If your child has recently returned to school or daycare and is coming home grumpy – I know mine is – it means she is exhausted.
And the solution is – you guessed it – an earlier bedtime.
It doesn’t matter if the current bedtime has worked for them for ages. Returning to school and daycare is exhausting. I know because I worked in a school for many years and I was always exhausted for the first few weeks.
It doesn’t matter if your child is already waking up too early in the morning. In fact, too-early morning wakings are often a symptom of overtiredness.
It doesn’t matter if your child is having trouble falling asleep at night. This, too, can be a symptom of overtiredness. If you miss the ideal window for falling asleep, falling asleep can be much more challenging.
A good way to know if your child is overtired is if they get a second wind of energy in the early evening, or around bedtime. A hyperactive child at this time of day is an overtired child.
If this is your child, do not add any extra afterschool activities yet. Wait a few weeks, until your child seems more himself again.
The need for the extra early bedtime often fades away after a few weeks of adjustment. You can add afterschool activities once this happens. If it’s not possible to skip them all, limit them as much as possible and streamline bedtime so your child still gets to bed extra early.
If you’d like to make this school year a well rested one for your family, schedule a free consult and find out how we can get your family the rest you need to truly enjoy your time together.
We took Valentina to the pediatrician last week because she hadn’t been feeding well.
She had had a cold the week before and I was worried she might have an ear infection. She was fighting the breast and especially refused the left side at nearly every feeding. We were away at the beach for a week and I was especially concerned about dehydration because it’s very hot and humid on the Pacific coast of Mexico in August.
Luckily, her physical exam checked out perfectly with no ear infections to be found.
The pediatrician told me about the Three Months Lactation Crisis, something I had never heard of before, despite both a pediatrics background and training as a lactation consultant.
At three months, your baby can effectively remove the milk she needs much more quickly than as a newborn, sometimes in as little as 5 minutes.
Your three month old is also becoming much more distractible, and by 4 months, may need to be fed in a quiet, dark room in order to focus. This is especially true if there are fascinating older siblings around.
Your baby may pop on and off the breast at this age and cry. This happened to us! I thought I didn’t have enough milk… but when I pumped, or even tried to express by hand, there was always at least a bit of milk. The pediatrician says that babies at this age can also become a bit lazy. In my case, offering bottles probably contributed, since bottles are so much easier than breastfeeding, especially at the end of the day, when there is less milk (but it is higher in fat and thus, more filling).
This crisis can last as long as a full month. I wish I had known so that I would have been less anxious!
Also at 3 months, breasts have become much more efficient at knowing when milk is needed, and will ramp up and down production at different times of day, based on demand; there is less milk stored in between. This is tricky for me at the moment because I can’t quite figure out how to have more milk at bedtime; I have been pumping before I go to bed and giving a bottle of pumped milk after breastfeeding at HER bedtime, but I am not currently making as much at my bedtime as she needs at hers. I am going to try pumping after each morning feed for a few days and see if that helps without leaving her needing more bottles during the day.
Most breastfeeding resources recommend not going long stretches at night without breastfeeding or pumping but that’s where I draw the line! If my baby sleeps all night, so do I. (She recently went from 9 hour stretches most nights to 10+ hours most nights… delightful!)
I am also making a concerted effort to drink a LOT more water, like at least 100 oz a day. And I am eating a bowl of oatmeal each day, with protein powder and peanut butter added to make it not spike my blood sugar so much. Oatmeal supposedly helps with breastmilk production.
If you are struggling with how to make breastfeeding (or bottle feeding) work effectively to create great sleep habits, you aren’t alone. Schedule a free consult and let’s chat about how you can have a delightfully well fed baby who also sleeps great!
The single best thing you can do to get your kids ready to go back to school and daycare is to get them on their school schedule ahead of time.
Start waking your child up now at the same time that they will need to wake up for school. If they are hard to wake up, do it anyway. That will help them be sleepy earlier in the evening, which will help them get adjusted.
