The Kids Table

Wow! The Thanksgiving hoopla is over! I’ve found my kitchen again, returned all the tables, chairs and decoration borrowed, made food deliveries and even started on the Christmas adornment for the next big event. I had the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving this year, which is my very favorite holiday, for 12 adults and 6 little ones. The kids loved the whole thing, seeing each other which doesn’t happen more than a couple times a year and especially the “real” plates they were giving to enjoy their turkey and mashed potatoes. All the cousins were together, one born each year starting in 2007, and boy did they have fun. 

As I was setting up the makeshift dining room (actually our living room) for the feast I realized I had no plan for the children. At most meals with company they eat at my kid’s little table, but that only seats 4. I really wanted to include them in the group but they are much smaller. What I came up with was actually an extension of the larger table only shorter. It was perfect, they were with us and comfortable at the same time.

Then I got to thinking how literally appropriate the “kids table” was. These little people actually are an extension of us. They will be the ones years from now sitting at the adult table and hopefully it will be all together as they were this year with all of their children sitting near. There were three generations at this meal but the third, the youngest, was the largest by far. The first generation present included my Father-in-law and his brother with three and four grandchildren at the meal, respectively. They also each had four and three children present (including in-laws), respectively. Witnessing at one table how the generations expand is truly remarkable and I hope that our kids and their cousins stay as close as we have with ours and that their families grow each year as ours has.

To many more Thanksgivings together…

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Teaching the Meaning of Thanksgiving to Children

Thanksgiving is a great holiday for spending time with family and eating lots of delicious foods. But, it is also important that your child(ren) know the true meaning of the holiday and why it is so vastly celebrated.

Although you may be busy planning the holiday meal or making travel arrangements, you should set some time aside to teach the kids why Thanksgiving is so much more than turkey and pumpkin pie.

Start from the Beginning

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A good way to bring up the subject is to ask your child what they think Thanksgiving is or what they already know about the holiday. Most children under the age of 10 already know a little something about Thanksgiving from school. So, this is a great way to approach the topic by finding out what they have learned so far. Chances are they will tell you a little bit about the Native Americans and Pilgrims getting together for a giant feast. Depending on the age of the child, and how in depth you want to go, utilize websites like history.com and kids.nationalgeographic.com for videos, pictures, and stories about the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

Don’t Forget about the Mayflower

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Of course, there would be no Thanksgiving if it weren’t for the 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower. Scholastic has an entire webpage dedicated to ‘The First Thanksgiving’ and the voyage of the Mayflower. It is perfect for little minds that want to see what life was like in the 1600s. By visiting the website, your child will get the chance to see the long journey taken by the ship and its passengers, as well as a seven-part tour of the pieces that made up the ship. Other great links include information about the daily life of the first settlers, the first feast, historical letters, and dozens of other interesting facts about Thanksgiving.

Be Creative – Do an Activity

Parents are never too old to have some fun with their kids. After talking about the first Thanksgiving, make a craft with your child that that helps to demonstrate that early era of time. Use a standard size piece of paper or construction paper and have them color a picture of how they envision that initial feast. Not only does this keep the conversation going, but it makes learning about the holiday creative and fun. You can also laminate the drawing and use it as your child’s Thanksgiving Day placemat.
For more Thanksgiving craft ideas, check out http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/thanksgiving/.

Talk about Family Traditions

After making a holiday related craft, you can talk to your child about your own family traditions. You may want to begin with a story of when you were a child and what you did back then to celebrate Thanksgiving. Be sure to mention if any of those traditions are carried on today. Also, discuss what you do now as a family to celebrate Thanksgiving and what traditions you make sure to carry on from year to year. Whether your traditions are generations old, or brand new your child will enjoy hearing about how and why they celebrate Thanksgiving the way they do.

This is also a great time to find out what your child enjoys most about the holiday. Have everyone involved name at least one of his or her favorite things about Thanksgiving and why. This can open the door to some very cute conversations.

