between what is — I don’t want to say what is right and what is wrong, but like what is real and what is not real. There’s just so many pieces and sources of information. Being able to synthesize that information for them, give it in a friendly way that works in their communication style, and then being able to work hand-in-hand with them and teach them those things and give them feedback throughout the experience. What that looks like is guiding and modeling and showing them here are how we set a routine. Here are how we practice safe sleep. Then when they’re figuring that out, guiding them and coaching them in a way that’s really not judgmental, so that they feel successful and that they’re able to essentially take the baton when you leave and continue that with — I don’t want to say a minimal error because we’re all going to make mistakes, but really in a way that feels sustainable to them.
Jayne Havens: When you were talking about safe sleep, one thing that comes up in my world all the time—and I would imagine maybe it even comes up in yours even more—is the whole thing with the baby sleep positioners, like the DockAtot and the Snuggle Mes. I think parents legitimately think that these devices are safe because everybody’s using them, right? You go into a Facebook group and you see a mom say, “My baby won’t sleep more than 35 minutes at the time. I’m dying slowly. Give me your best tips and tricks.” 40 moms chime in and say like, “You need a DockAtot. You need this or you need that.” So then, parents who are told by their pediatrician that babies are to sleep in their crib or bassinet or pack and play, they just think like, “Oh, DockAtot must be in that category,” or any of those sorts of things, right? These are highly educated families that we’re working with that are really well-read and really knowledgeable. As you said, there’s just so much information being thrown at them, that sometimes it’s really hard to decipher what is good information, what is not so good information. We have to come in there and educate them and support them through making really good choices for their children.
Emily Smith: Totally. What I think, too, I always say it’s like the rift raft or like it’s the noise that exists around you. But I think that’s really hard for new parents, especially when you have grandparents coming in. They’re flying in town; they’re staying with him. They’re like, “Well, when we did this, we did this.” But you have to realize that doesn’t apply. That was 30 years ago or the good old. “Well, you turned out fine.” I think, too, like I have a lot of empathy and compassion. When you’re a sleep deprived parent, you will do anything to get your child to sleep. So it’s not our job. I think the way that I practice specifically, it’s not my job to come in and lay the law down and to judge you. But it’s to say like, “Here are your options and choices. What feels right to you?” But also like, “Here are negotiables and here are non-negotiables, that I personally have to protect myself but also because I care about your child that I’m caring for, or your children that I’m caring for.”
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I think that that’s really a great way of putting it. Here are the options. Here are the things that are non-negotiable, and letting them make, hopefully, really good decisions for their family, not just to protect your liability but just because it’s what’s best for their baby.
Emily Smith: Totally. Yep, I call it the menu.
Jayne Havens: What do you mean by that?
Emily Smith: It’s funny that you say that, like the options. One thing I’ve realized in working with families is they’re not cookie-cutter, right? I remember when I came into this work, I took all the courses. I took my newborn care training. I had a couple of courses under my belt, and then a lot of experience in different applicable professions and things as such. But I remember being like, okay, this is what’s going to happen. Here’s the information. It’s going to be step by step. What I really realized very quickly is that each family and each baby is so unique and specific. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, so what you really have to do — that’s why continuing education is so important when you’re doing this work. Because being able to stay abreast on the information and then recognize here are these unique needs. This family prefers this type of parenting, being able to identify that. But then, also say here are your choices. Ultimately, I tell all of my families this when I both interview and when I come in their home. It’s, I’m not the parent. I’m not the one who makes the ultimate decision. I’m a consultant. So I will give you those menu options. You choose what feels right. If it doesn’t feel right when we choose it, it’s not a be-all and end-all. It’s, let’s try something else and see what feels good for everyone. Sometimes that is some trial and error. But ultimately, I found families are more successful long-term, and they’re able to sustain what I teach them when they’re able to choose something that works for them.
Jayne Havens: Right. That makes perfect sense. We sort of glossed over this a little bit and we touched on it, but I want to circle back around. Really, what I’m thinking about, I guess I’m wondering. When it comes to educating new parents, how you’re balancing your own philosophies with your clients’ parenting style, especially when they’re not completely aligned, how are you handling that?
