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Sleep like a baby: Your expert guide to 12 months of rest

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Week eight


You’ve made it to the two-month mark—congratulations! Keeping a tiny human safe and healthy for 2 months is no small feat.

This week, we’re talking about how you can build a bit more predictability into your baby’s day. It’s so important to remember that very few babies are ready for a by-the-clock schedule at this point; however, you can establish a little consistency by using something called “fixed points.” To use fixed points in your baby’s day, simply establish a few key points in your daily routines and make sure they happen at about the same time each day - within the same 30 minute window. You can start by getting your baby up for the day at approximately the same time; from there, you can make sure the first morning nap is happening at the same time each day, and so on. Building in several fixed points is a gentle way to move towards consistency without jeopardizing your baby’s sleep and feeding needs.

Sleep totals for your 8 week old baby are about 14-16 hours each day, with a bit more of that sleep happening at night than during the day.

Week three

Three weeks tends to be the point at which the “newness” of parenting your newborn wears off, and you run smack into the brick wall of exhaustion.

Don’t worry—you are not alone in this. After all, a woman can only take so much fragmented sleep before she starts to fall apart! Don’t forget to ask for help, and to lean on your partner and surrounding community for help.

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At this stage, your newborn is still sleeping about 14-18 total hours each day. It’s still too early to see any sort of real “schedule” emerge at this point; your baby will still be sleeping in cycles. You may, however, start to see a bit more awake time, which is great! Don’t forget to encourage tummy time each day; when placed on his or her belly, you may see your baby start to try and lift his or her head by week three.

9 months old

At this point, if your baby is not yet sleeping through the night, you may be feeling like you’re seriously going to lose your mind.

9 months is a long time to endure fragmented sleep, and even getting up just once to feed your baby at night can feel like an excruciating task by the 9-month mark!

Here’s something to keep in mind: 1 night feeding is still normal for breastfed babies at 9 months old. In fact, a small percentage of breastfed babies need to feed once per night until they’re about 12 months old. However, if your baby is still waking to feed at night, an attempt at night weaning around 9 months of age is usually a good idea. Why? Simple: by this age, some babies continue to wake and feed out of habit, and not necessarily because they need the nourishment. It’s true that some babies will naturally night wean without any nudges from mom, but others won’t. If your baby is still feeding at night, it may mean you need to offer a little night weaning help.

Signs your 9 month old may be ready to night wean include:Your baby isn’t eating as much during the day. Your baby isn’t really eating during night feedings and is treating them more as playtime or comfort time. Your baby has started solid foods and is getting plenty of daytime nourishment.

These signs together are a strong indication that you can work on night weaning your baby and encouraging sleeping through the night.

As for sleep totals: your 9 month old baby will sleep 13-14 total hours, with 11-12 of it happening at night and 2-3 hours happening during the day over 2 naps. Both of these naps should be at least an hour long. You can see a sample 9 month old sleep and feeding schedule here.

Five months old

By the time your baby is 5 months old, the worst of the 4 month sleep regression has likely passed, and you can really start to work on sleep coaching, if you haven’t already.

This is usually a great window of time during which to sleep coach: your baby isn’t as mobile as he or she will be in another few months and is still young enough that sleep associations haven’t yet become deeply-rooted habits. But remember, only sleep coach if you want to - sleep coaching is by no means a mandatory thing! If you’re happy with your child’s sleeping patterns, and if they work for your family right now, then feel empowered to keep doing what you’re doing.

One issue that typically crops up around the 5-month mark is teething. If your baby is suddenly fussy and seems in pain, and if he or she is waking too early from naps or waking more than usual at night, check for bumps and redness on the gums. Teething pain is usually short-lived, but if it’s becoming very disruptive, talk to a healthcare provider about how to alleviate the discomfort.

At 5 months old, your baby will be sleeping about 14 total hours each day: 11-12 hours at night, and 2-4 hours during the day, spread out over about 4 naps. The last nap of the day is likely more of a short catnap, which is normal at this age. Night feedings are still very normal at this age, too; many babies will still need 1-2 feedings at night. You can see a sample 5 month old sleep and feeding schedule here.


Week seven

It’s still too early for a strict schedule, but you might find that your baby has some feedings and sleep sessions that are pretty consistent. If so, that’s great! If not, don’t worry; in the next few weeks, we’ll talk about ways to build predictability into your child’s schedule.

This is also the time when some parents start seeing a predictable long(ish) stretch of sleep emerge at night. If this is happening in your home, then hallelujah…enjoy it! If it isn’t, don’t fret; you’re not alone! We’ll be sharing tips in the upcoming weeks that can help you get there.

As for sleep totals, you can continue to expect 14-17 hours total each day, although you may start seeing a bit more nighttime sleep at this point.

One year old!

Welcome to toddlerhood, parents!

That’s right—your adorable baby is now officially a toddler.

Fortunately for you, this doesn’t have much of an impact on sleep at this point; your 12 month old will still sleep about 13-14 total hours each day. You’ll most likely get 10-12 hours of sleep at night, and 2-2.5 hours during the day, in 2 naps. You can see a sample toddler sleep and feeding schedule here.

