Once again tragedy is in the news in our Indianapolis area….2 children, a beautiful 16-year-old teenage girl who was celebrated as a hero two years ago when she saved two children from a lake when they slipped through the ice, and a 3-year-old boy were killed in two separate accidental incidents of gun fire in the last 48 hours. The true tragedy is that both of these children could have been saved with just a few easy steps. Even if your home is gun free, according the Center for Disease Control over 8.7 million children and adolescents have access to guns in this country, over half of the homes in the United States have guns. The American Academy of Pediatrics tells us that in fact 1 out of every 25 admissions to pediatric trauma centers are due to gunshot wounds. As parents we MUST take control….we MUST ask the hard questions of our children’s friends, our neighbors, and our own family members. I am sure that I will ruffle a few feathers regarding these comments….but if you choose to have a gun in your home…you MUST be responsible for the following safety guidelines:
- Never allow your child access to a gun without your supervision. No matter how much instruction your child has received regarding gun safety, kids are not mature enough (that includes teens as we saw this week) to handle guns without adult supervision.
- Never keep a loaded gun in your home or car. The ammunition and gun should be stored separately and locked. Your children should not have access to the keys.
- All guns should have trigger locks.
- When handling a gun for sport, everyone should learn how to operate it before loading it. The gun should NEVER be pointed at anyone, even if it is unloaded. The safety should be in place until you are ready to shoot it. Before setting the gun down, it should always be unloaded.
- Children should be taught that there may be guns in homes where they visit or play.
- Tell your children if they see a gun to stay away, and to tell you.
- Ask the hard question….if your children are playing at a home, ask if they have guns and if they do, are they locked up.
- Make sure that your children know that TV, movies, and video games are not real. Children need to be told over and over that in real life, guns kill and hurt people badly. In my opinion, children should be protected from violent video games and movies…it is difficult to understand the difference between reality and what they see in these games and movies. Children become “numb” to the violence.
The tragic truth is that these two beautiful children are lost forever…but we can prevent other families from dealing with this unthinkable tragedy. As parents we often have to ask the hard questions….do uncomfortable things. I have asked about alcohol at parties, made sure there were parents chaperoning at homes, talked about strategies to prevent my children from getting in cars with kids who were drinking….now if I had young children, I would add the difficult question of “Do you have guns in your home….and if so are they locked up?”
What are your thoughts?
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Our “traditional” Christmas tree in 2013. A little more “perfectly” decorated than years past….there are ornaments even on the bottom of the tree now! Can you see the beautiful popcorn string on our tree…a Love family tradition!
The Christmas tree is decorated. We have strung our traditional popcorn string from the top of the tree to the bottom. The first year we attempted this…about 25 years ago, we had a popcorn string of about 12 inches. Each year I think that this might be the year not all the kids will be home to participate, or they might even decide that the tradition is old and tired. I know at least two of the four kids are not totally thrilled with the activity but this year I heard the same words I have heard for many years from all four kids…”But we always string popcorn!” (I know that one of the kids who shall remain nameless only completed one short strand this year. The other three siblings definitely picked up the slack!)
If we are smart we listen to our children when they say “That is how we always do it!” or “That is what we always do!” even when we have only done it that way one other time. Your child is not just talking about the good time he had, but the fact that it meant something to him and he thinks to you too. One of my favorite quotes is from the book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “We live not by things, but the meaning of things.” It is not what you do or eat that is important, it is the meaning and feeling that comes with what you are doing that is so important to your child.
Creating your own special rituals now and faithfully repeating them throughout your child’s life will provide your child with a sense of security, stability, belonging and pride in his family. It is never too early to start your own family traditions.
Four reasons tradition is important to a family:
1. Traditions help make life predictable. Rituals that are followed daily, weekly, and yearly such as family dinners, nightly stories, spring picnics; holiday songs etc. helps make children feel secure. Their world is often unpredictable—keeping things predictable at home gives security.
