Jessica Petrus Aird is a dual-certified pediatric sleep consultant and postpartum doula. She owns Burgeoning Bud Postpartum where she helps families eat, sleep, and be well in postpartum and beyond. A mother of three children five under herself, she currently walks the path of raising young children along with her clients and is known for her empathic, insightful, and practical support.
With her background in education, she meets families where they are by giving them realistic and action-oriented steps to work on whatever challenges they are facing. Jessica is also a classically-trained soprano and spent years traveling as a soloist and ensemble musician around the country and internationally. Today she draws on her backgrounds in music and education as she finds her voice helping families in creative and lasting ways.
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.
Jessica Petrus Aird is a dual-certified pediatric sleep consultant and postpartum doula. She owns Burgeoning Bud Postpartum where she helps families eat, sleep, and be well in the postpartum period and beyond. A mother of three children, five and under herself, she currently walks the path of raising young children along with her clients and is known for her empathic, insightful, and practical support. With her background in education, she meets families where they are by giving them realistic and action-oriented steps to work on whatever challenges they are facing.
Jessica is also a classically-trained soprano and spent years traveling as a soloist and an ensemble musician around the country and internationally. Today she draws on her backgrounds in music and education as she finds her voice helping families in creative and lasting ways.
Jayne Havens: What a beautiful bio. Jessica, welcome to the show. I’m so excited to be chatting with you today.
Jessica Petrus Aird: Thank you, Jayne. I’m so excited to be here. This is very exciting.
Jayne Havens: Before we get started, please share a little bit about your journey to becoming a sleep consultant. Why was this the next step in your journey and for your business?
Jessica Petrus Aird: Sure. So, you know, it’s in my bio. I have three children. I would say that, by far, our third postpartum was the most successful. That was because we planned for the support that we needed. We knew what we needed, and we thought about that very plan-fully and mindfully while we were still pregnant. Then we’re also weren’t afraid to ask for support and get support and higher support. That was in the form of eventually having a sleep consultant for our youngest — who is now, by far, my best sleeper.
I think we had been through so many struggles with the first two, that it was like a light bulb went off where it was like I really have to do this work. I really feel like we understood how much time we needed to prepare before our baby arrived and how much space we needed to give ourselves to just imagine life with this next person in our life, and how this was going to fundamentally change our family from a four to a five unit.
I just got really excited about finally diving into work as a postpartum doula. I went on to get my certification through that. It was through that process that I also realized that I’m really passionate about helping families eating well — I do a lot of cooking for them — sleeping well, and being well.
The sleep part is really going to be best supported if I have more specialized knowledge in that field. Just like that sleep consultant that I hired gave me so many gifts, I want to be able to provide those insights and those gifts to whomever I was serving — whether it was just a postpartum client in house or working with them as sleep consultant clients.
Jayne Havens: Did you have a good experience with the sleep consultant you hired? It sounds like you did, but I wanted to ask that more pointed.
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. It’s funny, because I’ll talk about this a little bit later probably, too. But I was really not into sleep training. In fact, I did not sleep trained my first two at all.
I had a lot of the things that now I see on the other side of being a sleep consultant, this sort of shame or feeling like I should have been able to figure this out on my own. This shouldn’t be that hard. Why do I need to hire somebody for this? So, I reluctantly hired her. I think I was like, “I don’t know if we really need this. I’m a third-time mom. I should figure this out.”
But you know what? She made no assumptions about us. I told her I did not want any crying. She made it work with chair method. We got him sleeping very well within that first four or five days. So, I’m eternally grateful to her and eternally grateful to the field, to knowing that there’s validity to this work. I really stand by that.
Jayne Havens: What you just said, it really resonates with me because I hear this so often from prospective clients. I get on the phone with mostly moms but sometimes dads who are so reluctant to seek this type of support.
They feel that if they have to hire a sleep consultant, they are failing as parents, that they should be able to figure this out on their own, and that like, what is wrong with them that they are in this position to need this type of help.