At the 12-month mark, we do tend to see a little mini-nap regression. This is nowhere near as disruptive as the 4 month sleep regression, or the 8-10 month sleep regression, but it does have an impact. The 12 month nap regression happens when your toddler suddenly seems ready to give up the afternoon nap, and transition to just 1 nap during the day. Many parents notice that for several weeks, their 12 month old babies refuse one of their naps altogether. However, bear in mind that 12 months is a bit too early for most babies to transition to 1 nap; it’s usually better to wait out this regression and stick to offering 2 naps until your baby is about 15-18 months old. At that point, you can transition to offering just one afternoon nap. If you wait out this little “nap strike,” you will probably find that in a week or so, your 12 month old goes back to taking 2 naps without a fuss.


Emily DeJeu is a writer with The Baby Sleep Site, a leading resource helping mamas—and their babies—get their rest.


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The 4-month sleep regression is real.

The 4-month mark is a big milestone, because it marks the first (and usually the most disruptive and challenging) sleep regression of your baby’s life.

At 4 months of age, your baby undergoes some major brain developments that impact her sleeping patterns.

She becomes more aware of the world around her.

And simply put, at 4 months, your baby starts sleeping less like a baby and more like an adult.

This usually means that a baby who may have been sleeping fairly well is suddenly waking up every 20 minutes during the day, and almost as frequently at night.

There is really no “fix” for this 4-month sleep regression; these changes to your baby’s sleeping patterns are permanent.

But don’t despair. You CAN reclaim your nights by simply teaching your baby how to fall asleep without the use of any sleep associations, like rocking or feeding to sleep.

That process is called sleep coaching.

Four months is generally the earliest you should work on sleep coaching, and it’s best to use gentle, gradual methods at this young age.

By no means do you have to try sleep coaching—it’s not for everyone.

But if sleep is a real problem in your home, then sleep coaching can be a nice option.

Sleep coaching includes methods like putting baby to bed drowsy but not asleep, picking up your baby for a bit when she cries and then putting her back down, sitting in a chair to provide a reassuring presence, or even allowing baby limited time to cry-it-out. There is no one size fits all method for babies and families, you need to contemplate and test what works best for you. (For more details about how to implement each of these methods, see a brief overview here.)

As for sleep totals, you can expect about 14 to 15 hours total each day: 11 to 12 hours at night and three to four hours during the day spread out over four or five short naps.

Some babies are able to sleep eight straight hours or more at night by 4 months, but the large majority aren’t; one to three night feedings are still considered very normal at this age.

Your baby may be ready for a more by-the-clock schedule at this age, but many aren’t, so be flexible.

You can see a sample 4-month-old sleep and feeding schedule here.

Week two

Holy growth spurt, Batman!

Sometime over the next two weeks, your baby will start to show signs of his or her first big growth spurt. And it. is. a. DOOZIE for many parents.

Plan to park yourself on the couch and do some Netflix binge-watching, because that baby of yours is going to be eating. A LOT. During this growth spurt, it will feel like your baby wants to feed constantly for 24-48 hours. You’ll no doubt get alarmed (because this need-to-feed drive is so new and unexpected), but rest assured that it is normal.

As for sleep - sleep is essentially the same this week as it was last week. Look for 14-18 total hours of sleep. Most babies are still very sleepy at two weeks of age, and while you would no doubt like to see more active-and-alert time from your baby, don’t worry; that is coming. For now, be sure that your baby is feeding every 2-3 hours, if not more (for breastfeeding babies; formula-fed babies may be able to go slightly longer between feeds). If your baby has regained his or her birthweight, then one longer stretch of sleep is okay, but don’t hesitate to wake your baby from an overly-long sleeping session in order to get the appropriate number of feedings in, especially if you are breastfeeding.

For sample newborn sleep and feeding routines (for both breastfed and formula-fed babies), click here.

7 months old

At the 7-month mark, you can expect your baby to sleep about 11-12 hours at night and 2-3 hours during the day, spread out over 3 naps.

These naps are likely becoming fairly predictable at this point, which means you can coordinate feedings around nap times. This is especially important because, by this stage, you have probably introduced solid food meals into your baby’s diet. For tips on how to coordinate feedings and naps, you can check out this sample 7 month old sleep and feeding schedule.

By 7 months of age, most babies are able to sleep 8 hours or more at night without feedings; however, your breastfed baby may still need 1 nighttime feeding, and this is perfectly fine. If your baby is still waking multiple times at night, however, it’s likely you have a sleep issue on your hands. If that nighttime waking is becoming problematic for your family, you may want to work on sleep coaching, if you haven’t already. Remember, it’s very normal for your child to wake between sleep cycles at night (even we adults do this), but if your baby is used to you putting him or her to sleep, via rocking or feeding or holding, then your child won’t be able to fall back to sleep without your help. That is the root cause of excessive nighttime waking, and that’s why some parents find it necessary to teach their babies how to fall asleep unassisted.

Week 10

Now that your baby is a little older, we can start to talk about ways to guide your little guy or little gal towards healthy sleep habits.

