Lesson 70: Give peace a chance

Consider whether or not you want your child to continue using a pacifier (if she uses one). Many pediatricians suggest getting rid of the pacifier between 1-year and 18-months. Studies suggest that the use of a pacifier can interfere with speech development, increase the occurrence of ear infections, and cause dental issues.

My own personal research suggests that removing the pacifier will cause much screaming and a lack of sleep for all.

Conclusion? Removing the pacifier from my son’s life isn’t even on my radar right now. He only takes it to sleep, and on the very rare occasion when he’s super cranky or not feeling good. When he takes it to sleep, it falls out of his mouth as soon as he’s asleep.

To paci or not to paci

Plus? Let’s just look at the word pacifier. To pacify is to give peace, and who am I to interfere with that? Let’s give peace a chance, you guys.

I have no idea when we’ll take away the pacifier, but today ain’t the day, folks.

 

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Lesson 69: Giving your kid medicine is like trying to slip him a roofie

J took Zantac from the time he was about 3-months-old until he was more than 1-year-old. In the beginning, it was easy: we just put the medicine in a syringe and squirted it in his mouth. But as he got a bit older and his taste buds developed more, he quickly decided he wasn’t having that nasty stuff put in his mouth.

He doesn’t take Zantac anymore, but it’s still a struggle to get Motrin or Claritin or any other necessary medicine in him. We’ve done many things to trick our child into taking his medicine, and I am not ashamed of it. It’s not that we give him a lot of medicine, but he learns really quickly when we’re trying to fool him. So we have to constantly be on our feet and one step ahead of him on this one. I’ll share a few things that have worked for us.

The first thing to remember is, never let them see you stir. Anytime we try to drug our kid in secret, we always have to mix the drugs in when he’s not looking. If he sees us, the gig is up.

How to slip your kid a baby roofie:

1. Try mixing the medicine in semi-liquid healthy foods that you would normally feed him anyway, such as applesauce or yogurt.

2. Make a smoothie with frozen fruit, yogurt, and 1/2 an avocado. Add drugs.

3. Try mixing the meds in a bit of honey (only if your baby is older than 1 year).

4. When J started going through an independent phase, we realized that just letting him drink the medicine out of a little cup worked fine. If he could do it by himself, he was more than happy to do it.

5. Distract him. Sometimes I can get J to focus so hard on something that I can just pour the medicine in his mouth and he doesn’t even notice.

6. When all the other methods failed (and eventually, they did), we swapped to chocolate ice cream. 99% of the time, it worked. Just put a couple of scoops of ice cream in a bowl, mix in the meds, and spoon-feed.

7. For that 1% of the time when your kid is being too stubborn even to eat chocolate ice cream, swaddle his little butt, hold him tightly, and slowly squirt the medicine inside his cheek. Squirt a little, then blow in his face–he’ll swallow. It’s not fun for anybody, and you’ll probably get a little spit back in your face–but it generally works.

Do you have any medicine-taking tips that have worked well for your child? If so, please share!

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Lesson 63: Your baby’s shoes are important!

Does it really get much cuter than this?

Shoes

Yes, they’re cute. But they were also one of our worst parenting fails. Oops.

Never put hard-soled shoes on your baby!

When J was about 9 months old he started pulling up on his own. We realized he was close to learning to walk and decided he needed some shoes. I bought hard-soled shoes because I wanted his teeny baby feet to have extra protection.

Go ahead, those of you who know better, taunt me now.

Before your baby is learning to walk, there’s absolutely no reason to put shoes on him at all. Cover those tootsies with socks when it’s cold, but otherwise save the cutesy baby shoes for later. Your baby needs to bare his feet!

The bones in a baby’s foot are made of cartilage and the most foot development occurs from infancy into toddlerhood. Shoes that are too rigid (such as hard-soled shoes) or shoes that do not fit properly can actually change the natural shape of the foot.