I just think that that is such a shame. I’m working so hard to undo that narrative. Because I truly believe that when our children are struggling, whether it be with sleep or anything else, when it’s in the ‘anything else’ category, we’d race to get them the support that they need.
For children that are struggling with feeding, we hire a lactation consultant or a feeding specialist. For a child that’s a little bit older, if they’re not meeting their physical milestones, perhaps they’re in physical therapy or occupational therapy. If they’re not speaking, we hire a speech therapist. So, we’re so quick to get our kids the help they need when they are struggling in any other category.
Then for whatever reason, when it comes to sleep, most moms, I think, feel that they need to be on their sort of last breath before they seek this type of help. I am working very hard to change that. I do believe that as sleep consulting becomes more mainstream and more sleep consultants enter the field, the support will become more normalized. That’s at least my hope.
Jessica Petrus Aird: That’s my hope, too, and just also for just postpartum at large. My firstborn was in 2017. The conversation of postpartum then was so much less than it is now in 2022. So, I feel like we’re making big splashes in the field, in the world of postpartum at large.
I guess, I just knew I needed to be a part of that. Because having gone through it three times in the last five years, you really feel how much you need and how much you don’t just — none of it is granted. You have to look for it. You have to search for it. You have to be committed to saying, “I don’t need to do this by myself. It’s okay if I need help. There’s nothing wrong with me if I need help.”
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I love that the theme of today’s conversation is going to be all about finding your voice. I think this is really interesting because you sing, right?
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yes.
Jayne Havens: It just makes this whole conversation feel so much more deep and meaningful. I don’t want to put words into your mouth, but I’m guessing that your voice as a singer comes somewhat naturally to you. I’m wondering if that has been the same with finding your voice as a sleep consultant, or if that voice needed to be found, or maybe it’s still being found. Can you speak to that?
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, sure. Well, it’s true that a lot of us that go on to sing professionally, we must have had some raw talent. Then you spend your career steeped in the technique, making sure that you’re learning specific mechanics to keep your voice healthy and to be consistent. It’s a little bit of raw talent, and then a lot of practice and dedication.
I find that I apply this same idea to my work here and my business. I have the voice that is me. I know enough about myself over the years that I can’t not be myself. So, I have to lead this business with my own story, with my own personal anecdotes. Not that they are the only way I’m going to view things, but I definitely bring them to the table, especially since I had three very different experiences in my postpartum.
Then the training piece of that is literally going and getting trained in professional sense as a doula and as a sleep consultant, and then also some marketing and some strategy and things like that. But making sure that at the end of the day, it’s not those other certifications and trainings that I lead with. It’s me. It’s still me.
I think that I always try to show up in my marketing, for example, whether I’m on Instagram or Facebook, that I show up first as a peer to people. I’m not going to show up only as an expert. I’m first going to show up as your peer who just might have a little bit more knowledge in some of these things.
Jayne Havens: For me, so much of my voice as a sleep consultant comes from my own personal story, which I think you touched on just now yourself as being the same. When I tell my story for how I got into this business, it helps me to connect with my prospective clients on what I think is a pretty deep level.
I think that sharing my story helps them to realize that, number one, they’re not alone. Because I’ve been through it, and they’re going through it. Perhaps, more importantly, my journey for how I got into this line of work caused me to do a lot of research and learning, and that created the expert that I am today. That builds trust and confidence in the work that I’m doing.
How did you build such a strong identity within your business? Is this something that you’re still refining, or do you feel like you have it down?
Jessica Petrus Aird: I do exactly what you do. I tell my story, too. I tell people, “Look, I had three very different babies.” I let them know that I didn’t sleep train my first two. What little I knew about sleep training at that point, didn’t sit well with me, because I thought it was only cry it out. I didn’t explore it further.
I let them know that my children today — even though they are all good sleepers in their own way — they all have their off nights. Sometimes, those nights go on for more than a couple. They’re not perfect little sleepers just because I’m a sleep consultant.