Teach Thankfulness

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One of the most essential things you will ever teach your family is thankfulness and appreciation. Once the short history lesson is over, make sure you have time to talk about the “thanks” in Thanksgiving as it pertains to everyone in the family. All young children are able to understand this concept and should be able to name several things in their life that they are thankful for. Now, if your child starts naming off all his or her toys, that’s okay. Remember they are just young kiddos, but use the moment to talk about how those toys were bought with your hard-earned money. This is a terrific opportunity to let your kids know how much you do for them because you love them. They also need to understand the importance of non-material gifts such as people, pets, food, and a nice warm home.
Whatever your personal family values are, share them with your child and even make a list. Keep it on the fridge and refer to it often – not just on Thanksgiving. Teaching your child thankfulness from an early age will only help to enforce it when they hit those wonderful teenage years.

Other Ways to Teach the Meaning of Thanksgiving

In addition to a history lesson and crafts, there are lots of books and movies that make learning about the holiday enjoyable.
Check out these suggestions…

10 Children’s Thanksgiving Books

1. One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B.G. Hennessy

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2. ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey

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3. Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland

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4. Biscuit is Thankful by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

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5. All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang

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6. The First Thanksgiving by Sarah Treu

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7. The Littlest Pilgrim by Brandi Doughtery

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8. What is Thanksgiving? by Michelle Medlock Adams

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9. The Story of the Pilgrims by H.L. Ross

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10. The Berenstain Bears Thanksgiving Blessings by Mike Berenstein

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5 Children’s Thanksgiving Movies

1. Mouse on the Mayflower

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2. Winnie the Pooh – Seasons of Giving

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3. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

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4. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Alvin’s Thanksgiving Celebration

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5. Miracle on 34th Street

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And, don’t forget to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade!

Let the Kids Help Set the Table

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Another excellent thing you can teach your child on Thanksgiving is how to properly set a table. Use this time to talk about place settings and table manners. Not only is the table where everyone gathers for the meal, but it the place where you all come together to enjoy each other’s company.

If you are having a separate table for the children, consider using wrapping paper as the tablecloth. Use brown or white paper that allows the children to draw on it before dinner. All the children can get in on the fun and cover the table with pictures and words of things they are thankful for. There’s no better tablecloth than one that is homemade by little hands.

Remember to Enjoy the Day

When it comes time for your own feast, adult’s also need to remember what the holiday is all about. Kids learn by example, so try not to stress over all the preparations. Show your child(ren) that the day should be about happily gathering with family and friends – not cooking and cleaning. Also have all the adults at the table name something they are grateful for. When children see grownups appreciating the best things in life, they will learn to do the same.

Give Thanks after Thanksgiving

Although life gets busy, make a conscious effort to have a thankful day more than just one day a year. Teaching your child to be thankful for the things and people in his or her life now, will enhance their life and make them a better adult when the time comes. It may be hard to imagine your little one all grown up, but as the old cliché says- this time in their life truly does fly by. Enjoy your children while they are young, and remind them to be thankful for what they have every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Feeding Guidelines – What Can Baby Have for Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is just a few days away. And if this is your baby’s first Thanksgiving then he or she is in for a real treat! Babies can eat all the same foods that the adults do… just in their own special way.

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A traditional Thanksgiving dinner typically includes:

  • Turkey
  • Sweet potatoes or butternut squash
  • Green beans
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Stuffing
  • Applesauce
  • Cranberry Sauce 
  • and, of course – pumpkin pie

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How to Make Baby a Special Thanksgiving Plate

Most babies begin eating solid foods around 6 or 7 months of age. Now, this doesn’t mean they will be chomping into a giant turkey legs anytime soon, but they can certainly share Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of the crowd.

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Turkey

Once the turkey is fully cooked, reserve a few small pieces for baby. These pieces can then be cubed or put into a food processor for fine chopping. As long as your baby is used to eating solid foods, then tiny pieces of turkey will be just right for picking up with small fingers and self-feeding. The turkey should be plain and free of gravy, salt, or pepper.

Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash

If you are having either one of these tasty veggies, then set a little aside for baby. Before you turn them into a fancy adult dish, reserve some of the plain sweet potatoes or squash. Both of these foods can be pureed, mashed, or cubed for baby.

