Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Top Tips for Early Rising

For a lot of my clients, spring forward and the time change fixed their early rising problem, but not for all of them. Early Rising is common for babies and young children.  Waking between the hours of 6 and 8 a.m. is typical for most young children.  But waking up before 6 a.m. and being ready to play is an early rising problem you must address.

Understand the Cause

Early rising is typically caused by one of these four problems and identifying what is the cause, will help you find your fix.

  • Too late of a bedtime
  • Not enough daytime sleep
  • Staying awake too long between end of afternoon nap and bedtime
  • Going to bed too drowsy.

Earlier Bedtime

Keeping your child up later will not help them sleep later in the morning and could be the cause of early rising.  For the first 5 years of a child's life, bedtime is usually between 7 and 8 p.m.


That old myth of keeping your child awake all day and they will sleep better at night, is an untruth.  Skipped or short naps will create early-rising, more night waking, and poor quality of sleep - not to mention and over tired and fussy child. Try to pay attention to the schedule and awake windows to increase your daytime sleep.  Or review my blog on sample schedules for children from 6 months to 5 years old.

Awake Windows

Awake windows are basically periods and when you can expect your child to be awake between his or her nap. Too large of a window between the end of the last nap of the day and bedtime can also cause early-rising. For a child on one-nap the average awake window is around 4 hours.  You may also review my blog on schedule, naps and awake windows.

Medical condition

Sleep apnea is frequently overlooked in children and can cause a very stubborn early-rising problem so speak to your child's doctor if you suspect any medical issues that have not been addressed.  If your child regularlly snores or you hear them gasping in their sleep, please discuss this with your pediatrician.

Dark Room

Ensure that your child's room is dark in the early morning hours. Purchasing room darkening or blackout shades / curtains will block out the most light.  Too much light can definitely cause your child to wake up earlier than normal.


For a child under 8 months of age the cause of early-rising could be hunger. If you think this is the cause of your early rising, try an experiment.  Give your child a dream feed. This means you would feed your baby one more time before you go to bed. The hope is that baby will eat and go right back to sleep.  If after a few days you do not notice a change in the early rising you could end this experiment and rule out hunger.

Going to Bed too Drowsy

Make sure your child is going to bed awake. It should take your child at least five minutes to fall asleep when you put them into their crib. Many parents get confused by this term and put their child into bed too sleepy. If you are putting your child to bed, too drowsy - they will not be able to put themselves back to sleep in the early morning hours which is the hardest time of day to practice that skill.

Have a Morning Routine

Make a big deal about the morning wake up and have a morning routine that could include: opening up the blinds, turning on the light, singing a good morning song and having the happy voice when you greet your baby. This will help your child to differentiate between morning time versus sleep time.

As with most changes and learning a new habit, a little patience and 100% consistency will be required to resolve an early rising problem. So don't give up after a few days, but give it a good one to two weeks to see results.

Sweet Dreams,
Michelle S. Donaghy

Monday, March 5, 2018

Tips To Handle Spring Forward - Daylight Savings

Sunday, March 11th we “spring forward”! 

Turn your clocks ahead 1 hour, before bed on Saturday night March 11th.

If you/your child(ren) typically wake at 6am, then they will likely wake 7am.  If you like this change then YAY!  This is a great fix for an early riser.

Keep naps and bedtime on the new schedule (1hr later). To protect this new schedule and time make sure you use continuous white noise for all sleep periods and keep the room really, really dark.

If the new time doesn’t work for you, below are some options to help your family adjust:

Gradually adjust:

This is ideal for children under 2 or those who don’t do well with big changes.  Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every night this week.  Each day, wake up your child 15 minutes earlier in the morning.  If napping, put her down 15 minutes earlier for each nap the following day.

Continue to adjust the schedule earlier in 15 minute increments (wake up, naptimes, meal times and bedtime) until you get to your goal according to the new clock time.

Adjusting all at once or split the difference:

On Sunday, schedule your day (wake up, meals, naps and bedtime) on the new clock time.  But don’t start your day any earlier than 6am on the new clock time.

