You took the baby for a walk. You gave her tummy time -- although you feel guilty that it only lasted a minute -- and showed her all the expert-approved, developmentally-appropriate toys.
Now it’s time for her to nap. You are exhausted and praying for at least a shower if not time to do the dishes, a load of laundry, an opportunity to catch up on email. But she just won't go to sleep. You are trying not to be frustrated… but it’s hard.
Your mother suggests the baby isn't tired yet, "Here, give her to me! She just needs some time to play with her Grammy."
Your best friend is puzzled and suggests you are trying too hard, "I just didn't stress about naps. Baby Benny would just drop off wherever and whenever he was tired. Maybe you are stressing the baby out by focusing on the nap so much? Just live your life and don't worry so much! He will sleep when he needs to."
But neither of these strategies work. By the end of the day, your baby is fussy and frazzled. And so are your nerves. He cries for hours and honestly, sometimes you cry right along with him.
You have tried nap schedules but those don’t work either. The struggle is demoralizing.
Does this sound like anyone you know?
Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
And you aren’t wrong that your baby needs more daytime sleep. And a schedule.
Your baby needs to nap. Sooner, longer, more frequently than you may realize.
Most of the time, the issue is that parents are accidentally missing the ideal window for a nap (it's surprisingly easy to do). When that happens, your baby becomes overtired and her body produces cortisol, a stress hormone that actually makes it harder for her to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Which can lead to lots of crying -- not only from the baby -- and rocking, bouncing, jiggling and walking your baby for hours on end.
It’s not your fault. It’s very, very easy to miss the early signs of tiredness, when it’s still relatively easy for your baby to fall asleep.
These early tiredness signs include avoiding eye contact, staring into space, or rubbing her eyes. Start getting your baby ready to nap at this point. Your baby is actually already moderately tired by the time she starts yawning.
Waiting past the point of the first yawn to make sure he’s tired enough to definitely sleep can backfire. Once he's fussy, you've missed the magic window of opportunity. Not only will it likely be harder to get him to sleep, the nap will also likely be too short.
For newborns, you can expect your baby to start getting tired after as little as 45 minutes awake, including the feeding. This will feel like a very short time awake. This is normal and to be expected! Do not try to keep the baby up longer. Start your nap routine (which will be very very simple at this age).
As your baby gets older, you will be able to stretch her awake interval a little bit. But you still want to watch your baby, not the clock. Some days she will be able to stay awake as much as an hour and a half, but other times, it will be less. Again, watch for staring into space, avoiding eye contact, and especially, yawns. Once you see a yawn, do not delay -- lunge into action!
It may take a few days, but if you follow her sleep cues carefully, you should see a dramatic improvement in her mood as well as more consistent, longer naps.
Want some help figuring out your baby’s tired cues? You aren't alone -- it’s confusing! Schedule a free chat with me and let’s figure it out together.
Trigger warning: pregnancy loss
On January 1, I committed to a new exercise program. I started working out vigorously 6 days a week and reduced my carbohydrate intake while simultaneously increasing my intermittent fasting. I was in the best shape of my life.
So when my period was late, I didn’t think anything of it.
But after a few days, I dutifully took a pregnancy test anway, just to be sure.
To my amazement, it was positive.
I hadn’t really believed that I could get pregnant without a lot of doctors and injections involved. After all, I had conceived my two older children with maximal medical intervention (plus the help of an anonymous donor).
And to get pregnant without medical intervention at 46? Impossible.
But we went to the doctor anyway and to my surprise, there was a tiny heartbeat flickering on the ultrasound. Impossible again.
Sergio was overjoyed and I was… stunned.
We had decided the previous summer that we were open to welcoming another child into our new family. Sergio and I had only been together a short time when we made that decision last summer, but pandemic isolation progressed our relationship with lightning speed. And I had always wanted to have just one more, but with a partner and enough time to actually enjoy the fairy tale.
But now that it was a fairytale come true, I felt so confused. Was it fair for me to have one more blessing in my life, after receiving so many? Did I want to give up the relative freedom of raising older children and to start over with the need for constant parental attention? Become exhausted and short on personal space again? Abandon our love for frequent, low-stress travel?
