Why I am a Fan of Baby Sleep Routines

I was on the older side when having my first baby at 35 years old and it was observing friends having babies over the years that convinced me a routine was a good idea! Just to clarify I’m not talking about a bedtime routine but a full 24 hour routine of naps, feeds etc.  A friend who didn’t do a routine with her first child but had a strict routine with her second baby said how much easier it was…at the same time another friend had a baby and even months down the track couldn’t go out and leave her baby for an hour or two as she didn’t know when it would want a feed.  It was then that I decided routine was probably a good idea for me.  After making note of that I started asking people and observing and everyone who did a routine said they found it so much easier.  A mother with twins even said it was her lifesaver.  Later I also had a friend who became a baby sleep consultant and she said they could pretty much guarantee sorting out a childs sleep issues if the parents were willing to follow the plan!

sleeping feet

Just the other day I was talking to a mum of an almost one year old an she has been having big problems with sleep and was really struggling.  I’m sure we can all share her pain.  She said people told her she would need a routine now with 2 young kids but she didn’t want to have to worry about that.  An extra thing to worry about and work around and how do you do that when you have a two year old who needs to get out of the house also!  Totally get it.  But by talking to her I could tell straight away her 1 year old was so overtired by evening that she wouldn’t go to sleep for hours and then waking several times a night also.  It would take work to get started on a routine but it would be so worth it for her sanity and her little bubba who would be getting the right amount of sleep that she needs.

clock

So when my little bundle starting growing in my belly I started researching how to go about this routine thing.  It wasn’t as easy as I thought to figure out my approach… probably because I read several different books with slightly different approaches.  The two I probably got most of my information from where the Baby Sense Secret and BabyWise. The second one is quite hard line and written a while ago and it is a program I know several people  who have used and been very happy with.  The first book is probably a slightly softer approach and more PC in todays culture.  Both are worth a read in my opinion.

sleeping newborn

I’ll share a few bullet point thoughts from my experience…and please know I was by no means the routine master!  But even without getting it quite right all the time and never really having baby who slept perfectly (and still doesn’t)  I have definitely found everything I learnt and put into practice so worthwhile.  I would definitely do routine again and hopefully with more confidence the next time!

