It was well past midnight, and Heather and her husband had tried multiple times to put their son to sleep, but apparently he had morphed into the Energizer Bunny.
What do you do when your baby won’t sleep at night? Heather shares excellent toddler sleep training tips, “Make sleep training as successful and painless as possible.”
My husband and I watched in amazement as their baby crawled around the living room gibbering to himself and restlessly moving from one toy to the next. As time went on, he became more and more rambunctious while we became more and more exhausted. It was during one of these nights that my husband and I realized, as I'm sure many first-time parents have, that our son needed sleep-training.
We turned to our lovely friend the Internet and found a wealth of information. The most prevalent method we ran across was cry it out (CIO). The idea of leaving my baby alone in his room to cry for an indefinite amount of time made me cringe, but my husband and I were desperate, and we didn't have any better ideas. So we tried it, and failed miserably. We read that babies should only cry for up to half an hour before calming down and eventually falling asleep, but our son blew this theory out of the water. We never found out his actual endurance for crying, but some nights it was well over an hour before we finally gave in and scooped him up. My husband and I couldn't take the screaming anymore, so we went back to the drawing board. With the help of parental intuition and some research about infant sleep patterns, we developed our own methods for helping our son to fall asleep on his own. By no means do I claim to be an expert, but here are some general guidelines for sleep training that have proven successful for us.
1. Remember that your child is unique
This means that he will not necessarily respond to a fits-all training method. This does not make you a failure. It just means you need to find a method that works for your specific circumstances.
As I mentioned earlier, the classic CIO method did not work for our son. I could sense that he had a deep anxiety about being separated from his parents. I knew I had to gradually wean him from the need for human touch if he was to fall asleep on his own. Instead of leaving the room after I laid him down, I sat on a chair next to his crib and continued humming. For the first few nights, he tried to stand up or snatch at toys through the bars of his crib. When he tried to stand, I gently took his hands off the bars and guided him back down to his pillow. Then I held one hand on his stomach to encourage him to stay lying down. Eventually, our son fell asleep like this. After a few weeks, he came to understand that when we placed him in his crib, it was time to sleep. If he started to stand up, just my moving towards him signaled to him to lay back down on his pillow.
2. Choose a routine and stick to it
Children need structure so they feel secure and know what to expect. Generally, a routine includes removing your child from stimulation like bright lights, television or active play, and applying soothing mechanisms such as a bath, reading, or music. This makes the transition to sleep much easier.
For instance, here was my first routine:
Give my son a drink of water and a little snack. (A full stomach does wonders!)
Change diaper, put in his PJs, and brush his teeth.
Read him a book. (This is especially helpful in calming him down.)
Hum his favorite song while I rock him for a few minutes.
Lay him in his crib once he shows signs of falling asleep.
Sit in the rocker next to his crib until he settles down to sleep.
3. Learn to recognize your child's tired signs
This is especially important because if you wait too long, your child will go from being tired to overtired. It is at this overtired stage that he will become hyperactive, fussy, irritable, and nigh impossible to settle down to sleep. Start the routine when your child shows signs of being tired, but not overly tired. Typically, tired signs include droopy eyes, and becoming quieter, less active, and more demanding. Once you develop a scheduled routine, your child will usually become tired around the same time each night. When in doubt, err on the side of putting your child to bed earlier rather than later.
In my son's case, when he is tired, his eyelids look heavy, and he moves around less, preferring to sit or stand while playing instead of running around. He gets frustrated more easily. For example, when he can't figure out how to make a toy work, he is more prone to yell. He also demands my attention. If I am on the laptop, he will come up and slam it closed, then insist I pick him up. When I recognize these signs, I know it is time to put him to bed.
4. Be willing to adapt
Children go through many stages and changes in the first few years of life. The routine you use when your child is six months old may not work when he is twelve months or two years old. Be willing to try new things if what you're doing doesn't seem to be working as well as you'd like.
