The first month or two back from summer break wreaks havoc with your kids’ bedtime routine – and yours! Sleep pro Leigh McMahon is here to help.
Starting back at school plays havoc with sleep. After a fun summer of choose-your-own-bedtime and zero responsibility, the sudden shift into “real life” is understandably a struggle for kids, and the stress and bewilderment can take a toll on bedtime.
“For most of us, summer is a time when bedtimes might slip later – the bedtime creep certainly happened in my house!” says Bonne Nuit Baby sleep consultant Leigh McMahon.
Leigh has seen both sides of sleep training: when her sons were infants, she used a sleep consultant herself. Now Owen, nine and George, five-and-a-half, are champion dozers, as you would expect! We asked Leigh to share a few easy, effective ways to kick those bad summer sleep habits, plus her picks of the best sleep apps for kids.
Sack-time Hacks: Here’s what to do if your child…
…wakes up during the night
Try: Adjusting bedtime
Night wakings are a sign of being overtired, often due to too-late bedtimes. A typical bedtime is anywhere between 6:30 and 7:30pm – by that point, kids have usually been up for at least 12 hours, their brains and bodies have been busy and they’re ready to power down. An early bedtime is like duct tape for sleep problems, in that it can solve a lot of them. Choose a few nights per week where you make an early bedtime a priority – 6:30 isn’t unheard of for four-to-six year olds, seriously!
…is a bedtime procrastinator
Try: The “Silent Return”
The Silent Return is our name for the super-boring, super-quiet method of turning kids around and putting them back in their bed. They’re not going to get another drink of water, they’re not going to get another tuck-in – nothing. Sometimes it takes a couple of nights of rinse and repeat, but you’ll start to break that habit by showing your kids that there’s no reason for them to be up, they’re not missing anything. I tell parents with very persistent older children to not even make eye contact with them!
…regularly climbs into your bed
Try: Talking it out
When making changes around sleep, for older kids especially, we suggest a “family meeting.” Pick a time when everybody’s well-rested and in a good mood. Explain to your kids that summer sleepovers were fun, but now that they have so much more going on, their body needs a lot of really good rest – and so does the whole family. It doesn’t have to be a long meeting! Make a couple of easy-to-follow rules, like, “Everybody sleeps in their own bed at night” and “We don’t wake other sleeping people in our house.”
If your older child has taken to sleeping with you or their siblings for comfort, the Parental Presence method is an effective way to get everybody back in their sleeping space. It’s a two-week process, where you stay with your child in their own bed until they fall asleep, then gradually physically move away every few nights. Contact is minimal and that’s really the key, especially with older kids: don’t engage, because if they see a tiny little opening, they will jump on it.
…takes forever to wake up
Try: Giving back control
To give kids some ownership of waking up without a lot of parental input, an OK to Wake! clock can help. You set it for whatever time you want it to light up (green means “get up”), and there’s an alarm function. Maybe let that go off first before you barge in and take the covers off!
…is surgically attached to screens
Try: Quiet activities together
Get a shoe box and add small, screen-free activities that you rotate each week: an easy puzzle, Legos, Tegu blocks, Magna-Tiles, a coloring or tracing book (which is very calming to the brain). If it’s possible, try to color with them and maybe do some blocks – this quiet time is when kids might start talking about their day, when Mom or Dad is just sitting there listening and not running in a million different directions. It’s a great opportunity for anxious children to talk about something that happened during the day that might prevent them from falling asleep.
Leigh’s Healthy Sleep Trifecta
Turn their bedroom into a cozy cave to encourage a full night of zzzzs.
An ideal sleep temperature is between 68 and 71 degrees Fahrenheit.
The more cave-like you can make the room, the better. There are a million different blackout curtain and shade options, but one I recommend to clients is the Amazon Basics blackout curtain.