  • I started on day one by waking my baby every three hours during the day for a feed and a little wake time…its only around 45 mins at a time for a newborn.  At night you feed on demand and hopefully get bigger gaps in feeds  as they start to wake less regularly.  The idea behind this is to get them adjusted to day/night times as quickly as possible.  You want them getting as many calories during the day and getting appropriate amount of wake time during daylight hours so they hopefully wake less during the night.  I never had an issue with him waking for any length at night…just a quick feed then back to sleep.  I could of been lucky but it does make sense to me.  I also was blessed with a great milk supply which I know can be a real struggle for some mums.   What would I do differently?  I would do a 2.5 hour daytime feed gap initially as I had a hungry horrice and it wasn’t worth the effort of trying to drag it out.  I never let him get really upset for a feed but sometimes you do need to try and delay it a bit until they get used to the routine.
  • My wee lad would only sleep 45 minutes at a time during the day (1 sleep cycle) and would do this multiple times a day.  This didn’t fit the routine I was aiming for and sort of stuffed the feeds up a bit too.  I now realised he probably needed a little longer wake time to get him to be tired enough for a longer nap.  A longer nap would of been nice for me to get a decent break (45 minutes go very fast!).  He did eventually do longer naps once he got much older.
  • The Babywise book allows for crying to get your baby on schedule.  I never did this with my boy until around 6 months when I wanted to drop a nighttime feed as he hadn’t dropped it on his own.  It was minimal crying and much less scary than I had built it up to be.  One 40 minute session the first night.  One 20 minute session next night and then 5 minutes the next.  Don’t fear the tears its just that first time you decide to it and after that it is less daunting then you realise they are fine.  Not everyone wants to allow for any crying and you can still do a routine without tears it just takes more work.  Note: Crying it out is not recommended under 4 months of age as they aren’t capable of self setttling yet.  There are also other methods if you aren’t comfortable with this method they just take more patience and time.
  • I had a very settled baby   He didn’t get the opportunity to get overtired so I avoided a lot of crying. He slept the right amount of hours over the 24 hour period just not always in the lengths I was aiming for.
  • I discovered I’m not as much of a tough love mummy as I thought I would be and theres always something happening with a baby to throw things of course.  For me it was a month of sickness in his first winter when he was around six months and other colds at various times.  He has never slept well with colds…like day and night when they come and go.  Vaporisers are a very worthwhile investment in my opinion!
  • It was harder than expected!  What do you do when your baby isn’t doing what you have planned.  How do you change that!  I felt like I needed a mentor for those times.  It is harder initially but easier in the long run reaping rewards for any effort you put in.
  • I would totally recommend to anyone who is really struggling with lack of sleep to get the help of a baby sleep consultant.  They will tailor a plan just right for your babies age and stage and the approach you want to take.  Just be willing to fully follow their advice as a half hearted approach won’t work. I was lucky enough to have a friend to ask but I often thought it would of been nice to just employ her so I had that support and back up to help me follow through.  Babies sleep really does become your world for that first year of their life and if you can get it so you have some predictability it is a much more enjoyable year 🙂
  • Having a routine gives you back some feeling of control over your life when everything thing else has been turned upside down by your little one.  Knowing that at 9am you are going to get some baby sleep time to get that load of washing done or have that cup of coffee and put your feet up can be a life changer with a little one.  Or knowing come 6.30 or 7pm baby will be in bed and you can unwind from the day is a heavenly feeling after a busy day.
  • I have no judgement on whether people decide to try and have a routine or not but its worth researching how routines work so you can make an informed decision as I think too many people put it in the too hard basket or don’t want the effort initially to get established when really it only takes a number of days or a week to get started then you start reaping the rewards.

Well good luck and comment below on your experience of pros / cons of baby routine or lack of them?

 

Foster Placement….from 4 to 5 kids!

Well I shared briefly in another post that we had done our foster care training (a dream of mine for many years) and were waiting to see what opportunities would come up and whether things would look how I expected.

Well as life goes things never really look quite like you expect and instead of taking on a little one as we had been thinking we have taken on a long term 11 year old placement.  Hopefully a home for life but we aren’t making promises as there is nothing worse than telling a child that to only have that changed down the road.  We have gone into it open to long term but will see how things play out over next couple of years.  So far he is brilliant and I must say soooo much easier than another little one lol.  My almost 2 year old keeps me busy right now!  So we now have a 13 year old, 2 x 11 year olds, 9 year old and a 1 year old.  A big bunch of boys 🙂  and no emotional drama (well if you don’t include the 1 year old haha).

So how did it come about…we took him in for a weekend of respite care and by the end of night one I was saying to hubby “shall we keep him?” I knew they were desperately looking for somewhere and had been for quite some time. Straight of the bat he came across as still a very childlike innocent 11 year old, not the hardened pre teen you might expect from years of foster care. He is attending a little country christian school and clearly quite sheltered from the ways of the world in some respects.  A welcome thing as one of my concerns was what are they going to bringing into our house and talking to our boys about etc.  The other concern and often something discussed is how will it affect the dynamics of the other children in the house.  He fits very nicely maturity wise between our 11 year old and 9 year. Our 9 year old is thrilled to have a brother who still wants to do all the things he loves like Nerf wars, Lego and bike rides.  The older boys are getting a little more peace from Mr 9 year old who was often trying to interest them in his pursuits. We haven’t had any squabbles yet and very rarely do with the boys. When one does arise I tend to step in and make a judgement call or occasionally have asked boys to separate and come back when they have a plan or compromise they both agree to.  We have a very structured home in some areas which I think suits our newest member quite well as we were told he sees things very black and white.

boy web

My heart has melted on a couple of occasions already as I see him enjoying life here…having come from not such a great previous placement. The first was on Friday night when we have a pizza and movie night, before the movie we do something called what we love about the family where everyone takes turns to compliment one member of the family.  Seem it was his first time here we chose him and we all showered him with what we liked about him, the oldest one saying he believed God had brought him to us (this meant a lot to me as I’m so grateful to see what nice open hearts they have).  He grinned a warm grin through the whole thing and at the end said wow that was a lot of compliments!