Once he starts pulling up and shows interest in walking, it’s still best to let him go barefoot as much as possible. The more he walks without shoes, the more his feet develop naturally. If the floor is cold, put some no-skid socks or soft-soled shoes on him. If you take him outside, he’ll need a little extra protection. In this case, go with lightweight shoes made of natural materials (synthetic materials do not allow your child’s feet to breathe as easily, which can cause odor and the growth of bacteria–yuck). The bottoms should be smooth so that they do not grip or stick to the floor. Not only do sticky bottoms pose a risk for the child to trip and fall (which, let’s face it, they’re going to be doing a whole of that anyway, so whatever), but they also run the risk of changing the child’s natural gait.

So when it comes time to purchase shoes for Baby, consider having your child professionally fitted or look into shoes such as Robeez or Pedipeds.

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Lesson 62: Your boobs (nature’s pharmacy)

After I wrote Lesson 60: Drug Your Baby, a friend of mine reminded me of one alternative treatment that can be used for a number of things: breastmilk (I can’t believe I didn’t have it on my original post!).

Before I started breastfeeding, I never even imagined that there was any other purpose for breastmilk than to nourish my child. Who knew that stuff was so versatile? No wonder so many people refer to it as “liquid gold.”

I’ve used breastmilk myself to treat the following:

Conjunctivitis. Yup, I pinned my baby down and squirted him in the eye with breastmilk. His pinkeye was gone the very next day. Just express some milk and, using a dropper, put 2 drops of milk in the affected eye.

Congestion. Put a few drops in your baby’s nose to help clear up congestion.

Ear infections. Put 3-4 drops around the entrance of the ear canal (not directly in it). Some ear infections may require the use of antibiotics and, if you read my previous post, you know I don’t encourage anybody to replace modern medicine (when needed) with alternative treatments. However, many infections are viral and cannot be treated with antibiotics. Furthermore, you can use this alternative treatment in conjunction with antibiotics if they are prescribed–I’m fairly certain you won’t overdose your baby on breastmilk.

Minor cuts and scratches. When J was very little and would scratch his face with his nails, I would dab a little breastmilk on the cuts and they usually healed up within 24 hours. I still use it for little cuts and scratches.

Teething. Express breastmilk, freeze it in covered ice cube trays, then put it in a mesh feeder (be careful about cleaning and storing these because they can mildew quickly). Baby can suck and gnaw on it. I imagine just the cold is what soothes the gums, but at least you know he’s getting something good as it melts!

I’ve never used it for the following purposes (either because I never needed it or because I didn’t think about it when I would have needed it), but I’ve read that breastmilk can be used for the following:

  • Contact solution
  • Chapstick
  • Wart remover
  • Diaper rash
  • Acne and eczema
  • Sunburns
  • Mosquito bites and stings
  • Help a circumcision heal faster

Aaaannnndddd…..deodorant and facial cleanser. Yup. I draw the line there for sure, but to each their own, right??

If I have left anything off this list, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

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Lesson 60: Drug your baby

I prefer the use of natural alternatives (for example, frozen waffles, wash cloths and yogurt for teething,  baking soda and natural diaper creams for diaper rash, handmade breathing rub for a stuffy nose, etc.) to medication when appropriate–but I will not hesitate to give my child medication when I feel like he needs it. As in most parenting areas, what’s appropriate for me and my child and what is appropriate for you and yours, may be very different things. But there is one very important thing that has to do with “natural alternatives” and “home remedies” that I think many people don’t realize.

Just because a product is marked “homeopathic” or “all natural,” does not mean it’s safe. Often, there are no agencies to regulate claims made on such products, including the ingredients that go in them, the directions for their use, where they come from/how they’re grown, possible side effects, or even that they do what they claim to do. As an example, I’m going to pick on essential oils for just a moment. Let me preface by saying that I like essential oils. I probably liked essential oils before you liked essential oils–after all, their popularity has recently increased significantly. But it is important to understand that there is no agency to regulate these oils. I will not name any brands here because I’m not out to start a war, but have you ever noticed that one popular company states “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” on their label? And did you ever notice the File:Copyright.svg immediately after that claim? There is no such thing as a “certified” oil because there are no recognized agencies to certify them. That claim is nothing more than a misleading slogan made up by the company–hence the copyright symbol. Another popular company states that their oils are “therapeutic grade”– and that claim is followed up by TM (trademark). At least they’re not trying to claim that their oils are “certified,” but I don’t know what “therapeutic grade” means, and the TM makes me doubt that it has any real meaning at all.