Get a white noise machine! They help the brain power down and get into a restful state. “My favorite is the Marpac, which is used by the NICU. Send your kids to college with a white noise machine, they will thank you for it!” says Leigh. Yoga is another way to ease kids into sleep and calm down the nervous system before bed. Read a yoga storybook together or try a few poses with the lights down: child’s pose, legs up the wall, and happy baby.
The Right Night Light
You might be aware that your phone, TV and tablet all have blue light in them, which sends signals to your brain to stay awake. Well, your child’s night light might, too! According to Leigh, many night lights (say, from the grocery store) have blue light, stimulating kids’ brains when they’re trying to fall asleep. For younger children, she suggests the VAVA night light with a charging pad (great for nursing), and for older kids, the Gummygoods Night Light, which has a timer.
Best Bedtime Meditation Apps for Kids
Stop, Breathe, Think For kids aged 5–10, it helps kids check their feelings and “create their own force field of calm” to aid peaceful sleep.
Headspace does special mindfulness sessions for kids, aged from toddler up to 12.
GoZen uses animated videos to guide kids with anxiety issues.
Leigh McMahon is a certified sleep consultant with Bonne Nuit Baby, based in Denver. She majored in Child Development and Psychology at Tufts University, and has been featured on websites such as Motherly and Lucie’s List. Follow Leigh’s #boymom and #dogmom adventures @leighwaldmcmahon!
A two-second scan of Ali Bird’s Instagram feed is all it takes to get a sense of the family’s effortless cool factor.
A two-second scan of Ali Bird’s Instagram feed (here) is all it takes to get a sense of the family’s effortless cool factor. You’ll see weekly videos of the Director at The Wall Group – who represents the most powerful stylists and hair and makeup artists – hip-hop dancing to Cardi B at the Peridance Capezio Center. In between are shots by (and of) her partner, photographer and director Cass Bird, known for her incredible work in Vogue and with brands like GAP, Nike, and Warby Parker. Of course, their two children, Leo, 11, and Mae, 9, play starring roles, exuding the kind of badass vibes only kids who grow up with creative New Yorker parents can.
We sat down with Ali to talk all things parenting: tackling mornings with a “sleep zombie” and an early bird, striving for emotional transparency always, and bonding over Steve Carell memes.
What does 7 AM in your house look like?
Coffee and repeating, “Time to get up!” 20 times to [the] kids and Cass. Leo is a night owl and it’s so hard to get him out of bed. He’s not interested in breakfast or getting dressed. I can literally choose anything for him and he’ll wear it because he’s a sleep zombie. Mae is 100% the opposite. She is an early bird – wakes right up, wants breakfast right away, and is very opinionated about her outfits. She’s got a very authentic, specific style and loves getting herself dressed.
What does 7 PM in your house look like?
Family episodes of The Office. The humor in The Office is unparalleled – we have so many family jokes about it. It’s really Leo’s favorite and he just gets the humor and weirdness and so do I. We connect on that and are both constantly quoting it to each other, sending each other memes. Cass and Mae are along for the ride.
What’s an unexpectedly awesome aspect of parenting?
Getting to re-parent yourself. I think my parents’ generation was afraid to be seen as not having all the answers, and they often didn’t let us in on their internal lives. For me, it’s healing to be able to actually share feelings, thoughts, ideas and frustrations with my children, at a level that meets them, of course.
What’s an unexpectedly NOT awesome aspect of parenting?
Going from zero to 100 real quick! I don’t know any kids that listen on the first time. Mine certainly don’t. The constant repeating makes me frustrated.
What do you always find time to do with your kids every day, no matter how busy you are?
Connecting to humor, silliness and fun. It’s a way [for us] as parents to be kids again and meet our kids on their level. It relieves my anxiety and lets me remember not to take everything so seriously. We have a lot of jokes and a lot of family fun.
You and Cass work in the fashion and beauty space. What do you hope your children know and take away from watching you both?
That it takes all types to make the world interesting, and that being able to truly express yourself is the most beautiful of all. I think Cass and I strive to bring our authentic selves into every area of our lives.