If you think the one-hour adjustment is too much for your child, split the difference and put her to bed 30 minutes earlier starting Sunday night and for a few days.  Once that is going well, shift bedtime an additional 30 minutes earlier (the full hour). 

Don't forget to adjust your entire schedule in the above increments eg: earlier wake up time, nap time(s) and meal times.

Extra Daylight Saving Tips:

  • Be sure to make naps a priority this week, this weekend and next week too! (view my blog on Sample Schedules by age)
  • Watch the sleep windows (view my blog on Awake Windows by age).
  • Install room-darkening shades for improved sleep.
  • Keep things calm in the evening and no screen time 60 min before bedtime.
  • Get lots of bright sunlight in the morning during this transition time.
  • If necessary use your preferred sleep coaching method to help encourage sleep and get everyone in the family the sleep they need.
  • Don’t forget an early enough bedtime!  For most children that is between 7 – 8 PM. 
The adjustment to the new clock can take a few days, but it seldom takes more than a week!

Sweet Dreams!

Written by: Michelle Donaghy

PS: Ensure your child is going to bed awake, relaxed but awake.  On a scale of 1 to 10 and 10 is fast asleep your child should be at a 5 when they get into bed.   It should take them at least 5 minutes to put themselves to sleep.  If it takes less, your child was too sleepy and it is likely the cause of your night waking and also your early rising sleep issues (see my blog on Early Rising).

Monday, February 5, 2018

Baby and Child Sleep: Sample Schedules from 6 months to 5 years old

Does it seem like just when you have your baby on the "perfect schedule" - it changes?  I hear that a lot from my clients.  As your baby develops and grows, their sleep needs change too.  Keeping up with these changes can be hard for parents.  

I have put together all of my sleep schedules for you, across each age group so you can have them in one place.  These are the same handouts I provide to my clients and that I share when I speak to MOPS and Mom's groups across Orange County.

Both the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and the NSF (National Sleep Foundation) have published new sleep recommendations which give a range of hours within a 24 hour period.  

Where is my child's range?

I find it most helpful for parents to know how much sleep is needed for naps and night sleep. Therefore day and night sleep are noted separately on the sleep schedules below.

It is also very important to keep in mind that their is "at least a 1-hour variance" each direction on the numbers noted on each sleep schedule.   I recommend you use the numbers as a guide and follow your child's sleep cues, along with their behavior to know if your child is getting enough sleep.

6-8 Months

At this age, babies need an average of eleven hours of uninterrupted nighttime sleep and three and a half hours of daytime naps spread over two to three naps.

From six through eight months, babies become more mobile. They roll over, sit up, maybe even stand holding on to something. Many scoot or crawl, and the first teeth come in. Most babies sleep through the night fairly regularly but if yours doesn’t, it is still quite easy to get them on track.

Download - Sleep Schedule and Tips For Your Six to Nine Month Old

9-12 Months

Nine to twelve month old babies on average need eleven hours of sleep at night and three during the day. At nine months, babies should nap for about an hour and a half in the morning and about one and a half to two hours in the afternoon. 

Most have given up that brief, third late-afternoon nap. By twelve months, the morning nap is about an hour, and the afternoon nap is about an hour and a half.

13-18 Months

At this age toddlers need an average of eleven and a quarter hours of uninterrupted sleep at night and two and a quarter to two and a half hours during the day. Children at the younger end of this age bracket take two naps, in the morning and afternoon, but by eighteen months most consolidate to one midday or afternoon nap. 

Young toddlers are prone to behavioral sleep problems. Their increased mobility (including walking), a peak in separation anxiety around the first birthday, transition to one nap and emotional attachment to such objects as bottles and pacifiers can all complicate bedtime and contribute to nighttime awakenings. 

18-30 Months

An eighteen month old on average sleeps eleven and a quarter hours at night and two and a quarter hours during one midday or afternoon nap.

At age two
, sleep requirements drop to eleven hours at night and two during the day. Over the next year that will drop to ten and a half hours at night and one and a half during the day. Remember these are averages but variations should not be huge. Watch your child’s daytime behavior for clues to whether he or she needs more sleep.