We started to fight. He desperately wanted this pregnancy and I was… deeply conflicted. I didn’t know how to be pregnant with a partner. I didn’t know if it was a good idea to go back to strollers and nap schedules and toddler proofing. Our lives were so good. The children -- our children -- were happy and thriving. We were enjoying road trips together. Life was so easy.
Finally, at ten weeks, I gave in to the inevitable. Ultimately, I realized there was no way I would choose to terminate a pregnancy. And therefore, I needed to commit to moving forward. And so I did.
“Okay, let’s do this. Let’s be all in, no matter what. Let’s have this baby.” I started to get excited.
And so the tide began to turn.
We went to our nuchal scan at 11 weeks pregnant. I was nervous, as usual, and Sergio was confident, as usual. We laughed as our baby kicked and waved on the ultrasound. We took videos. And then the doctor said, “Now it’s time to measure the nuchal fold, the most important part of the exam.” I didn’t hear the ominous warning in her voice, but motioned to Sergio to take my hand nonetheless. I knew this was an important moment.
She measured the space behind the baby’s neck and said, “it’s 4 milimeters. That’s not normal.”
Time stopped. A tear trickled down my face and under my mask. Then another.
The doctor said the nasal bone looked normal, but there was a problem with her heart, tricuspid regurgitation that was wildly abnormal. She finished the exam and wiped the ultrasound gel off my belly.
Silently I slid off the table and went to get dressed. I joined Sergio in the private waiting room and quietly took his hand and laid my head on his shoulder. We waited in silence for a very long time.
Finally the doctor rejoined us and kindly, gently showed us a calculation of our odds of Down Syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. Based on my age and the abnormal ultrasound findings, the risks were very high. She took some blood to run more tests.
I cried all the way home. We went out to dinner because I couldn’t face the children in that emotional state, but sitting at dinner, I felt all wrung out. We had nothing left to say. There was just an empty sadness.
We did choose a name for her, though.
It was chosen almost instantly from the spreadsheet of possible baby names that I had been keeping since we got the positive pregnancy test. It felt ironic to choose so quickly after deliberating so carefully with the spreadsheet, trying to find a name that worked in both Spanish and English, something we both loved.. But we had a feeling Isabella’s time on earth would be brief, and so we both felt the need to mark her presence with a name now, without waiting.
A few days later, we went to a different doctor to have a needle passed into my belly to biopsy the placenta. I cried the whole time because I had imagined that the baby’s heart had stopped between the two visits… and then was filled with relief that it had not. I felt guilty that I wished that it had.
The days passed with glacial slowness. Yet I didn’t want the days to hurry by, because I was dreading bad news so fiercely.
The CVS results came back. To our mutual shock and amazement, the results were normal! Sergio and I were united once again in joy. I allowed myself to relax and fully fantasize about babies for the first time. To imagine being Isabella’s mother, raising her as the beloved “trailing third” in a tight knit family.
And then a mere 24-hours later, the first doctor called. She had results from the bloodwork. And those results, combined with the ultrasound, declared our risk of Down Syndrome to be 98.4%.
We were dumbfounded. We had been told that the CVS results trumped the screening results. We called the second doctor. He reluctantly explained that this was a very rare situation, and there was no way to know which result was correct except for amniocentesis, which would require a 4-week wait before we could get the test plus two additional weeks to wait for the results.
My heart sank once again. We had been just barely managing to hide the pregnancy from the children -- trying to protect them until we knew for sure what would happen -- despite the fact that my belly was growing quickly. How could I possibly hope to hide it until 18 weeks of pregnancy?
More tears. Magically, Sergio and I remained united. He told me that he would support whatever decision I made. I knew how much he wanted Isabella, his first biological child, and my heart broke open.
The following week, we saw a third doctor to get yet another opinion.
He didn’t ask any questions, just started the ultrasound exam. He checked the Isabella’s heart. It was only 72 beats per minute, the same as mine. As a former NICU nurse, I knew this was terribly wrong. Her heart should have been beating at least 140 beats per minute. He checked some more measurements and then checked the heart again. No change. And she wasn’t moving, despite lots of poking and prodding of my belly by the doctor.
