The model talks bedtime with her son, Isaac, and pumping backstage at Fashion Week.
In our Sleeping With… series, we speak to people from different career paths, backgrounds, and stages of life to find out how they make sleep magic happen.
Ashley Graham is sitting in the bathroom at her New York apartment, eating lamb meatball stew. Her eight-month-old son, Isaac, whom she shares with husband Justin Erwin, is attempting to nap in the next room. “He's teething like crazy, so it's rough out here,” she tells SELF over the phone. “I was like, you know what? I’m going to be walking through my nightly routine, so I might as well be in my bathroom.”
Season two of Graham’s online workout series, Thank Bod, premiered on YouTube today. The model, host, and television personality filmed this season in her Nebraska garage, right next to her pickup truck. “My husband shot the whole thing,” she says. “It's a lot of work to shoot workout videos when the whole crew is not there that you're used to working with. This is really just him and I doing this together, and making it work.” The series consists of five 15-minute workouts, created by trainer Kira Stokes and modeled by Graham. It echoes the same approach to fitness and movement Graham regularly shows on Instagram, whether she’s doing couples yoga or pushing a stroller on rollerblades—one that prioritizes humility, joy, and humor.
Graham and her family spent the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic hunkered down in Nebraska. They recently returned to their home in New York City. In late September, Graham spent four days in Milan for Fashion Week—the longest amount of time she’s spent apart from her son—and is now back in New York until further notice. Every day is different: some days she’s on set, and others she’s Zooming from home. “It's a new normal that everybody's adjusting to—getting COVID tests a couple times a week, wearing masks, getting temperatures taken,” she says. “But it feels so good to be back in New York.”
Here, Graham shares her bedtime routine with SELF—including “popping [her son] on the boob,” completing an efficient skin-care routine, and having two hours of time for herself.
Bath time is around 7:30 p.m. Isaac eats at 7:45 p.m., and he is down at 8:00 p.m. He usually just goes straight to sleep, so then it's my time.
We have a little night routine where we do a bath, and then we'll have a little lotion, massage, and then we talk about what's in his room. We'll read a little book. It just kind of depends on what mood he's in. He has a full-on library. And then he will go to bed after I feed him. I try to get his belly to be really full.
I worked with this amazing woman who has a book called The Sleepeasy Solution. Her name is Jill [Spivack]. She's absolutely incredible, and this helps with every range of age, and if you're teething, or crawling, or walking, because apparently these stages change the way that your baby sleeps. Instead of calling it "sleep training," we call it "sleep learning,” because we need to all learn how to sleep. When you're sleeping, that's when you're growing, and you're developing more in your brain. All kinds of things are happening that are so good for you.
When I looked at it as sleep learning instead of sleep training, all my defenses came down. I was like, "Oh, yeah. My kid actually needs this. This is not me being a parent trying to morph my child into something that he doesn't wanna do." And sure enough, within three days, he took to it.
I do a dream feeding at 10:30, which means I go into his room when he's asleep, and I pick him out of the crib. I pop him on the boob, and he eats.
He's still nursing a lot, and we're incorporating a lot of solids now. He never wakes up. He just eats for probably five to eight minutes. This is so mind-blowing to me. When [Spivack] was telling me, "He's not gonna wake up," I was like, "He's gonna wake up." She said, "No, he's not gonna wake up." I'm like, "Okay." He never wakes up. It's really cool. So I have until 8:00 to 10:30 to do me.
After I feed him at 10:30, I wanna go to bed. I usually pop in the shower.
I don't do a long drawn-out shower. I'll do shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, maybe a little exfoliant situation, and then when I pop out, I immediately moisturize my body from head to toe.
Because I'm running on such little time, I found this incredible body spray lotion from Flamingo, and it's just super nourishing and hydrating. I feel like I'm still hydrated the next day. So, boom, I do that, then I take care of my face. I use SkinCeuticals vitamin C serum, and I'll do maybe an iS Clinical Active Serum depending on what my skin is like, because I've seen early stages of rosacea on my cheeks so I'm trying to combat it. My mom has it, so I guess it's hereditary.
What really happened [after pregnancy] was my hairline fell out, like all my edges. And so I've been using Kérastase Initialiste Advanced Scalp & Hair Serum. [Kérastase] also gave me this product called Genesis. It's amazing. So I put that stuff on my hair. A friend was telling me to put castor oil and canola oil in my roots as well. So I'm about to try all the things. When I'm sweaty and my hair dries afterwards, all my edges are just wavy and curly, and it looks really funny. So I'm definitely in that awkward teenage stage right now with my hair.
I'll also do a SkinCeuticals moisturizer as well on my face. Then what I like to do to lock everything in. I'm definitely big on the rosewater mist, and right now I'm using this Revlon Rose Glow Mist [Editor's note: available soon], and it hydrates. I use this in the morning and at night. I'm an Aquaphor girl on the lips.