If you have older kids or children who are sleeping quite late AND have ample time, you can make the change gradually.
Otherwise, go ahead and wake them and let them be tired. It’s far better to be tired at home than to be tired at school, where there are a lot more demands on them. Get them outside if you possibly can. Fresh air and activity will help to reset their circadian rhythms.
Do not let non-nappers take a nap on those days. If your young child still takes a daily nap, time the nap for the same time as it will be during the school week, and wake your child after a reasonable amount of time, no matter how deeply they are sleeping.
It is of utmost importance to induce your child to go to sleep at the correct time, and that means that daytime sleepiness may be required. Do not let them sleep late on weekends, either.
If you have to wake them in the morning, they need an earlier bedtime.
And the only way to make that earlier bedtime happen is to wake them in the morning.
This advice may sound obvious but in my experience, most parents do not make the adjustment to wake times ahead of time. Leading to misery for the entire family the first 1-2 weeks of school, a time where there’s already plenty of stress to go around.
If you need help getting your family back on track with sleep, schedule a free consult today and have a well-rested family this school year, guaranteed.
Yesterday went GREAT in terms of naps. Valentina put herself to sleep independently every time. It's amazing how just one night of cry it out at bedtime helped naps so much.
Last night, not so much.
She was dozing during her evening feed and her older sister was having trouble falling asleep (because her sleepover buddy and her were having too much fun fooling around) so I rocked and swayed Valentina for thirty minutes while I made sure Amelie stayed in her bed.
And then as soon as I laid her down, she woke up and started to wail.
I had been hopeful that after the day's excellent naps, cry-it-out wouldn't be necessary but alas, she wouldn't calm down even after her pacifier was reinserted.
Listening to her cry was stressful all over again. I distracted myself with a phone call. By the time I was off the phone, she had stopped crying, about 20 minutes.
She woke up when I came to bed, around 10 pm and the back of her head was soaking wet again so I decided to change her pajamas as well as her diaper. This time I put the fan on, too.
She slept from 10:40-5:10 am!
I'm always so happy when the wake up time starts with a 5. It's never been later than that thus far but I am holding out hope.
Then she took a very long nap while we hiked in the green mountains of Vermont so she ended up waiting almost 4 hours to eat -- not intentional on my part -- and then took her largest feed ever, 6 ounces.
She went down independently for the next nap and I'm hoping she'll make it to the four-hour mark again before eating. When I put my older children on this schedule as babies, it immediately led to longer stretches of sleep at night. Fingers crossed!
Valentina is my last baby and I've been loathe to night wean as a result but if she naturally starts sleeping longer at night, I won't be sad...
PS Putting in a plug for the Miracle Blanket. Still the best swaddle I've ever tried. For non-rolling babies only. It's like a tiny straitjacket. Valentina stops crying as soon as she's bundled into it. I don't receive any compensation for my recommendation!
Three nights ago, Valentina, almost 3 months old, just wouldn't settle. Nothing seemed to help. I changed her diaper, I fed her, I burped her, I rocked her and shushed her and walked her. Inconsolable crying anyway.
And in the preceding days, it felt like it was getting harder and harder to put her to sleep. Or I would get her down and she would wake up a few minutes later. Torturous.
And I've been traveling without my partner so I don't have a reliable source of help. (Friends and family have been amazing but I don't like to count on them.)
So I made the spontaneous decision to start sleep training right then. If nothing I was doing was helping, and she was miserable anyway, it might as well be productive misery.
So I did one last check of her diaper and one last attempt at swaddling and popped her into her little travel bed.
I'm not going to lie. It wasn't easy. I had planned to wait until we returned to Mexico. But it seemed like my previous strategy wasn't helping her. And my friend was keeping me company, so I didn't have to do it completely by myself.
I want to be absolutely that even being a sleep coach with hundreds of success stories under my belt, this was NOT easy. It still feels scary and hard.