The other was when he came up to me and gave me a spontaneous hug with a smile on his face…pretty good for day 4 🙂

Last night when saying goodnight I said to him we have really enjoyed having you here this week…and he replied I’m not just here for a week but a long time, again with a warm happy almost exicited grin on his face as he snuggled down.  It brought a tear to my eye how these kids are looking for the comfort of a place to belong and feel safe.

In the last few years I  have really become aware of the truth in the bible verse … “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” and have found when seeking what Gods plan is instead of my own ideas that it is easy and it doesn’t come with a feeling of a burden.  I never would of planned on 3 step sons and a foster son but it comes with no burden and a fulfillment and satisfaction of the desires of my heart.

 

 

A simple trick for getting kids to put their dishes in dishwasher… too easy

How many times have you reminded your kids to put their dishes in the dishwasher?  If its anything like my household you will of lost count.  So recently after chatting to a friend I came away with an idea I introduced straight away.  It was so simple and so effective I could hardly believe my luck.  A clean bench was finally in sight!

plates web

So as with everything with kids it usually takes some kind of incentive or consequence to produce change.  In this instance all I had to do (and follow through on) was tell them that if I find their plate or bowl on the bench then they have to load that along with any other dishes that are waiting to go in as well.  You have to laugh when you see what a dreaded consequence this is (usually only 5 or so other dishes), so terrible the 9 year old lightheartedly described it as torture .  Well the torture is working and the mess is half what it was after breakfast and dinner.  Its a win / win either way… if they remember great and if not you get the rest of the dishes stacked too!

While writing this I thought I’d add in another little thing we have in place to minimise dishes… a different coloured cup for each child  which lives on the bench. That way when they have 10 drinks through out the day you don’t end up with 10 different glasses and can just throw one in the dishwasher at the end of the day!

I love getting little tips from other parents, please comment with any of your ideas below.

How to get your kids to eat ANYTHING and like it!

I think I was pretty lucky growing up my only bad memory of being forced to eat something I didn’t want to was of silverbeet with a white sauce.  It was a rare occasion when mum decided I had to have it.  I can still remember the feeling of wanting to vomit. To this day I still don’t like silverbeet!  I think most people have a food that was insisted on that still traumatizes them as an adult!

So how do we teach our kids to eat their vegetables and try new things without scaring them for life?  I can share what has worked for our family.  This is mostly aimed at children you can verbally negotiate with not your toddlers although I will mention this briefly too.

Creating kids that want good food.png

I’ll put them into points so you can easily remember them or note down:

ONE BITE
One bite policy…anything your kids don’t like require them to have one bite each time you serve it.  For example one piece of mushroom, one brocoli floret, one slice of carrot.  I’m a big believer in this as I know myself that if I was required to take one bite I could handle that…I could mentally overcome that challenge… but ask me to eat a whole serving of silverbeet and my stomach would churn and brain swell.

HUNGRY TUMMYS
Make sure your kids are hungry come dinner time.  Don’t over feed them at afternoon tea, one small snack to tide them over may be all they need.  My boys can eat a couple of pieces of toast after school without effecting their dinner appetite but anymore than that and come dinner they aren’t hungry for very much.

SOMETIMES THEY HAVE TO EAT THEIR VEGES
When it comes to vegetables in general, not the ones they hate just the ones they would be happy to swap out for fries then I do sometimes make them eat them.  Generally when we sit down to eat I’ll encourage them to eat veges first before filling up on meat or their favourite thing on the plate.  I also remind them to mix the veges with the thing on the plate they like.

fries web

DON’T OFFER ALTERNATIVES
Your child isn’t going to starve if they miss a few meals. Eventually hunger will make even less desirable things look attractive.  If they don’t want what you are cooking for the family then don’t prepare them separate food (except for allergies of course).  I do sometimes offer the boys a choice of raw or cooked carrot as they would prefer to munch on a raw carrot before dinner than eat a cooked one.  Probably healthier that way anyways.