Check out more stories from power moms we think are awesome here and here!
Taking 10 of our favorite boys’ and girls’ styles from our collection, we created a two-week cheat sheet of the brightest, comfiest outfits to make mornings a little easier. Snap them up now and re-introduce yourself to that snooze button…
Meet the creative moms behind some of our best new discoveries: Danielle Stern of Leftys Right Mind, Maureen Vazquez of Pipsticks, and Dana Pollack of Dana’s Bakery.
We’ve found your Back-to-School trifecta: High-quality, low-cost decals for personalizing your kids’ school supplies, a fantastical world of stickers and stationery to express their creative side, and magical snacks for parties, play-dates and more. #mompoints
We spoke to the amazing women behind these genius finds: a custom artist, a sticker and craft queen, and a desserts whiz! They have one special thing in common (apart from living crazy, creative lives with kids in tow). Each had a somewhat risky idea that grew into a super-successful, soul-feeding business. We are so inspired by their stories, and we hope you will be, too.
FOR ONE-OF-A-KIND STYLE: LEFTYS RIGHT MIND
Founder: Danielle Stern
Mom to Mila
“I take fonts very seriously,” says Danielle Stern, a trained graphic designer. “I’m always striving for something that feels one-of-a kind and fresh.”
Danielle and the Leftys Right Mind team do a ton of embroidery, doodling and hand-painting (including some awesome events at the Rockets of Awesome Pop-up Shop), and you can get a piece of her artistry for less than a large coffee! Danielle’s “designer” decals are a fun, affordable – dishwasher safe! – way to elevate your everyday items: laptops, kids’ lunch boxes, and in Danielle’s case, her AirPods. “My husband and I were always confusing whose AirPods were whose, and he had this dirty piece of tape on his – and that’s basically how I came up with my decal line!”
Danielle’s first custom job was a favor to a friend getting married, who asked her to paint on some denim jackets for the bridal party. People took notice, and soon everyone wanted her personal touch.
One day, a friend asked her to paint freehand on her luxury handbag. No big deal. “They were like, “Paint on it,” and I thought, Oh my gosh, it’s $1,800! I don’t know… But I don’t have any fear, and I always get thrown extreme challenges. If I’ve never done it before, I love figuring it out. So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll paint on your bag.’ Now I have clients who send bags to me from all over the world!”
The Awesome News chatted with Danielle about her favorite mom moments, how she puzzle-pieces life and her business, and her best paint removal hack!
What’s been your biggest challenge as a business owner and mom?
Finding “balance” (a tricky word, I know!) between work and family. Of course, my daughter Mila and my husband Noah are the center of my world, but my work is my passion and I grow more in love with it every day. Moms need to internally feel good about who we are in order to be our best selves for our family.
Another challenge I find is being able to put work away for dedicated family time. I actively work on putting my computer and phone out of reach when I am with my family. It’s extremely important to make eye contact and be 100% present when we are together.
What does 7am look like in your house?
Our favorite time of the day! Noah gets Mila changed, brushes her teeth and brings her back into bed with her milk. I am usually woken up to a very strong hair pull by my daughter, but it’s usually followed with lots of kisses. The three of us get to lay together for a few minutes until the day starts and we have to go our separate ways. It’s very special.
How has becoming a parent changed your priorities at work?
Before I had Mila, I’d wake up, sit at my desk and work nonstop until I went to bed. Now I’ve had to learn to structure my day and break up work based on her schedule. I tend to work on my luxury painted items after her bedtime. I catch up on emails during her nap time, because then I know when she wakes up there won’t be unopened paint for her to stick her hands in – which she has started doing!
You work a lot with customizing denim, handbags and shoes… How would you get paint off of a white sneaker?