Green Beans

Although your baby isn’t ready for green bean casserole yet, he or she can have green beans. Just like the other foods, they should be free of salt and butter. Simply dice up a few plain beans or put them into the processor. If your baby doesn’t love the taste of plain green beans, mix them with the sweet potatoes or squash for a tastier (sweeter) combo.

Mashed White Potatoes

Although nutritionists tell us that sweet potatoes are a healthy alternative to white, it doesn’t mean that baby can’t enjoy a small portion on Thanksgiving Day. Again, as long as your baby is old enough for solid foods, then he or she can also try mashed potatoes. Before you make your delicious sour cream and chive mashed taters, set aside a small potato for baby. Use your judgment as to whether your baby can handle it cubed or whether you may need to mash it. Either way… your baby’s plate is beginning to look just like everyone else’s is!

Stuffing

Yummo! My favorite!! However, because of the spices, stuffing should only be fed to babies that are more experienced with heavier foods. By 9-12 months old, most babies are okay to have a little stuffing on their plate. If your baby is younger than nine months, but you still want him to enjoy a little stuffing then you can make a separate dish. It’s made just like the adult recipe, only without all the powerful spices and flavoring. Using just carrots, celery, onions, broth, and bread cubes, babies 6-9 months old can enjoy a simpler version of traditional stuffing.

Apples or Applesauce

If your baby has been eating solid foods for a few months now, then it may come as no surprise that cooked apples or applesauce is great for a baby’s little belly. You can serve either plain store bought baby applesauce, or make your own. Making your own applesauce is much easier than you might imagine. Simply boil a peeled and cored apple in a pot of water until the apple is tender. Once tender, drain it and place it in the food processor for pureeing. Most babies love the simple taste of fresh homemade applesauce.

Cranberry Sauce

Canned cranberry sauce is great for babies, just the way it is. If you are making your own cranberry sauce, then puree a small amount for baby – just remember to keep the ingredients simple and baby friendly.

Pumpkin Pie

One of the greatest things about Thanksgiving dinner is dessert, and baby doesn’t have to feel left out. Although your baby shouldn’t have his own full slice of pumpkin pie, there is always room for a special dessert. Give baby a small amount of pumpkin puree that was used to make the pie. This is a healthy way to include baby in on dessert, without a sugar overload. If your baby is experienced with solid foods already, you may want to mix in a little cinnamon. If you are serving a store bought pie, or your guests were in charge of the dessert, then it is okay to give baby a small taste of the pie (without the crust).

There you have it – a complete Thanksgiving meal for the little one. Now, unfortunately pediatricians do not recommend any of these foods for babies younger than 6 months old. If your baby is a newborn, then stick to good ole’ breast milk or formula for this Thanksgiving. But, don’t worry because next year your baby can have all of these foods.

It is also important to keep in mind that although babies 6-12 months old can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, their little bellies are not yet ready for:

  • Spices
  • Dairy products
  • Marshmallows
  • Nuts & dried fruits
  • Honey
  • Uncooked foods or foods that could pose a choking hazard

Eating Thanksgiving Dinner Outside of the Home

If you are like many families, then maybe you aren’t making your own food and you have to travel for the holiday. Don’t worry – baby can still enjoy all the same foods even if you aren’t able to control every ingredient. If you are at a relative’s home or even a restaurant, your baby should still be able to enjoy the main dishes like turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Just be careful of added ingredients or toppings. Other people understand that young children cannot have the same foods as adults and will not be offended if they see you pushing that marshmallow topping off the sweet potatoes. Use your best judgment and don’t be afraid to pass on anything that your baby isn’t ready for.

For those of you that are traveling for the holiday and are apprehensive about the foods served, consider packing baby his or her own food ahead of time. Many baby food lines carry diced turkey, strained green beans, squash, sweet potatoes, and apples. Regardless of your stance on jarred baby foods, it might be a good idea to bring some as a backup, just in case.

If you do decide to go the jarred food route, then consider feeding baby from organic brands like Earth’s Best, Plum Organics, or Ella’s Kitchen. Although organic foods cost a little more than brand names like Gerber and Beech Nut, health experts agree that you get what you pay for in taste and quality. You want your baby foods to be free of preservatives and additives.