The other big thing that worries me about essential oils is that some companies recommend them for oral use. This recommendation flat-out scares me. Essential oils are pretty potent and most health care providers (both mainstream and alternative) agree that essential oils should never be used orally. Don’t let yourself be fooled–it is possible to overdose yourself (or worse, your child) with an essential oil. But don’t take my word for it on this one. The International Federation of Aromatherapists (which has been around for almost 30 years–much longer than either of the companies I referenced earlier) states in their code of ethics:

No aromatherapist shall use essential oils for internal ingestion or internal application nor shall any aromatherapist advocate or promote such use of essential oils unless the practicing aromatherapist has medical, naturopathic, herbalist, or similar qualifications and holds an insurance policy which specifically covers the internal application of essential oils. (IFA code of ethics. Simply Essential, No. 11 December 1993).

I’m not going to say that these companies don’t produce quality oils–they very well may. But that’s something I will never know from personal use because I feel like they purposely mislead their associates and their customers. I can’t buy into that.

In no way should any home remedy ever replace medical care when needed. Instead, consider using a home remedy on a malady that you would not seek medical care for anyway–common allergy problems, a cold, teething, mild diaper rash. Or, it’s probably fine to use a home remedy for more serious issues, but make sure your doctor knows your plans. Always consider that some home remedies can have poor interactions with prescribed medications. Your healthcare provider should always be fully aware of all medications you use, “natural” or not. I hope that you have a pediatrician who has similar beliefs to yours, one that you trust, and who will guide you down the right path while also keeping your preferences in mind.

Over-the-Counter Medications and Dosing Charts

All that said, here are some medication dosing charts that I have found to be quite useful. Always dose your young child according to weight, not age, when possible. And always check with your pediatrician for age limits and proper dosing before using any medication. I am not a doctor :)

We used simethicone and gripe water a lot for tummy issues when J was very little.

We sometimes use acetaminophen for teething and fever relief during the day. However, I always use ibuprofen if he needs something overnight, and I prefer it to acetaminophen overall. On days when I find that I have to provide J with constant pain medication, I alternate between the two. Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen Dosing Charts

For coughs, we have had some luck with Zarbee’s cough syrup and also with Little Remedies Honey Pops.

For colds, we use a nasal spray and the NoseFrida to clear his nasal passages. I massage my handmade breathing rub onto his chest and on the bottoms of his feet and that seems to help him sleep through the night. For particularly bad colds, I have been known to give ibuprofen overnight (it certainly makes me feel better when I have a cold). We also use a cool mist humidifier.

Other medications you may need for your baby/toddler include diphenhydramine, loratadine, or cetirizine.

What are your medicine must-haves, whether OTC or alternative?

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Lesson 42: Diaper rash is a pain in the butt

I mentioned in a previous post that we deal with diaper rash by letting J sit in a warm bath with 8 ounces of baking soda mixed in. After his bath, we allow him plenty of “naked time” to let his bottom air dry and to just give him a break from a diaper. When it’s time to put on his diaper, we use Boudreaux’s Maximum Strength Butt Paste. This is our go-to diaper rash remedy for a bad rash and it seems to do the trick.

Boudreauxs and Baking Soda

We swapped to cloth diapers because disposable diapers irritated J’s skin. Because of the cloth, we rarely have to deal with a diaper rash. However, if I see some irritation beginning, I use my own Keiki Diaper Cream. It contains beeswax, coconut oil, and other cloth-diaper safe ingredients.