2. Traditions give families a time to connect. Sometimes we can feel unconnected when we get busy. Family meals, stories, game nights etc. help us reconnect and start talking. Soon we know what is going on in our children’s lives.
3. Family traditions teach children what their family values are. Service work, religious ceremonies, concern for the environment and many other values can be established through family traditions and activities. These are values that when they are reinforced with traditional activities, your child will bring with him to adulthood.
4. Tradition forms family identity. Build a family group for your child to feel connected to and this will often prevent them from trying to find other less suitable groups to identify with. A child’s family is a huge piece of their identity.
Traditions can be very simple…it is the act of repeating them, allowing them to change with your family’s “season in life” and keeping them fun that is the key. If something is not fun anymore, then let it go!
Don’t get hung up on creating the prefect rituals, let them happen naturally based on what your family enjoys. Many traditions just happen. The wonderful thing about becoming your own family is that you get to create your own traditions from scratch. Some you will come up with on your own, some you will borrow, and some you will discard from your past, but the traditions will become part of who your family is.
Some suggestions to try during the holiday season that might be fun:
- Take a drive in pajamas to see the holiday lights.
- Take a hike in a local park and find some natural decorations for your tree or to make other holiday decorations.
- Make a homemade Christmas tree ornament. Date it, and each year you will add to the collection.
- Bake Christmas cookies or Hanukkah treats and share with friends and neighbors.
- Draw Secret Santas in the family. Each Secret Santa will complete a kind deed for the family member he or she drew.
- Have a traditional Christmas breakfast, or Christmas Eve dinner.
- Attend religious services together.
- Lay a piece of straw in the Baby Jesus’ bed each day if a child has done a good deed.
- Read a holiday story each night.
- Have a traditional Advent wreath or Advent calendar.
- Have a Christmas countdown chain. Make a construction paper chain and tear one link off each day until Christmas. Write an activity on each chain link that you will do that day.
- Camp out under your Christmas tree one night.
- Go caroling.
- Make a birthday cake for Jesus.
- String popcorn for your tree.
And the list can go on and on….share some of your traditions!
Remember, family tradition endears your child to your family and establishes an everlasting family bond. The celebration, the meal, and the activities do not need to be perfect, the perfection comes from a celebration steeped in tradition and full of fun memories that draw a family together….that is perfection…
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
All kids have “wish lists”! Should Santa bring it all?
This will definitely date me, but when our 4 children were young, the favorite “book” in the house at this time of year was the J.C. Penney’s catalog. It was well used! The pages were tattered, and the kids had toys circled and starred on every page, sometimes everything on the page! It was definitely a “wish book”. Some of those toys were circled every single year, but Santa never brought them. Are my kids scarred because they didn’t get that snow cone maker or cotton candy maker that they wanted each year, or how about that mini red convertible that they could drive? No…I think they are just fine, and our Christmas mornings were full of joy and excitement every year.
How do we as parents keep the holidays not “all about the gifts”? So many of us want to make this time of year more stress free, happy, joyous, and centered on the meaning of the season, but gifts often take the center stage. Our children can enjoy the magic of the season, they can have a wish list, but we must help our children understand the difference between wishes and needs, and how to be grateful and appreciative of those gifts that they receive. We as parents need to be thoughtful when we buy our children their holiday gifts, and realize that our children don’t need everything on their wish list, and not getting everything on their wish list is actually better for our child! Families have been brainwashed for years now. In our minds, a lavish Christmas is a sign that we love our children more. We are bombarded with materialism from every side. We are told that the perfect Christmas only comes with money spent on decorations and many, many gifts. We know that Christmas is not about “buying love”, but sometimes it is difficult to remember this. As a parent, ask yourself…
“What is my most treasured holiday memory?” Most often it does not include a gift. The memories usually include activities, moments with family, and/or events. Sit down as a family and talk about traditions that you would like to establish in your home. Those moments of tradition will cement your family together.
When shopping for your children remember:
- A large number of new toys and gifts can be overwhelming. Receiving a few is still very exciting and when your child is not overwhelmed with too many toys, they will actually play with the toys more often.