Making your baby his or her own special plate for Thanksgiving is not hard at all. It is simply a matter of cubing, pureeing, or mashing each food item while it is in its purest form. This is the healthiest way for baby to get a great first Thanksgiving dinner.

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!!!

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2013 Best Gifts for Infants (and their parents)

2013 Best Gifts for Infants (and their parents).

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2013 Best Gifts for Infants (and their parents)

It’s that time of year again for gift giving, and gift receiving. Most friends and family members will probably be pretty vocal about what it is that they want. However, if you have an infant to buy for on your list, things may not be so easy. Sure, babies (and their parents) always need the essentials like clothes and diapers, but none of those items are overly exciting…

So, regardless as to whether you are buying for your own baby, or someone else’s, you will want to check out these latest and greatest gifts for the 2013 holiday. I also want to mention that I have no connection (monotary or otherwise) to the companies and products listed here, they are simple best gifts for this year, in my opinion 😉 enjoy!

A Baby Lounger

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If you don’t know what a baby lounger looks like, imagine an oversized seat cushion that is so comfy, you may want an adult sized one for yourself. The gigantic cushions are perfect for playtime without having to put baby directly on the hard floor. The sides are slightly raised to keep little ones safely nestled into the center. The lounger is not only a great baby gift, but it can be used for several years to come as a cozy reading spot or even time-out seat for growing toddlers. Boppy makes a newborn and infant lounger for around $30 that can be found at retailers like Target and Walmart. If you want a higher-end product, with a wide range of fabrics, checkout lalalounger.com. Although, these loungers start at $55, you can send the company your own fabric for a customized look to match the nursery.

A Baby Sleep Sack

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If the lounger already sounded like something you might want for yourself, then you will love the idea of a sleep sack. Baby sleep sacks are a cross between a Snuggie and a mini sleeping bag. It is a wearable blanket designed just for infants. They come in all kinds of cute designs and colors. Sleep sacks are an ideal gift for any baby that is spending the holidays in chilly weather. They can be used indoors, and even come sleeveless so baby can sleep in it without getting too hot at night. HALO makes adorable sleep sacks for less than $25 and they can be found in large retail stores, as well as online.

Personalized Books

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You cannot go wrong when gift giving a book. Books make terrific gifts that the whole family can enjoy together. Personalized books give an added special touch that make the present an immediate keepsake. Websites like flattenme.com and iseeme.com have hundreds of books and other gifts that can be personalized. Many of the storybooks sell for less than $40 and it’s one of the best ways to give a child something they can treasure for years.

If you need to get an immediate gift, then consider these 5 bestselling books for ages 0-2.

  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

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  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

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  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

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  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See by Eric Carle

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  • The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey

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and…. of course, anything by Dr. Seuss!

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A Piggy Bank

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A traditional piggy bank makes an adorable gift. Although the idea may seem archaic in a world full of online banking and ATMs, a piggy bank teaches the child the importance of saving money from a very early age. It is also great for parents because they can drop in their spare change from time to time and then before they even know it, a nice little college fund has started. Amazon.com has thousands of choices to match any theme, design, or color. If you are feeling especially generous, consider gifting a savings bond along with the piggy bank for a gift package that any parent will appreciate.

A Memory Molding Kit

Castingkeepsakes.com has a wide array of memory kits that capture the size of an infant’s footprint or handprint. The kits come with step-by-step directions on how to cast tiny prints for a keepsake that will you can never outgrow. Just some of the kit choices include picture frames, hanging décor, and full hand or foot casting. If you or someone you know is expecting, the company also sells belly-casting kits in order to capture a true, life-size pregnancy belly. Memory molding kits are one of the best ways to give a gift that holds on to a special moment in time – forever.

