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At the age of 4, my daughter looked at me and said, “Mama, we have a problem–I don’t like to sleep.” Shocked, I managed to stifle my horror and mutter, “Well that’s unfortunate because I do.” In fact, I never appreciated sleep until I had children and got so little of it.


As my daughter and I faced off across the bedtime divide we couldn’t have been at more opposite ends of the spectrum. She wanted to hold onto me and I wanted her to let me go. It was only when I realized we could both get what we wanted that I was able to find my way through. First, I had to surrender to the idea that she was going to be the one to change.

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I realized it was me that needed to lead us through the sleep impasse—but couldn’t do so without first understanding what was going on for her.

What alarms a child most of all is separation from their caretakers. The reason separation is so hard is because attachment is their greatest need. Children weren’t meant to take care of themselves and seek to be strongly tethered to adults who assume responsibility for them. As immature beings, children are highly dependent upon their caretakers to meet their hunger for contact and closeness, safety and nourishment. When they are apart from us, their alarm system can be highly activated leading to clinging, protest and crying in distress. The alarm can appear more subtly like needing to go to the bathroom, get a glass of water, more food or have help in fluffing their pillow up!

The biggest separation a child faces in the day is bedtime–not school or even when we are at work. We think because we are all in the same house they feel connected but sleep represents a long separation–up to 10 hours of unconsciousness where they can feel very far away from us. When you drop them off at preschool or daycare there is at least an adult to greet and take care of them. When they go to bed there is no one waiting saying, “Hello, welcome to your sleepy dream time! I will make sure the monsters don’t bother you tonight.” What children face when we put them to bed is the biggest disconnect of their entire day. It seems like such a cruel irony that when children need us the most, we typically have little energy left.

The idea of being generous and giving, things that come so easy on a full parenting gas tank, can reduce us to tears.

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When I started to listen to what my daughter’s behavior was telling me, I realized she was scared and lonely. It was actually a compliment to our relationship that she depended on me to keep her safe and wanted to be close. When I asked her why she didn’t like to sleep she told me, “Because the monsters come out of my eyes.” She then pointed to the ceiling and said, “That dream catcher is broken.” She was telling me she needed more from me and to take the lead in helping her rest. I told her that monsters weren’t her problem nor broken dream catchers, I was there to care for her throughout the night. Before you start to panic, I didn’t give up sleep, but I did certainly made it appear to her that I did.

I started by finding the generosity in me that she needed and accepted some things would need to wait–like housework or emails. I found my tears about the ‘me-time’ I craved and surrendered to the sacrifices that come with being a parent. I worked hard at not rushing her, having warmth and delight as I put her to bed, sending her a genuine message that I loved being with her. When the desperation would sneak in on me again I would remind myself that I could sleep all I wanted when she eventually left home or when I was dead.

Instead of expecting her to say goodnight and “see you in the morning,” I moved to make our separations shorter. I told her I would check on her in five minutes and that she could listen for my footsteps in the kitchen or for the sound of my voice. I always returned as I had promised full of more kisses while reminding her of the plans for the following day. I would tie invisible strings between our beds and tell her she just had to tug on them if she needed me. I told her I visited her in the night and watched her sleep. I once kissed her cheek with lipstick when she was sleeping but she told me in the morning, “I don’t like it when you make my face all messy!”

I even experimented with putting things under her pillow to find in the morning like treasure. She enjoyed the picture books most of all, running to read them together in our cuddle time. However, she was not happy with me when I left a pair of her favorite princess underwear under her pillow to wear. I tried many things–some worked and some did not, but the message slowly got through.

I worked hard to build a bridge from bedtime to the morning, conveying I was holding onto her so that she could let go of me.

Instead of saying goodnight I tried to point her face into the next hello. I aimed to sooth her alarm system that had become activated by separation. I created pit stops for her to anticipate, breaking the 10 hours of separate space into bite size pieces she could manage. We both started to sleep better as a result.

As I took the lead in navigating us through the bedtime separation my daughter grew more confident that this was my job and not her duty. While singing her to sleep one night she looked at me and said, “Mama, no offense, but I can’t sleep when you are singing to me. Can you go now?” I stifled my laughter and said, “I’m sorry honey, have I been keeping you awake all this time?”