Silently I got dressed and waited in the hallway with Sergio, my heart breaking, tears pouring down my face.
When the doctor was ready, he started to explain the findings, that there was a hole in the baby’s heart and her nasal bone was missing (contradicting the first doctor) and her gallbladder was too big. Sergio interrupted and asked, “Forgive me, doctor, but Abby’s dying here. What does it mean, the heart rate?”
I cut in, “She’s dying, isn’t she?”
The doctor looked us in the eyes and gently said yes.
I asked, “Is there any hope? Any chance that she could recover?”
The doctor answered soberly but decisively, “there is no hope.”
Without consulting Sergio, I spoke up. “If there is no hope, I want to end it now. I don’t want to go home and risk hemorrhaging an hour from the hospital. Can we get admitted to the hospital right now?”
The doctor said yes, but recommended an amniocentesis first. He wanted to make sure there weren’t any genetic conditions that might impact the childbearing futures of Calliope and Amelie. Numbly, we agreed.
A few more medical personnel gathered and I lay on the table once again, my face turned towards Sergio’s, avoiding the sight of the needle penetrating my rounded abdomen. I didn’t care anymore what they did to my body. Still, I was startled by the sensation of pressure on my spine as they withdrew amniotic fluid. And momentarily overjoyed by the sight of Isabella moving once again on the ultrasound screen.
Despite all the bad news, if there was a chance she could still live, I would give her that chance. But the doctor reluctantly informed me that no, there was no hope. She was reacting only momentarily to the needle in her watery home. There was no chance her heart would speed up again. It was only a matter of time before her heart stopped entirely.
We went downstairs to the lobby of the hospital where, astonishingly, everything was already arranged. So different from my experience of American hospitals.
Then we went to our palatial hospital room and the process got started. The nurses and doctors were all so kind and unhurried. Medications were started to induce labor. Unlike in New York, I would have to give birth and only afterwards, have a surgical procedure to make sure Isabella was fully gone.
The next day, I delivered Isabella’s tiny body. I didn’t imagine that I would want to see her but when she arrived -- and the nurse dropped her on my bare foot! -- I changed my mind. It was a relief to see her perfect, tiny self. Despite my medical training, I had never seen such a small fetus -- 12 weeks, 6 days old. She had the most elegant fingers, just like her artistic big sister. A narrow face like Calliope and me. She was tiny and sweet and perfect.
I thanked her for making the difficult decision for us. She had lived and ended her life with perfect timing. I was grateful.
We came home that night, numb with grief and anesthesia. A friend had taken the children home with her so we had an evening to just lean into the exhaustion. The following morning, Sergio picked them up and we took them out to brunch, despite the fact that I was weak on my feet.
As soon as we had ordered our food, Calliope demanded, “Okay, now will you tell us where you were?” We hadn’t told them anything until that point about the pregnancy, the hospitalization, or why we were so out of touch for thirty-six hours.
I looked at Sergio, not knowing how to start. He bravely took the lead, “There was a baby in Mommy’s tummy. And she died.”
To my surprise, telling the children eased the ache in my heart. They were excited and happy to learn they had a sister… even though she had died. They had a million questions but no sadness. Calliope asked for an ultrasound photo to bury in the garden, since we had no body to bury. I couldn’t watch but Sergio took photos. She talks about Isabella frequently. My wise girl led us to emotional health. She has taught us that we can celebrate Isabella’s life and mourn her loss simultaneously.
Our hearts are gradually healing. We are grateful that she was a part of our family, even for such a short time. To feel her growing inside my belly was a blessing. To imagine our family growing was, ultimately, a joy.
I wanted to her share her story not to get your condolences or pity, but to share with you as courageously as many of you have shared with me. And to acknowledge that Isabella existed. She was here. She was loved. She mattered.
Last week, my daughter told me that she only got three pieces of candy from the class piñata.
I was filled with red hot, righteous indignation. Where was her teacher? Why wasn’t he watching? Why didn’t he make sure she got her fair share? Doesn’t he know that Calliope is terrified of the post-piñata-break-scramble for candy?
I wanted to call her teacher immediately and demand an explanation.
Instead, I took a deep breath. I pulled my nine-year-old onto my lap and wrapped my arms around her.