Sleep Sheep with Smart Sensor

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There is probably no better gift to a new parent, than the gift of sleep. With the Sleep Sheep Smart Sensor, parents may finally be able to get some much-needed rest. Whether you are buying it for your own baby or someone else’s it is sure to be a hit. The adorable and cuddly stuffed sheep comes with a built-in sound machine that plays four different soothing sounds. It is the perfect addition to any crib, stroller, or car seat. If you know someone that could use a lullaby nap companion, then you will want to check out the irresistible Sleep Sheep with Smart Senor at stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond and Babies R Us.

Animal Stuffies

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Animal Stuffies aren’t just another stuffed animal that will sit around and collect dust. These adorable stuffed animals have seven pockets for storing other toys and clothes. It is a fantastic way to travel with just one stuffed animal, yet have a bunch of other hidden items on hand. Animal Stuffies are a present that will make any baby smile, yet also make mom and dad’s life much easier. There are more than 10 animal themed Stuffies to choose from and each one comes with its own name and interactive storybook that teaches kids, “It’s What Inside that Counts.” Stuffies can be found online for just $29.95.

Twilight Constellation Night Light

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The Twilight Constellation Night Light transforms nurseries into a star haven for babies. It will comfort and calm sleepy infants while filling the room with a soft intergalactic glow. In addition, it isn’t just another night light that plugs into a wall outlet. The Twilight Constellation Night Light comes in several different colors as either a ladybug or turtle. It only requires batteries to run and has an auto shut-off 45-minute timer. This product is sure to bring a goodnight’s sleep to babies and parents. Many pharmacies, as well as Target, Walmart, and online retailers sell this comforting bedtime night light.
Infant Toys
In general, when it comes to buying toys for infants, you can’t go wrong with a learning tool. Babies R Us, Target, Walmart, Amazon, and many other stores have entire sections dedicated to interactive toys for babies that make learning fun. They often have bright colors and lots of things to do that keep baby busy for quite a while. Look for brand names like LeapFrog, Fisher-Price, and Baby Einstein, just to name a few.

If you are shopping for your own baby, chances are you know exactly what you need. However, if you are shopping for some else’s baby or trying to come up with a unique idea, then these gifts are something to consider.

And if your holiday budget is tight, knit and crochet items are really popular right now. Just some of the items you could make include booties, hats, scarves, blankets, and even dolls. On the other hand, if your knitting skills aren’t quite up to par, give some thought to what you are good at. New parents love help around the house, a warm meal, and having a babysitter for a few hours. This goes for parents too- give your spouse an early holiday gift and do the dishes, wash some clothes, or cook dinner. Some of the best gifts cost no money, at all.

When shopping for the infant on your holiday gift list, try to find an item that is really for both the baby and the parents. Of course, everyone knows that great gifts come from the heart, but if the present is also helpful (or momentous), then it becomes that much more special.

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Sleep Training – To Cry or Not to Cry

Be assured that if you are having a hard time with a crying baby at night, you are not alone. Most new parents struggle with a crying baby either at bedtime or in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, there is no magic potion can make your baby go to bed without crying. However, there are things you can do to remedy the situation so that you and baby get some much-needed sleep.

A crying baby leaves parents exhausted, frustrated, and wondering how on earth they will ever get a good night’s sleep again. If you are one of those parents that are struggling with a crying baby before bed or in the middle of the night, then consider sleep training. Sleep training, is not one method of training your baby not to cry at night. Instead, it is a way to find the bedtime routine that works best for both you and baby. 

Before you begin sleep training, it is vital to know that all babies are different. What might be working for your best friend and her baby will not necessarily work for you – and that’s okay. There is no sleep training method set in stone for every single baby.

Since the beginning of time, there have been two primary way to get your little one to sleep at night. One involves laying the baby down for bed and choosing to let it cry until he or she falls asleep. The other involves taking the time to soothe the baby before bed in order to (hopefully) prevent crying altogether. Parents must decide for themselves which method is right for the entire family. If you are in a two-parent household, be sure that both of you are on the same page, because consistency is the key to setting a firm routine.