- The newest is not always the best. More classic toys that can be played with in several ways are much more valuable. Children learn through play by using their imagination and creativity. Don’t invest in toys that are “one button wonders”; purchase toys that foster your child’s growth.
- Buy toys that are developmentally appropriate and safe. Even if you have a budding genius (don’t we all!) the age on the box is there for a reason. Usually the recommended age is there for safety purposes, like choking hazards. Remember too that toys that are not appropriate for your child’s developmental level will not advance him but frustrate him.
- Life lessens are learned when your child does not receive everything that is on his or her wish list! Remember, over indulging your child does not represent love and may actually set your child up for major disappointment later. In life, we simply don’t always get what we want, but we can learn to appreciate what we have!
So, am I advocating a gift free Christmas? Absolutely not. Will I be shopping for my children hoping that I find a few gifts that my children need and yes a few that they just simply want for Christmas…absolutely! But, I am reminding all of us that those gifts are not a definition of love…and that life will be just fine for all four of my children, even when that Ipad is not under the tree!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Make sure the toys in Santa’s bag are safe for your child!!
Safe toys are important all year-long, but it tends to be on parent’s minds more through the holidays. Here are a few quick tips to remember as you are helping Santa out….
- Check to be sure that the toy is right for your child’s age and development.
- Read all warning labels. Usually these labels warn if a toy is a choking hazard for children under the age of 3. Government regulations state that toys for children under age three cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
- Be very cautious with toys that have button batteries or small magnets. Children can have serious intestinal damage from both of these items if swallowed. Button batteries may be found in musical holiday cards, remote controls and other small electronics.
- Check for pointed edges and sharp corners especially for little ones who still put toys in their mouth!
- If the toy has a cord or pull string, be sure that the cord is not too long if you are giving it to an infant. A cord or string over 12 inches long can pose a strangulation hazard.
- Check to be sure that there are no small parts that can come loose or can be pulled off. (think button noses and eyes) This is a real hazard for children under age 3.
- If you are buying art supplies or any toy with liquid, be sure that it is marked non toxic. The label should state if the item is safe if a child swallows any of the liquid.
- Balloons continue to be a huge safety issue for children. Broken or un-inflated balloons can cause a child to choke or suffocate. Keep these items away from children under age 8.
- Keep toys for older children away from younger children. Have a designated area for older children’s toys. Be careful during the holidays with all the excitement!
- Remember the helmets for bikes and scooters and knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards for skates!
- Be sure that the toy is not recalled. This is especially true if you are buying used toys. Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if the toy is on the recall list.
With the new government regulations that have been in place the last few years, the numbers of toy recalls have decreased dramatically. The worries about lead paint and poorly made toys coming into this country have diminished greatly. We parents still need to follow manufacturer’s guidelines and use common sense when buying toys for our children. Take a look at what might be good suggestions for your child’s holiday toy list and here is to a safe holiday season…right Santas?
There is one common thread in all Moms, we want to be sure that our children are happy and healthy. We want to kiss that “boo boo” and make it all better. Often we take our little crusty nosed, coughing child to the doctor hoping that he or she will just give our child the “pink medicine” and make that cough or cold just get better…..
The fact is, a little TLC may be the best medicine for our little one. A recent report by the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (sounds like an impressive group, doesn’t it?) published a report which outlined when antibiotics are appropriate for ear infections, sinus infections and sore throats. We know that many of those childhood illnesses are actually viral illnesses and the “pink stuff” or any other antibiotic simply won’t help.
Children who have a double ear infection or are under the age of 2 may be more likely to benefit from an antibiotic rather than watchful waiting. Children who have severe upper respiratory symptoms that are persistent and not improving (longer than 10 days), are worsening (new or persistent fever, new daytime cough, increase in thick green nasal drainage after initial improvement) may benefit from an antibiotic. MOST of the time, our children will get better with a little TLC and watchful waiting. The CDC estimates that about 10 million children a year receive antibiotics that are not necessary. This increases the risk of side effects and antibiotic resistance. So Moms….give all the extra TLC you can for those little runny noses, scratchy throats and coughs, and save the “pink stuff” for illnesses that really need it. We can “make it all better” with an extra cuddle and a little patience.