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Our babies come out as beautiful, soft and natural as can be—shouldn't their clothes follow suit?

Here are nine of our favorite organic kids clothing brands that prove safe fabrics + stylish designs are a natural fit.

Estella

A brick and mortar store in Manhattan that opened in 2002, Estella is NYC's go-to shop for luxury baby gifts—from sweet-as-pie organic clothing to eco-friendly toys.

L'ovedbaby

@lovedbaby

We l'oved this collection from the moment we laid eyes on it. (See what we did there 🤣) Free of things harsh added chemicals, dangerous flame retardants, and harmful dyes, this collection is 100% organic and 100% gorgeous. We especially adore their soft, footed rompers, comfy cotton joggers, and newborn-friendly kimono bodysuits.

Looking to stock up? Don't miss Big-Find Thursday every week on their site—a 24-hour flash sale that happens Thursdays at 9 a.m. PST and features a different body style, collection, and discount every week!

Hanna Andersson

@happyhannas

One of our all-time favorite brands for durability, style, + customer service, Hanna Andersson doesn't disappoint in the organic department, either. From an aww-inducing organic baby layette collection all the way to their iconic pajamas, there are so many organic styles to swoon over from this beloved brand. And we swear their pajamas are magic—they seem to grow with your little one, fitting season after season!

Monica + Andy

@monicaandandy

The fabric you first snuggle your baby in matters. Monica + Andy's (gorgeous) collection is designed for moms and babies by moms with babies, and we love it all because it's made of super-soft GOTS-certified organic cotton that's free of chemicals, lead, and phthalates. Newborn pieces feature thoughtful details like fold-over mittens and feet.

Finn + Emma

@finnandemma

"Here boring designs and toxic chemicals are a thing of the past while modern colors, fresh prints and heirloom quality construction are abundant." We couldn't agree more. Made from 100% organic cotton, eco friendly dyes, and in fair trade settings, we love this modern collection's mix of style + sustainability.

We especially love the Basics Collection, an assortment of incredibly soft, beautiful apparel + accessories including bodysuits, zip footies, pants, hats, and bibs, all available in a gender-neutral color palette that can work together to create multiple outfit combinations. The pieces are perfect for monochrome looks or for mixing with prints for a more modern style.

SoftBaby

@littleaddigrey for @softbaby_clothes

You'll come for SoftBaby's organic fabrics, but you'll stay for their adorable assortment of prints. From woodland foxes to urban pugs, there's no limit to their assortment (meaning you'll even be able to find something for the new mama who's hard to shop for). Plus, the name says it all--these suckers are soft. Get ready for some serious cuddle time.

Gap Baby

@gapkids

Organic may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Gap, but this popular brand actually carries a wide variety of organic (and adorable) baby + toddler clothes. From newborn layette basics to toddler sleepwear—and more—there's something for everyone in this collection. Everything is 100% cotton, super soft + cozy, and perfect for eco-conscious mamas.

Winter Water Factory

@winterwaterfactory

Certified organic cotton with Brooklyn-based swagger? Be still our hearts. Winter Water Factory features screen-printed textiles in bold designs you'll want to show off (get ready for some major Instagram likes). And the husband-and-wife co-founders keep sustainability at the forefront of their brand, meaning you can feel good about your purchase--and what you're putting on your baby.

The company makes everything from kids' clothes to crib sheets (all made in the USA). For even more cuteness, pair their signature rompers with a hat or bonnet.

Under the Nile

@underthenile

Under the Nile has been making organic baby clothes since before it was cool. Seriously, they were the first baby clothing company in the USA to be certified by The Global Organic Textile Standard. They've kept up that legacy of high standards by growing their Egyptian cotton on a biodynamic farm without the use of pesticides or insecticides, and all of their prints are made with metal-free colors and no chemical finishes.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Whether I live next to you or across the country, social media makes it easy for us to stay updated on each other's lives and that's a wonderful thing. I love seeing pictures of your kids and I think it's great that you choose to share videos of your child singing, giggling and taking his or her first steps.

I simply choose not to share pregnant pictures, or even a family photo from the hospital once our daughter arrived because my pregnancy, birth and growing family are parts of my life I wanted to protect from the outside world.

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