Living Well

Real Money: Sleep training isn't just for babies

It's no secret to new parents – Whether you support the "cry it out" method, take a gentler approach, or fall somewhere in between, getting your baby into a good sleep cycle is one key to successful parenting.

Maybe your baby still gets up every two hours like clockwork and you haven't had a full night's sleep in months. Or perhaps your little bundle of joy sleeps through the night, but you're desperate to get them on a solid nap schedule so you can have a few hours a day to yourself to work, do laundry, or – I don't know – eat?

Sometimes, shushing and rocking can only get you so far. Sleep training your infant can be tough for new parents, but there are several FSA-eligible resources you can take advantage of to get some much-needed rest. For example, sleep training coaches are gaining popularity among new parents , but they can be pricey.

And babies aren't the only ones who can use a little help getting sleep. Approximately 30% of American adults suffer from sleep disruptions like insomnia or sleep apnea.

Of course, we're not doctors -- if you think you or your child has more serious sleep issues, see a doctor immediately. But many of us are parents, so for some anecdotal advice from our own experience, read on for how your FSA can help you and your baby get some much-needed rest.

For babies

We'll focus on baby's sleep help first, since we all know that if the tiny humans aren't getting any sleep, you certainly aren't, either. You may already know that an FSA can help offset the rising cost of raising a child. Things like regular visits to the pediatrician, over-the-counter medicines, even antibiotics and humidifiers for the inevitable first sickness are FSA-eligible.

You've tried it all. Rocking, shushing, white noise, lullabies, the works. Nothing seems to put your little babe to sleep. But did you know you can use your pre-tax dollars to help get your baby to sleep? From the Moms on Call method to Babywise, there are countless books and schools of thought when it comes to getting your baby to sleep.

But if the books don't do the trick, the next step may be to hire a sleep coach for your fussy babe. While this industry is relatively new – and unregulated – for many parents, it's become a necessity.

While a sleep coach for your new baby may not be expressly covered by your FSA, you may be able to gain eligibility under the health institute fee category, which cover the fees of attending some health-related courses, retreats, workshops and the like.

This approach requires a letter of medical necessity (LMN), but you'll want to check with your FSA administrator before going through the work of getting one from your doctor to be sure that's what they'll require and that they'll indeed allow for the expense under your FSA. Sleep training for your baby may also be FSA-eligible under the newborn care category.

And since the cost of hiring a sleep coach for your little one can cost thousands, getting that expense reimbursed by your FSA may be worthwhile.

For parents

Even though you're exhausted, it still can be hard to turn your brain off and get some much-needed sleep once the baby is down for the night. Here's how to achieve the quality, restorative sleep you need as a new parent.

For the occasional bout of sleeplessness, you might consider sleep aids like Unisom, which are FSA-eligible. You could also invest these items to improve your sleep, or maybe a new pillow will do the trick.

If your sleeping issue is a bit more serious, sleep deprivation treatment can be an option. There are a few different types of sleep deprivation treatments – stimulus control therapy, which eliminates any outside factor that can prevent sleep; making lifestyle changes to help facilitate sleep; environment changes, such as installing blackout shades or wearing a sleep mask; even relaxation training. The good news? All are FSA-eligible.

Still can't drift off to dreamland? Your FSA covers acupuncture and even sleep studies to help you finally get the shut-eye you need.

And for all those first time parents out there who wake up like clockwork to check their baby's breathing? Perhaps it's time to invest in a baby movement monitor – FSA-eligible, of course.

Baby Monitor

Make sure your little one is sleeping soundly with our wide selection of baby monitors.

Sleep Aids

Sometimes sleep is hard. Get the full night's rest you deserve.

Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

That's Eligible?! Must-haves for your baby's first road trip

My husband and I recently took our first road trip with our baby. While I had visions of listening to the perfect road trip playlist while my baby slept peacefully in his carseat, the reality was a bit different.

What was supposed to be a peaceful 10-hour road trip to visit family ended up as an 18-hour drive, replete with a minor car accident and later, a trip to the emergency room.