Method #1 – Letting Your Baby Cry Out

Although the “cry it out” method is exhausting for parents, experts that recommend this way of sleep training believe that it is healthy for a baby to learn to soothe himself. They feel that it is not traumatic for a baby to cry alone (for short periods). As long as you are around to check on the baby, then everything will be all right. Experts that back the crying out approach believe that if you go to the baby every time it cries, there is a chance of the child becoming overly dependent on you. They also believe that soothing a baby every time he or she cries can make it harder for the baby to learn how to go to sleep on its own. Only you can decide if you feel that it’s appropriate to let your baby cry himself to sleep.

Method #2 – The No-Tears Approach

The “no tears” approach is quite the opposite of the cry it out method. Experts that recommend this method believe that you must find a way to soothe your baby before bedtime. This sleep training method takes more time on the parent’s part, because you cannot simply lay your baby down at night. The no-tear solution for sleeping is more of a customized method. It involves finding out what soothes your baby in order for him or her to feel comfy and get sleepy. This can mean nightly rituals of rocking, bedtime stories, songs, a warm bath, or a back rub. No two babies are the same and if you choose this method, it’s up to you to decide what it is that gets your baby in the mood for bedtime.
It’s important to understand that both of these methods work. No one can tell you which method will work for your baby. Every parent must figure out which sleep training method is best for everyone involved. Keep in mind that pediatric experts don’t even agree on how to put a baby down for bed at night. There is no right or wrong choice; it is merely a matter of what works for each individual baby.

In addition to getting your baby to sleep at night, there is also the issue of waking up in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, parenting requires a lot of intuition so you must learn to know what your baby’s cries mean. What experts do agree on is that if an infant is hungry or needs a diaper changing, you must attend to him, no matter what time of night it is.
Experts also agree that when you have to feed or change the baby in the middle of the night, do not play with him. This can be hard because your little one is so darn cute and cuddly, but stimulating the child will only want to make him stay awake.
When handling nighttime issues, you should feed or change the baby without too much commotion and lay him back down to sleep. If your baby cries, you must follow whichever method of sleep training you chose. Remember that consistency is the key to finding a routine that makes everyone happy. Routines can be hard to follow, especially at 3 a.m., but just remember the more consistent you are, the faster your baby will learn to go to sleep.

Establishing a Bedtime Routine throughout the Entire Day

No parent wants a crying baby at bedtime. So if you are dealing with a fussy baby at night, consider practicing some daily routines so you and your baby can go to bed happy.

  • The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to stay on schedule. Although this will not happen every day, do your best to stick to specific nap times. Put your baby down for naps at the same time every day. In addition, if he or she is giving you a hard time about going to sleep at night, consider limiting the amount of daily naps or the amount of time for each one. This will not be possible with a newborn, but within a few weeks, it should be pretty easy to get into a routine. If your baby is with someone else during the day, make sure the other person is aware of your set nap schedule – and also make sure they stick to it they best they can.
  • Feed your baby around the same time every night. As you know, a full baby is happy baby. Too much time between the last feeding and bedtime can result in a hungry baby at midnight. Again, newborns will not be able to abide by this routine until they are about six weeks old. Your pediatrician will probably advise you to feed your newborn around the clock for the first few weeks.
  • Make sure your baby’s bedroom is comfortable and inviting. Look around to see if there should be any changes or additions. For example, ensure there are no cold drafts that could bother the baby at night, consider a mobile or something that plays soft soothing music, and be sure the room is dimly lit, or dark, at bedtime.
  • Lastly, put your baby down for bed at the same every night. This helps to establish a routine and the baby will begin to understand that it’s time for bed. Use soft, kind words to let him or her know that it is time to settle down. You will find that all parents have their own cutesy phrases, so don’t be ashamed to sound silly. Use a phrase like “beddy-bye time,” “sleepy time,” – even a soft “hussshhhh” or “ssshhhh” will do.

What you need to understand is that all babies respond differently to sleep training. Most likely, you will not be on an instant routine and you may need to try several things before finding what works. The only people that truly know what is best for a baby’s sleep habits are his or her own parents. Keep in mind that just because someone tells you that their baby always went right to sleep and slept all night long doesn’t mean that your baby will. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t get to that point. Be patient and begin with a routine and method that you believe will work best for you and your family.