And then I always, always, always drink Natural Vitality Calm. It's 100% magnesium. Orange is my favorite flavor. I'll do one scoop of that and boiling hot water, and have it like a hot tea before I go to bed. So I'll just sip that, feed Isaac, and then by the time I'm done with Isaac, either start a documentary or a book, and then I'll be passed out by 11:00, 11:30.
[Justin] is usually getting himself together, too. I have to encourage him, like, "Hey, you know, I'll be ready to go to bed soon," because he's a night owl.
I'm a morning person, he's a night person. So this is where he gets creative and he wants to write, and read, and create. And I'm like, "I am tired."
My husband and I do a lot of meditation and prayer, so that's something in between the 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. schedule that we'll do together. It keeps us connected, but it also helps us wind down and disconnect from the chaos—even if it's great chaos—around us, because we all have a lot going on, and I think it's incredibly important to remember to stay centered and to stay grateful for the things that are going on in this very interesting time.
In the evenings, I don't pump. The thing with pumping is, I feel like the stress of pumping for some mothers is just a lot.
I try not to stress myself out because I feel like when I'm stressed, I don't get as much milk. I pump after Isaac's first feeding in the morning, and then I'll pump again after I put him down around 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m. for his morning nap. If I'm with him, then that's the only pumping I do for the day. But if I'm not with him, then I'm pumping, like, every three hours.
Milan was my first trip away from Isaac. And I have to say, it was a vacation. It was not what I was expecting—it really wasn't. In eight months, I hadn't left his side longer than five hours. And I was really nervous, like, can I do this? You know, other mothers have done it. They leave their babies even earlier. I was like, "Am I gonna feel guilty?" But I didn't feel guilty because I knew that I was going for work. I had so much milk that I had already saved up for him, and he was gonna be here with his dad and his grandma, and everything was gonna be fine. Those four days went by so fast. But don't get it twisted—behind every backstage at both the shows and the fittings I was at, I was the girl in the corner, plugged into a pump. It's funny because a lot of those girls are 18 to 24, 25, and they're kind of looking at me like, "What are you doing?" So I'd be like, "Oh, I'm pumping! This is milk for my baby." And they're like, "Oh."
But also, a lot of the women that are on the teams around, they've been in my shoes before. So they're like, "Oh, you're pumping. Are you pumping and dumping? Are you FedExing your milk?" You know, it's all these funny questions that you get asked that you maybe haven't even thought of. But it's a wild ride, for sure.
Ever since I interviewed Ariana Huffington for my podcast, Pretty Big Deal, I have not slept with my phone next to my bed.
I have the baby monitor as my alarm clock, unless I have to get up before 7:00 a.m., when I have a digital clock that I set the time for. So the phone stays in the bathroom, and that was a really big deal for me. I don’t use social media before bed anymore. And you know what? It really helps your mind. My husband jumped onto the bandwagon, which was really helpful. So we kind of look at each other crooked, like, "You brought your phone to bed? What are you thinking?"
We have a sound machine. I cannot sleep without the sound machine, ear plugs that are custom-made, and my mouth guard.
I've been grinding since the late '90s. I don't get to sleep in anymore, because I have an eight-month-old, and I really miss those days. But apparently as they get older, they get more independent, and I'm very excited about that.
I've had people try to pick my body apart for years and tell me what I need to conform to. But I never was settled in who I was until I was okay with me.
[With] Thank Bod, I really wanted to make sure that people know that this series is not about losing weight. This is about feeling good in your own skin, making sure that you're connecting with yourself, and doing this for you and no one else. I really want women to connect with that—to understand that working out is for you to stay mentally, emotionally, and physically strong; not to fit into a box. In this second series of Thank Bod, I think was seven months postpartum, and I still have a lot of baby weight on that everybody told me, "Oh, you're gonna be breastfeeding, it's gonna fall off." Well, it hasn't. So that's a lie. If anybody tells you that that happened to them, good for them. It didn't happen to me.
Working out has been more of a challenge because I was in the best shape of my life when I got pregnant. Now I feel like, "Oh, gosh, I have to get back to that, and take care of myself, and have a job, and be a mother, a wife."
It's a lot of stress. I don't want women to have to think of it as a daunting hour, or that you're gonna suffer through the whole workout. I keep telling everybody, "If I can do it, you can do it." I'm doing modifications right now, because that's just where I am right now. I want women to feel encouraged because there just aren't women who are big, and curvy, and lumpy, and have cellulite, and lower belly fat, and back fat, that are encouraging working out for your body, soul, and your mind.
Written by Hannah Dylan Pasternak.
This article originally appeared on Self US.