Nonetheless, I decided to do "cry it out" because I was confident that checking on her or worse, staying with her and patting and shushing her, would only stimulate her and make sleep more difficult.
She only cried hard for a few minutes, to my amazement. Then there was intermittent crying for another 20 minutes or so. Then, to my astonishment, silence. She did it!
An hour later, I went up to bed and found her making little squeaking noises. Not crying until I came over and checked her. Then she began to wail. I lifted her up and her back was really hot and the back of her head was soaking wet. I felt terrible, but confused, too, because it wasn't that warm in the room and she was only wearing cotton pajamas and a cotton swaddle.
I rocked her back to sleep guiltily.
And since that night... I have swaddled her and laid her down awake with her pacifier and turned on the white noise and turned off the lights and... silence. For every nap, too. It feels like a miracle.
I am not weaning her at night yet so she still wakes up to eat at night whenever she chooses -- I want to do a weight check first. But she's self-soothing for sleep during the day! And apart from last night, she generally gives me a 6-hour stretch at night and wakes for the first time at around 4:30 am. She also usually eats around 9 pm or so.
If you need help guiding your own little one to independent sleep, set up a free consult and let's chat about what that would look like.
7 weeks and 7.3 pounds! She feels so heavy now after starting at 5 pounds and being even lower than that for 2 weeks.
We are getting some social smiles down. Sooooo rewarding! It makes such a difference! Valentina got both her Mexican and American passports in the past two weeks. Little dual citizen! Taking newborn passport photos is a special kind of hell.
Sleep has been better. Only one night waking per night, admittedly a really long one. I feel so lucky my partner has been getting up with her! Sleeping mostly through the night is a total game changer for my mood and energy! I had my first two on my own so this feels truly miraculous.
But then the last few nights we are back to two night wakings again. Long ones, mostly. So my partner was up with her intermittently 12:30-30 and then I had her 3:30-4:30 and 6 am onwards.
I don't feel ready for any kind of sleep training yet and she is no longer eating every 3-4 hours — it’s half as much and twice as often, it seems. But maybe we will try again with that soon.
Well, two nights ago, things were great. Thanks to my partner taking a shift with the baby at the start of the night plus Valentina doing a 4+ hour stretch of sleep, I got 6 hours of sleep. I felt amazing!
Then last night, I fed her before I went to bed and then my partner didn’t wake up with her cries (probably because he had had a rough night with her the night before), I was up with her 12:15-2:30 am (she wasn’t crying but just wanted to eat continuously and NOT sleep) before I woke him. Then he took her and I went to sleep… but apparently she was up until 4:30 and also spit up alllllllll over her swaddling and bedding. Then I got up with her at 6:15 this morning to feed her. We all managed to snooze a little bit after that until suddenly it was 7:30 and the older kids needed attention and to be taken to school – oops!
So all this to say… being a child sleep consultant doesn’t always make things better when one has a newborn! Newborns are tough for everyone. I'm tired.
On the other hand, she is naturally stretching out the interval between her feeds to closer to every 4 hours – a week or two ago it had been as often as every 1-2 hours.
Feedings take a REALLY long time now BUT she is taking long naps in between. So that feels like a win… even if those endless night feedings are painfully long.
Lots of experts will say that babies should feed much more frequently during the day, in hopes of filling up so that they sleep longer at night. In my experience, that backfires – babies who feed really frequently during the day want to feed really frequently at night, too. Whereas babies who get really full while feeding tend to sleep longer during the day as well as at night. This requires less frequent feedings.
Caution: this may not be the best advice struggle to create and maintain a solid breastfeeding relationship. I pump to help with that issue. I would rather get better sleep and pump more often than the reverse, but your experience may vary.
Of note, Valentina is just north of 6 pounds and 5 weeks old so I wouldn’t necessarily encourage parents of a baby this age and size to restrict feedings in any way… this is just what Valentina is naturally doing on her own, and I have decided to follow her lead, rather than waking her to eat more frequently as I was doing when she was smaller and younger.