I am grateful for my life as a Mom….
I am sitting this morning in the quiet, sipping my coffee, my college aged son is soundly sleeping upstairs, all four of our children will be home by Wednesday and the house will be lively. Life is good. I am grateful. This time of year always turns my thoughts to gratitude, and I realize that simply because I am a parent, my blessing cup overflows. My children have brought me a greater joy than any other aspect of my life. I am thankful for my four children for many reasons, but some of the reasons that I am grateful to be a parent include:
· Parenting Love. From the moment I “fell in love” with each of my children, the definition of love changed. A mix of responsibility, awe, pride, wanting more for them than myself and immense love….which has all overflowed back to me, a total gift.
· Enjoying the wonder. Being able to enjoy the moments of childhood wonder again, reliving those moments of awe and magic. Experiencing the world new again, even participating in those school projects that I learned more from the 2nd (3rd and 4th) time around! It continues as I watch them as young adults….the world is open to them.
· Learning that the greatest joy is the joy experienced through a child. The greatest pride is in the accomplishments not of yourself but of your child, and the greatest accomplishments are not material but in the moment that you realize your child is a wonderful human being. There is nothing better than seeing your child become a caring, passionate, adult.
· Remembering the hugs, kisses, smiles, high fives, and “the looks” I have gotten from across rooms that showed me I am loved. Experiencing the “I’m home” hugs as they return from their world now.
· Loving my husband more. Children expanded the love I have for my husband. I loved him with my whole heart before children, but even loved him more and yes maybe differently when I saw him become the amazing Dad he is.
· Remembering the sticky fingers, messy bedrooms, late night “emergency talks” and yes loads of college laundry that make me feel like a Mom.
· Realizing that my children helped me appreciate my own parents. Until you are a parent, it is difficult to “get it”. As the years pass, I realize over and over again what sacrifices my own parents made for me; the lessons they taught, the love they lavished, the roots they gave. I think that by becoming a parent, you realize more the blessing of your own parents. There becomes this special bond…a kind of “parenting club” where you finally “get it”. I am more aware each year of the blessing of my own parents, and am more grateful than ever for their example to me.
· Realizing that my children have made me a better person. They have brought me challenges that have made me stronger, made me admit my weaknesses and accept them, focused me on prayer and have helped me ever expand my capability to love.
Yes, being a parent is at the top of my Gratitude List this Thanksgiving. My heart is full…Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, may your heart be full of gratitude too.
Tis the season of great joy, happiness, perfect family togetherness,…..not always!
The holidays are quickly approaching and for parents of young children this season can be wonderful, but also full of challenges. If you are looking for the perfect holiday experiences, you are destined to be disappointed. You can have a wonderful season with family friends, and sanity if you start with your expectations. Most disappointment starts with expectations that are unrealistic. The reality of most houses is that the turkey may be over done, the children have spilled on their outfits, the tree is leaning a bit and the gifts may be wrapped with duct tape! The truth is that the holidays are all about the relationships, not the details. That is a big statement from me, because I can certainly get caught up in the details! If parents are stressed, who else becomes stressed??? Your children…
Let’s look at some tips for decreasing your stress and helping you and your child enjoy this wonderful time of year.
- Holidays can be very difficult for a child especially if they tend to get over stimulated like infants and toddlers. Provide quiet “touch time” with your child each day, and remove stimulation if your child becomes very fussy or clingy. Try to plan just one major activity a day.
- Know your child’s developmental level–handling excitement and managing disappointment are sophisticated skills for children under age 8. Know that socially unacceptable behavior may occur!
- Think about how you handle stress in general and holiday stress in particular. Children observe our behavior and learn from what they observe. Model good coping skills for your children.
- Encourage thinking of others and our many blessings. Talk about the gifts and blessings that your family enjoys and the importance of sharing with those less fortunate. Removing some of the “I want” and replacing it with “I am thankful for…” can reduce stress.