Don't worry, we're all fine. But we learned quickly what items and preparation were needed to make the next road trip a bit more bearable – and safe. After all, traveling with a child is anything but predictable.

A little due diligence...

Before booking a major trip, ask yourself the question: is this type of trip appropriate for my child, given his or her age, any medical conditions, or special needs? Are the necessary travel hours doable for their age? How long can they realistically be expected to sit still, whether strapped into a car seat or on a plane with hundreds of strangers?

If you've always longed to camp at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Yosemite, or dreamt of taking your little one to Paris to picnic under the Eiffel Tower, that's all well and good. But would your child enjoy it, as well? And would you realistically be able to enjoy the trip, with a baby and necessary gear in tow? (I'll go ahead and answer that for you… no.)

Say you're planning an epic cross-country road trip. You'll need to schedule ample bathroom and snack stops, and it wouldn't hurt to book a few nights at a hotel with some kid-friendly attractions, like a pool or indoor water park, either.

Same goes for flying. If you're looking at a 10-hour flight, maybe breaking it up into two flights with a layover in a fun, family-friendly city makes more sense.

Make like a scout and be prepared

No one wants to think of the worst-case scenario when planning a vacation with their family. But it happens. Case in point: During our road trip, my son scratched his cornea (darn those tiny baby nails!) and my husband and I found ourselves at the local children's hospital at 6 a.m. our second day there, with one very grumpy baby in tow.

We were fortunate that the nearest emergency room was at a top-ranked hospital, but that was pure luck. Next time, I wouldn't take that chance. Being prepared goes beyond packing a first-aid kit, white noise machine, sunscreen, and a thermometer -- most of which (with the exception of the white noise machine) are FSA-eligible, by the way.

It's a no-brainer to booking the usual hotels, rental cars, and activities for your next trip in advance. But when traveling with kids, creating a medical map is also a must. It should include the nearest hospital, urgent care, and 24-hour pharmacy at your destination, as well as those along the route.

It's also wise to call ahead to the hospital to ensure they accept your insurance, and if any emergency room visits are FSA or HSA-eligible. Add your medical map, as well as the addresses of any retailers that could ship necessary meds or first-aid supplies overnight, to a folder the contains all the details for your trip.

Another item to include in your master folder? The name and phone number of your car insurance policy, as well as details on your coverage. You know, just in case your husband backs into a pole during your epic road trip. (This is a purely hypothetical situation, of course.)

It's also wise to include printouts of your route (in case your phone's GPS doesn't work), as well as a list of intended stops, including food/fuel stations, and hours between said stops. While "winging it" may be romantic and spontaneous when you're young, the less you leave to chance with a baby, the better.

While this may see like overkill, no one wants to be frantically Googling in the middle of the night with a sick or injured child on vacation.

Caring Mill Comprehensive First Aid Kit

The Caring Mill Comprehensive First Aid Kit has everything you'll need to respond quickly in an emergency situation.

Coppertone Kids Sport Sunscreen

Coppertone Kids Sport Sunscreen is designed to support kids when they're active outside in the strong sun.

Kinsa QuickCare Smart Stick Digital Thermometer

The Kinsa QuickCare Smart Stick Thermometer offers not only fast and accurate temperature readings, but also provides personalized tips for recovery.

An ounce of prevention...

Politics aside, knowing your stuff when it comes to recommended vaccines before travel is also a must when traveling with children. Some overseas locales even require certain vaccines. Worth noting: vaccines are also FSA-eligible.

Also take into account environmental dangers to prepare for, such as wildlife or poisonous plants, even extreme heat. Be sure to get any necessary vaccinations, preventative care, or appropriate gear well in advance of your trip. And if you or your child take a daily medication, such as allergy meds, be sure to stock up beforehand.

And if this vacation is sounding more and more like work than a much-needed vacation, you're not alone. But trust me when I say that experiencing new places and sights through your child's eyes makes it all worth it... we think.


Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.