For example, recently I noticed that our son has a harder time settling down than he used to. He tries to squirm out of my arms and climb down from the rocker. I discovered that giving him a simple toy like a block or a stuffed animal helps him to stay still and fall asleep faster. We also found that the constant background noise of a fan in the room prevents our son from startling awake at sudden loud noises (like setting off one of his singing toys).
5. Above all, be patient
It may take a while before you notice the fruits of your labors. Don't get discouraged. What you are doing is making a difference, even though you may not see it at first.
With our son, it was a couple weeks before we noticed any improvement. But it was so worth it! Most nights our son now sleeps at least 9 hours before waking. Sometimes we hear him stir, but he is able to soothe himself back to sleep.
Also keep in mind that there are uncontrollable factors which can disrupt a child's sleep pattern. Among these are teething, sickness, being in an unfamiliar environment, car naps, and daylight savings time. When these disruptions come—as they inevitably will—be patient, adapt a new baby sleep schedule, do your best to meet your child's needs, and hold on for the ride. (Teething won't last forever, I promise.)
I am originally from Fernley, Nevada, but our family currently lives in Austin, Texas. My husband and I have been blissfully married for over two years. He supports me through everything and helps me find joy in this journey we call life. Our son Glenn is seventeen months old. He gets into all sorts of mischief, but he knows just how to melt my heart with hugs and laughter (and occasionally helping me with chores). My favorite books are the Harry Potter series. You will often find me listening to these books on tape (yes, on tape) while I clean our house. It brings back fond memories of my mother doing the same thing while I was growing up. As you can imagine, I don't have much spare time with my little bundle of energy running around, but when I do, I like to brush up on my German, work on my novel, make crafts, or learn new recipes. My favorite foods to make are bread, brownies, and creamy mustard chicken with spaetzle—mostly because I love eating them! I also enjoy my daily walks with Glenn. My guilty pleasures are watching BBC television series, bargain shopping, and sneaking chocolate chips out of the baking cupboard. My dream vacation would be taking my family back with me to Austria and Germany, where I did a study abroad while I was in college.
Games. Social media. YouTube. Parents need to know how to protect their kids online while kids interact with others and seek entertainment through the Internet.
The Internet can be a useful tool, especially when kids need to research for school projects and assignments, read news, and communicate with friends. As much as good comes from the internet, the Internet is not without dangers to kids.
How about your kids?
Parents should understand how to use technology for themselves, be informed of various Internet protection sites, and make effective Internet rules for kids. Tonya shared some Internet safety tips for kids:
Internet Safety Rules
Each child has their own profile and we have set the parental controls to only allow 1 ½ hours of time and their profile will only work between the hours of 9:30AM and 9:30PM (We set that). The computer will not allow them to log in after hours without our password. (We have a Mac).
If our children want more computer time, then they must do physical exercise (outside, cleaning, games, etc.) which equals time for time. (½ hour of basketball = ½ more of computer time).
We must be home for the computer to be used.
We have parental pass codes for the other electronic devices. So, for example the apps cannot be downloaded without the code that only we know.
All electronics get turned in to Mom and Dad every evening at 9:30 PM, unless there is a date or a night out, etc. Then they get turned in when they check in to our bedroom at curfew. Electronics get charged in our room then.
How to Trust Kids with Internet
Now, children are SMART! They are technologically advanced and we realize this, so there has to be some amount of trust there. We try to keep them informed on the troubles we see, hear and read about. We put our trust in them and learn about the computer from them. Yes, they go to their friends' house and have internet time there, but we try to encourage good friends that will keep the same standards.
When Internet Safety Rules Are Broken
Now, there are those times that come up when you find out that someone has gone somewhere they shouldn't or the curiosity and searching brought up some inappropriate picture or ad. We have encouraged our children to tell us what they see and when it happened. There are some really great filters out there, but some junk still comes through. When that happens, we try to discuss how we need to be so careful and aware as to where we go and what we surf for. It hasn't happened very often, but there have been times when someone has tried to be sneaky about the rules, like not exercising and then asking for more time; when that happens they get their computer privileges taken away for a time. For example, no computer that week.