ALWAYS LET THEM CHOOSE IF THEY WANT TO EAT
I read about a large family who would put out the least favourite thing first and once they had eaten that they got the next thing.  They didn’t have to eat anything it was their choice but they didn’t get the next thing until that one was eaten.  I have used this once or twice when we have had something like a bacon and egg salad for tea.  Just remember to serve up an achievable portion for a child, relative to how used to eating that sort of thing they are.  Initially this may mean one lettuce leaf and two slices of tomato.  I now find I can serve the boys a big plate of salad with the yummy goodies on top and they are happy to eat the whole thing as they have become accustomed to it as I have increased it over time.  We have also had boys who wouldn’t eat mushrooms or beetroot now love it as one bite at at time over many meals they have grown to enjoy it.

OFFER INCENTIVES
We have a general policy if you can’t eat most of the good food on your plate then you don’t have room for dessert.  If you can’t try the one bite then that is okay but no dessert.  Dessert is a very good motivator for many children.  Just make sure what you are asking them to achieve is realistic and not too much.  Start with baby steps.  Be tough and follow through or you are wasting your time and losing their respect.

dessert web

KEEP OFFERING THE GOODS
Don’t stop offering just because they don’t like it first time.  This is especially true for babies and toddlers.  Put a selection of food out for them and they will surprise you eating things they wouldn’t touch not long ago.  Don’t be surprised if they change their minds on things they used to like also though.  At this age I find with my 1 year old that it is very important I don’t let him snack too much on less healthy food or he isn’t interested when the good stuff comes along.

DON’T BUY FOODS YOU DON’T WANT THEM OR YOURSELF EATING
This may seem very obvious but how many people buy stashes of goodies for the cupboard when they are trying to lose weight.  If its not something you should be consuming don’t bring it into the house. I have to remind myself of this regularly especially when things are on special.  We buy biscuits as our treat for after dinner having a couple each night or occasionally ice cream.  I stay away from buying lollies, chocolate and fizzy drinks.  Juice is another thing which you may be best to avoid buying unless you are controlled enough to only drink occasionally as it is loaded with fruit sugar.  A piece of fruit is a much more balanced snack.

candy web

MAKE TASTY MEALS
The best way to get vegetables into your children without a battle is by cooking tasty meals that contain lots of them.  Some of our favourites are mince (50% meat / 50% vegetables – grated carrot, zuchinni, apple, tinned tomatoes, spinach, grated pumpkin and anything else you have on hand), quiche (loaded with vegetables, cheese and bacon) and more recently I have found some great one pot recipes loaded with vegetables which I’ll share in another post.   I think most kids would enjoy these kinds of things.

I hope one or two of these ideas might be helpful for your family!  I use them all and my 3 older boys eat almost everything and enjoy it.  The toddler is still very much a work in progress…

Dreaming of Fostering a Child

Fostering….Its not something you  hear many people getting excited about.  But at 37 and having had a desire to help children since I was a teenager it gets me excited!  Finally after a life time of wrong timing it finally seems like the right timing to go ahead and we have completed our training. It has been quite a process…two home interviews, lots of paperwork, two full day courses and a big span of time ….about 6 months now.

And now that the process is all finished it feels like the hard part is just starting.  The waiting and not knowing.  When will they ring us?  What age will the child be?  Will it be short term or long term?  A boy or girl?  How damaged will they be?  How will they fit in with our kids?  and the list goes on.