Emily Smith: I’m laughing at that, because it’s kind of twofold. It is some trial and error. I think, personally, as who I am as a human, I am a very non-judgmental, empathetic human being. I have a lot of empathy for families and just for people in the world in general. So I try my best to take that approach into homes. Every family is unique and different. Ultimately, sometimes you’ll — I’m laughing now, because I run into instances. I’m trying to think of different examples where you’re like not so much. But I think that’s also the beauty in this work. It’s like everyone is different, and everyone practices different. I think something that I realized when you say how do I balance that is, I’ve learned to just appreciate the different things that I’m exposed to.
Obviously, there are non-negotiables around safe sleep, right? That’s something that just isn’t like, “Hey, we’ll kind of fit that. How do I balance how I feel with what you feel?” But really, I think what the solution to your question is, is that you have to realize this is very heart-centered work for myself. Because I am that empathetic and compassionate person, I come from the heart. When I am able to connect with my clients and really see who they are and take away all of the micro decisions, the choices they might make and some of the mistakes that they might make, we realize we’re able to connect on that capacity. Ultimately, my role is to help them be a better parent with whatever fits right for their family style. So yes, there’s funny things that arise here. That’s an interesting way of doing that. I’m laughing, in particular, because I think sometimes it happens more with dads. They may think of like — I’m trying to think of funny examples. But just like in their mind, what is going on? I’m like, “Oh, wow. Okay. Well, actually, here’s some of the information that I know. What do you think about that?” Really, that’s why it’s so important to build relationships and to figure out how to do that if you do struggle. Because, ultimately, parents are going to trust you, and they’re going to be more receptive to what you have to say.
But it goes both ways, too. There are things that I learned in just being open-minded. So that comes with each experience. I think, too, the other piece is that you learn over time—Jayne, I’m sure you realize this, too—like what your ideal client is. I have been in plenty of instances where I’m like, “Whoa.” We are so different in the way that we think, in our styles, personally and professionally. As you evolve as a professional, you start to focus and attract on those clients who are more aligned to you, both in a professional manner but also personally, so those conflicting viewpoints tend to dissipate over time.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I think that as you get more experience in the field, first of all, you can more clearly see your ideal client. In your case, if you’re being interviewed face to face and you’re sitting across the table from them, after a few minutes of chatting, you know these are my people, or these are not my people. I don’t know how you figure that out, but I know that you can. I know that we all can figure that out when we have a little bit of experience. Then virtually, sometimes it’s a little trickier, just because sometimes personalities don’t come across the same way on a phone or a Zoom call as they do in person. But I do believe, I firmly believe, that when you’re really truly putting out your true self, you’re attracting people that are attracted to you. Then in turn, that tends to be the people that you want to be working with. Would you agree with that? That energy thing.
Emily Smith: Totally. It’s so funny you say that. Because when you brought that up, I was literally thinking it’s totally an energy thing. I know that sounds really woo-woo, but it’s funny. I look back at just the history of all the different clients I’ve worked with. I like what you said about being your authentic self. In the beginning, I think I’ve always been a very confident person. But when you’re in a newer line of work and it’s your first couple of clients, you’re like, “I really want to build business, I’ll do whatever it takes.” There were times I compromised some of my authenticity. I realized I ended up in situations where I was like, “This is not a great fit,” if I would have been more honest with myself in the beginning. It’s not a right or wrong thing. It doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong. It doesn’t mean the client is right or wrong. It just means our styles and our personalities don’t mesh, and that’s totally okay.
Over time, I’ve realized, number one, to not ignore those red flags when they come up two or three minutes into the conversation. That’s okay. Number two, I love what you said about just really being your authentic self and showing up. I used to prepare when I would have Zoom calls with families. Now it’s like, “Nope, this is just going to be a conversation.” Because if this family isn’t a fit for me, there will be one that falls into my lap. What has transpired over the time that I’ve done this is like I’ve really — I don’t know if attracted is the right word. But I attract the right people. It just makes that much more of a powerful experience on both ends, where you’re satisfied, you’re getting your needs met, they’re getting their needs met. You tend to mesh better. You have better outcomes. It’s more enjoyable. It just works for everyone. I laugh because with my current client, I remember when we interviewed, everyone has their questions that they asked but there are commonalities. I just remember having the easiest conversation. We ended up talking about a lot of things that are more personal interests versus, like, how do you work in the home? It’s probably been my most aligned client so far, which is cool to see.