If you’d like help getting your child – of any age – on track for better sleep, set up a free consult and see your whole family sleeping better in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
Valentina Isabella Wolfson was born May 9, 2023, weighing 5 pounds and measuring 18 inches long.
She had been diagnosed as having fetal growth restriction at 27 weeks gestation, so her small size was not a surprise, but we were greatly relieved to find that she is perfectly healthy despite that.
The first three weeks were pretty chill but now that she's passed her due date, she's more opinionated. She's eating, pooping, and sleeping well... her mother is not sleeping as well. All to be expected but still tiring!
I plan to start some gentle "sleep shaping" at 6-9 weeks old, depending on her weight (she's currently about 5 and a half pounds at nearly a month old), hopefully not later than that but we'll see what the pediatrician has to say.
I'm hoping to post lots of sleep updates here but that may not happen if sleep isn't going well enough for me to be coherent!
I'm back to work next week on a part-time basis and already have a bunch of appointments scheduled so don't hesitate to schedule a free consult call if you would like some help with your own family's sleep.
1. Set up your child's room BEFORE they arrive home. The more familiar you can make it, the better. This is NOT the time to introduce exciting new changes like a transition from crib to bed. They may feel exciting to you but toddlers prefer the old familiar things.
Spend a few minutes, at least, playing in their with your child in their bedroom before bedtime so it feels a little more familiar.
2. Despite the busy-ness of moving day, try hard to keep the timing of bedtime the same. The last thing you need is an overtired little one waking up extra early the morning after the move!
3. To the extent possible, keep boxes out of sight in one room so that the main living areas -- and especially his room -- look mostly liveable. Toddlers are easily frightened by the most unexpected things, and this can lead to sleep disturbances.
4. Send your child away for moving day with a trusted caregiver and have them come back only after the movers are gone. i suggest you don't let him see the movers moving his things OUT of your old apartment, either.
Seeing their things being boxed up and moved out can also be frightening to little ones.
6. "Start as you mean to end up" -- don't introduce exceptions to the rules in your first few days in your new home. You may have to back off your regular rules a little bit – maybe do timed checks instead of extinction, for example – but do not, under any circumstances, do something like cosleeping when you move (unless you plan to continue). You want to teach your child from the get go that they are safe in their new bedroom. Bringing your child into your bed teaches them the exact opposite -- that the new home is, indeed, frightening.
Having sleep challenges at your new or old house? Schedule a free consult and let's get your family back on track.
***NOTE: I will be going on maternity leave on May 8 and out for a few weeks, at least, depending on how things go. You can still schedule a free consult or you can send me an email at email@example.com so we can figure out a time to meet.
In case you didn’t catch the news already, I am very (very) pregnant with child #3.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own newborn sleep plan. I was not a child sleep consultant back when I had my first two children, but I did a ton of reading when my first was an exhausted cranky mess, and learned a lot.
I am hoping to share my journey with #3 – with all it struggles as well as successes – with all of you. So this is my first post with that in mind.
“Juanita” is expected to come via induction at around 37 weeks. At her last check-up, she was in the first percentile for weight. While there is some room for error, given that this was her 5th measurement where she was less than 5%, it’s very very likely that she’ll be very small. Plus three weeks early. Which does make a difference, even if lots of folks say that 37 weeks is full term.
So given all that backstory, and given the uncertainties of pregnancy and childbirth in general, and a high-risk pregnancy (due to her small size) in particular, here is what I am thinking.
Well, this is my plan, anyway. Remembering very little of what it is like to actually have a newborn. Feel free to laugh, either now or later, when it is undoubtedly 100 times more complicated than I expect.
And if this helps anyone else who is pregnant, awesome!
And if you'd like help coming up with your own personalized sleep plan for your child, newborn or otherwise, set up a complimentary sleep consultation ASAP, before I go out on maternity leave!
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.