We signed up hoping to give a child a home for life… to save them from being bumped from home to home.  To share our happy family life with another soul who hasn’t yet been blessed with that.  We have our ideal scenario in our mind but know also that the ideal doesn’t always look like what we expect.  We have 4 boys 13, 11, 9 and a 1 year old. Ideally we would like a little girl not too far in age from our 1 year so that as the others grow up and leave home he will still have a companion.  I share this because it will be interesting to look back and see how this has panned out.  I have a friend who signed up for short term emergency care for children between 3 and 12 … she now has two permanent placements aged 1 year and 16 years…the complete opposite of her plan but it fits her just perfectly.

So now is the waiting game, the lottery, the unknown… the hardest part for me so far.

Should your Child Pay You Rent?

I was at the hairdressers today and I got talking to the young trainee hairstylist. She was 16 and living at home. She shared about her siblings 18 and 20 who also lived at home…not studying or working just blobbing.  Funnily enough last time I visited this same salon another assistant told me of her two grown children living at home, not working or studying, not wanting to help out around home, borrowing her car and the list goes on.  It got me thinking…

In NZ once you turn 18 you can get an unemployment benefit to keep you fed and housed while you have no other income so there’s a good chance these kids are receiving this.  Its not a huge amount but enough to make you comfortable if you aren’t paying anything for your upkeep. Often their money is going on takeaways, social lives, cars, alcohol, clothes etc.

The kids mentioned above are currently not showing much responsibility for their upkeep or any motivation for their future and why should they bother they have a free ride.   I think a simple thing parents can do to help them at this age and stage is to charge them rent!  And not just kids who are sloths on the couch but your working children too!

The best idea I have heard is of parents who charge their kids rent each week and then save it for them using it towards their first house, wedding, car, travel, study etc.

What a great blessing you can give back to your kids!

Not all families can afford to do this but how about keeping half  for your costs and saving the rest for them.

Some parents will say they don’t charge rent so that the kids can save but I’ve heard all too many times that it often doesn’t pan out this way.  Yes there will be the exceptions who will be great savers.

A lady I know was feeling frustrated with her son who was still in his teens and working full time. He was spending a lot of money modifying his very entry level car. Meanwhile he lived rent free at home as she raced from job to job trying to support their large family. I couldn’t help but think if she only charged him even $50 a week how it could take some pressure off her. Or even better $150 and set aside the $100 for his future expenses that will have a more lasting impact on his life than an upgraded dumpster of a vehicle.

The benefits of grown kids paying rent:

  • Teach them responsibility for oneself and form good habits
  • Take pressure off the family budget
  • Get them used to life in the real world
  • Save for their future
  • Redirect some of their money from being wasted on futile things

How about you? Did your grown children pay you rent while they lived at home? How much did / do you charge?

 

Preparing your

How to Tame your Toddler

A month or two ago it suddenly became apparent that my wee lads strong little will was well formed and ready to assert itself.  When I think back it kicked in initially around the time he started to crawl and then went up to a new level with walking.  Perhaps the new found freedom and hearing ‘No’ for the first time helped with this.  Either way I had heard the need for discipline started earlier than you would expect so it didn’t take me too much by surprise.  It almost starts off quite humorously when you see the first tantrum or say ‘No’ and see them do the exact thing you have told them not to at twice the speed.  One of those precious moments as they grow up!

But over time the humor of it wears off when left unchecked as the cute determined little baby starts to rule the roost and have everyone walking on eggshells trying to avoid conflict and embarrassment at their behaviour.  Suddenly all those things ‘my child would never do’ are happening and the atmosphere in the home is far from your ideal scenario when you pictured your happy little family!

So how do you avoid this being the ongoing story of your life…I’ll tell you whats been working for me.

Sam (16 months) is a PINCHER,  it almost seems to be hardwired in him.  He has more recently been putting his teeth to the test but his preferred method of attack is a good squeeze of the skin between the fingers, and it hurts!  He has it perfected to a fine art for such a young fellow.  He has one older brother in particular (next youngest in the pack at 9 years old) he likes to test out his skills on and looks at him with pure attitude while doing it. You could say hes a bully as it almost always comes completely undeserved…. Andrew leans quietly against the couch a little too close to where Sam wants to be.  So a good ole pinch will do it!