Keiki Handmade Diaper Cream

I still use Boudreaux for a bad rash. However, you absolutely cannot use Boudreaux with a cloth diaper. So, while it may seem to be counterintuitive, we actually switch to disposable diapers if J breaks out into a bad rash. We use Honest Diapers if we have to use disposables, since they’re chemical free and easier on the skin. We also haven’t had any skin sensitivity problems with the Honest brand.

Lesson 41: Teething bites

Most first-time moms already know that teething can cause a slight fever and excessive drool. But did you know that it can also cause runny poop, explosive diapers, coughing, congestion, diaper rashes, fever and ear infections? Lots of articles and blogs out there say that these issues are caused by viruses and not teething, but I beg to differ. Yes, of course viruses can cause these symptoms. But anytime your baby has excessive saliva and snot (teething snot is clear), it’s very possible for him to get an ear infection. And all that saliva he’s swallowing? It stands to reason that this can cause loose stools (at least that’s my theory on it). And all those loose stools can very easily cause a nasty diaper rash. We also find that all the drool causes our son to have a nasty cough.

Anybody who says teething doesn’t cause these things is either (a) not a parent, (b) had an easy teether, or (c) blamed a virus every time their kid teethed. But you will never convince me that all of the above-mentioned problems aren’t teething-related.

Some babies don’t have a hard time at all with teething, while others struggle. And with the same baby, some teeth are harder than others to cut. A baby can actually have teething symptoms for weeks before cutting a tooth.

J didn’t struggle with all of his teeth. But with many of them, he had symptoms for long periods of time before they would even appear just under the surface of the gums. During the times that he was teething hard (read: irritable as hell), we found a few things that helped along the way:

Medicate that baby! Teething can be really painful, so don’t hesitate to give pain medication when needed. On really bad days, we usually alternate between Tyenol and Motrin every 6 hours, making sure to end up with Motrin at night. I find that the Motrin lasts the longest and helps the most with the swelling of the gums that comes along with teething.

We also use Baby Orajel Naturals to give immediate relief. We’ve used Hyland’s Teething Tablets, but the verdict is still out with me for whether or not they actually work. One day I use them and they seem to work, and another they don’t seem to do anything. If it does work, it’s certainly the easiest medicine to get in him since it’s the only one he doesn’t fight.

Medications for teething

Frozen waffles. Don’t thaw it. Just give it to him straight out of the freezer. It sounds gross, but I’m sure the cold feels good on their gums. Plus, J is always a finicky eater when he’s teething, so at least this way I’m getting some food into him.

Frozen waffles for teething

Frozen yogurt on a spoon. I can’t claim this idea as my own, but I can attest that it works. Take an adult-sized metal spoon and scoop out a big blob of yogurt. Put it on a plate and freeze it for 2 hours. Once it’s good and frozen, hand it over to Baby and she will gnaw all over that thing. It’s messy, but worth it.

Frozen yogurt on a spoon for teething

Frozen washcloth. Oldie but a goodie! Take a washrag, roll it into a cylinder, wet half of the cylinder, and freeze it. The half that you didn’t wet will serve as a handle for Baby, while she chews on the frozen half.

Frozen washcloths for teething

Frozen carrot or celery sticks. Just watch the little ones closely because the carrots tend to break off and the celery is stringy.

Diaper rash often accompanies teething. To try to prevent it, I use my own Keiki Diaper Cream. If it becomes persistent, we let J sit in a warm bath with 8 ounces of baking soda mixed in. After his bath, we allow him plenty of “naked time” to let his bottom air dry and to just give him a break from a diaper. When it’s time to put on his diaper, we use Boudreaux’s Maximum Strength Butt Paste. If you cloth diaper, you might consider using disposables (we mostly cloth, but also love Honest Diapers for heavy poop days or on-the-go) on heavy teething days so that you can use Butt Paste–and also because it’s a much easier cleanup!

Boudreauxs and Baking Soda

The final teething remedy I can suggest to you is a glass of wine.