Keep in mind that 10 weeks old is early to do any “sleep training”; at this stage, we focus more on gentle techniques that can lay a foundation for healthy sleep as your child grows.

One gentle technique you can try is to lay your baby down drowsy but slightly awake for one or two naps during the day or at bedtime (not both). An eat-play-sleep cycle is helpful when you’re working on drowsy but awake: feed your baby, keep him or her up for a short playtime or tummy time, and then put your child down sleepy but still a little awake. At first, do this for just one or two naps - you don’t want your baby to get fussy and overtired. If it goes well, you can gradually do this more and more.

At 10 weeks old, your baby will still be sleeping about 14-16 hours total each day. Ideally, 9-10 of those hours will happen at night, with the remaining 5-6 hours divided up into naps throughout the day.

Week nine

By this point, you may be starting to wonder when (or possibly if!) your baby will sleep through the night. This is a natural question; with 2 months of sleep deprivation under your belt, it’s understandable that you’d want your sleep-filled nights back!

A few things to remember about this: the technical definition of “sleeping through the night” is 5 straight hours of sleep - so it’s possible that your baby already IS sleeping through the night! However, most moms define sleeping through the night as 8-12 hours of sustained sleep without feedings. If that is your goal, know that you will likely have to wait a few more months (at least) until you get to that point. At 9 weeks old, your baby will still need to feed several times during a 12-hour nighttime stretch. Hang in there, though….sleeping through the night WILL happen. We promise!

Speaking of sleep, you can expect sleep totals to stay at 14-16 total hours each day, with about 9 of those hours happening at night and the rest happening as naps throughout the day.

3 months old

Your baby is getting so big these days!

On average, your 3 month old baby will likely sleep 14-15 total hours day day: 10-11 hours at night, and 3-4 hours during the day. You may also notice that your baby’s sleep is starting to organize itself a little better; you may be getting one nice, long stretch of sleep at night, and you may find that your baby’s daytime sleep is sorting itself into a series of semi-predictable naps. If that’s happening in your home, congratulations! If it’s not, don’t worry - some babies take a bit longer to consolidate their sleep. Hang in there!

By the time your baby is 3 months old, you can (if you choose) continue your work on building healthy sleep habits by trying to lay your baby down drowsy but awake much of the time. You can also encourage longer stretches of sleep at night by offering plenty of daytime feedings. Just be careful not to keep your baby awake too much during the day; it may seem counterintuitive, but this can make your baby overly tired which will actually lead to less sleep at night, not more.

To see a sample 3 month old sleep and feeding schedule, click here.

Week 11

If you’ve been working on healthy sleep routines for your baby, then you’re going to like this week’s news! 

By the 11-week mark, you baby is ready for a more predictable bedtime and bedtime routine. The actual timing of bedtime should be flexible, but in general, it should fall somewhere between 8 and 10 p.m. Having an official bedtime is the first step in differentiating nighttime sleep and daytime sleep, which will become important as your baby grows.

Along with carving out a bedtime, you’ll want to start implementing a bedtime routine. Your routine should be relatively short (most young babies get overtired if the bedtime routine is too long), and it should consist of a few relaxing, sleepy activities, like singing a lullaby and reading a simple bedtime story. You may want to skip an evening bath as part of your routine; while some babies find baths soothing, others tend to get riled up during baths, which is counterproductive at bedtime.

At 11 weeks old, your baby will still be sleeping about 14-16 hours total each day - about 10 hours at night, and 4-6 hours during the day.

Week four

The name of the game this week is day-night confusion.

This term is just what it sounds like - newborns who struggle with day-night confusion have their days and nights reversed, and are sleeping all day and feeding all night. While some day-night reversal is understandable in the first week or two after birth, by the four week mark, it can feel downright excruciating!

Fortunately, this problem is fixable. You can start by feeding your baby regularly during the day, and feeding in a brightly-lit room. You may even want to have your child nap during the day in a sunny room. Exposing your newborn to sunlight during the day will go far to help reset your baby’s inner clock. After daytime feedings, keep your baby up for a few minutes: do a diaper change, read a book, have some tummy time, etc. Conversely, keep nighttime feedings dark and quiet, and put your baby right back to bed after you feed. Do this for a week, and you should start to see improvement.

Sleep totals at the 4-week mark should remain around 14-17 total hours each day, and at this stage, sleep continues to be more cyclical than scheduled. Ideally, once you sort out day-night confusion, sleep totals will be pretty evenly split between day and night.

8 months old

Get ready, mama - another sleep regression is on its way! You may still be feeling scarred from the 4 month regression, but don’t worry: while the 8-10 month regression is tough, it’s not permanent. Within a few weeks, all should be back to normal.

So what is the 8-10 month regression? Well, at some point between 8 months and 10 months of age, your baby will go through a significant developmental leap - his or her mobility will just explode! But while this newfound mobility is exciting, developmental leaps like this wreak havoc on sleep. You’ll likely find that your baby suddenly reverts to taking short naps and to waking more than usual at night. Separation anxiety is also a part of this sleep regression; your baby may suddenly seem super clingy and wail loudly every time you leave the room, making naps and bedtime a nightmare.