What Worked for Me

I remember all too well how difficult it was as a new mom to hear my baby cry. I was terrified that when it came time to sleep train him that I would be forced to endure hours of blood-curtling wails from my otherwise content, smiley baby.  I read every piece of literature, blog post and website I could find, asked every parent I knew young and old, and even did some library research on the topic. The general consensus was that getting a baby to seep through the night as soon as possible was best. So, as a result of pure fear, I began sleep training almost immediately. After being home from the hospital for a few days I realized that JJ was on a completely reverse schedule than he should be, slept hour and hour during the day and in 15 minute increments at night. Oh No! Didn’t read anything about that!! So I came up with my own approach, Here it is:

1. Whenever JJ fell asleep during the day I made the room as dark as possible.

2. I would always have a TV on in the room with the volume down low.

3. I never woke him up! This part was highly debated by even my doctor who told me to wake him up every two hours to eat. For me, no way!

4. When he woke up, even in the middle of the night, I turned the TV up, turned on all the lights, and got him up to play.

5. After about a week of this routine at all hours of the day and night I began the next phase. At the same time every night I turned the lights off and the TV down and put him in his co-sleeper. If he fell asleep great, if not he laid there until he started to fuss, not cry. Once this happened I would take him out of the co-sleeper very quietly, feed him a couple ounces and put him back to bed. He would almost always fall asleep at this point.

6. If he woke up in the middle of the night, again I never woke him up, I quietly brought him out of his co-sleeper, nursed him until he was almost asleep, and put him back.

7. Sleep peacefully! After less than a week JJ was sleeping 7-8 hours every night without waking up at all. He was getting plenty of milk during the day to meet his dietary needs and personally I always felt that waking a sleeping baby was silly.

I proceeded to take the same approach with my next two children and it worked wonderfully with them as well. I have been blessed to have three boys that to this day sleep in their own beds all night. We have worked hard to keep the same schedule since JJ was born and it definitely has worked for us!

Good luck to you however you choose to tackle bedtime with your little one and as always, I’d love to hear what worked for you!

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Bottles and Sippy Cups – When and How

Bottles were invented to provide an alternative to breastfeeding that most closely resembles the female nipple thus allowing newborns and infants to easily adjust. While none will be exact, some are better than others.

Some women are unable to breastfeed due to health issues, work or other factors. For these mothers bottle feeding is a necessity. Once the bottle has been introduced some babies even refuse other nipples including the mothers.  This attachment should not be concerning even though it may be discouraging. Having the nursing bond can be a special thing between a mother and her baby but can also be one achieved by bottle feeding, which then can be shared with the father as well.

Here are some ways to make it happen:

  • When feeding your baby be sure to hold them close to you. This will make them feel warm and safe. Never prop the bottle up because not only will you miss out on these moments it could also cause choking and may make baby feel insecure. Holding the bottle also keeps it more steady which prevents air from being sucked in at the corners of baby’s mouth. This helps prevent stomach cramping and even ear infections.

  • Look into your baby’s eyes while they eat, they will associate your gaze with the fulfillment of this need. This will also help with transitioning to a sippy cup because when you look at them they will know what they are supposed to be doing.

  • Be sure the milk or formula is warm but not hot. Babies have a much harder time regulating their body temperature than older children do. Cold milk will cause their internal temperature to drop thus making them less comfortable. Temperatures that are too hot can burn baby’s sensitive lips, tongue and throat. Never warm milk in the microwave, it may feel cool on the outside but be scalding on the inside. Human milk may even experience a change in composition when microwaved. It is best to place cold bottles in warm water until room temperature all the way through. Test a small amount on the inside of your wrist or arm to be sure its right.

  • Keep baby awake while they eat, this will teach them that sleep time is not until they are finished and will also help with sippy cup introduction. It can also prevent milk pools from forming in the baby’s mouth which can cause serious tooth decay called nursing-bottle caries. If your baby needs to suck to fall asleep opt for a clean pacifier over the bottle.

  • Don’t encourage baby to hold their own bottle. If they do, it’s ok but the less used to it they become the better. Holding the bottle for them encourages them to finish feeding at one time and will make them less likely to fight the cup.

