A Milestone, and a Tiny Favor
I moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, without a clear plan of what I would do next.
I loved working as a pediatric nurse practitioner back in Brooklyn, but I was beyond burned out by the administrative burdens of a healthcare provider. It’s estimated that in the United States today, each hour of patient care requires two hours of documentation. Paperwork was taking me away from the work I loved and turning me into a paperwork-completing robot who had no energy left for her own family at the end of the day.
I missed focusing on children and their families. I hated spending so much time staring at a computer screen.
So I took a massive leap of faith and moved myself and my two children to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in August, 2018, with the vague idea that there had to be a better way to live. I wanted to volunteer at the local midwifery clinic, but beyond that, I actually can’t remember what I thought I would do with my time. I was so used to being so busy that I couldn't imagine what my new life would be like.
When we first arrived, there were no summer camps open and it was too soon for school to open, so I busied myself with the children. But a few weeks later, school started. I dropped the girls at the school van stop and then trudged towards home… but veered off for a walk instead. I was scared to go home because I had no idea what to do with myself. It had been many years since I had had unstructured free time without an end date.
A few weeks later, I stumbled upon a Facebook group for expats working abroad, and found a job posting to become a health advisor for a parenting website. I quickly completed an interview and accepted an offer. It sounded like a great job, but in actuality, they had almost no work available.
I noticed that the company also employed child sleep consultants, and started to investigate that as a job opportunity. I found a child sleep certification program, the Family Sleep Institute, that stood out from the others. Unlike other programs, it was based in evidence-based science and didn’t profess one method of sleep training to be better than the others.
I balked a bit at the price tag but eventually took the plunge, applied, got interviewed and accepted into FSI’s program. Lucky thing, too, because the job eventually ended -- the company found the service wasn’t profitable for them. But I found the sleep training program to be so much more rewarding than the job had been -- it combined my interests in NICU nursing, lactation consultant training, pediatric health and parent coaching. It felt like the perfect fit.
I graduated from the program in June of 2019 and after a summer of visiting family back in the United States, officially launched my business as a solo female entrepreneur in September of 2019.
I faced a steep learning curve, since I had only ever been a full time employee in a huge hospital system, and knew nothing about running my own business… but I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and quickly found I loved learning this new set of skills. Sure, I made plenty of mistakes, but they were my mistakes, and I could fix them quickly, instead of submitting requests to committees and waiting years for an answer. And I love working with families more than ever, without the burden of unnecessary paperwork.
This winter, I surpassed more than 100 families served, and now I have worked with more than 130 families. Most of my new clients come from personal referrals. I especially love it when former clients come back a year later to book a check-in call -- it’s so satisfying to hear how great sleep habits endure.
Here’s my tiny favor to ask: if you haven’t yet submitted a Google review, please, will you consider taking a moment right now to do? It doesn’t need to be great literature or even well-written! Just a note to say how old your child was when we worked together and how your child’s sleep has changed as a result of our work together.
And if you are a Park Slope Parents member, please post a review as well.
If you belong to another parenting group, I would be so grateful if you shared there as well. Your community groups trust what you parents have to say!
Thank you in advance for your support! It means the world to me.
We live far west in our time zone and now, with Daylight Savings Time, it gets dark so late here, around 8 pm, and doesn’t get light until relatively late in the morning, either, around 7:00 am.
My five-year-old is really struggling to fall asleep when it’s light out, even with blackout shades in her room. We have resorted to giving her melatonin after an hour of her struggling to fall asleep. We are not in the room with her and she’s not having screen time before bed. I don't know what else to try.
I know that you generally advise an early bedtime, but is there ever an exception to that rule?
It’s true that as a rule, I recommend a bedtime of approximately 6:30-7:30 pm for most children under six-years-old. It seems that this bedtime most often successfully leads to 11-12 hours of sleep at night and a morning wake time of around 6:30-7 am. Most children seem to thrive on this schedule.
But the above scenario illustrates a very reasonable exception to this rule.
If, by putting your child to bed later, your child can fall asleep more quickly and sleep roughly the same number of hours of total sleep, there’s no reason not to make an exception to the rule.
Try it for a few days and see how it goes. If your child starts to have dinner time meltdowns, or impromptu car naps, this would suggest the later bedtime isn’t working so well. But if she sleeps well and wakes up happy and your work/childcare schedule can accommodate the later schedule, congratulations! You have found a workable solution!
Regardless of bedtime, I always recommend blackout shades and white noise at bedtime and lasting the whole night long.
Melatonin should only be used as a last resort, using the smallest possible dose, and only after getting your pediatrician’s approval.
If your family is struggling with sleep deprivation and nighttime struggles, consider setting up a free consult to see what solutions might help your entire family feel their best.
How to Sleep Train When You Want to Maintain Night Feedings (But Maybe Not Quite So Many of Them)
Many new parents think that they have to night wean in order to sleep train.
This is not true! You can maintain night feedings AND sleep train.
Usually, the key issue here is separating sleep and eating.
Once breastfeeding and weight gain is well established, usually by 2 months of age, a breastfed baby should be able to go at least 3-4 hours between feedings at night, if the breastfeeding parent so desires. (Some parents are perfectly happy to breastfeed all night long; this post is not for them.) Check with your child’s pediatric healthcare provider to confirm that weight gain is good and that there are no feeding concerns.
Typically, by this age, the first or second stretch of sleep is the longest and then feedings are more frequent. But they need never be more frequent than every 3 hours during the night, again, as long as weight gain and breastfeeding are going well.
Formula-fed babies should be able to go at least 3-4 hours between feedings as well.
If your baby is feeding more often than this, she is most likely using nursing (or less commonly, bottle feeding) as a way to soothe herself to sleep. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. The problem is when this interferes with either the baby’s or the parent’s ability to get restful sleep.
You can start by just logging the feedings as they are now, either on paper or in a free app like Huckleberry. If you are breastfeeding, make note during which feedings you feel a letdown or can observe your baby swallowing repeatedly during the feeding. If you are bottle feeding, make a note of which feedings are a substantial volume. If your baby takes, for example, less than one ounce in a particular feeding, you can feel confident that he wasn’t hungry at that time.
Next, pick a target time for the first night feeding. It should be at least 3 hours after bedtime but might be longer if your baby already sleeps a longer stretch.
If your baby wakes up before that target time, use a different method of soothing him back to sleep. Breastfed babies often do better if they are soothed back to sleep by a non-breastfeeding caregiver. Even if the target feeding time arrives but your baby has still not fallen back to sleep, do not feed.
Wait for your baby to fall back to sleep. The next time he wakes after the first target feeding time, promptly go to him and offer a full feeding.
The next target feeding time will be at least 3 hours after the start of the first feeding. Again, if your baby wakes up before that time, use another method of soothing to get her back to sleep. The first time she wakes up after the second target feeding time, go to her promptly and again offer a full feeding.
And so on, if there is a third feeding (or more).
Try, whenever possible, to put your baby down awake after the feeding, but with a young baby, don’t stress unduly about this. Just decoupling feeding from sleeping some of the time will help.
During the day, also work towards putting the baby down awake after feeding when possible, but again, don’t stress unduly about this. Many parents find it helps to feed when the baby first wakes up, rather than right before a nap, to separate feeding from sleeping. If your baby is only for awake for an hour at a time, he shouldn’t need to eat twice during that time.
Taking these steps are a gentle way to gradually work towards improved sleep, especially at night, without doing any forced night weaning or any "crying it out."
If you have questions about how to do this, scheduled a free chat and get your little one gradually on a track towards better sleep.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.