Wine for Mommy while Baby is Teething

For you, silly, not for baby!

The Cliffs Notes Version of Sleep Training

(Is Sleep Training right for your family? Learn more about it over at Baby Monitors Don’t Have Snooze Buttons.)

Let me make this very clear: I am neither a doctor nor a behaviorist, okay? I’m simply going to tell you what worked for me. I’m basing my information on Richard Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, but I’ve edited it a bit to fit my family’s needs.

  1. To start, pick a bedtime (sometimes going with an earlier bedtime can help because, once a child is over-tired, it can be harder to get him to go to sleep). It will help if you already have a consistent bedtime routine in place. If you don’t, then get one. Your child needs something to signal to him that it’s time for bed. If you already have a consistent time and routine, you’re good to go. If you don’t, then it might be more helpful for you to pick a time and implement a routine for about a week before you start sleep training.
  2. Always use the same room. If your child sleeps in his own room, use it every night during sleep training. If he sleeps in your room, use that one. Do not switch them up. Consistency is so important. On that same note, it’s not a good idea to start sleep training if you plan on traveling out of town overnight anytime soon.
  3. Consider using a video monitor. It will put your mind at ease if you can lay eyes on your baby when he doesn’t actually know you’re laying eyes on him.
  4. When putting him to bed, remove any sleep association that you’re not willing to provide in the middle of the night. For instance, unless you want to nurse him back to sleep every time he wakes up, don’t nurse him to sleep to begin with. Put him in his crib while he’s still awake. We use a white noise machine and we opted to keep the pacifier (though we send him to bed with 3–1 in his mouth, and 1 in each hand–so there’s always one in easy reach when he wakes up at night).
  5. If he cries once you’ve put him to bed, or in the middle of the night, don’t respond right away. Respond at increasing intervals (see the interval schedule further down) and do not spend more than 60 seconds in his room. Do not pick him up, do not make eye contact. You can pat his bottom and reassure him that you’re still there and he’s safe. You can return a security item that he might have lost (or thrown out of the crib), but only once each visit. If he throws it again, it’s gone. Basically, you want your presence to be soothing, but not rewarding.
  6. Each time he wakes up, restart the schedule from the first interval time and work your way up to the maximum time for that night.
  7. Use an actual timer instead of trying to count it out in your head.
  8. Do not go in if he’s awake just making noise. Allow him the chance to put himself back to sleep. Only start the timer if he’s crying or (if it’s an older child) calling out for you.
  9. Do not continue past 6am as it is unlikely that he’ll fall back asleep at that point. If he does wake up early, make him stay up. Do not remove him from his crib only to allow him to fall right back asleep somewhere else.
  10. On the flip side, if he is still asleep at his normal wakeup time, wake him up.
  11. Do not allow him to take more naps, or sleep longer at nap time, during the day during sleep training.

Interval Schedule This is the interval schedule we used. It’s not the same schedule that Ferber uses, but he allows for flexibility anyway. The important thing is consistency, not necessarily the exact interval schedule. Ours makes the intervals shorter because that worked better for Bo and me. J, I’m sure, would have been fine with either schedule. But since he didn’t read the book, we didn’t allow him an opinion. Remember, start at the first interval when you put your child to bed and work your way up to the maximum interval for that day. With each wakeup, start over at the beginning again and work your way back up.

  • Day 1 – 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes (then 10 minutes each subsequent visit until he falls asleep)
  • Day 2 - 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes (then 12 minutes each subsequent visit until he falls asleep)
  • Day 3 – 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes, 15 minutes (then 15 minutes each subsequent visit until he falls asleep)

We actually never had to go past Day 3, so I’ve never tried the increased intervals. However, had we gone past Day 3, these are the intervals we would have used:

  • Day 4 – 10 minutes, 12 minutes, 15 minutes, 17 minutes (then 17 minutes each subsequent visit)
  • Day 5 – 12 minutes, 15 minutes, 17 minutes, 20 minutes (then 20 minutes each subsequent visit)
  • Day 6 – 15 minutes, 17 minutes, 20 minutes, 25 minutes (then 25 minutes each subsequent visit)
  • Day 7 - 17 minutes, 20 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes (then 30 minutes each subsequent visit)