Jayne Havens: I think I’m known in the sleep consulting business as being sort of like a straight shooter, right? I always introduce myself. I’m like, I’m Jayne straight shooter Havens. I don’t want to typically bite my tongue. I call it like it is. That’s not for everybody. But the client that I am attracting is somebody that wants somebody to give it to them straight. They’re busy. They’re tired. They need their problem solved. They’re looking for a solution, and I am there to give them a solution and to support them through the process. Boom, boom, boom. That is not for everybody, but it’s for the people, the families that I am attracting. That’s me putting myself out there, truthfully, authentically, and sending that out into the universe. As we said, it is an energy, right? Then people feel that, and they’re attracted to that. That’s what they want, and they come and get it. Then also, a whole lot of empathy and patience, and compassion, because that needs to be there, too. It’s all a piece of the puzzle.
We’ve talked a lot about you supporting families in-home and what that looks like. How are you able to achieve the same goals, I guess, when supporting families virtually, specifically with regard to providing that high level of education and then coaching them? Do you find it just as easy to coach someone virtually as you do in-home, or do you struggle with that ever?
Emily Smith: That’s a great question. I think that virtual work is not for everyone. I remember I attended a Birth Boss Summit a couple weeks back with a bunch of the industry leaders in birth work. I can’t remember what session it was. But there was a session that talked about identifying the type of work style you have and being authentic to what that work style works. Some people only can work in home. Some people can only work in virtually. What I have realized is, my virtual clientele are, generally, families that I have previously worked with where they’re either struggling to execute after I leave, or it’s down the road. The baby is six months old, and they’re having a regression. They’re like, “I can’t remember what you told me about how to help or how to resolve this problem.” The natural transition with that, in supporting those families, is there’s already trust established. I tend to continue to stay in touch with clients. Number one, because I offer additional support in packaging. But number two, just on a personal level, when you spend 8, 12, sometimes 16 weeks in a home, you develop a really intimate bond over a big piece of that person’s life or that family’s life. So there’s that trust established. I think that immediately makes the virtual work easy, because you don’t have to figure out how do I do this in a really short amount of time. It’s already there, and so we can do the work together. I can be real with them. I know their communication style. That’s one piece of it.
The second piece of it is, the other clientele tend to come from their friends. Somebody’s like, “Hey, I have this mom friend. Oh my gosh. I had Emily on my home. We worked really well. She does all these things. Here’s her information.” So that’s typically a pretty easy way to transition into the virtual work as well. What that support generally looks like right now is, there’s previously established relationships. I’m currently in the process of scaling and figuring out how do I find clients outside of that scope as I start to move to more virtual support. That’s my long-term goal. So I’m figuring out the pieces of what does that support look like, how do I gather that information? How do I understand their parenting styles? One of the techniques that I’ve learned is, number one, you need to send out questionnaires. That context helps me understand what are their problems right away. So that when we hop on a discovery call or we hop on that first consult, I have that context, and we can really maximize our time together. Because the first couple of consults I remember doing, it was more about the problem. Then I was like, “Oh, wait.” Now you need to be coached about how we’re going to solve this problem, and we don’t have time to do it.
I found that offering a sleep plan without that additional conversation was challenging for families. So I think that’s where tools come in, where you really have to understand what are those communication styles in that questionnaire. Take that time in that conversation to maximize what they need to focus on, understand their priorities, asking the right questions in the consult, and then figuring out how does this person best communicate with what is on their plate—whether that looks like Voxer conversations, audio messages if you have an iPhone, text, email, where are they most responsive, and then doing the continual check ins. I think a lot of it, too, is like trial and error, right? What I have found is the accessibility piece, which is the cool thing about being able to do it virtually. So, yeah.
Jayne Havens: I love that. You actually sort of led me perfectly into my next question. I was just going to ask you. You know this podcast is really all about business building and entrepreneurship, which you just touched on. I’d love to know what you are finding both most challenging and most rewarding about owning your own business and growing said business?
Emily Smith: It’s a great question. It’s funny, because I was just reflecting on this with a friend. What do I find most challenging? Entrepreneurship is really difficult. I think there’s this perception that like, “Oh my gosh. You get to do whatever you want on your own time. You can travel the world.” I do a lot of travel support for families and go to different areas. The perception sometimes from people who don’t know the nitty gritty of the days is that like, “That’s really cool. You’re not tied down.” What they don’t see is the hard work. They don’t always see the hard work that’s associated with it, right?