2 1/2 to 5 Years

Between ages two and three, average sleep needs drop to about ten and a half hours a night, plus an hour-and-a-half afternoon nap.

Four year olds
need eleven and a half hours at night, and most no longer nap daily, although they do need about forty-five minutes of quiet time each afternoon and possibly an occasional nap.

Five year olds
sleep about eleven hours a night, and afternoon quiet time is still beneficial. 

Would you like All of the Sleep Schedules?  Download them here

Sweet Dreams,
Michelle S. Donaghy

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Top Sleep Blogs of 2017

As we start a New Year, let's look back at the top blogs of 2017.

#3 - Is my toddler ready to drop to one nap

Knowing when it’s time for your baby to make a change and drop a nap is no easy task.  Not to mention most Mom's tell me: "I'm not not ready for less day sleep!"  Read through this blog for tips on how to keep the two nap schedule for longer and if it really is the best time to drop a nap.

#2 - Early Rising

Not surprising early rising is on this list as it is the second most common question I get, next to night wakings.  Early rising is also the last stage of sleep to be learned so it's more difficult to fix, especially if independent sleep at bedtime hasn't been established.

#1 - Schedules, Naps and Awake Windows

This blog was the all time most viewed MSD Baby Sleep blog!  Not surprising as a child's sleep changes every few months.  Staying on top of how much sleep your baby or child needs is a daunting tasks.  This blog also includes a recommendation on how to time naps to ensure your child is well rested.

Happy New Year to you and your family!  May the New Year bring you health, peace, happiness and more sleep!

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy, founder of MSD Baby Sleep Coach and Certified Gentle Sleep Coach

Monday, December 4, 2017

Article featured in: VoyageLA Magazine – LA's Most Inspiring Stories

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle S. Donaghy.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.

I live in Orange County with my husband of 18 years, my two girls, ages 13 and 9 and our three large dogs.
My formal education is in psychology and social work, specializing in families and children. At that time, I didn’t know that a sleep coach existed nor what was an essential oil. After graduate school I worked for a small to medium size software company and during the 10 years I was employed in the corporate world, I was fortunate to work in marketing, recruitment, special projects and right hand to the company CEO. It was a wonderful learning experience to work alongside the head of the company as she grew her small business to a successful medium business with a culture that was focused on sound principles. She was an early mentor!
I was blessed to be able to work from home for a majority of the time and when my first child was born, I had it all planned out – I would work when she slept. Those hopes were quickly squashed as she was not a good sleeper as newborn. The only parenting book I had read, at that time, was of the methodology that stated to teach your child to sleep – you put them in their crib at sleep times, walk away and eventually they will stop crying.
The Psychologist and Social Worker in me knew there had to be a better option. As a new mother, I was not comfortable with that method. I set upon a quest to read every sleep book I could get my hands on. My research discovered that there were many gentle options to help teach a child independent sleep skills. I quickly became obsessed with understanding infant sleep patterns.
I stumbled upon a volunteer led parenting sleep forum where I could get help for our sleep struggles. Our sleep issues were soon resolved with a gentle sleep coaching method with help from other parents at the sleep forum. I was asked to be a moderator of this site and moved into to helping other struggling parents. I spent over a year as a moderator helping hundreds of families with sleep issues, scheduling difficulties and night feeding dilemmas. I enjoyed this work very much and I was very good at it, it was as if I had a natural instinct on what the problem was and how to fix it.
In 2008, shortly after our second daughter was born I was laid off from my role at the software company. A few months after that, I stumbled upon a new training program that was being launched where I could be certificated as a Gentle Sleep Coach, specializing in infants and children. I knew without a doubt that I had to do it! I was one of the first 50 to graduate from the program which included over 95 hours of basic training and to date I have over several 100 hours of advanced and continuing education.
I started my practice in late 2008.
In 2012, I began incorporating the use of doTERRA essential oils for health care and well-being into my practice. My family had amazing results from using essential oils for our health care needs and it was a natural progression to share my knowledge with my clients. I now lead a large team of women who want to work from home so they can be with their family and have a passion for helping others to take charge of their health and that of their loved ones.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