If your kid isn’t sleeping by now, give it up. He’ll never, ever sleep and neither will you. Totally kidding (ok, mostly kidding). If there is improvement after Day 7, Ferber recommends adding 1 minute to each interval after Day 7 (so Day 8 would be 18, 21, 26, 31 and Day 9 would be 19, 22, 27, 32, etc.). (Personally, I would never go over 30 minutes, but that’s just me.) If there is no improvement after Day 7, you should seek an alternative solution. In that case? You’re really going to wish you would have read the book.

Sleep Training and Naptimes After Baby has mastered the art of sleeping through the night, you might find that you have to work on naptimes. In my experience, if J sleeps well at night, he naps well during the day. And if he naps well during the day, he sleeps well at night. Sleep begets sleep. And a good, regular sleep schedule will help your baby fall into a regular everything schedule–which makes planning your day and understanding why your baby may be fussy, that much easier. If you need to use sleep training for naptime, keep in mind that it is different than nighttime sleep training. You can use the same interval schedule as noted above. However, if she still hasn’t fallen asleep after a total of 30 minutes, or if she wakes up again and begins crying, it’s not happening. Naptime is over. It’s way too complicated for me to explain (or even pretend like I remember all of what I initially learned while reading up on sleep training), but basically circadian rhythms dictate that there are more and greater windows for falling asleep at night than there are during the day. So if she hasn’t fallen asleep after 30 minutes, she’s probably not going to. Although if she’s quiet and not fussing, who cares if she’s asleep? Quiet time is beneficial too. But again, don’t fret too much about naptimes right now. After you both conquer nighttime sleeping, give it 2 weeks. If you don’t see your child falling into a natural schedule, including naptimes, then start naptime sleep training.

Lesson 38: Baby monitors don’t have snooze buttons

…so you’d better teach your baby how to sleep.

J

The 2nd best piece of advice I ever got as a parent (read on to learn the #1 best piece of advice!) was to always put my baby down partially awake so that he was never dependent upon me to put him to sleep. We did that from the very beginning; I never nursed or rocked J to sleep. Maybe because of this, or maybe it was just pure luck, J was always a good sleeper.

But around 4 months, he started waking more frequently at night because he needed to be soothed. He would wake and need his pacifier to go back to sleep, so Bo and I would make numerous trips to the nursery in the middle of the night to pop it back in. After a couple of weeks of this, we were exhausted and knew this simply wasn’t going to work. Waking to feed was one thing, but waking because he couldn’t self-soothe was a whole other.

Enter: sleep training.

Learning to sleep and self-soothe is, I believe, one of the most important things we can teach our babies. The premise behind sleep training is that a child has certain conditions under which she is used to falling asleep–and you teach her those conditions. If you rock her to sleep every night, then when she wakes at night (and she will wake at night, multiple times) she will need to be rocked to go back to sleep. If you nurse her to sleep, she’ll need to be nursed to go back to sleep. And if she has a pacifier, she’ll need the pacifier to go back to sleep.

Before Bo and I started sleep training J, we spoke to our pediatrician. I knew in my head that sleep training was healthy–both mentally and physically–but my heart was aching at the thought of not going to my child when he cried. I needed reassurance that I wasn’t going to cause any lasting damage to my son, either emotionally or intellectually.

We then read Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber. I can tell you the method here (and I will), but the book is a really interesting read and it will do a few things for you:

  1. It will give you a brief education in children’s REM sleep, sleep cycles and circadian rhythms.
  2. It will help you understand the importance of bedtime routines and sleep associations.
  3. It will help you identify any possible sleep disorders or physical problems before you decide to sleep train.
  4. It will teach you how to use the interval training method for both naps and bedtime (they’re different!).
  5. The education and understanding Dr. Ferber provides will give you confidence that you’re doing the right thing for your child. You’ll need that confidence at 2am.