I murmured in her ear, “Oh, honey. That must have been so hard. You poor thing.” I squeezed harder.
It’s terrible to see your baby cry. I hated it. Even though she’s not a baby anymore, she’s still my baby.
There is also a certain physical reaction in new parents that does subside with time. You stop breaking out in a cold sweat, heart pounding, when your baby cries. That does -- mostly -- go away with time.
But there’s a reason that people say, “having a child means choosing to walk around with your heart outside your body.”
It’s a hard, terrible fact of parenting that our children suffer.
It starts with a heel stick in the hospital, then continues to the indignity of car seats, vaccines, holding hands to cross the street, teasing in elementary school, bullying in middle school, college applications in high school and so on.
And if your child is overtired, they cry. And it probably breaks your heart. Of course. You love your child.
But there comes a point where anything you do to help overtiredness starts to make things worse. This may not be immediately obvious. Your help might solve the problem in the moment… but it makes things worse in the long run.
The easiest way to know this is if sleep is overall getting worse despite increasing levels of adult involvement. If this is the case, your “help” is hurting more than it’s helping. Here’s a common example: you used to rock your newborn to sleep and then she would sleep for 4-6 hours, but now she is older and waking up every 45 minutes. You can clearly see that all your "help" is counterproductive.
We all do this from time to time. Me too. I get too involved. It’s human nature to want to spare our little ones all pain. But the truth is that we can’t spare our children pain. And trying to do so will only cause them more pain in the long run. We hear about this with college students whose parents call their professors to complain about bad grades.
It’s better to support and love our children through their pain, instead of trying to solve it for them. This teaches them how to endure increasing levels of discomfort as they grow up. A necessary skill in adulthood. We suffer through hunger pains, traffic lights, fights with our loved ones and yes, sleep deprivation.
Loving and supporting your children through pain might look like spending extra time on the floor with them during playtime and then allowing them to cry in their cribs when they are overtired at nap time. You are welcome to stay in your baby’s room while she cries and puts herself to sleep, if you want to. But she’s crying because she is overtired, not because she needs something from you. Give her the space to figure it out.
Likewise, if your preschooler is protesting bedtime and then throwing a tantrum when you try to turn off the lights, the problem is not your parenting, or turning off the lights, or leaving. The problem is that your child is overtired and needs to go to sleep but fears separation because he is overtired. It's true that most young children fear separation from their parents, but the fear is greatly intensified by exhaustion as well as by lack of practice. The best way to show your child that you will always come back is to… always come back. But always leave when you say you are going to. Be your child’s fearless leader. Let him feel pain… and love him through it. Offer lots of cuddles and high fives for his bravery in the morning.
If you are struggling to let your child cry, you are not alone. It’s hard work. Schedule a free chat and see if some coaching would help you get through the rough spots so that your family can get the rest you deserve.
PS Calliope later explained to me that her "greedy" classmates got... all of 5 pieces of candy. Not dozens, as I had imagined. I am so glad now that I didn't call her teacher to complain!
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.
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.
March 2nd was America’s Read Across America Day.
If you aren’t already in the habit of reading to your child every day, it can feel like an awkward habit to start. I usually don't think to spontaneously offer to read to my children, so I’m guilty of the same struggle.
The thing that worked the best for my family was to establish reading as a pre-sleep routine. And I suggest the same to all my clients.
You can start reading to your child at any age from newborn on up. She may not seem to be paying attention, but even the rhythmic, soothing sound of your voice helps along her journey of language development and someday, reading.
If your older baby wants to eat the book, or grab at it and flip rapidly through the pages, or wanders away, that’s not a problem, either. Keep on offering once or twice a day. One of these days, he will surprise you and suddenly want to pay attention. Just keep the energy light and positive. What counts is that you make the effort, not that your baby focuses on reading. Keep it pleasant and non-stressful for both of you. Eventually your child will grow to love the routine of reading together.
If your preschooler prefers to watch a show over reading, change the order of things. Move TV before dinnertime, so that your child has an hour or more without exposure to blue light (the light from screens can make it harder for children to sleep, even though they seem relaxed while watching). Substitute pre-bed watching for pre-bed listening to a story.