It has not been an easy road! Starting a private practice from the ground up is never easy. In the early years, gaining new clients and marketing was a struggle. I used every marketing strategy I learned during my time in the corporate workforce to get my name out to potential clients. I offered free talks, partnered with any business whose main clientele was mothers of young children, offered group workshops, I even did ‘groupon’ type marketing.
My practice and reputation grew quickly. Clients began telling their sleepless friends about ‘their sleep coach’.  Then a different struggle arose. My business doubled in one year! The following year, it doubled again. My business was growing so fast, that it was very difficult to balance the needs of my clients, my team and my family.
It was very important to me to be present for my children. It was something my mother was not able to do when I was a young child as she worked full time. I wanted to be at all my children’s activities and school events. Owning your own business and being a full-time work at home Mom is like a juggling act. To fit it all in, you are working every spare moment and multi-tasking all the time.
I still struggle with balancing my sleep clients, mentoring my growing team and making sure I am available for my husband and my two girls – not to mention some self-care for me! Some days I feel like I have it all. Other days I feel like I have failed at everything or at the very least let one or two balls drop!

Please tell us about MSD Baby Sleep Coach.

MSD Baby Sleep Coach is my company and ‘M.S.D.’ are my initials, but MSD also stands for Making Sweet Dreams. When my children were very little, I always ended their bedtime routine and tuck in by saying “sweet dreams”. The company name represents both my name and my girls.
My focus is dedicated to helping families with young children learn independent sleeping skills through education, encouragement and support. Every family and child has a unique situation and there is not a one size fits all approach. I take great care in customizing every family’s sleep plan and offer extensive support until their desired goals are reached.

My specialty is in the gentle sleep coaching method. The Gentle Sleep Coach ® approach is a gentler alternative for families who emotionally or philosophically resist letting their babies cry it out alone. With this method the parent stays with their child during the sleep coaching process and it allows them to offer reassurance while the child learns this new skill. This supports the development of a secure attachment between parent and child.
I am proud to say I have helped several hundred families with life changing results as a sleep coach and as an essential oil coach. I am also very fortunate and proud that many Pediatrician’s in my area, refer their sleepless and tired parents to me. The knowledge that they trust me with their patient’s, means a great deal to me. A very famous Pediatrician who has a family practice in South Orange County and has written several books on attachment called me one day, out of the blue, to interview me! Note: he has asked that I don’t name him. I must have passed his test, as I am currently the only sleep coach he has ever referred his patient’s to.
As an essential oil coach, I am very proud to have reached the leadership rank of Silver and along with my team have helped hundreds of families and individuals take charge of their health care with dramatic results in a holistic way.
A funny story is that I was also the Sleep Coach to a reality TV celebrity and our coaching sessions were an episode which aired on CMT.

Tell us something your proud of and what sets you apart?

I have been asked to write sleep related articles and have been published numerous times in parenting magazines. I have written for Parenting OC Magazine and OC Family Magazine.
I also speak regularly around Southern California as a keynote speaker to mother’s groups, so I can share with them my sleep knowledge and offer them advice that will give them more peace in their homes.

I believe what sets me apart is my approach with my clients. I start with their goals, dig deep into all the causes that have led them onto the sleepless path that they are currently on.

Then together, we develop a plan that they are confident in, one they can follow through with and one that will lead them to their goals. I look at the family unit and if even one member of the family unit is not functioning to its fullest, either from lack of sleep or health issues, the entire family is affected.

Sleep is so important for our mind, body and spirit. As parents, if we don’t get enough sleep it hinders our ability to be fully present for our children. When children do not get healthy, quality, and age appropriate sleep we see it affect their mood, their ability to learn and take in their environment.

Another factor that sets me apart is my holistic approach and inclusion of essentials oils into the protocol or plan I develop for each family, which is aimed at improving not only sleep but the overall health and well-being of the entire family.

A sleep plan must include independent sleep learning for the child, this is a key factor, but a sleep plan that includes essential oils is an amazing strategy, that will help everyone in the family!