- Provide structure and routine. Children behave better, sleep better, and are less fussy when there is routine. That doesn’t mean that you have to stick to your every day routine, but make sure you are planning for nap time and planning for quiet times. Be your child’s advocate, when your child needs down time, insist.
- When visiting family and friends, there may be many new faces for your child. Introduce unfamiliar people slowly. Hold your child as they get to know others. Do not let your baby be passed around among many new people. Stay where your child can see your familiar face. Your child may be happy being held by others if he or she can see you.
- When spending the night away from home. Try to keep the familiar bedtime ritual used at home. Be sure that you have a safe sleeping area for your child. Bring a pack-n-play or be sure that the crib that is provided is safe. Don’t forget that special “lovey” or book that your child needs to sleep!
- Be careful introducing lots of new foods in your child’s diet and your diet when nursing. Tummy aches can be a problem when there are lots of new foods, but relax; the holidays bring some extra sweets. Teach that cookies and treats are fine in moderation. Allow your child to indulge!
- Set appropriate boundaries and limits. Toddlers need limits in order to feel secure. If you must discipline, be respectful of your child, especially older children. Discipline in private.
- Carve out quiet time with each child. Quiet time in the evening is a must after an active day.
Tips on family gatherings, shopping, Santa visits and more to come…what tips do you have to help families enjoy the holidays?
Ahh there is nothing sweeter than the pitter patter of little toddler feet, unless it is two minutes after putting them in bed or you wake to that sound at 2:00 am! Once toddlers figure out that they can get out of a bed, why not pay Mom and Dad a visit? Going to bed is such a disruption in their life! They would much rather be with you cuddling back to sleep or seeing what fun things you are doing while they are in bed!
It seems harmless enough to bring them back to bed and lie down with them until they sleep or to throw your covers back and let them crawl into bed with you….that is until you wake up with a toddler’s feet in the small of your back or lying on your head! Toddlers need to learn to separate and sleep on their own! It is a life skill for them and makes your evenings and nights so much more restful. So, what is a parent to do when they hear the pitter patter of little feet?
Toddler’s who get up during the middle of the night:
- The key is consistency…the same response EVERY time
- Take your child by the hand and walk quietly back to his or her bedroom.
- Tuck your child back into bed, give a kiss, and say ,“It is night-time, you sleep in your bed. Love you.”
- Walk out, no further discussion. You want your response to be very boring! Your little one has to realize that there is no benefit at all in getting up, not even a long explanation of why she should stay in bed!
- It is likely that your child will return in a few minutes…follow the same routine with no other discussion.
- This may happen many times the first night, and your response should be exactly the same. No yelling, no punishment, no rocking, no cuddling, no crawling in bed with them.
- The second night you may hear the pitter patter of little feet again, follow the same routine. Most likely it will be fewer times.
- Usually by the third or fourth night your child will stay in bed when he or she wakes and self comfort back to sleep, if you are consistent and do not give in! If you give in and rock, cuddle, or allow your child to sleep with you; then you have sent a very confusing message to your child. Your child will think, “If I get up enough, then mommy or daddy will let me sleep with them!”
- There are times when your child is ill or when your child is very scared that you might give in to letting your child sleep with you, but the quicker you go back to this technique, the easier it is for you and your child!
- An alternate response could be to keep a sleeping bag in your room. You can tell your child that if he or she is scared and wants to sleep in your room, they can pull out the sleeping bag and sleep next to your bed. This will give them the opportunity to be close but not in your bed. Some parents have liked this option. Once again, consistency is the key.
Toddlers who get up as soon as you put them in bed:
- Option one is the one above. Continue to walk your child back to bed without much interaction, no cuddling, no rocking, no yelling. Place the child back in bed and leave. This may happen 10 times and with a lot of crying, but if the response is exactly the same each time. Your child will eventually fall asleep on his or her own. This usually takes about 3 nights if you are consistent!