A Clorox Bleach Pen is a game-changer. Honestly, probably every mother on the planet has one in their purse! It gets marks off of rubber and canvas – I use it on my Superga shoes all the time. It doesn’t work on every single surface, but for canvas and leather sneakers it is wonderful. It took me a little bit to figure that out!
What do you hope your daughter learns from you as a powerful, successful working mom?
That with hard work and focus, no dream is too far out of reach. That she can be anything she wants to be. That anything is possible. And that females, all over the world, in whatever life they choose for themselves, are absolute superheroes!
Danielle’s awesome decals are based on her custom graphic work and gorgeous hand-painted bag designs. Check out the full collection at Leftys Right Mind!
FOR EVERYTHING STICKERS: PIPSTICKS
Founder: Maureen “Mo” Vazquez
Mom to Atticus, Eleanor, Ike & Indiana
Love stickers? Us, too! But probably not as much as Pipsticks founder Maureen “Mo” Vazquez. She started her sticker subscription company in 2014, because she couldn’t find one for her four kids. “Stickers have set my heart on fire since I was a little girl,” she says.“Once I had my own kids, I became acutely aware that two of the pure joys of childhood – stickers and mail – were no longer in my life. As a designer, busy mom, and stationery lover, a sticker club ticked all the boxes!”
Today Pipsticks is a full-blown sticker empire, with a community of thousands of sticker-lovers in more than 60 countries!
Was Mo surprised to discover so many adult sticker fans? Yes and no. “Now that I’ve heard from so many adults who have re-embraced their childhood obsession, it really makes sense,” she says. “As a kid, stickers feel like a luxury item that you can actually afford with your ‘own’ money. Their size and tactile nature gives them a magical quality that is unlike anything else. As an adult, they retain that magic, and the value of special, luxury, real-life products has become even more important now that our lives are lived so virtually. The power of stickers to ignite that child-like joy is just incredible.”
We totally agree – we’re proud of our pro-sticker policy at the Rockets of Awesome Pop-up Shop, where we have buckets of Pipsticks stickers for kids to go ham decorating our fitting room walls!
Every month is like Sticker Christmas for Pipsticks subscribers, who hang out excitedly waiting for their monthly mailbox fix. Subscriptions cater to both Kids and Pros (from $11.95; no judgement on the plan you choose). Mo and her talented team design their own stickers and collaborate with a new artist every month to champion local design, and celebrate fun and creativity among the growing Pipsticks community.
It’s rare and special to be able to take something you loved as a child and make a career from it – while wrangling four kids under 10! Mo shares her incredible juggling act with us…
In a way, Pipsticks is your fifth child. How are you doing all this?!
To be honest, I remember very little of the past four years. One moment does stand out: After [my youngest] was born, my parents were visiting one night and I was debating whether to let the other three kids watch a movie. My dad put his hands on my shoulders, looked me right in the eye, and said: “Maureen, this is SURVIVAL!”
From that moment, I do my best not to sweat the small stuff. If the kids watch three hours of TV on a Saturday morning so we can sleep in until 10, amen! If they don’t want to eat a single thing but garlic bread at dinner, whatever. If you think of this stage as survival, it’s a lot easier to give yourself a free pass when you need it.
What do you feel most proud of as a business owner and a mom?
I love that our kids see my husband, Nathan, and I as equals in terms of work and home. When one of us is exhausted, the other steps up. We each have our own “things” – I handle middle-of-the-night puking, he does splinters and ingrown toenails; I cook, he takes out the trash – but our partnership in work and family succeeds because of our equal commitment to The Team.
Do your kids have the same love of creativity that you do?
Yes! Three of our four kids are as obsessed with making. We set up a dreamy craft space in our play room, with allllll the supplies (perks of my job!). During the week, the kids are always tinkering – we have a box of “invention parts” – jar lids, egg cartons, cardboard, corks – and (armed with a hot glue gun) they make everything, from robots and peg dolls to rocket launchers and amorphous sculptures.
What’s your magic hack for removing stubborn stickers?