Fortunately, the worst of this regression should be over in a few weeks. While the regression is happening, do your best to offer plenty of comfort to your baby without creating any new sleep habits you’ll have to undo later.

You can expect your 8 month old to sleep about 14 total hours each day: 11-12 hours at night and 3 hours during the day, spread out over 2-3 naps. If your 8 month old takes 2 naps, each should be at least an hour long; if your baby still needs a 3rd nap, it will no doubt be a short (30 minutes or so) catnap in the later afternoon. You can see a sample 8 month old sleep and feeding schedule here.

Week six

The 6-week mark is full of good things - by now, your baby may be starting to smile and make more eye contact!

But there is also a challenge at this point: 6 weeks brings a peak of fussiness. Around 6 weeks, newborns are outgrowing their “sleepy” state and begin to perk up and notice the world. And while this is a good thing, it can also be overwhelming and can cause noticeable—and uncharacteristic—fussiness.

Even worse, this peak of fussiness can also overlap with the growth spurt that happens between 4 and 6 weeks, which can make the crying even worse. The good news is that this “peak of fussiness” is relatively short-lived, and things should return to normal within a few days to a week.

Sleep totals are 14-17 hours total for the day, with sleep still happening in eating-sleeping cycles, rather than in clearly-defined naps and night sleep.

Sleep may actually feel like it’s falling apart around the 6-week mark, due to the peak of fussiness; know that this is normal, and that once you’re over this developmental hurdle, sleep will likely improve.

Week five

It’s that time again—time to be on the lookout for another growth spurt!

At some point between about 4.5 and 6 weeks old, your newborn will have another big burst of growth, so again, be prepared to camp out in a comfy spot and feed your baby for what feels like forever. Be prepared also for an extra-sleepy baby….even if your baby was beginning to seem a bit more awake and alert before this growth spurt, he or she will probably seem extra sleepy again for a day or two.

Sleep totals are still hovering around 14-17 hours per day, with sleep happening in cycles. However, by the 5-week mark, you may begin seeing a longer stretch of sleep emerge (hopefully at night!), especially if your baby is formula-fed all or part of the time.

Having a baby is a wonderful blur of sleepless nights and smooch-filled days. We’ve got your expert guide to helping baby (and mama) get their ZZzzs during those long days and nights. You’ve got this, mama. ?

Week one

You’ve probably heard this about a million times by now, but let us say it again—congratulations on your new baby!

By now, you are likely home from the hospital and still reveling in your soft, snuggly, darling wee babe.

Your baby’s sleep, however, may be less darling. As you’ve probably begun to notice, your newborn’s sleep is nothing at all like yours. Newborn babies tend to sleep in short cycles, waking frequently to feed and then drifting off to sleep again. This is absolutely normal. In fact, your 1-week old baby needs to feed often in order to gain weight and grow properly. Remember, your newborn will ideally get back to his or her birthweight by the 1-week mark, so it’s important to feed around the clock at this stage.

At 1 week old, your baby will sleep about 14-18 hours a day, on average. At this age, sleep isn’t really divided up into “naps” during the day; instead, think of your baby’s sleep in terms of patterned cycles.

It’s normal at this age for some cycles to be short (30-45 minutes of sleep, then a feeding, then 30 minutes of sleep, etc.).

At this point, don’t worry too much about how your baby is sleeping—your goal in week one should be to get acquainted with your newborn, to figure out the basics of infant care, and (most importantly) to enjoy your precious baby!

11 months old

At 11 months old, your baby will sleep about 13-14 hours each day.

You can expect 10-12 hours of sleep at night, and 2-2.5 hours during the day, spread out over 2 naps. You may find that your baby’s appetite for solid foods is increasing these days; this is normal (most likely because your child is moving around a whole lot more these days!).

You can compensate for this increase in appetite by offering several healthy snacks throughout the day. Timing up these snacks around your child’s usual mealtimes can really help ensure that naps stay nice and long, and that your baby doesn’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night.

Learn more by checking out this sample 11 month old sleep and feeding schedule here.

6 months old

By the time your baby is 6 months old, sleep will most likely have consolidated into 3-4 distinct naps, with each nap being about 1 hour long and any 3rd or 4th nap being about 30 minutes long. By this age, the majority of your baby’s sleep should be happening at night (11-12 hours).

If your child is still struggling with short naps at this age, it’s likely you need to work on teaching your baby how to fall asleep independently, without any sleep associations like rocking or feeding. Short naps at this age usually happen when a baby wakes briefly between sleep cycles during the nap (something that is very normal and developmentally-appropriate) but then is unable to fall back to sleep without your help. If you notice your baby always wakes 20-30 minutes after falling asleep at nap time, this is likely the problem. Correcting this short nap issue can go a long way towards helping your baby naturally adopt a predictable, clock-based schedule. You can see a sample 6 month old sleep and feeding schedule here.

As for nighttime waking, keep in mind that while some babies are sleeping through the night by 6 months, others aren’t, and that’s okay. Formula-fed babies are usually sleeping 8 hours or more at night by this point, but breastfed babies may continue to need 1-2 nighttime feedings.