One more thought: I have a friend that has a wonderful rule in her home that I wish I would have thought about when my children were young. She has a No Screen Day once a week. For example, Tuesday might be the day where there is no screen time for anyone. No TV, no computer, no IPods, phones, Nintendo, etc. The time must be used on books, games, or other activities. I love that idea.
Most of the time, I don't sit still for very long; although, a good book can catch me every time. I love people; I love to be with them, talk to them, learn from them, and laugh with them. Utah is home to me now, though I grew up in Las Vegas and consider Florida another home, being where my relatives live and I spent many a summers and college there. What am I doing in the cold winters of Utah!? I do love the mountains and hiking them makes me happy. My children will attest to many days of a wake up announcing that we are going on a hike today. :) Okay, I have heard the groans, but I hope one day they will remember that those were/are great memories. If I am home, you will find me in the yard with the chickens and the garden, in the kitchen cooking, or on the couch with a good book. I have so many favorites, that it is hard to pick just one, but I would recommend Without Offense by Dr. John Lund or These is My Words by Nancy Turner. I do work part time teaching physio-neuro therapy. I do that by pure choice as it is another love (back to the working with people thing). :) My children (4 of them) are a big source of happiness. They have their challenges just like any of us; they give us challenges, but they are growing and learning and using their talents for good. My husband is a big, tall teddy bear. He makes us laugh and keeps us entertained. If I could choose a vacation spot, I would pick a beach to relax by or a place in the mountains to hike and adventure. I enjoy exercise. I don't know if that is a confession of guilt or if I am just crazy. I wish I could write and journal more and that I had creative talent to make my words flow like a good book. Maybe one day; for now I do write in my journal and I try to keep up on the good and the bad to make it something my children will one day look back and learn from and hopefully posterity. I asked my husband what he thought were good words to describe me for this and his first word was “motivated”. Ha. (Remember the hiking and exercise comment) :) The next two words were “clean” and “loving”. That makes me smile, because I sure don't want to be dirty and mean. :)
The Apple iPad and TV can be convenient babysitters at times, but many mothers still find creative indoor activities for children to keep their children busy to get through the day. As a result, mothers and children maintain healthy relationships through educational materials and uplifting entertainment.
Shelly has a two-year-old girl who is full of fun and energy. Shelly said, “When it is cold or rainy outside, there is no choice but to be indoors!” Shelly shared four lists of fun indoor activities for toddlers.
1. Go to the library
My library has a great play area with a huge train set and plenty of books! We find one of the comfy couches and curl up there with a stack of new books. We can spend a good portion of the day at the library especially if I am prepared with enough snacks.
2. Music time
I love to play the piano, and my toddler loves to do whatever I'm doing. I pull her up beside me and we bang away on the keys and pretend we're making really great music. We sing nursery rhymes and have a great time.
3. Get busy in the kitchen
It is great when we can get busy in the kitchen, I slide a chair over to the counter and hand my little girl the longest wooden spoon I own. Then I let her help me scramble eggs over the stove (remember to NEVER leave your child's side if you're going to be by a hot pan!) Or we mix flour and sugar and chocolate chips into delicious cookie dough. I always let my toddler help me measure and pour and stir because I don't want her to get bored. She usually makes a gigantic mess but the cookies turn out delicious despite the flour that ends up all over my counters, so I've just learned to accept the fact that I'll have to do a little more clean-up! I like to work in the kitchen with my little girl in hopes that someday she will love cooking so much that she'll just take over for family dinners every night. A girl can dream!