Who else deserves credit – have you had mentors, supporters, cheerleaders, advocates, clients or teammates that have played a big role in your success or the success of the business? If so – who are they and what role did they plan / how did they help.

My biggest cheerleader has been my husband. In 2008 when I learned of the new training program, I knew in my heart and soul that this is what all my life experiences had lead me to. I discussed with my husband the fees for the training and without skipping a beat he gave me his full support. His only request of me, was to “make back the money for the training, at a minimum”. I achieved that goal within months of starting my practice. Ever since he has been by my biggest supporter. In the early days he cheered with me upon obtaining each new client, he listens when I need to talk about a rough day and he still wants to know when I am writing my book (that is on the bucket list).

In 2014, I felt it was time to re-brand my company.   I hired a branding and consulting company to guide me through this process. They have continued as my business and marketing manager which has helped guide me and my business to the next level.

I also have two mentors, a mother and daughter team. Both have been by my side, guiding me and supporting me through all the ups and downs in life and in business. They have been a great inspiration.

My clients also play a big role as my cheerleaders. They give me amazing reviews on yelp and when I read the comments it makes my heart swell! To hear them say, for example: ‘Michelle is a saint’ – ‘One of the most valuable investments we have made’ – ‘Our family has found peace’ – ‘Michelle is godsend’. 

This feedback makes me feel so humbled and it gets me through the tough days, the tough cases and reminds me of two things that are very important to me.

The first is, I have been granted a very special gift and it must be shared.

The second, I do make a difference in this big world in my very own small way! Also reminds me every day, that my life and work has great purpose.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Early Rising

Early Rising – 

The most common question I get asked about, second only to night waking!

Waking before 6am is too early for everyone and it throws off your child’s entire daytime schedule.  


In some cases, the early rising has an easy fix – maybe it is too light in the room at the wee hours.  Possibly the birdies are singing their songs at your child’s window.  These issues can be fixed with room darkening shades or black out curtains.  Ideally the room should be as dark at 6am as it is at 9pm.  A white noise machine in your child’s room is a simple solution to the external noises.

Sleep Learning

But it usually isn’t so easy!  When your child stirs, go to her quickly and try to get her back to sleep before she screams herself awake.  Try to soothe her back to sleep while still in her crib, without picking her up.  If she doesn’t go back to sleep again, and she likely won’t at first, do not turn on the lights or get her out of the crib until 6am.  If you do, the early rising will continue and possibly the waking will get earlier and earlier.

If she hasn’t gone back to sleep after a bit of reassurance from you – then either stay in her room and have minimal interaction (sit in the chair with your eyes closed) or if you being there encourages her to be more awake you can leave the room and check on her at intervals that you feel comfortable with (every 10 or 15mins perhaps).   When it is finally 6am, leave the room (if you haven’t already) and  come back after a minute, to start your morning routine.  Be dramatic and emphasize that it is morning time.

Toddler Sleep Clock

If your child is over 2yo you could get a children’s alarm clock.  There are several types available – sun/moon, bunny sleeping/bunny awake, light changes colors …  at the time you set it to change.  The clock my girls have in their room turns green at the time I have set for them.  Our sleep manners include ‘do not get out of bed before your clock turns green’.  If you are not 200% consistent with the clock then your child will not take it seriously either.  Like above, you go to them quickly when they wake and say:  ‘sweetie, your clock isn’t green it’s not morning/wakie time’.  

Napping with an early riser can be tricky as too early of a morning nap can ingrain the early rising!  If she is over 6mo the recommendation is no morning nap before 8am.   If she is over 9mo, no morning nap before 9am.  If she is on 1 nap, no nap before 12noon.  Otherwise she will be overtired at bedtime and the cycle continues.

Here are the four causes of Early Rising:

1) Too late of a bedtime - for the 1st 5 years of a child's life bedtime is usually between 7-8pm!

2) Not enough napping - too late of a bedtime and skipped or short naps will create, early rising, more night waking, poor quality of sleep and an overtired, fussy child. Well napped children sleep better at night too! Not logical but sooo true.

