It seems like I wrote this ages ago but for some reason never got around to sharing it. Here, are a few practical things I've learned through the baby and toddler stages with my kiddos. I hope they may help you if you're in that season of life now.
A few reasons why baby might be having a hard time going to sleep or staying asleep through the night for the first year or two. I usually tell first time parents or even myself when I had a new baby, not to expect any predictable routine or sleeping through the night until they are at least one. I sure do aim for it but it most always doesn't go as planned.
- Baby is in pain or uncomfortable
- Baby may be hungry. (But be careful not to over feed your baby, feeding them is the first reaction people get when they cry but it's not always what they need.) Try to distinguish between your baby's cries.
- Baby may be teething. This one is tricky, because some kids go through it with a breeze and others get the fever, sleeplessness, pain, ect.. I personally never knew when my kids were teething, after I saw the tooth most of the time I would be surprised, because I had no idea.
- Baby may be scared. Learn to recognize your baby's cry. It usually varies and that can greatly help you identify if your baby is just crying for no reason or if they might actually be scared or hungry. I added "scared" because my baby was only a few months old when I noticed he was terrified of the dark. He was so little I had no idea that could be possible at that young age.
- Baby is over stimulated. This means baby is very tired or overwhelmed and at that point has a hard time falling asleep and might even have a restless night. Most people think the opposite but if you take time to study your baby, you will realize how much they love and thrive on routine. -Being consistent on a daily basis. Put your baby to bed before he gets restless.
- Baby learning something new. Rolling over, sitting up, getting up on all fours, crawling, standing, walking, talking or even potty training. Expect them to practice in their sleep and that might wake them up (often). It might be frustrating at times but keep in mind they are only this little once and they will be "big kids" before you know it.
Clip your little ones or toddlers nails when they are asleep, use a head light if you need to. It works amazing!
Have a snack ready (preferably one they don't eat often) for when you're putting them into the car on your way home from an outing. I usually had goldfish in my bag ready for them in the special no spill cups. We didn't have goldfish at home so they were always excited and looked forward to it. I say back from an outing because my kids loved to go out, there was usually no struggle putting them in the car from home, but leaving some place to go home, that's when they would be tired and cranky.
Late night out? Pack pjs, a blanket and a pacifier for the drive home, so when you get home they will be calm and ready for bed. In this case too I only gave my kids their special sleeping things as a last resort.
- If your baby has cradle cap, wash their head with a little oil and comb it, then rinse off. But don't stress too much it will eventually go away.
- Put child in the crib for resting time (not necessary only for nap or bed time), if you need a moment to yourself, or they are cranky and you can't figure out why. I did this even when they were wee little and as they grew I gave them toys and books appropriate for their age and rotated between them. They didn't like it at first but quickly learned to enjoy their personal quiet time and went into their cribs without a fuss. My little ones got overwhelmed with too many people and new faces so this routine was a life savor for when we hosted guests. It also works great with nap transition. I wrote about nap time here.
- If the crib isn't working for the toddler or you find yourself using it for that reason often, you can also try putting them in the bath with or without water with some toys. A new place to play makes even the old toys so much more interesting!
A few other ideas to entertain your little ones are to take them outside or for a drive, an outing or even a walk around the block or the house. Any little change in the day will refresh you all.
Many people call the 2 year old stage the "the terrible two's" but I say different. I like to call them the "the testing two's" (I wrote about it as I was living though it with my twins). My dad always said all children like to test the authority in their life and I think it begins when they are two (if not sooner). I thought it would get easier but it doesn't.... (if you have a strong willed little one). Strong will is an amazing trait to have but it's not easy to navigate, anyway that is for another day. I'm learning so much through my children and I'm growing in many many ways and I wouldn't change it for anything. I try to remind myself often that this is just a season, the days might be long but the years are short.
I'm sure there are many more things that could be added that I've either missed or haven't done with my own kids. Or maybe you're in this season of life and need someone to talk to. Feel free to comment below, would love to hear from you!
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