If your older child no longer wants to be read to but doesn’t want to read independently before bed, try an audiobook. Any and all exposure to written language is helpful for your child’s growing brain, and also makes drifting off to sleep an easier process.
If you’d like to add to your child’s collection of diverse books, check out these suggestions from Read Across America that promote diversity and inclusion.
PS If you are struggling with the transition to Daylight Savings Time or other sleep transitions, schedule a free consult and get your family the sleep you deserve.
Five-year-old Amelie got into my makeup and thus, her "Doggy" got an unfortunate makeover. Luckily a trip through the washing machine returned "him" to normal.
If you are wondering why Doggy looks like a monkey and not at all like a dog... Well, Amelie named Doggy when she was a young toddler and ALL animals were “doggies.” Amelie is nearly six now but her monkey remains a “doggie.” Only “he” got named Jack a while back… but in moments of stress, he is called Doggy again.
Doggy has special significance for us because my mother gave him to me before Calliope was born. Calliope never needed a transitional object because she twiddled her ear for comfort (along with sucking her thumb). So when Amelie was born, Amelie inherited the love object, and unlike Calliope, Amelie quickly grew attached.
My mother died just before I successfully conceived Amelie. I had been trying to get pregnant with frozen embryos as my mother was dying of cancer and so I was able to tell my mother that her future grandchild, if a girl, would be named after her. (My mother's name was Amy, and she was named for her grandfather, Emil,)
Doggy is Amelie's one gift from her grandmother.
What are transitional objects and how do they help?
A “transitional object” is a physical item, such as a blanket or stuffed animal, that represents an extension of a young child’s primary caregiver. It reminds the child of the warmth, love, and security he or she feels in the presence of the primary caregiver. It allows the child to separate from a parent with less distress.
Transitional objects can be a huge help for children who resist separation, particularly at bedtime. It's normal for children to fear separation from their beloved grown ups, and it's also normal that their grown ups need that separation to function.
Particularly if your child is dependent on your physical touch to fall asleep, consider introducing a transition object. If your child is mobile, you can let them choose which they would like to sleep with. For a younger child, you may have to choose for them -- ask your pediatrician when it is safe to introduce one. The American Academy of Pediatrics says nothing in the crib before 12 months but your healthcare provider may say earlier is acceptable. It should be large enough to not be a choking risk and small enough to not be a smothering risk.
You may wish to slide the love object between you during bedtime snuggles, or even put it inside your shirt to acquire your scent. You can tell your child, "Lovey will keep you safe all night long." Don't be afraid to create a dependence on the love object. It's much healthier for a child to be dependent on a transitional object than on you for the small stresses of daily life. It's not a substitute for you, it's in addition to you. This is one sleep crutch that you actually want to have.
Most loveys are adopted during infancy but don't be afraid to try to create one into the preschool years.
Also, if you are afraid your child will never outgrow their dependency on the love object, don't be. Some children outgrow it gradually and others reject the love object seemingly overnight. All children outgrow their dependence sooner or later. One piece of advice though: acquire duplicates as soon as your child has identified a favorite love object! Rotate them regularly so the child doesn't have a preference. And keep the beloved love object safe at home and use a back-up for daycare and outings.
I actually threw away Doggy's duplicate before Amelie was born, since Calliope wasn't interested in it. And now I can't find an identical lovey. I live in fear of the day that Doggie gets lost -- he gets misplaced occasionally and we all feel terror as we search! Don't make my mistake.
Also, some children adopt "lovies" that are nontraditional. If your child loves bringing a favorite truck to bed, not a problem! Other children like carrying a cloth diaper around, or an item of a parent's clothing. Whatever creates a feeling of security in your child is perfect.
If your child is resisting separation at bedtime, set up a free chat to discuss how we can get your family the sleep you deserve.
Daylight savings time is coming to the United States and Canada in just TWO weeks, on March 14. (It's not until April in Mexico.)
Parents often ask if they can just keep their child’s schedule the same while the clock “springs” forward, to instantly create a later bedtime and later wake time.