- Option two works well when you have just transitioned from the crib. Sit next to your child’s bed. Do not look at your child or speak to your child. If your child is chattering with you, respond with “It is bed time go to sleep.” No other words or explanations. Place your hand on your child and make no eye contact. Every time your child tries to get up, gently lie them back down. Sit with your hand on your child the first couple of nights. After the first few nights, move your chair to the foot of the bed. Same position, same words if your child is talking, if your child starts to get up, respond with “It is bed time lie down.” Speak very calmly with no other words. The next night move your chair to outside of the door and look into the room. Respond exactly the same way every time your child speaks or tries to get up. This will eventually teach your child to stay in bed and settle to sleep if you are consistent!
- Option three can be used too, there is nothing wrong with putting a gate at your child’s door. If your child tries to climb the gate it is not a safe option. Do not lock your child in their room, this can be a safety issue. The first two options are better learning techniques for your child.
- Option four is better for older toddlers, at least age two or older. Depending on your child’s temperament, a reward system may be all you need. You can devise a sticker chart and let your child place a sticker on the chart for every night or nap he or she stays in bed. Sometimes toddlers prefer to wear their sticker! A single sticker may work, or you might have an incentive of two or three stickers and then your child is rewarded with a small treat or something fun to do with you. Then move the number of stickers required to get their prize up until you no longer need the incentive.
- Option five is good for three and older. You can give your older toddler or preschooler a “free pass”. Make two “passes” using 3×5 index cards. Let your child help you decorate them. Tell your child that they have two “free passes” to call you and you will come in and see what they need. Once those passes are gone, you will not come into their room and they will not be allowed up without a consequence the next day. Most children will start out using the passes and then quickly start saving at least one “pass” just in case. Eventually you can give your child just one “free pass” to use. Most of the time this breaks them from calling you or getting out of bed. This gives them some control of the situation.
All these techniques will help your toddler learn to fall asleep on his or her own, make the bedtime process much more enjoyable for you and your child, and give you time to have an evening to recharge and get a good night’s sleep without a toddler spread eagle in the middle of your bed! Remember, teaching your child to sleep on his or her own is a necessity! Happy sleeping!
Establishing a calming routine before bed is important!
When I brought our oldest Corri home from the hospital, I thought I knew about the sleep patterns of infants. After all, I had the degrees to prove that I was an “educated” Mom! The truth is, nothing can prepare you for the lack of sleep that new parents usually experience. Quickly my plans to reorganize my closets during Corri’s long daytime naps (don’t newborns sleep all the time?) went by the way side. Yes, newborns DO sleep a lot…just in very short intervals. Corri never slept long enough for any reorganization of closets, and when she did sleep I was too tired to reorganize. Oh, the lessons of a new parent!
Sleep is VERY important for our babies, and for you! There are some sleep tips for new parents that will help your baby “learn” to sleep and establish good patterns for the future. I firmly believe that our children are largely sleep deprived because of our busy schedules. Good sleep is essential for healthy children, clear through the teen years! Many of the healthy sleep habits you establish with your young children will result in healthy sleep habits for a lifetime.
The first 3 months of a baby’s life there is no real routine. Anything that you read that tells you that you can establish or “force” routine at this age is mistaken. I do not think that baby sleep training books are valuable at this age, and they can really be destructive to your baby’s establishment of good sleep habits. Your job as a parent during the first year is to help your baby realize that the world is a great place! When your baby cries, you need to respond. Baby will quickly learn to trust you and feel loved. You cannot spoil a newborn! You CAN spoil an older child, but that discussion is for another day!
Newborn sleep patterns are different from adults. They have sleep cycles that are much shorter than ours, and have longer patterns of active sleep rather than deep sleep, especially in the first 3 months. Parents often complain that their infant will “cat nap” . This is a fairly normal pattern during the first 3 months of life. Very young infants do not know how to self soothe either. Those skills develop after the first 3 months also. Here are a few tips that will help establish good sleep habits for the future. Remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel, life will become easier after the first few months.