10 months old

Good news: if you haven’t yet worked on sleep coaching your baby, and if short naps and nighttime waking are still a problem, this is another ideal time to work on healthy sleep habits.

By now, the 8-10 month regression is likely over (thankfully!). And while you may have felt reluctant to work on sleeping habits earlier, when your baby was young, by this point, you can trust that your baby is more than ready, developmentally, to sleep through the night (possibly with 1 feeding) and take long, restorative naps. Again, by no means do you have to sleep coach; if your child’s night waking and shortened naps aren’t really a problem for you, or for your baby, then no worries - keep doing what you’re doing! But if sleep deprivation is taking a toll on your family’s health and happiness, then sleep coaching can help resolve that issue.

At 10 months old, your baby will sleep 13-14 total hours, most likely. You can expect 10-12 hours of sleep at night, and 2-2.5 hours during the day, spread out over 2 naps. You can see a sample 10 month sleep and feeding schedule here.

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Student loan debt is a major problem for many mamas and their families―but it doesn't have to be. Refinancing companies like Laurel Road help families every year by offering better rates, making payments more manageable or helping them shorten their loan term.

If you're ready to start taking control of your student loan debt, here are five steps that could help you conquer your student loan debt and get a loan that works for you.

1. Understand your refinancing options.

Like motherhood, managing student loan debt is a journey made much easier by experience. If your eyes start to cross when you hear variable and fixed rates or annual percentage rate, start your process with a little education. Laurel Road offers a user-friendly resource hub with student loan refinancing guides and articles that can help explain your options and get you started on a more informed foot.

2. Potentially improve your credit score.

Your credit score is important because it provides an objective measure of your credit risk to lenders. It also has an impact on many aspects of your finances, so it's a good idea to understand and track your score regularly. To try and improve your score, pay your bills on time—your payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. Having a long history of on-time payments is best, while missing a payment may hurt your score. Another action to improve your credit score would be to keep the amount you owe low—keeping your balances low on credit cards and other types of revolving debt, such as a home equity lines of credit, may help boost your score. Remember, good credit scores don't just happen overnight, but taking positive financial steps now can lead to more positive outcomes in the future.

3. Get a better understanding of your current loan benefits.

Different loan types have different benefits and you want to make sure you don't lose any valuable benefits by refinancing your current loan. Before you're ready to apply for a better option, you need to know what you have. Determine your loan terms (how long you have to pay off your loan and how much you're required to pay each month) and find out your current interest rate.

When you took out your original loan, especially if it was a federal loan, everyone who applies is given the same rate regardless of their personal credit. When you look to refinance, companies like Laurel Road look at your credit score and other attributes to give you a personalized pricing option―one that's often more competitive than your original terms. However, it is important to know that federal loans offer several benefits and protections, including income based repayment and forgiveness options, that you may lose when refinancing with private lenders (learn more at https://studentloans.gov). Try Laurel Road's Student Loan Calculator to get a bigger picture perspective of what it will take to pay off your loan and the options available to you.

4. Pick the terms that fit your lifestyle.

Your long-term financial goals will determine what refinancing terms are right for you. For example, a 3- or 5-year loan means faster payoff times, but it will mean a higher monthly payment―which might not be possible if you're planning to purchase a home or looking to move your toddler to a more expensive school. A loan with a longer term will have lower payments, but more interest over the duration of the loan.

Want to see what your options are? Check your rates on Laurel Road. They'll perform a "soft credit pull" using some basic information (meaning initially checking your rates won't affect your credit score ) so you can make an informed decision. If you do proceed with the application Laurel Road will ask for your consent on a hard credit pull.

5. Don't miss out on discounts.

With a little research, many people can find opportunities for lower rates or discounts when refinancing their loans. For example, if your credit isn't the best, look into the possibility of adding a cosigner who may help boost your rate. There are also many associations and employers who offer student loan benefits. Laurel Road partners with a number of groups and employers who offer discounts on rates―so check with your professional associations or HR to see if any options are available to you. Finally, talk to your financial institution, especially if you're planning to take out another major loan like a mortgage. In some cases, having another product with an institution can get you a preferred customer rate.

This article is sponsored by Laurel Road. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The bond between sisters is special, but Jill Noe and Whitney Bliesner have a unique bond that goes beyond just being siblings. As twins, Jill and Whitney shared a lot throughout their lives, and when Jill became Whitney's surrogate they even shared a pregnancy.

As first reported by Today, Whitney has a rare disease called NF2 (Neurofibromatosis type 2). Because of NF2 she lost the vision in her left eye and hearing in her right ear, along with partial hearing loss in her left ear. The condition makes pregnancy risky, and the disease is hereditary. Whitney and her husband, Pete, wanted to start a family, but adoption and surrogacy fees seemed to be putting parenthood out of their reach. Until Jill stepped in as their surrogate.

"When Jill said she wanted to carry a baby for me, I was in shock," Whitney told Today. "I'm not a crier, but I was really emotional."