But with the knowledge that I have with my work and sleep, I know how to get to the source of the problem fast. I know how to spring into a plan of action, and I know how to get it back on track. So there’s not this panic or fear that oh, gosh, this is a new habit. I don’t have a way to manage it. I always know how to manage things. So, there’s that peace of mind that I can show my clients, that it’s okay. You don’t have to have perfection. It’s just about how we manage these things.
Jayne Havens: I think without even realizing it, you’re showing up with a certain level of confidence, which I guess that is your voice, right? Because you own that, and that is you. But I don’t know that everybody has that. I’m actually working with some sleep consultants right now off to the side who are struggling to find their confidence.
I don’t know. I’m listening to the way that you’re talking. You have this aura about you. Like, “I may not have a perfect situation in my home, but I understand how this all works. I know how to get out there and talk to people.” I don’t know. I don’t know that that comes naturally to everybody. Would you agree?
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, maybe not. I’m thinking about how in my life as a singer, it was always about projecting calmness and collectiveness on stage even if you are a ball of nerves. So, maybe I’ve had a ton of practice at that. I don’t get worried when I have butterflies in my stomach. That’s one thing that we really work on as performers. It’s like, you want those nerves. They don’t have to let you fold. Work with them. Lean into them.
Maybe just years of having to literally put myself on stage gave me that feeling of trust what you’re saying. What you’re saying has merit. It might not be what somebody else is saying. Your experience might not be with somebody else’s had, but it doesn’t invalidate putting it out there.
Jayne Havens: I think that that is so valuable. I’m so glad that you spoke about the butterflies in your stomach. Because I talk to women all the time — I guess not largely women — about entrepreneurship and taking a leap in business, whether it be sleep consulting or anything else.
I talk all the time about those butterflies in your stomach, and how some people, when they have those butterflies in their stomach, it’s completely paralyzing. They’re just like, “Ugh, I can’t do this. It’s horrible. I don’t want to feel this. I just want this to go away. Get it out of here.” Then other people, when they feel those butterflies in their stomach, it propels them to do something awesome. They’re like, “I sense that nervous feeling. This feels like it’s going to be a big deal. I’m going to get after it.”
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, totally.
Jayne Havens: I think that there might just be two different types of people: there might be the people that are totally paralyzed by the fear of something new, and then there are people who take that fear and just say, “Well, damn it. I’m going forward. Let’s see what happens.”
I love that you’ve pointed that out. It sounds like a lot of you finding your voice, or not even finding it but just having your voice, comes from a place where your own nerves don’t stop you in your tracks. I think that that’s something.
For those that are listening that are either contemplating starting their own business, or perhaps they already have started their own business but they’re feeling a little stuck, I think it’s really important to recognize that all of us feel those butterflies at one point or another, we all have them, and then you get to decide whether or not they’re going to paralyze you or propel you into something awesome.
Jessica Petrus Aird: Definitely. Yeah, absolutely. I certainly don’t have this figured out. Like everybody else here, really, every day is sort of like, “What’s the next move I want to do?” Or, It’s a lot of, “Let’s roll the dice and try this. Oh, that didn’t work so well. I’m going to try something else.”
Like you said, you just have to try. When I feel that way in my body, if I feel uncomfortable, as a singer, I go back to the basic of just breathe. Just breathe deeply. You have your support with you. You’re not going to fail by trying, really. You’re just going to learn a lot. That’s what propels me forward every day on this.
Jayne Havens: Offline, when you and I were chatting, you described yourself as an introvert. I’m not 100% confident that that’s accurate. But on the other hand, I also understand why you identify as an introvert even if you’re not like entirely introverted. I see why you say that about yourself.
I guess, I want to ask you if you feel that you connect best with others that are more on the introverted end of the spectrum? If so, how are you finding these families that feel similar to you in that respect?
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, I mean, it’s true that I don’t think of myself as a 100% introvert. I never have, but I think I lead more with that. I get overwhelmed with being in big crowds. Even from a social media perspective, I don’t like to be out like this. I’d rather sort of find a quiet comment to sort of bring people in.