So without further ado, here is the Cliffs Notes version of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (but seriously? Read the book!):

Is Sleep Training Right for Your Family?

If you’ve read the literature, spoken to your pediatrician, and just cannot bring yourself to sleep train–don’t. And don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s okay and it isn’t for everybody. At some point, your child will sleep through the night. I’m fairly sure my parents never even heard of “sleep training” and never used an interval method, and I know I sleep pretty good.

I do know, though, that at some point it is very likely that you’re going to have to draw a hard line and say, Little Dude, get your ass in bed and stay there. But then, I think we’re all going to have to do that at times.

And I also think that some of us are blessed with better sleepers than others. On the one hand, I want to swear by sleep training. I’m a pretty well-rested mama for the most part. But on the other hand, I’ve only used it on one child. One easy child. I have mom friends who have tried it with no luck (I don’t know if they’re doing it correctly–I’m not there). But there is absolutely no way you could ever get me to say that it works, without a doubt, 100% of the time. Because sure enough, the moment I start getting all high and mighty and certain that my way is the way, my next child won’t sleep until he’s 7-years-old. I’d prefer not to curse myself.

So while I don’t care (and you won’t find me sitting in judgment) if you choose not to sleep train–there are those who will care very much if you decide you do want to sleep train. So brace yourself sister.

Parenting is a 24-hour job. (I know. That’s why I’m not leaving the house to go party while my son is sleeping.)

Crying for long periods of time can cause emotional trauma. (Right. Long periods of time. Up to 30 minutes at a time is not a long period of time. Also? Not getting enough sleep can harm brain development. So…)

It isn’t natural for a mother to let her baby cry. (My son cries when I won’t let him play with knives. I still don’t let him play with knives. Seems like a natural choice to me.)

When Do I Start?

Ferber recommends starting around 6 months. With our pediatrician’s approval, we started at 4 months. J was at a proper weight and no longer required (or asked for) night feedings. I really think Ferber is being conservative so that people don’t start too early. This is the mental checklist I used to decide whether or not J was ready for sleep training:

  • Does he still require night feedings? (The key word here is require. Just because he cries for boob or bottle doesn’t mean he requires it.)
  • Is he healthy?
  • Is he a healthy weight?

(If your baby is still too young or just not physically ready, consider using “the pause,” as explained in Pamerla Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bebe.)

Brace Yourself–It sucks.

Sleep training is not easy. At all. In fact, my worst night since becoming a parent, maybe ever, was the first night of sleep training. I followed all the rules and stuck to them, but I cried as hard as my son did. It was awful, terrible, heart-wrenching stuff. All three of us were up all night, and two of us cried like babies. The next day was awful. I cried every time I thought about “what I had done to my son!” the night before. Seriously? My eyes are tearing up right now, just remembering how it felt. I was exhausted and emotional. J, on the other hand? He was chipper and happy and smiled and laughed just like he always did. It was as if the previous night never happened for him, except for he was more tired than usual.

Later that evening, I called a friend who had used the same method. I told her I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing. If it was really good for him, why did I feel so awful? That’s when she gave me the absolute best advice I ever received as a parent and I hope you can use it too: If you decide that sleep training is right for you and your family, then you’re right. And if you decide that sleep training is not right for you and your family, then you’re also right. Whatever you do, you’re right, because it’s your family and your child and only you know what’s best for them.

How Long Does It Take?

Recharged and encouraged, I dove into Night 2. This time, though, I was armed with wine, and lots of it. I sat outside his bedroom door with a glass of wine in my hand and I cried right along with him, reminding myself that this really was for his own good. The developing brain needs sleep! But then something magical happened: he stopped crying and went to sleep after only a few minutes. He woke up only a few more times, and only for brief periods. By night 3, he slept straight through. It was that hard and that easy, all at the same time.