Through IVF she carried donor eggs fertilized with Pete's sperm to make her twin sister's family, and on June 7 Jill delivered Whitney and Pete's son and daughter, little Rhett and Rhenley.

"She's always wanted to be a mom and her disease has already taken so much from her. I wasn't going to allow (NF2) to take this opportunity from her, too," Jill told Today. "She's my best friend and I know she would have done the same for me. I really didn't put much thought into becoming a surrogate at all. It just felt like the right thing to do. Our family is so strong and so supportive of one another, especially since Whit's diagnosis in 8th grade."

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Whitney is now living her dream, taking care of two adorable babies.

Jill is an amazing sister, and Whitney is already an amazing mom.

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Do you feel guilty when you don't want to play with your kid? I do.

Do you give in and play with them anyway, all the while checking your phone and wondering exactly how long you have to pretend to be a dinosaur? Or do you say "no" to play time and endure the inevitable whining, coupled with mom-guilt that ensues?

Neither of these options is particularly tempting.

So what's a mom, with a fully developed intellect and adult interests and subsequent lack of interest in playing with toys for 10 to 12 hours a day, to do?

Here are six phrases to try next time your kid wants to play and you need a break.

1. "I will be cleaning the kitchen. You're welcome to join me."

This is my personal favorite and one I use daily. The next time you need to get something done and your child is clinging to you, offer an invitation instead of a dismissal.

Try asking your child to join you instead of saying, "go play." The beauty of this phrase is that it gives your child a choice—they can either be with you and help with what you are doing, or they can go play independently.

Often my toddler will join me for a while and then drift off to play on his own.

2. "I'm not available to play dinosaurs right now. Would you like to read with me?"

While sometimes we simply need to get something done, other times we just honestly do not want to play whatever our child is asking us to. And that is okay.

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There are only so many hours in the day that you can reasonably be expected to play dinosaurs or princesses. If you are available to spend time with your child, but find yourself cringing at the idea of one more game of superheroes, offer an alternate activity.

It's important for children to get the chance to choose the activity sometimes, but it doesn't have to be all of the time. Offer one or two activities that you would genuinely enjoy doing with your child and give them the choice of whether to join you.

3. "I'm going to read for 20 minutes and then I will be able to play Legos with you."

Let your child see your interests too. You don't have to cram your own life and hobbies into nap time and after bed. It's okay, and even valuable, to let them see that you are a whole person with your interests.

Tell them that you want to read or garden or workout for 20 minutes. Invite them to sit nearby, or to play on their own. It helps to start with a very manageable amount of time, like 15 or 20 minutes, and stretch it as your child's ability to play on their own grows.

Your child may sit and whine for the entire 20 minutes. While this can be annoying, it is best not to respond in anger. Try to acknowledge their feelings, but don't give in to their demands. You might say, "I see that you're having a hard time waiting for my attention. Reading is important to me. I'm going to read for 15 more minutes, and then I would love to play with you."

If you do this consistently, your child will get used to the idea that you have needs and interests too.

4. "I don't want to play right now, but I would love to sit and watch you."

Be honest with your child. It's okay if you want to be with them, but don't feel like actively playing. This can be an excellent way to observe how your child plays when left to their own devices. It is also a way for them to share their favorite games with you, without you feeling forced to play something you don't enjoy. Children can tell when we're not having fun, even if we try to fake it.

5. "I would love to play for a few minutes. Then I will need to fold the laundry."

Sometimes children need help getting started. It often works well to play with them for 10 or 15 minutes and then back away to do something else nearby. This allows your child to play independently while also saving your sanity.

6. "Sure, I'll play! You choose the game today, and I'll choose tomorrow."

While we naturally do not share all of our young children's interests, it is important for children to get to choose what we do together some of the time. Create a system where your child chooses sometimes, and you choose other times. Once your child is confident that they will get to decide what you play together sometimes, they will likely let go of the need to always demand that you play certain games.

Bottom line:

The beauty of learning to say "no" to your child's requests to play is that you will enjoy the time you do spend playing together. No one has fun when they feel like they're being forced to do something, even if it's by a 4-year-old.

And the thing is, they can tell. Children know when we want to be there and when we're just phoning it in—we're not fooling anyone.

When I force myself to play, I imagine my toddler feels sort of how I feel when I drag my husband to the farmers market. Yes, we're doing what I wanted to do, but I can tell he's not into it and that kind of takes all the fun out of the experience.

Once you feel the freedom to decide whether or not you want to play, you can choose the times when you do feel like being silly, playing pretend or merely dropping everything to build the tallest tower ever in the whole full world.

And your child? They will know the difference. Their little heart will be so full of playing with you when you want to be there. That's what will stick with them, not all of the times you said no.

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Learn + Play

Sleep is one of the most talked about and debated topics out there for parents. It is almost as if how good our babies sleep is some sort of weird competition between exhausted parents.

We think that if our baby is sleeping well or "through the night" then we must be winning in the parenting department, yet if they are waking up more often then we feel ashamed and somehow open ourselves up to opinions from our friends, parents, neighbors and the lady at the grocery store with ways to help them sleep better. It is frustrating and disheartening at times.