That’s how I was often as a singer too, actually. I wasn’t like the big voice that would get on the opera stage and sing to 5,000 people. I really like the chamber music. I like the the smaller groups of music, more intimate settings.
I think when I guess I say introversion, maybe it is introversion. Maybe it’s not. I think really what it just comes down to is connection, and knowing how to have an authentic one-on-one conversation with somebody, and knowing how to present yourself as approachable in that way, even in your public marketing.
Again, that comes back to I get more engagement in DMS when I talk about my own struggles or my own family’s challenges, whether they’re the present or the past. There’s just something about that, that somebody might say, “Oh, yeah, I feel that. I don’t know her, but I had this feeling that if I wrote her, she wouldn’t dismiss me writing her or dismiss my question.”
So, I think that I really try to — I guess, it’s just kind of who I am. I think my friends also know this about me. I have friends that are constantly texting me asking for, “What do you think? I’m stuck. I need a confidante.” They need somebody to help them work through the difficult question.
I love wrestling through difficult questions. So, I do that on a personal level already. I guess, I’m trying to find the ways to get people who don’t know me to see that that’s who I am. I hope you feel you can trust me if you want to write to me, or if you want to eventually work with me.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I love that. What I think you’re suggesting is that you’re attracting people to you based on your personal experiences, your value, and your messaging rather than, “Here, come buy from me.”
It’s not just like, “Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a sleep consultant. Here’s what I can do for you.” It’s like, “Here’s my story. Here’s what I’ve been through. I feel like you’re going through something similar. Let’s have a conversation about this and see where it lands.”
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, definitely. I don’t get to the selling part of a conversation really until I feel it out. Certainly, if somebody comes to my new Facebook group or if somebody comes to my group, I’ll certainly welcome them on a public message. Then I’ll write to them individually.
I don’t lead with any, like, “Go to my website and check out my packages.” I literally just ask them, “How are you feeling? How is your sleep going with your child? Do you have any questions?” I literally just want to listen or read what they have to say. I’m not going to hit them with anything yet. Because they might not need anything from me, or they might, and it just needs a little bit of time. But that’s, I guess, my strategy.
It’s really just providing the space, initiating the conversation with a question, an open-ended question, and see what they say. If they take the bait and they want to write me, then I know something’s up. Maybe that will lead to a transaction, or maybe it won’t. But maybe it’ll lead to a great connection, and they’ll tell their friends about me or something like that. Everything is for something.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, well, I completely agree with that. I say that all the time. I get on to phone calls with people on the regular who are interested in my support. Maybe they have a child that’s struggling with sleep. They get on a call with me, and they learn all about how I would support them. They don’t hire me.
Then I learn a week later, a month later, a year later, they referred me to their friends. That happens all the time. I think that when you approach each conversation with just, like, “I’m here to listen to you. I’m here to support you. I’m here to serve you if that’s what you’re looking for,” then people are so much more open to receiving help.
It’s not just like people are so much open to buying your services; they’re open to receiving help. Because I think that’s really what we’re up against here. It’s not like, are people going to buy or not going to buy? It’s like, are they willing to admit that it’s okay for them to say that they could do some help and support?
I think that’s really what it’s a lot of it is about. It’s not like, do they want to spend the money, or do they not want to spend the money? It’s like, do they want to say to an expert that they really need professional guidance and support? For a lot of parents, that’s really, really hard for them to admit that they would benefit from that type of service.
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, it’s so true. I had a mom recently tell me that she — it was like a confession. She said, like, “I want to be all mama natural. I’m struggling with realizing that I need some help.” I said, I just want to say that it’s absolutely your mom intuition saying I need the help, and this is beyond my scope of understanding. That’s what any good parent does when they recognize that they just need more resources that are beyond their knowledge.
Jayne Havens: How are you going about creating a personal network of referrals? Are you doing that? Besides just speaking with parents who are struggling with sleep or who need postpartum support, are you working towards creating a network of professionals that are hopefully going to refer families your way?
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, so that is really one of the benefits of my new Facebook group. My group is Sleep Well, Eat Well, Be Well: Burgeoning Bud Postpartum. I really wanted it to be a connect, a place for perinatal professionals and parents to get online with each other.