1. Know your baby’s sleep cues…do not let your baby become over tired.
Most parents in the beginning have a bit of a difficult time learning sleep cues. Newborn babies should not be up longer than an hour and a half to two hours maximum. If your baby becomes overly tired, it is much more difficult for your baby to sleep! Look for your baby to rub at his or her eyes, begin to blank stare and not engage, yawn, and fuss. When you see some cues, take a look at the length of time your baby has been awake. The next time your baby is awake, start the process of putting him or her down for a nap 15 minutes earlier. This way you never miss the window of opportunity, an overstimulated baby does not sleep well. You often will feel like all you have time for is a feeding, a diaper change, a small amount of interaction and then your baby is ready to sleep again!
2. Swaddle your baby.
Newborns until the end of the 4th month have a reflex that causes them to startle. You often will see your baby twitch, grimace, have a sweet sleep grin and jump during the early active sleep pattern. The twitching and jumping or moro reflex as it is called, will wake your baby. If you swaddle using a light blanket or a swaddle sleep sack, your baby will not wake with a startle as often and will feel more secure. Many moms and dads will tell me their baby does not like the swaddle. I encourage you to try it again. Try swaddling your baby before a nursing or feeding, or before you begin to rock your child to calm. Most of the time babies will relax into the swaddle and love it! They look like a cute baby burrito!
3. Try white noise.
Babies heard white noise inside mom’s womb during the entire pregnancy. This sound is very calming to a newborn. My 2nd daughter loved the sound of a blow dryer. She was a fussy baby, and quickly my blow dryer became part of the decor of my family room. Now, there are white noise machines, white noise phone apps, and white noise CDs that parents swear by, a much better look than the blow dryer! White noise can be part of a “switch” that helps soothe a fussy baby. You might even try getting your face down by your baby’s ear and “shsh shsh shsh”, which will work too.
4. Provide day and night light rhythm.
Many newborns get their days and nights mixed up. There is nothing worse than an infant that sleeps well during the day and is up all night! Moms often notice that babies before birth are more active at night too! To help your baby learn the day and night pattern, keep the daytime hours light with normal noise patterns in your home. Light on our eyes helps to cue our bodies to when it is time to be awake and when it is time to be asleep. That is part of the reason we feel so sleepy during the gloom of dark winter days! Stand in front of a window with your baby and expose your baby to natural light. Do not darken the rooms for your baby to nap during the day and keep regular noise in the house. No tip toeing! In the evening, start to dim lights and keep things calm and quiet about an hour before “bedtime”. Then with every nighttime feeding keep the room dark, do not change the diaper unless it is dirty, and do not interact. Just feed your baby and put back to bed. Eventually your baby will learn the difference between day and night and sleep more soundly and longer during the night hours. This pattern of day and night will help older children and adults fall to sleep more easily too!
5. Wake your baby to eat during the day.
Do not let your baby sleep longer than 3 hours during the day. Wake your baby to eat, and unless your doctor advises you differently, never wake a sleeping baby at night! You want your baby to receive most of their nutrition during the waking hours, and less at night.
6. Move with your baby!
Movement will calm a baby to sleep. Rocking, swinging, and wearing your baby will all help lull your little one into a deep sleep pattern. Rocking to sleep is fine in the early months. Many parents have a hard time transitioning from the swing or arms to bed without the baby waking. Do the limp arm test! Remember that babies have a very active sleep pattern before they move into a deep sleep. If you try to transfer when your little one is still grimacing, sleep grinning, or you see rapid eye movement under closed eye lids, most likely your baby will wake quickly. Rock or provide movement until your baby has transitioned from the active sleep pattern to a deep sleep. You will be able to pick up your baby’s arm and feel that it is limp. When you see that, then it is much easier to place your baby in the crib and your baby stay asleep.
7. Use a pacifier.
Babies need to suck many times to sleep soundly. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a pacifier at sleep as a deterrent to SIDS. Sucking calms a baby. A baby that tends to become over stimulated easily often needs more suck time. I am a big believer in the pacifier or a thumb or finger sucker resulting in a calm baby. We can worry about the habit later!