USING YOUR VOICE
I’ve been teaching the boys to say in a big strong voice ‘NO’ when he does it as they are so sweet and lovely to their little brother that just get teary if it hurts and forget to say anything to him.  They will tell us often but an instant negative response is needed to help Sam learn.  It recently became clear how important this was when observing a lovely mum who was so sweet to her kids but would only ever speak in a happy tone even as they wrecked havoc. The child needs to understand that the behaviour isn’t desired or making you happy.

What I have experienced and also witnessed a 100 times over with children is that telling them ‘NO’ alone doesn’t achieve much.  It is needed so they learn what the behaviour is that is undesired but its unlikely to be effective until they know that it will be backed up with consequences.  Once they know the consequences will come if the ‘NO’ is ignored it gets easier.

The tricky part can be finding the appropriate consequence in our PC world where smacking is a thing of the past (in NZ anyways).  Often there is a logical consequence like taking away the toy that is being used inappropriately.  But other times its quite a challenge.  In this instance I will tell you what we used as Sam is very young and can also be sensitive (and stubborn!)

ACTION TIME
When Sam started his pinching with Jared and I, we very quickly nipped it in the bud.  A quick sharp reaction ‘NO’ and removing him from our lap or personal space and putting him on the ground facing the other direction.  This was enough of a consequence for him at this point as he would cry for 30 seconds and then come back to us.  This was a few months ago so he was only about 14 months at the time as it was something he didn’t want to happen.  On many occasions he looks at us, fingers poised ready for the pinch,  but thinks twice and retreats as he knows it is met with a consistent reaction that he doesn’t want.  This may well have been the end of it but with brothers who are a bit more vulnerable, we have had a bit more of a fight to deter the behaviour.  A month or so after he stopped doing it to us I noticed an increase in his bullying of number 2,  so we decided we needed to get on top of that ASAP.  By this stage he’s a bit bigger and more determined and any pinching witnessed by myself or Jared resulted in a growly voice and being moved to the hallway, put on ground facing other way.  He is allowed to return to us whenever he wants as that is enough for him at this age and stage.  He has on one occasion come back and persisted in which case the follow through was into his cot for around 3 minutes.  This has been enough to put a significant end to the pinching for now but it does require occasional reinforcement.  I know some children may take repeating this steps significantly more times before they learn that they aren’t winning.  The key here is that it has to be a consequence they don’t like.  It doesn’t have to be a major but they do have to not like it.

Another example I’ve seen work effectively is with high chair behaviour… the child throws food or is making too much noise (squealing etc), give a warning ‘no’ then simply turn the highchair around for a few minutes away from others at the table.

PEACEFUL HAPPY HOME
Now that Sam is 16 months he understands a lot and he is very ready to learn a few boundaries and to listen to mummy and daddy.  Teaching your children to do as they are asked reaps results for a peaceful happy home. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy in the short term to be the good guy in the long run.  Theres a certain order of things and if mummy and daddy aren’t in charge at home life is going to be hard work.  You are responsible for making and guiding your home toward the kind of environment that you want.  Toddlers and children aren’t ready to lead the house even though they do in some.  Children benefit and feel more secure and safe when boundaries are clear and consistent.

Be selective on what you say ‘No’ to.  It should only be on handful of things max in a day. Choose your battles and don’t be on their case all day, but be consistent or your efforts will be wasted.

In summary it is very simple:

  • use your voice tone…make it clear you don’t like the behaviour with a firm ‘No’ or an alternative word if you are slightly hippy and don’t like using no.
  • Follow up if  behaviour doesn’t stop with a consequence, preferably the smallest consequence needed as long as they don’t like.  No need to punish them.
  • Show them love and acceptance again shortly after negative behaviour stops.

Hopefully something in this has been an encouragement or reminder for your journey. If so  please leave a comment or follow me for further posts.

TAME YOUR TODDLER (1)