The answer is that yes, you can… but it can be a little tricky to maintain. The main challenge is that in order to keep naps from shifting, you have to keep meal times the same as before, also. So if your child ate at 7, 12, and 5 before, you will now need them to eat at 8, 1, and 6.
Likewise, if your child woke at 6 am, napped at 1, and went to bed at 7 pm, your child will need a wake time of 7 am, a nap time of 2, and a bedtime of 8 pm.
The wake time and the bedtime should be pretty easy to maintain but if your child goes to daycare and preschool, you may not be able to control the nap time nor the lunch time. Just something to keep in mind.
Also, in the United States and Canada, the days are getting increasingly long. In order to prevent early wakings, you may need to up your game when it comes to keeping your child’s room dark. If you haven’t yet invested in blackout shades, do so. It’s seriously one of the best investments you can make in the health and happiness of your family.
Even if you do have blackout shades, you may need to address light coming in around the edges. If you haven’t bought them yet, consider buying extra-large ones that go around the window frame instead of inside the window frame. If you have already made the investment, consider painter’s tape around the edges. It may look ugly, but a few minutes of extra sleep in the morning is worth it, no?
At naptime, check if light is streaming under your child’s door. It may not keep her from falling asleep, but it may lead to a shorter-than-optimal nap time. If this is an issue, put a towel at the bottom of the door to block the light.
Don’t forget to keep white noise running during naps and all night long. It can be very hard to convince a child to go to sleep when it’s still light out! If he can hear the rest of the family having fun, that will only make things worse. White noise is your best friend in this situation.
If your family is struggling with early wake times, why not schedule a free consult to see if you can all get a little more shut-eye?
When I moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, from Brooklyn, New York, romance was the last thing on my mind.
At least two different friends predicted I would find love in Mexico. And I just laughed.
The idea of wanting one more person who would need something from me sounded ridiculous. I told my friends, “Time will tell! Maybe someday, when the kids are older. I doubt it, but maybe.”
I moved to San Miguel without much of a plan for myself, besides knowing I needed a radical change from the constant rush and stress of NYC life. I had already enrolled the children in a Spanish-only Waldorf school but didn’t know what I would do for myself.
Once the children started school, I got an online job as a health advisor, since nurse practitioner jobs don’t exist in Mexico. I started to build a social circle for myself. After a time, I got myself a therapist -- a requirement for any good (former) New Yorker.
And my therapist suggested that I start dating. Just casually. Just to explore my options.
I agreed that it might be fun to find an occasional dinner companion -- nothing more! -- and enrolled in Tinder, the most popular dating app in our small city.
Simultaneously, my friend Antoinette and I started doing a workbook together called Calling In the One: Seven Weeks to Finding the Love of Your Life. She wanted to find a lifelong partner. I don’t know why I decided to do the workbook too. Just curiosity, I guess? I had read amazing reviews of the book, hundreds of success stories, and while I wasn't looking for love, I was fascinated by the results it promised.
Well, before either one of us had finished the workbook, we both went on very promising first dates. Which quickly developed into much more.
Sergio and I met for coffee on February 4, 2020. I scheduled a quick forty-five minute coffee break between Spanish class and therapy. He seemed nice, but I didn't think much beyond that. I suggested we meet again soon and hurried on my way.
He sent a photo of our cozy meeting spot to me moments after I left… and was shocked that I blocked his number.
A little later, I wrote to him and thanked him for coffee. And he realized he had sent the photo to a stranger, not me. It was someone else who had blocked him.
The next day, he walked to Centro and chose the perfect terrace restaurant for our next date. He even reserved the specific table he wanted. He met me the next evening in the central garden of San Miguel. I was only a little nervous but as soon as I saw his smile, my heartbeat sped up.
We spent hours talking over a romantic dinner with a view of the parroquia, the famous pink church in San Miguel. Shyly, I finally took his hand. And hours later, I initiated our first kiss -- on the sidewalk of a busy street -- and felt fireworks.
Just a couple weeks later, I changed my mind about having a potential suitor wait six months to meet my children. Despite my desire to protect them, I didn’t want to commit six months to this relationship, only to have their meeting be a disaster.
It was the opposite of a disaster.
On the advice of Antoionette, we planned for just a quick ice cream outing, nothing too ambitious. Short and sweet.