It doesn’t usually happen this quickly (our little guy is pretty laid back and, though he will initially fight against the man, he’s pretty quick to wave his white flag), so don’t give up. On average it takes 3-4 days, but it can take up to 7 days, for sleep training to work. If you have a young baby (4-6 months–please don’t start before 4 months) and you see no improvement after 4 days, it’s best to wait a week and try again. She may be too young and not quite ready.

What Happens After Sleep Training?

As I mentioned before, J was always a pretty good sleeper. So when the 4-month sleep regression hit, Bo and I were stunned. So this is what everybody is talking about when they say having a baby is exhausting!

Before sleep training, bedtime went like this: bath, pajamas, books, nursing, put to bed, get out of bed and rock, put to bed, get out of bed and rock, put to bed…..run back down the hall to shove the pacifier in his mouth…run back down the hall to shove the pacifier in his mouth…run back down the hall to shove the pacifier in his mouth…run back down the hall to shove the pacifier in his mouth…

You get the picture.

After sleep training, it was like this: bath, pajamas, books, nursing, put to bed.

He sleeps from 7pm-7am, at least. Sometimes he sleeps until 8am. So, most nights, we’re able to get 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep (I say able to get because we’re usually not smart enough to take it). There is the occasional night when he wakes up and fusses some (usually when he’s teething, sick or off his regular schedule), but even then he’s usually (but not always! Sleep training isn’t magic!) able to self-sooth within seconds.

(Want a brief rundown in how to sleep train? Check out The Cliff Notes Version of Sleep Training.)

Lesson 37: Why you should vaccinate your baby (yeah, I went there)

There is absolutely no intro to this that doesn’t sound rude, callous, or sarcastic. So I’ll just dive right in:

(You guys, Dr. Wakefield had an unethical study with multiple conflicts of interest and Jenny McCarthy, as funny and awesome as she is, “cured” her son’s autism. I mean, really?)

  • Yes, some of the rare potential side-effects are scary. But guess what else is scary? Your kid dying from the measles.
  • No, you cannot rely on herd immunity. Know why? Because if too many people rely on herd immunity, it will cease to exist. Plus? My kid isn’t your kid’s shield, thank you very much.

Some people cannot get vaccinated. Very young babies, people with certain allergies and those with weakened immune systems cannot receive the vaccinations. They’re relying on herd mentality. Do your part; don’t rely on somebody else to do it for you.

  • Yes, there are some risks to vaccinations. There are risks to any medication you use. Weigh the risks! Plus? Your child has a 1 in 1 million risk of having a severe reaction to the measles (MMR) vaccine. You know how many kids die from measles? 2 in 1000. Do the math (2000 in 1 million–there, I did it for you). I stole that information from this article because I love how feisty, yet accurate, she is (though I have to disagree with calling a person stupid for not vaccinating–there are lots of reasons folks don’t vaccinate, and yeah, stupidity is probably one of them. But I think fear is a huge reason–and fear doesn’t mean you’re stupid.)
  • No, vaccines do not cause you to get the disease. Vaccines are not 100% effective, so many people will still catch whatever disease they are vaccinated against [after all, it stands to reason that since most people (thank God) still get vaccinated, then most of the people who catch a disease will have been vaccinated, right? Again, math.]; however, the length and severity of the disease is likely to be lessened. Plus, the severe complications that can come along with an illness tend to be experienced by those who are unvaccinated.

Still worried? Read this. I don’t even agree with a lot of what Dr. Sears says, but he takes a very gentle, and common sense, approach to those parents who are simply scared to vaccinate their children.

Look, I hate taking my son to get his vaccinations. I hate that he cries and that they initially hurt him. And I hate that sometimes he’s cranky and sore for a day or two after. I hate that the medicine makes him sleepy and look all pathetic, and I just want to snuggle him after (so I do).

J

But I love that I’m protecting him to the best of my ability. It’s so easy to get caught up worrying about the things we can’t change. But this is something we do have control over–so why not give your kid every advantage you possibly can?

Go here for the AAP recommended vaccine schedule.

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