If you “saturate” the sticker with baby or vegetable oil and leave it for 5-10 minutes, you can scrape it off. For something less messy, you can heat them up with a hair dryer for 30 seconds or so and then peel them right off!
What do you hope your kids learn from watching you build a creative business that you love?
Connection! Pipsticks has allowed me to connect with thousands of people each month and share my creativity with them in a way that really brightens their life. My kids see the fan mail that comes into the studio and understand from their own experience as subscribers how nice it is to be thought of and have something beautiful to hold in their hands.
Check out Pipsticks online to find out more about subscriptions and peep ALL the stickers for purchase!
FOR NEXT-LEVEL SNACK TIME: DANA’S BAKERY
Founder: Dana Pollack
Mom to Leni & Ella
Trained pastry chef and founder of Dana’s Bakery, Dana Pollack, has made us see the humble cookie in a whole new light. The moment we tasted her Mini Rainbow Black-and-Whites, we were hooked and wanted to sample everything on the menu!
In her former life, Dana was a magazine photo editor who baked on the side. At 30, she followed her passion for pastry, switched careers and enrolled in culinary school. Dana’s love of the French macaron led to her opening Dana’s Bakery: the unique texture and pretty pastel colors appealed to her inner photo editor, but she wanted to make them in more homegrown flavors.
Now folks can’t get enough of her French macarons with an American twist, including Fruity Cereal, Smores, Cherry Cola, and Buttered Popcorn! You’ll even find her gourmet macarons baked inside moist, chewy cookies – adorably called “Mookies.” A fun snack for after school, weekend sleepovers, birthday parties and more! And did we mention they’re gluten-free?
We asked Dana what it’s been like to follow her dream and open a business, all while scheduling around her newborn and her toddler starting back at school.
You shifted careers from magazines to pastry at age 30!
I did! I’ve always loved to bake – to relieve stress, to show people I care through gifts of desserts – but had never thought about doing it for a living. One day, while I was sitting in my cubicle at Muscle & Fitness, I had one of those lightbulb moments. Staring at my screen looking at a photo of a man in a speedo covered in body oil, I said out loud: “Am I REALLY going to do this for the rest of my life??”
I quit my job the next day, and enrolled in culinary school one week after that. I knew I needed some structure if I was going to switch careers at 30 – I wanted to immerse myself in this new culture and get as much training as I possibly could. While in culinary school nights and weekends, I also worked part-time as a pastry cook to gain real-life experience during the day.
What’s been your biggest challenge as a business owner and mom?
Balance. I’m pretty sure it does not exist. Some days I’m killing it at work, other days I feel like mom of the year. Very rarely do I feel like both are getting equal attention and I’m successfully “doing it all.” The sooner you realize that balance does not exist, you lose the guilt and start to focus on and enjoy the tasks at hand. We are all just doing the best we can, and that is enough. It has to be!
C’mon, spill your three best baking-pro hacks!
If you want healthier brownies, replace the fats with avocado. Jello in cake recipes can flavor the cake without changing the texture. And adding pudding to your cookie mix gives a more moist result!
What do you wish you could go back and tell yourself, before you had a child?
Take that vacation and buy that bag. Shit is about to change FOREVER.
What do you hope your daughters learn from watching you build a creative business that you love?
I want them to know that whatever they decide to do, they are supported. I’m often asked what it’s like being a woman in business, being a female entrepreneur. Growing up, my father owned his own business, and my mom would always help us with our business endeavors, from sidewalk bake sales to homemade T-shirt lines.
Being your own boss wasn’t something that was spoken about, but it was encouraged by way of example, regardless of gender. Even though I hadn’t gone to business school, when the time came to go out on my own, it wasn’t difficult for me to take the leap. I was raised thinking I could do it, because that’s what I experienced growing up. By default, I want to show my girls that same thing.
Dana’s delicious creations are available to shop online at Dana’s Bakery – including limited-season Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies!