Toddlers: When Sweet Babies Go Bad

Imagine, if you will, that you are thirsty. All you want is a glass of water…simple right?

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Photo by Nicolette Attree on Pexels.com

 

Now, picture that you are just 2-foot-tall, and every time you ask one of the giants around you to help you get some water, they can’t understand what you are saying.

They offer you a cookie, then they change your pants, they give you milk. You are getting frustrated at their lack of understanding, and they have the nerve to get mad at you for it! Ugh, right!

Welcome to the life of a toddler.

As the parent of a toddler, I know how hard it is to be patient and understanding when your sweet little baby turns into a tiny tornado of rage and drama. Some days, they seem impossible to please.

There is no magic bullet to figure out what a toddler needs or how to keep your cool when they are melting down, but it helps me to settle myself down by having a little empathy for my baby girl.

I am sure that she doesn’t want to be angry or cry or yell. She would much rather be happy and playing. I know that, as hard as it is on us as her parents, it is equally hard on her.

So the next time you are at your wits end and you are sure that your toddler has been possessed by some sort of daemon, take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember that they are struggling too.

Sleep training after co-sleeping

IMG_4610For the purposes of this article, there are two types of parents.

The first type, they were blessed with babies who slept through the night at 3 or 6 months. We are very happy for this group.

Then there is the other group. The rest of us. The moms and dads out here with 1 and 2-year-old babies who still wake up throughout the night. The parents of colic babies.

This article is for us, the “other group,” the tired masses of zombie parents.

IMG_3814Sleep training is a hotly debated topic amongst parents and pediatricians alike. My own pediatrician recommends the Ferber method, which involves laying baby down to bed and checking on the baby at regular intervals, but not picking baby up.

As a co-sleeping advocate, I do not subscribe to the Ferber, or Cry-it-out methods, or any method that forbids me from comforting baby or that has me making drastic changes to our normal bedtime routine.

I have handled both of my children differently. What worked for my son has not worked for my daughter, and why would it? I believe that each child is different, with unique personalities. It is up to us as parents to figure out what works best for our individual children.

For my son, I used a version of the Fading Out method. I started when he was 18 months old. Step one was laying down with him in his toddler bed. I did this for maybe a week. Then, I would sit on the floor right next to his bed until he fell asleep. This meant rubbing his back and putting him back in his bed over and over again for another week or so.

When he could fall asleep without me laying with him, just touching his back, I started to just sit with him near his bed and not touch him. After a week or so of success, I started lying him down and standing by the door. That progressed to laying him down and then leaving the room.77EB8A85-D62A-4ADF-9A07-A6E0EB9C1B09

It took at least 5 months to get to that point and sometimes I would still have to put him back in his bed multiple times a night.

With my daughter, I am starting the process a lot earlier. We got her a co-sleeper bed at 10 months old. She is right next to our bed with just a small bumper between us. It is high enough that she cannot roll onto our bed, but low enough that she can easily crawl over it.

I started out transferring her to the co-sleeper after she was asleep. She would wake up in the co-sleeper and crawl back to me. I would nurse her and when she fell back to sleep, I would put her back in the co-sleeper.

After a few weeks, she would allow me to put her in the co-sleeper before she was fully asleep as long as I was touching her. It took my daughter only about a month before she started to prefer to sleep in the co-sleeper bed. Now, after she nurses, she crawls back to into her own bed.

Once she is no longer nursing through the night, I will move her to a regular crib away from my bed. Then, eventually, to her own room.

The key to any method is patience and consistency. Some kids take longer than others, and some nights will be harder than others. Just keep at it and remember that it is a short time in a big life.

Fostering Creativity in Kids

cf977-img_0254Fostering creativity in our children is getting harder and harder.

Kids today are being stimulated almost every waking moment by some mindless form of electronic entertainment. Netflix, video games, YouTube videos, Google searches…everything our kids want is at their fingertips.

Gone are the days when kids played for hours at a time with a stick and rock, using their imaginations to make up games. So, how do we foster that creative spirit in our kids?

An article in the Journal of Turkish Science Education suggests that the brainstorming method of teaching can help boost the creative thought process in children.

Brainstorming is a long standing exercise in formal education. Students are given a problem, broken up into groups and asked to propose as many solutions as possible, no matter how wild. After a period of time has elapsed, all students come together and discuss each proposed solution, carrying it to its theoretical end. Based on the theoretical success or failure of the solution, each one is ranked. Eventually, the students are left with a short list of the best possible solutions.

Obviously, this process needs to be modified in order to be used at home, but it can be used. Imagine presenting your children with a basic household problem, like the kitchen trash can fills up too fast, and asking them to brainstorm as many ideas as they can in 15 minutes.

Write down all the ideas and then whittle your list by talking through each scenario. When you get down to the top 3 or 5 ideas, test them out to see what works best.

You might be surprised at the solutions your children come up with, and – as an added bonus – you might even get them to pitch-in more with household chores.

5 Inexpensive Must-Have Baby Toys

In the interest of honesty, I will start out by saying that my baby’s favorite toy right now is a plastic spaghetti scooper. That notwithstanding, these are some of our favorite baby and toddler items.
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Click the product photos below for more information about each item.

  • Wrist Band and Sock Toys

When babies are small, they can’t really hold on to things too well, but that doesn’t stop them from wanting to hold things. These little soft toys strap onto their wrist and slide onto their feet. My baby pulled the socks off after a short period of time, but until then, she was entertained by them.


  • Baby Links


I use these things to attach all sorts of toys to the stroller, the car seat, even the walker. They are safe for baby girl to chew on, and they keep her toys from falling onto the floor and getting lost.

 

  • Small Textured Balls


Aside from the spaghetti scooper, these are baby girl’s favorite toys. She chews on the spikey one and throws the others around the living room. They are big enough that they can’t fit in her mouth, but small enough that they fit in her hand.

  • Xylophone Music Table


There is just something about banging and making noise that babies love. It is loud, but baby girl loves it. She continues to go back to this toy over and over again.

  • Teether / Pacifier Clip

While not technically a toy, baby girl chews on this thing constantly. We never go to a public place without it. It keeps her pacifier safe and close by, while also serving as a teether.

American Working Mothers are the Most Stressed

According to a recent study, American working mothers are more stressed out than their European counterparts.
Sociologist Caitlyn Collins reveals in her new book, “Making Motherhood Work,” that American mothers experience higher stress levels and feelings of guilt than working mothers in Germany, Sweden and Italy.

In an interview with Psychology Today, Collins says, “I want American moms to stop blaming themselves. I want American mothers to stop thinking that somehow their conflict is their own fault, and that if they tried a little harder, got a new schedule, woke up a little earlier every morning, using the right planner or the right app, that they could somehow figure out the key to managing their stress. That’s just not the case.”
Alleviating the stress on American working mothers is easier said than done. Working mothers often feel like they have to work twice as hard at the office just to prove that they are still dedicated to their jobs.
Science Magazine reports that working mothers often feel this way because they face, what the magazine calls, the “maternal wall bias.” Described as a type of discrimination that working mothers face from co-workers and management. It is a perceived lack of dedication because the mother is, or should be, focused more on their children than on their careers.
On top of the stress of having to prove their dedication to their careers, working mothers also face the societal pressures to be active in their children’s school programs and sporting associations, maintain the household chores, and engage in social activities.
Just writing this article and taking the time to critically think about all of the directions that I am being pulled in as a working mother, was enough to get my anxiety flowing.
Katrina Alcorn, author of “Maxed Out: American Moms on theBrink,” said, “We’re expected to do our jobs as if we don’t have children and then raise our children as if we don’t have jobs.”

So, what is the answer? How do we dial back the pressure on working moms?
In her book, Collins sites the American mother’s lack of external support as a major factor in her increased stress. Working mothers in other developed countries, like Germany, Sweden, and Italy, expect to be supported by both their employers and husbands in order to maintain a healthy work / life balance.
Meanwhile, in the United States, stay at home fathers are routinely mocked for doing “women’s work.” There is no such thing as paternity leave and zero federal regulations for maternity leave.
Men are expected to use vacation days to attend the birth of their children and women are expected to return to work as soon as they are medically cleared. In some cases, as soon as 3-weeks after giving birth.
Changing these ideals won’t be easy, and it will take time. Fathers will need to be more vocal about accepting a larger share of household duties. Working mothers, and fathers alike, will need to demand more from their employers or seek new employment with more family focused companies.
Eventually, companies who want top-notch employees will have to change with the tide and begin offering working parents more flexible options for a better quality of life.

Why you should keep your parenting advice to yourself

My son didn’t sleep through the night until he was 7 or 8 months old. People back then thought that he was too old to be waking up. They said that I should let him cry it out. They said to switch him to formula.

My daughter is almost a 1 year old and she is no where near sleeping through the night. As you may have guessed, people say the same thing this time.

I don’t always handle her sleeplessness with poise and grace.

I sometimes doubt myself during the seamlessly endless nights.

However, I will not let her cry it out. I will not switch her from breast milk to formula. I will stick it out for her, like I did for her brother.

Why?

Because that is my choice.

Because I made the commitment to her and to myself that I would.

Furthermore, if you decide that you want to let your child cry it out, or that you want to use formula, I will support you in that decision. Because that is your choice.

No one has ever walked up to me and told me that I should drive and different car. Or that I should wear a different color shirt. Or buy a different style of shoes.

So why are people so comfortable telling me how to raise my baby? Why is it that we, as a society, think that it is ok to spout off our unsolicited advice as parenting law?

We all do it, if we are being honest with ourselves. We all scoff at the idea that someone else’s parenting style is better than our own. After all, if we agreed with them, then that is what we would be doing too.

What our fellow parents really need is support. Empathy. Not criticism, or judgement.

I have been working on this in my own life. When a friend comes to me with a tale of parenting woe, I listen, and I try to cheer them up. I remind them that they are doing the best they can. I remind them that all things are temporary.

I hold back the advice until it is asked for.

Best Practical Baby Shower Gifts

I am one of those people who tries really hard to pick the perfect gift for someone. When it comes to baby showers, I rely on my own experience as a mom to help guide me to a gift that is actually practical for new parents.

 

So, the next time you head to a baby shower, skip the registry and cute onsies, and look for something more practical.

 

 

My husband and I both have our own kangaroo pouch shirts. We wore them around the house and at family gathering all the time. Now that our daughter is almost 1-year-old, she is too big for the shirt’s pouch, but to extend the usefulness, I cut leg holes in the bottom of the pouch. Now I can still use the shirt to help me carry my daughter with just one arm.

 

 

A car seat is one of the most important items to have, obviously, but what many new parents don’t think about is having extra bases for their infant seat. Life is so much easier when you can click in and pop out of the car with baby. Not to mention, having an anchored base in the car help to ensure that the seat is properly secured every time.

 

 

There is no such thing as enough wipes. The sheer volume of wipes that a baby goes through in the first year is astounding. Yet, wipes are something that people often don’t give as a gift.
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Sleep sacks are basically a wearable blanket for your baby. They are easy to put on the baby and one size lasts for months. The are perfect for newborns.

 

 

My second baby was colicky and if you have ever experienced a baby with colic, you know that parents will do anything to help ease the crying and fussiness. A good friend’s sister turned me onto to Grip Water and it was a godsend.

 

 

If the new parents are on-the-go types, a car bottle warmer is amazing. The warmer plugs into the car cigarette lighter outlet and allows you to warm up a bottle anywhere.

 

 

When my daughter was born, someone bought us a pack of three muslin receiving blankets, and they were the best overall item we received. We used them to swaddle her, as burp cloths, blankets, you name it. They were light weight, but still warm. We liked them so much, we ended up buying at least 10 more.
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The big car seat strollers are great, but the a just that, big, and heavy. There are many times when you just need something better than an umbrella stroller but not quite as big as the giant car seat stroller. My favorite option, the Urbini Reversi. This is not you mama’s umbrella stroller. It is light weight and small, but still sturdy and versatile. This stroller allows you to switch between forward and rear facing, so it is appropriate for infants and toddlers.

 

 

For baby #1 I had a standard monitor, for baby #2 I had video…and it was like trading a plain old walkie talkie for a brand-new iPhone. Definitely upgrade to video.

 

ProTip: Get an indoor wifi security camera instead of a video baby monitor, they are cheaper and more versatile since they can be accessed from a smartphone.

 

 

With both baby #1 and baby #2 the boppy was one of my most used items. From breast feeding to belly time, to naps.

The daycare dilemma

Picture this… a young couple, just starting out in life, have just brought home their first baby. Both the new mom and dad have full-time jobs. Everyone in the immediate family also works full-time, so they begin to shop around for daycare.

The cost of daycare is more than the cost of a 4-year college

Image their surprise when they find out that infant daycare, in many places around the United States, can cost more than a mortgage payment on a $250k home.

As a matter of fact, according to The Balance, “In 33 states (and the District of Columbia), the cost of infant care is more than the cost of in-state tuition at a public, 4-year college.”

How can anyone afford infant care today, let alone young couples and single parents?

What other options do they have?

Become a Stay-at-Home parent.

For double income households, assuming that one parent can foot the monthly expenses alone, the lower earning parent can stay home.

However, CNBC reports that, “a 26-year-old woman who is earning $30,253 and takes off five years to provide care is losing $467,000 over the course of her career — a 19 percent reduction in her lifetime earnings.”

Create a Private Nanny Share

Private nanny shares, which involve several families hiring one nanny and splitting the costs, is not without risk. You would have to vet the nanny yourself and share the nanny’s time and attention amongst enough children to make this a cheaper alternative.

Not to mention, if you hire a private nanny, you are now responsible for reporting wages to the IRS.

Employer Assistance Programs

Some larger employers offer help, like flexible spending accounts or employer sponsored daycare centers, but these options are usually not available to those who need it the most.

Moving Back Home

Couples are selling their homes, or giving up their apartments, and moving in with the grandparents.

Going back home, when available, allows a couple to cut their expenses and either use the savings to afford daycare or take the opportunity to drop down to a single income.

Split Shifts

Depending on the type of work, one parent may be able to change their schedule to a night shift. This can be very difficult on a marriage. It is also tiring for the night shift parent who must take care of a child during the day, but for some new parents, it is the only option.

Seeking State Assistance

Unfortunately, it is difficult for a double income family to qualify for assistance in many states. This leads new parents down a path of frustration and, sometimes, extreme behavior in order to qualify for help.

Loving couples sometimes get legally divorced. Sadly, it is cheaper and easier for one parent to pay child support and the other to qualify for public assistance than it is to find affordable and reliable child care.

The outrageous costs of daycare for children from newborn to 4-years-old can push parents to extremes, from lying about their situation to qualify for aid to illegal and unsafe home daycares.

Perhaps it is time to address the issue of child care in the United States?

5 Tips for healthy co-parenting

Divorce or separation from your child’s other parent can be extremely emotional for everyone involved.

Couples who split up usually have a very hard time getting passed whatever issue led them to split up. When you have a child or children together, you absolutely have to get beyond that anger for the sake of those children.

You have to love your kids more than you hate your ex. It sounds simple, but it can be very hard.

It is important to think before you react to anything your ex does or says. Especially, if he or she is deliberately trying to provoke you.

Co-parenting is easier when you get along.

Here are some tips to help get you through co-parenting with someone who pushes ALL your buttons:

  1. Divorce Magazine (I didn’t know there was such a thing either) nails the number one best thing that I believe that you can do to keep separation from causing long term emotional issues for your child. Never, EVER, bash their other parent. No matter what happened between the two of you, your child loves their mother and their father. When you talk bad about someone they love, you are hurting your child.
  2. For me, Psychology Today’s recommendation that you “vow to be calm, pleasant, and non-emotional,” comes in at a solid #2. Don’t let your ex control your emotions. The less you react to their prodding, the less power you give them and the better you will feel. Imagine not carrying that anger with you every day.
  3. Never use your child as a weapon to hurt your ex. This seems like common sense, but the in the anger after a separation, sense leaves the equation.
  4. Don’t keep score. Maybe you buy shoes for your kids all the time and your ex never seems to pitch in. Maybe your ex tried to keep you from seeing your child. Maybe you go to every sporting event your child participates in, but your ex rarely attends. It does not matter. The only thing that matters is that your child is taken care of and that you do the best that you can. You can’t control your ex, and you shouldn’t try to. All you can do is be the best parent that you can be.
  5. Be flexible. If your custody agreement says that it is your day with your child, but it is a special occasion for your ex and they ask for some time, do your best to accommodate. Even if they have said no to you in the past.

Every journey starts with one step, be the one who takes that first step and starts the journey to a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Recommended Reading:

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Yes, my baby uses a pacifier. No, I’m not worried about it.

Pacifier use is a hot button issue amongst new parents. Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether or not soothers are appropriate for baby.

 

I for one, believe that parenting is hard enough without depriving my baby of something that comforts her. Not to mention, helps calm her when she is fussy.

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “a pacifier might help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).” Research has been unable to pin point exactly why, but SIDS deaths are reduced in babies who use soothers during sleep.

 

Pacifiers do have downsides, like creating a dependency or early breastfeed weaning, but in my opinion, these are easily remedied issues.

 

Many mothers believe that pacifiers are bad for a baby’s teeth. While this is true for older babies, it isn’t a concern for infants. Dentists recommend ending use of a pacifier before the age of 3 to avoid dental issues.

 

I have always been a believer that pacifiers help to curb thumb sucking. I have found it easy to break my children of the pacifier by simply eliminating their access to the pacifier. I would not have that option with their thumbs.

 

If you find that a pacifier isn’t right for you, that is great. I am happy for you and your baby.

 

However, I find that it is right for us. So please, keep your anti-pacifier speech to yourself. Moms and Dads are under enough pressure to be perfect parents, we don’t need to worry about pacifiers too.