The day of our date, he knocked on the door as we were doing chores. Calliope had been told to wash dishes but was dragging her feet. He went to the kitchen and quietly offered to help. Wordlessly, she handed him a sponge. They washed the dishes together. And by the end of the day, my shy girl was hanging all over him.
Amelie was even easier. She was instantly smitten, and thrilled to command his attention. Walking home afterwards, she climbed into his arms and laid her tired head on his shoulder.
He told me much later he had been nervous to meet them… and shocked to find that he was instantly smitten.
My heart swelled to see their ease together. I had truly never imagined a partner loving my children. My imagination blossomed and I started to imagine much more than a dinner companion, but a life partner. We quickly began spending nearly all our time together.
Seven weeks later, I decided to keep the kids home from school for a couple weeks, maybe. There was this strange virus circulating the globe.
Sergio’s mom came from Mexico City to stay in Sergio’s house -- much safer than an apartment in Mexico City -- and he was soon spending all his time with us, instead.
Then in May we had terrifying break-in when a vandal came into the house through Calliope’s second story window while we were sleeping. Thankfully, we were none the wiser until we realized a purse and iPad were missing the next day. Still, I couldn't wait to get out of that house. We found a new house together and moved in together, officially. And now we've moved again, into a house we adore, and Sergio’s furniture and kitchen items have gradually migrated to the new house.
We are talking, now, about moving his remaining possessions into storage and him letting go of his rental house.
And we are buying a used car together! He has generously shared his car with us throughout COVID but “Frida” has reached elderly ages and is ready for retirement.
It’s hard to express what it feels like to go from being a devoted Single Mother by Choice to being a committed family of four.
I feel a sense of surprise every day of my life, although it is gradually lessening.
It was really, really hard for me to ask for help and even to expect it. But when the kids stayed home from school last spring -- because, of course it turned from 2 weeks to 6 months, thanks to COVID -- I had to depend on him so that I could work. To my amazement, they quickly grew to adore mornings out with Sergio. He took the children and his mother to their school campus (no one else was around) to play. After a week, my reserved Calliope asked if he could call his mother “Grandma Carmen.” Both children asked if Sergio could stay home with them so I could go out alone on date nights!
When Amelie fell ill with an ear infection in the middle of the night after swimming in a pool, Sergio sat with me at her bedside in the middle of the night. Do long term couples do things like this? It had never occurred to me that I might not always have to worry alone. It was mind blowing.
Sergio insists on driving the children to and from school every day so I can take advantage of the time to work. He washes the dinner dishes every single night. He pushes the children -- and their friends -- in the hammock until they scream with delight. He watched them all afternoon yesterday so I could go to a vineyard with friends.
It is hard to describe is the gradually growing sense of safety and security that I feel. Especially because I didn't experience this as a child. I love the sense of comfort and confidence I see in my children.
Conflict -- inevitable in any relationship, and a guarantee in any relationship during COVID lockdowns -- was hard and scary for me. My parents had terrible fights, ones that were terrifying to me as a child. So anger is hard for me, whether the anger is from me or from him.
But we have gradually been practicing how to handle conflict in a healthy way. I have slowly been learning that he needs time to cool off when he is upset, that it’s not a rejection of me. This has been a hard but invaluable lesson for me! I am also learning that it’s not fair for me to apply a “manual” to him. I can ask for what I want or need, but I can’t be mad at him for not automatically realizing my needs and acting accordingly. Likewise, he’s his own person and has his own needs and wants, ones that don’t always match up with mine. He can say “no” to me without it meaning anything about me or our relationship. He almost never does, but he’s allowed to.
Our future together looks rosy. A one or two-year experiment in life in Mexico seems to have become permanent. As much as I miss my friends and family “back home,” I can’t imagine ever returning to the States to live. I am living my personal fairy tale here in Mexico.
I’ll never regret my unique path to motherhood. Becoming a single-mother-by-choice to Calliope and Amelie with the help of donor sperm was the perfect path for my family. If I had chosen to have children with a partner, we wouldn’t have had this perfect space for Sergio to step into. I’m so glad I had such beautiful years alone with them… and now I’m thrilled to be creating our new family together with him.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.