I work really hard to get to the place that I’ve been. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. You don’t have your own boss, and so a lot of it is being really self-directed, being open to making mistakes, not being so hard on yourself. I think in the beginning, I remember when I first started doing this, I got really overwhelmed. There’s still times that I get overwhelmed where I’m like, “I have to scale this. I have to do this. I have to do social media.” Social media isn’t necessarily my thing. My business has always worked without it. I know you just did a podcast on running the business without social media. I was like, “Yes, there are other people who do this.”
Jayne Havens: Absolutely.
Emily Smith: A lot of trial and error, constantly learning. Also, I think, a challenge can be — I love working. I love what I do. It doesn’t feel like work. Yes, it does sometimes. But setting those boundaries and taking the time to constantly self-reflect in your practices, to really say, “Am I doing what I want to do? Is this going the right way that I intend for it to do? What are my short-term goals? What are my long-term goals?” Just like that constant self-motivation and fine tuning your craft, understanding that it evolves, people’s needs evolve, your needs evolve. Constantly, doing that pulse check with yourself. What do I find rewarding? So many things. Whenever I have challenging days, I remind myself I love what I do. I love the autonomy that I have. I love that I get to choose my clients. I love that I don’t have a boss. I’ve had some professional experiences, honestly, where the boss is I didn’t quit the job, I quit the boss. It was really challenging. So I feel really empowered, because I’m now in the situation where ultimately — when I commit to a family, I always follow through. But there are times that you may not feel aligned, or you have that initial conversation and you’re like, “Yeah, this is not for me,” and feeling empowered and confident to turn that down knowing something else is going to come. I love the autonomy. I love being able to impact other people who want to — I’m very entrepreneurial, not just in what I do but like coaching friends and family and other women to really go after what they love and creating a business around this.
I love the work you do, Jayne. It’s so funny, because I haven’t taken your course but I followed you. You’re incredibly skilled in the sleep world but, also, you’re equally as skilled and passionate about the business building. I think in modern society, it’s really hard to be a mom. It’s really hard to be a woman. I think it’s really unique that we’re able to create something based off of our passion and live a life that’s really aligned and authentic to who we are. Also, we can tackle everything. We can be moms. We can juggle all of those things. We can be wives, partners, and we can also do what we love and not feel super overwhelmed at the expense of somebody else.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I love all of that. I love that you said that your work and just your existence in this entrepreneurial space has led you to feel empowered to support others, and to rally other women, and to encourage them to take a stab at something challenging or different or hard or dreamy. Because that’s where I am in my life right now. I love that I have the freedom, the flexibility, all the F words that come along with entrepreneurship, the better F words. I want to show that to the world. I know it’s not for everybody. I know that some people are best in their nine-to-fives, and that not everybody needs to have their own business and try to conquer the world. But it really is incredible to have the option to live and work the way that you desire. There’s really nothing better. When you’re doing it, you want to help others do the same, even if that’s not everybody else’s dream. I love that you sort of touched on that, that you want to show that to other people, because so do I. It’s like the greatest feeling ever.
Before we wrap up, I know you’re not sort of super present on social media, but share your social media, or if there’s a better place for people to connect with you. Where can people find you if they want to reach out and learn more from you or about your services?
Emily Smith: Yeah, great question. I’m on social media. I do have an Instagram handle for my business. That is one of my goals in the next six months. It’s to just get a little more consistent on there so that people can connect. My Instagram handle is theblissfulbebe. Baby is spelled B-E-B-E, a little bit different. I’m on Facebook as Emily Smith. There’s probably a million Emily Smiths, but yeah.
Jayne Havens: Well, thank you so much for coming to chat with me today. I’m really glad. First of all, I love just seeing you face to face here on Zoom. I’m glad that we got to connect and have this conversation. I just look forward to continued partnership and friendship. I love that we’re just sort of in the same circle, in the same universe. One day, if you decide to join us over at CPSM, you know I would love to have you. Thanks again for chatting today.
Emily Smith: Thank you so much. Thank you for the opportunity. It was great.
Jayne Havens: Awesome. Bye.
Emily Smith: Bye.
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 for 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.