The competition creates a divide between us instead of allowing us to support each other through this rollercoaster ride of parenting. "Hey mama, sounds like your baby needs some extra cuddles through the night, so how about I come and bring you coffee in the morning?" is what we need to be saying versus the sad puppy eyes look while saying, "Aww, that is too bad, have you ever thought of sleep training?"

"How do they sleep?" seems to be the perfect ice breaker question when meeting a new parent. As a mom of three, I've been asked this question a lot. As a sleep consultant, I've been asked this question even more!

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My response is always the same, "My baby sleeps like a baby." I have come to realize over the last five years of working as a sleep consultant that it has less to do with how our baby actually sleeps and more to do with our expectations on sleep. There could be two babies that sleep exactly the same and one family claims their baby is a "bad" sleeper while the other states that their baby is a "good" sleeper.

This has changed how I have parented because I now know that it is more about how I feel versus reaching a goal of perfect sleep. What does "perfect sleep" even mean? Is there an actual definition? No. It is all about reaching your own individual goals no matter what they might be.

My youngest baby is 18 months old now and I would say that she is a pretty good sleeper. I would say this both from a parenting perspective and from a sleep consultant perspective but I want to share with you how we achieved this outcome through breaking all of the sleep "rules."

We co-slept at the beginning. I say at the beginning because it ended up not working well for us but not because I didn't want it to or because I thought it was bad. The first few months were wonderful and it helped me establish a positive breastfeeding experience and helped us all get more sleep at the time. I followed her cues and still to this day she isn't much for cuddling and so maybe it was just her personality that made her do better beside me in her own bassinet.

I often nursed her to sleep. With my first two babies, I was always so nervous about starting any "bad" habits until I finally understood that there is no one way to put your baby to sleep that is right or wrong. Everything works differently for different babies. I could nurse her to sleep and we, as a family, felt that there was no disruption in our sleep that was out of the ordinary. As she got older, we found different ways to help her fall asleep so that dad could be involved too.

I fed my baby when she woke at night. When she would wake up throughout the night I never thought of her as being spoiled, trying to manipulate me or that she was a bad sleeper. I simply thought that she was hungry. When she woke up at night, I went in and fed her and then we both went back to sleep happy.

I didn't try any type of "cry it out." In fact, I never could handle much crying right from the start. If she was crying then I would be crying so we found different ways to work on new sleep cues. My favorite way was having dad go in and rock her. This helped us eventually move away from the nursing to sleep so that we could gently work on consolidating some night sleep so I could have a little freedom (I was needing it after baby #3!).

My favorite thing to tell families is "sleep is only a problem if it is a problem." What I mean by this is that you are the only one who can determine if what you are doing is working for your family or not.

We all have parental instincts for a reason and need to trust them. If you feel rested, happy and overall like everything is going just fine, then it is. Even if this means you are breaking every sleep "rule" in the book. It took me some time to practice what I preach and when I did it felt like such a relief.

Finally, I could just do what felt right and in the end, everything worked out just fine. My baby sleeps well. Does she wake up sometimes at night? Yes, because she is human. Not every night is perfect but it is balanced which is exactly what it should be.

All of you mamas and papas out there with little babies who feel like this exhausting period of time is never going to pass. It will, and you will long for it back. Soak in the moments and do what feels best. You've got this.

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Life

Advertisements are meant to sell us things, but they also sell us ideas. When we were growing up in the 1990s the commercials on TV weren't just selling us toys and junk food, they sold us stereotypes, too. Boys and men were depicted as more aggressive, professional and important than girls, while girls and women were often depicted as caregivers or simply sexual objects.

Back then, we were just kids who couldn't always think critically about the messages we were taking in, but now we millennials are the parents, the providers and the purchasers. And we are letting advertisers know that if they want us to buy things, they have to serve up ideas that we can buy into.

A survey by market research company Kantar found 76% of women and 71% of men believe the way they are portrayed in advertising is completely out of touch. We're grown-ups now and this isn't just about stereotypes in children's advertising (many parents are very conscious about reducing screen time and advertising exposure), but also reflections of our own realities.

Today's dads don't see themselves as bumbling caregivers but as competent parents, and mothers see themselves as complex people with a ton of purchasing power who are deserving of speaking parts, authority and respect, even in a 30-second commercial.

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It's 2019. Moms are buying everything, dads are buying diapers and we're raising our kids to reject stereotypes and accept themselves. Corporations that want to sell to millennial families have got to buy in to that, and the good news is, many are.

Building brands by tearing down stereotypes

This month the CEO of Unilever, Alan Jope, took the stage at the world's largest conference on gender equality, Women Deliver, and committed 100% of the ad spend for Unilever's Dove Men+Care line to media representations of dads in caring roles, or what Molly Kennedy, Brand Manager for Dove Men+Care, called "positive dadvertising."

Dove Men+Care's commitment to positive representation of men as caregivers comes as the company is strengthening its parental leave policies and encouraging dads (both those who work for Unilever and those who don't) to actually take any parental leave that is available to them.