4. Take a long bath
Not me, my child! We usually do bath time at night, but on 'indoor days' I fill the tub with soap and water, find every baby doll, ball, plastic figurine, and water-friendly toy I can find then I dump all of them with my little girl into the bubbly bath! I also grab a hand-held mirror and prop it up on the edge of the tub for her. She loves to make faces and sing into the mirror, and laughs and laughs when I use the shampoo to give her a silly hair-do. It's super fun for her, and I love to watch her giggle and play. I also usually get a chance to wipe down the sink and mirror, it's great!
Shelly lives in Springville, UT and is the mother of one mostly perfect, occasionally terrible, two-year-old. She works very part-time as a Physician Assistant and her husband is in Law School. Life is busy! They love to read "Go Dog Go" on the bed as a family, ride their bikes in the summer, and teach their little girl about life's most important things like the color pink and Disney princesses. Shelly loves to play the piano, sew, do yoga and pilates, and read any good book you would recommend. Most of all though, she loves being a wife and mother. She is an average good living in a better than average life, and it is oh-so-good!
When Karli dumps cheese on a plate for her sons’ snack time, they grab the cheese with their hands, shove the cheese in their mouths, and keep eating them until one piece of cheese is gone on a plate.
Whole-grain. Fruits and vegetables. Homemade smoothies. Parents are always trying to come up with healthy snacks and recipes for kids, especially eating healthy on a budget. Karli is going to introduce to us three affordable, healthy snacks for kids as well as the Woodbury’s healthy green smoothie recipe!
Cheese is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. “I love the already grated Mexican mix cheese at the store,” Karli said. “I buy the huge bags at Costco because I can use it for all kinds of meals, so it's great to have on hand for that reason. Plus, it's healthy and easy to dump on a tray or a plate for the kids when they need a snack or something to keep them busy if I'm busy.”
Vegetables can be a hard sell for kids, but only some are. “My kids love peas still frozen,” Karli said. “You don't even have to cook them. They're healthy (* Frozen is even healthier than fresh), and instead of feeling like you're too lazy to cook your kids lunch, you can feel good about yourself because you're expanding their palette by introducing them to new textures which helps them to be less picky.” Peas provide good nutrition–protein and variety of vitamins.
Carrots are a magical vegetable. Many kids love the color and taste of them even if they don’t like other vegetables. Carrots provide great source of minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin A. No other vegetable will provide vitamin A like carrots do. “This one is a big hit because I let my toddler salt them himself,” Karli said. “I just stick them in a pyrex container with a lid on top. My lids have holes, but you can also just leave the lid askew and boil them for 3 minutes and 33 seconds."
Healthy Snack Recipe– Green Smoothies (Woodbury kids’ favorite recipe!)
Spinach ------------------- Handful
Frozen Kale -------------- Handful
Frozen Strawberries ---- Handful
Banana --------------------- One
Plain Greek Yogurt ------- A dollop
Orange ---------------------- One cup
(*However much you need to make your smoothie smooth. You can also use milk or water, but I prefer orange juice)
Mix all of the ingredients together in a mixer. Blend them well. Serve them while it’s still cold. Karli said her kids LOVE green smoothies which are super healthy and they think it's a treat.
She is from Nevada and likes reading, crafts, learning to sew, Netflix, being with friends. Her favorite food to make is dinner for her husband because it makes him so happy to come home to dinner already prepared. Her favorite books are “Harry Potter,” Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson” and “Olympians” series. Her favorite movies are “Pitch Perfect” and “Doctor Who.” Her favorite blogs are Young House Love, Bower Power, and I Heart Organizing. Her guilty pleasures are books by Meg Cabot and cheesecake. She said hardest part of being a mom is wanting a break and then feeling guilty when she actually takes a break.
Her ultimate advice for new moms: “It's not your fault. Babies are people and you can't control what other people do, so why would you be able to control your baby? Some babies are better sleepers or eaters by nature and don't compare your baby to other people's babies and then blame that on your parenting skills. Just enjoy your baby and do what you think is right because no matter what you do, someone thinks that is the only way to raise a baby, and someone else thinks that is the worst thing you could ever do, but you're the mom and you choose what's right for you and your baby.”