3) Too long between end of afternoon nap and bedtime - in order to catch the 7-8pm bedtime, you need to monitor how long of a sleep window there is between the end of afternoon/last nap and bedtime. There are general guidelines that are appropriate for most children. Under 6 months of age the last nap should end about 4.30/5pm. From 6-9 months most still need that short catnap before bed and can usually handle a 2-3hr window to bedtime. From 9 to 18 months (if sleeping through the night and napping well) most can handle a 4hr window to bedtime. From 2 yrs. we usually recommend that the nap end by 3-3.30 to preserve bedtime.

4) Going to bed too drowsy - if they can't put themselves to sleep without help at bedtime, the easiest time of the day for independent sleep ... how are they going to be able to put themselves back to sleep without your help at 4am (the hardest time of the day)? Start by teaching independent sleep at bedtime.

You must be 100% consistent in your response with your early bird  ... as early rising takes weeks of consistency and patience for the behavior to change.

If you have been 100% consistent in your response and are doing everything above correctly, then I would look at a medical reason for the rising. Sleep apnea is frequently overlooked in children and can cause a very stubborn early waking.  Speak to your child’s doctor if you suspect any medical reasons for the waking.

I wish you and your family sweet dreams and later mornings!

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy

Photo Credit: Classic Kids Photography Newport Beach, By: Jenn

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Time Change - Fall Back 2017

Summer is offically over and we are in the midst of the fall time change. Sunday, Nov 5th at 2:00 AM clock fall back by one hour.

Spring forward...Fall back....

I love fall! Cooler weather, leaves changing colors, holidays around the corner and I get an extra hour of sleep. As a parent, I dread my kids waking up too early and having to adjust their sleep patterns. Do you?

If so, here are some options to help you and your family through the transition when we set our clocks backwards one hour on Sunday November 5th.

Gradual Approach: 

The gradual approach is usually recommend for younger children (3 and under) or those who do not adjust well to rapid changes in their schedules.

Start the week before the time change and slowly shift your baby's sleep schedule later.  For example: move bedtime, morning wake up time and nap times later by 10-15 minutes.

Keep moving the entire schedule later every few days but ensure your child doesn't get overtired.  By the time Sunday comes, your child's schedule will be based on the new time.  You will have gently shifted the circadian rhythm which regulates your child's sleeping patterns.

Rapid Approach: 

For the rapid approach, put your child to bed at their normal bedtime on Saturday, the ideal bedtime for most children is between 7-8 pm.

Your child will likely wake up at their normal time (6-7am), but the clock will say (5-6 am).  Your brain will say uck!  Go ahead and get them up, they don’t know about daylight savings time, but you can keep it low key for 30-60 minutes until you are ready to start your day.

If your child is less than 3 years old and still naps then stretch him as close as you can to his normal 1st nap time (using the current clock).  Water play, a stroll outside (don't let them fall asleep in the stroller) or getting outside is a great wake to keep any kiddo awake!

If you think your child can’t make it a full hour later, split the difference pushing the morning nap later by 30 min.  If that is too much, push the 1st nap later 15-20 mins and continue to do so every 3 days until the new time is reached.  The rest of the schedule will naturally be later if you follow this sleep tip.

Early Rising Tips:

The next few mornings, they may wake up a little early, but don’t let them start the day before 6:00 am (new clock).  You may need to review my blog on Early Rising if you have issues with waking up too early in the mornings or if your child is waking before 6:00 am.

Daylight Savings Tips:

On Sunday, follow your usual schedule as close as possible.  Move meals, the rest of his naps(s) and bedtime using the new clock time.

Ensure that your child is well-rested during this transition period and if needed, putting them to bed 15-30 minutes earlier for a few days is okay.

If your child had too late of a bedtime before the fall time change, here is your chance to move it earlier without too much fuss.  So, if your lil one's nite-nite time was too late, don’t move it later - pretend time change didn't happen.

It may take everyone a few days to adjust but it should not take more than a week to adjust your child's sleep patterns to the new time.

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy

Photo Credit: Classic Kids Photography Newport Beach, By: Jenn