The idea is that dads may be more likely to take leave if they see positive role modeling in media, which will help moms, too, because research suggests that taking paternity leave results in fathers doing more unpaid care work as their kids grow. And dads are certainly seeing more caring reflections of fatherhood in advertising, and not just from Dove Men+Care.

Changing diapers and the narrative 

Budweiser just launched an ad showing step-fathers surprising their children with adoption papers, and brands like Gillette and Pampers (owned by Unilever competitor Procter & Gamble) have received a lot of attention for the way their ads are questioning traditional ideas about masculinity and fatherhood. Gillette's stand against toxic masculinity was a viral sensation and Pampers' spokesdad John Legend is now part of a corporate campaign to get change tables into more mens' restrooms.

Donte Palmer—the father whose grassroots viral campaign, #squatforchange inspired Pampers' campaign—says he's pleased to see all this positive dadvertising, telling Motherly, "it means a lot, it's just changing the narrative."

He continues: "To have fathers like John Legend, who has a powerful name in his industry and a huge following, showing the world that we as fathers are the caretakers for our babies means a lot. It shows the 'average Joe' father that he can go to his 9 to 5 job and still come home and take care of his children."

Dr. Michael Kehler, a professor of Masculinities Studies at the University of Calgary says he applauds these companies like Gillette, Pampers and Dove Men+Care for challenging gender roles in their advertising, as "the long-held views of masculinity that have kept men out of caring roles has been intentional and maintained by advertising agencies."

He hopes big brands will consult with masculinities scholars for deeper insight and direction as they craft a new narrative in the media.

"More diverse portrayals, richer and complicated images of masculinity can't help but dislodge privileged white masculinity from its perch," he tells Motherly. "The disruption of these images and the re-writing of a narrative of complex masculinities, less linear, less simplistic, less predictable can similarly be a powerful invitation to rethink masculinities in the future."

According to Kehler, it is incumbent on companies to show a whole spectrum of ways of being a man, but "whether or not the portrayal of adverts reflecting men in caring roles has the desired effect of men taking up unpaid work is yet to be seen."

Walking the walk

What we have seen over the course of the last 15 years is that when big brands make big changes there can be lasting culture change.

Under dim lights in a fifth and sixth-grade classroom, 22 boys and girls are watching a short video that shows all the-behind-scenes magic that goes into making an Instagrammable selfie. When the video ends the facilitator invites questions. A student raises his hand and asks, "Does everyone really do this?"

This incredulous tween and classmates are learning about self-esteem and body confidence in their school in Vancouver, Canada, but similar presentations have taken place in more than 140 countries, because the Dove Self-Esteem Project is now the largest provider of self-esteem and body confidence education in the world.

Dove's been doing this work since before the kids in that Vancouver classroom were even born, since its Campaign for Real Beauty launched in the early 2000s and became a controversial turning point in the way women's bodies are presented in advertising. That campaign is often credited with creating a blueprint for modern advertising that includes more authentic and diverse body types and has brought us to a place where we're seeing real stretch marks and postpartum bellies on underwear models.

"Dove definitely changed the conversation," says Andrea Benoit, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media Studies in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario and author of a new book on corporate philanthropy.

"There is no question that Dove opened up a space for other brands to start dipping their toes in that conversation without feeling like they were treading in uncertain or dangerous territory. Now it seems like if you're a brand you can't not be inclusive and accepting of diverse bodies," Benoit tells Motherly.

According to Benoit, the continued existence and expansion of the Dove Self-Esteem Project shows that brands can use their resources for good, but she is uncomfortable with how society and governments have downloaded this kind of social responsibility onto brands like Dove to the point that corporations are providing classroom resources and presentations in schools and through non-profit organizations.

It probably shouldn't be up to a soap company to teach self-esteem, but, at least someone is doing it. Just this month UNICEF announced a 3-year partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project aimed at helping girls between 10 and 18 in Brazil, India and Indonesia.

"This is a partnership that we really think can help change how girls view themselves and how the world views girls," UNICEF's Executive Director Henrietta Fore said at the Women Deliver conference. While UNICEF explicitly states that it doesn't endorse any brand, the deal with Dove does suggest UNICEF views the company as a worthy philanthropic partner.

Changing the way we see ourselves

When we were kids the commercials playing on Saturday morning taught us that gender roles are confining, that boys are loud and girls are quiet. But now, you might turn on TV and see a dad changing a diaper, or flip to Cartoon Network and catch spots Dove produced with the popular kids' show Steven Universe, which reinforce body confidence, gender equality and self-esteem rather than stereotypes.

Brands have a lot of power these days (some would argue too much power) to shape how we see ourselves, but we have more power than ever to make informed choices about the brands we support and the power to hold companies to account for their actions. According to Benoit, it's not clear what came first: Inclusive advertising or this generation's desire for it. But what is clear is that it is here to stay and that consumers now demand it. We expect companies to not only make good ads but do good in the world, too.

We are demanding to be seen in a way we couldn't as kids. We're no longer passive children absorbing messages from the television, we are participants in an exchange—both a financial transaction and a conversation about the future of society. Having a good product isn't enough anymore. Brands have got to have a message and a purpose worth buying.


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News
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