For the professionals, if they want to identify themselves as professionals — most of them do — I usually seek them out individually and say, like, “Hey, I know a little bit about them.” Either I’ve worked with them already. We’re talking well beyond sleep consulting and postpartum. We’re talking pelvic floor, a couple of LACSWs. I have an internal medicine doctor who has just joined. I’ve got an IBCLC, a nutritionist.
I just say, like, “I want your voice in this group. I want parents who joined this group to know that you’re here. If you’ve got events, if you’ve got workshops, if you want to post questions and start your own conversations, make yourself known in this group. Because this is an opportunity for people who are joining this group.” Even if they’re not going to work with them, just knowing that there’s an IBCLC in this group, I could always have an off conversation with Sarah about something. Maybe it’ll lead to that.
Of course, the more that I’m strengthening my network of perinatal professionals, the more those referrals will, cross-reference will send each other clients. So, that’s really one of the first immediate benefits for people that joined my group. It’s that they’re getting more than just me. It’s really everybody right now who I know who is also a perinatal professional who wants to be a voice in that space.
Jayne Havens: Have you felt more comfortable showing up with your voice in that community that’s yours? One thing that I’ve noticed is that when I have my own space that’s mine where people have joined my community, and they’ve already said like, “Yes, I want to hear what Jayne has to say,” and they joined my community, I feel like so much more comfortable communicating in that arena. Because people have already sort of given me permission to do so by joining my community. Do you feel the same?
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, absolutely. I think I’m more comfortable sharing maybe vulnerable posts about maybe what is going on currently. My daughter was struggling a couple of weeks ago at three. She was waking up a lot in the middle of the night. I say it with the intent of — she’s not a perfect sleeper. I’m not either, but here’s how I’m navigating that kind of thing.
Then I’m also a postpartum doula, so there are other conversations that I bring to the table, not just sleep. Although, sleep is a big conversation that I usually tend to lead with. I try to also create a space where people can write in and share their differing perspectives.
I say right from the beginning, my one rule is just be kind. We can hold two different thoughts in our mind. This isn’t going to be a place for people to shame. It’s really just going to be a place for people to see a sampling of the many different ways we parent and make certain decisions like sleep.
Jayne Havens: I love that. I think that that type of culture, especially on the internet, is so needed. Because there is so much nastiness in the Facebook groups and just on the internet in general, mom to mom. It drives me insane. So, I love that you’re sort of leading with that, that there are all sorts of different ways to parent.
There are all different ways to manage sleep, and feeding, and whatever it may be. But let’s be kind to one another. We can have differences of opinions and still co-exist in the same environment whether that be a Facebook group, or hopefully it sort of translates to real life as well for hate. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Jayne Havens: Is there something that you’re most proud of in your journey? I guess, I want to ask you specifically as a sleep consultant, not just as a postpartum doula. Is there something that you’re most proud of in your sleep consulting business or on this journey that you’ve been on so far?
Jessica Petrus Aird: I think the fact that I’m really showing up as myself in this work, that feels really rewarding to me. Again, when you have your own business, you get to do that if that’s important to you. For some, that may not be that important. For me, it’s really important.
Having that strong identity in my work, I can’t not do it. I love knowing that I don’t have to be anybody else in this field. I don’t have to be better than anybody else. It’s really just me comparing myself to myself. Because nobody else is me. So, I love that I get to do that.
That doesn’t mean that I’m perfect. I think, hopefully, it’s clear in this interview that I’m definitely not perfect and may have lots of parenting flubs myself. But it’s just about having that transparency and being real with people. I think I’m proud to feel like the work that I do allows me to have that vulnerability.
Jayne Havens: I think that that’s so smart that that’s your approach. To me, it seems obvious because it’s my approach, too. I show up as authentically as possible. There’s nobody in the field of sleep consulting that I’m trying to be other than myself. I’m not hanging out on somebody else’s Instagram, listening to what they’re saying to get ideas for what to say. That is just not productive at all.
I’m always telling everybody inside of our CPSM community that, really, the way that you thrive is when you show up as you and when you create a program that is for your audience, and that serves you.
I get onto calls when students graduate from the program. I’ll do a Zoom with them. They’ll say like, “How should I set up my packages? I see you’ve done X, Y and Z.” It’s like, well, who cares what I’ve done. Who cares what I’ve done? I spent two weeks with people. I noticed that’s what a lot of CPSM grads and other sleep consultants do. That doesn’t mean that you need to do two weeks with anybody. You could do a month with your family. You could do one week.
Actually, someone inside of our CPSM community actually reached out to me not too long ago to say, like, “Hey, do you think it’s weird if I just do one week? Because we have nothing going on in the second week. I’m knocking it out in a week. It just seems crazy to have to check in with them for seven more days when we’re already, it’s largely resolved. It just feels excessive.” So, I was like, “Yeah, do a week. Congrats. You do you.”
I think it’s so important to figure out the beauty of getting into a consulting business. It’s that you get to do it your way. You get to set your own pricing, you get to set your own hours, you get to set the way that you support families, you get to set communication. It’s all on your terms.
When you’re so worried about doing what everybody else is doing because this seems like the way it works, if it doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t work. I’ve had to change the way that I run my business several times. Because as I got busier, what I was doing stopped working for me.
In the very beginning when I was supporting families, I would offer unlimited phone calls. “If you wanted to talk every day, we could talk every day. As long as it was scheduled, I didn’t care.” Well, now I’m busy. I can’t talk to you every day. It just doesn’t work that way. So, I cannot get on a 30-minute phone call with every single one of my clients every single day of the week. That’s just not sustainable anymore. That wasn’t working for me, so I had to change it.
I love that you’ve realized fairly early on, on this journey for yourself, that when you show up in a way that works for you, that ultimately leads to you showing up in the best possible way for the families you’re supporting. I think that that is so true.
Jessica Petrus Aird: Yeah, it’s true. The more I know I can be truly myself, the easier it is to sell. There is no such thing as selling, really. It’s really just having conversations and speaking genuinely on the benefits that maybe they would get if they work with me.
But to me, that doesn’t feel like hustling and selling. It’s just literally having a conversation. Then that process becomes enjoyable and it becomes profitable, which is also a great benefit.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I think when you get into this cycle of feeling desperate for a sale, it is the least enjoyable thing in the entire world. It is so miserable when you’re in that cycle of just trying to land your next piece of business. It just feels icky.
Instead, when you just focus on getting out there and having genuine conversations with people, and in those conversations, you’re articulating the value of the work that you do, it just feels so much more pleasant and enjoyable, and frankly, I think rewarding, too. Because you’re showing up without any intention other than, “I’m here to help you if you want help.” That’s it. If you’re not ready for help, that’s totally okay, too.
Jessica Petrus Aird: I think showing up that way also lets the person who’s receiving your knowledge have their guard down. So, they really get more out of it, too.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, love it. What are your goals for 2023? Do you have any big or small ones to share?
Jessica Petrus Aird: I just want to keep doing this work, continuing to have my voice feel it’s getting stronger in the larger conversation of postpartum and, of course, sleep. However that looks, I’m still really excited about supporting families one on one.
Perhaps, there’s more material I will create more in the future. But I think, right now, my focus is really just continuing to strengthen my voice and get it out there.
Jayne Havens: Love it. Where can everybody find you if they would like to learn more about your programs or perhaps follow you on social media? What do you want to share?
Jessica Petrus Aird: Sure. @burgeoningbudpostpartum is my Instagram handle and also Facebook page. My Facebook group is Sleep Well, Eat Well, Be Well: Burgeoning Bud Postpartum. My website is www.burgeoningbud.com
Jayne Havens: Thank you, Jessica, for sharing. It was awesome having this conversation with you today. I can’t wait to see all that you do and create in 2023 and beyond.
Jessica Petrus Aird: Thank you so much, Jayne.
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.