8. Establish a sleep routine.
The earlier your baby connects routine with sleep the better. Do the same thing every time you put your baby to bed and quickly your child will connect those activities with sleep. This pattern will develop good sleep patterns all the way to adulthood! So, plan the feeding, bathing, massage, rocking, singing, reading pattern that works for you! Keep the routine simple and repeatable. The bedtime or nap time routine should not be longer than about 20 minutes. You can establish a bedtime for your baby even though you know you will be up again! Just treat every feeding after “bedtime” as a night-time feeding. Children in general are wired early to bed early to rise! Have an early bedtime for a good sleeper and for you to have an evening of “adult time”.
9. Do not let your baby “cry it out” until after 6 months.
The first 6 months parents need to respond to a crying baby at night. After 6 months, most babies are developmentally ready to sleep a stretch through the night. When you are emotionally ready and after your baby is at least 6 months old, you can do the “baby shuffle” and check on your baby every 5 to 10 minutes without picking your baby up. Comfort your baby with a “shh” go to sleep, a pat and then leave. The first night you may be “shuffling” in and out of the nursery for an hour or more. The 2nd night will be shorter and usually by the 3rd or 4th night your baby will comfort to sleep on his or her own. You must be consistent and not give in. Soon you will put a drowsy baby to bed and your baby will be able to fall asleep without your assistance!
10. Even with doing all the “right things” babies have sleep disturbances.
Children will have periods of sleep disturbances through all developmental stages. With each new skill a baby learns, example rolling over, there will often be a sleep pattern disturbance. Babies like to practice at night! There is also teething, separation anxiety, illness….many reasons you will see disturbances even when you are doing all the right things in establishing good sleep patterns. Always go back to the basics each time. Good sleep is essential! Teaching healthy sleep patterns is a huge gift to your child, and you!
Soon you will be getting longer stretches of sleep….until those darn teen years creep up and you find yourself waiting up for your child! That is another issue another day!
I love these sleep resources:
Sleep What Every Parent Needs to Know
American Academy of Pediatrics Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP Editor in Chief
The No-Cry Sleep Solution
The Happiest Baby on the Block
Dr. Harvey Karp
Paul M Fleiss, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P
Let’s have a cell phoneless Saturday! Disconnect to reconnect!
I recently read an article about our use of cell phones. It really made me think…gone are the days when parents have to get off the phone because their toddler took off to the other room and they can no longer see their child. It used to be that phone cord only stretched so far! Now we can follow our child and talk, go on a walk and talk, text and sit on the floor and “play”, check work e-mails and go to the park. Wow, great…right? Not really. Every day we are connected to our phones, and our children know it, they feel it. Our phones have become almost a part of us! I know that I feel almost “naked” without mine! The time we spend with our children should not be shared time with the phone. Our children deserve and need our phoneless presence. We are missing precious opportunities for communication, quiet moments, and engagement. It is impossible to be totally engaged with your child while reading an email, texting or talking, you are not engaged but simply in the same room!
This Saturday is one of those 940 Saturdays I have spoken about. 940 Saturdays from birth until your child leaves for college. Those “long days” of parenting become very brief when put in that time frame. Those moments when you have to answer an e-mail as you push your child on the swing, or your boards on Pinterest seem so much more interesting than the blocks in front of you, or you just have to make that call as you are pushing the stroller on a walk, think of the precious engaged time you may have missed; the conversation, the teaching moments, the sweet smiles. Parenting is these moments; fun moments, exciting moments, frustrating moments, and boring moments…but moments that you will miss after those 940 Saturdays have passed. Let’s try to truly be connected to our families this weekend. We may not realize how our phones that keep us so “connected” actually “disconnected” our family. Remember, payback is coming! Soon your child will have a cell phone, texting, e-mailing, and talking, when you want his attention. We need to teach family connectedness now. Let’s all lose that cell phone this Saturday, and truly be present…it might be one of our best Saturdays yet!