Bottles are a wonderful thing when needed but can also outlast their effectiveness and usefulness rather quickly, just a few months actually. Non-breastfed infants need bottles to receive the breast milk or formula they require, toddlers do not. Once a baby is able to sit up on their own, hold their head up and open their mouth, they are ready for a sippy cup.

According to the Academy of Pediatrics it is best to introduce the sippy cup between six and nine months and have baby fully weaned by their first birthday.

This is primarily based on the fact that most babies start walking by one and are more likely to walk around with their bottle which encourages frequent sipping which can lead to tooth decay. According to a recent study, 3-6% of children younger than 3 suffer from nursing bottle caries – rampant tooth decay, “this condition can severely affect a child’s appearance and compromise dental function.”

A study in the journal of pediatrics actually found that nine months was the optimum age for weaning stating two major reasons: One, it is easier for parents. They actually found caregivers were 60% less likely to have problems getting baby to take a cup at this age. Two, it’s easier for baby. Babies are typically not attached to much yet by this age and even if they are they take to alternatives better than when they are older.

Dangers of Bottles in Bed

Bottles in bed significantly increase the likelihood for cavities and ear infections. The acidic solution which is found in everything except water washes of teeth and gums when we drink causing decalcification, sucking exacerbates these effects. Taking a bottle to bed, allowing more liquids to remain in the mouth for extended periods, cause far more instances of tooth and gum problems in small children than all other factors combined.

Bottle drinkers also tend to ingest more milk. Toddlers need 2-3 servings a day, up to 24 ounces. Too much milk may lead to less intake of food which provides vital nutrients such as iron and protein. At one year of age, bottles are no longer needed for nutrition and developing motor skills allow for cup use by this point and typically sooner.

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Introducing a Sippy Cup:

First of all let me tell you that if you waited to ditch the bottle, you’re not alone. According to a National Health interview survey, 20% of 2 year old’s and 9% of 3 year old’s in the US still have bottle. Now that being said, it is the most beneficial for you and your child to toss it as soon as possible to avoid future health problems.

  • To get baby accustomed to what comes out of a sippy cup you can just remove the valve from a no-spill cup and pour a few drips onto their lips. Start with milk and a soft spout to make it as close to what they are comfortable with already.

  • You can also try a straw cup. This will allow baby to be fully sitting up when they drink. This option is especially helpful for those that never held their own bottle and always drank tilted back. For these kids you can always hold them or lay them on a Boppy or a pillow for a regular sippy cup so that you aren’t needing to push two things at once.

  • Go slow. Start by replacing one bottle feeding with a sippy cup and only add another once  they are doing well with it. Opt for a feeding that is not before bed or just after waking up. The younger they start the faster this will go because hunger is their main concern. As baby gets older they will be eating more solid foods causing them to need less milk or formula.

  • Don’t worry if you waited. There are some benefits to weaning an older child from the bottle. The most important is that they understand more and you can explain things to them much easier. With this approach you can make it a game or a goal, depending on the child. One mom went around the house hiding the bottle and let her 14 month old daughter find them and place them in the recycling bin as she did. Another mom of an 11 month old brought her little boy and his bottles to the hospital so he could give them to the new babies. Yet another toddler parent did a count down with his 15 month old. Five days until you’re a big girl and so on until the big day came and he threw her a “Big Girl” party with balloons and cake and everything.

  • Save bedtime feeding for last. This is often the most difficult feeding to ax so to save yourself and your baby some stress wait until the rest of the days are going smoothly. Once you do tackle the bedtime bottle be sure to keep your routine in tact. Hold baby, rock her, talk to her, everything you would normally do with the bottle should stay the same. Have her favorite stuffed animal or blanket readily available. Don’t worry if she cries for a bit, this can last a few nights but will stop and everyone will be much better off.

  • Start small, let baby play with the sippy cup and get used to the feel of it and how it works. Put some water in it and a towel on the floor and let him go to town, outside is even better if the weather permits and in the tub works well also.

  • Water down the milk you put in the bottle but not the cup.

  • Use distraction to your advantage – TV, music, older siblings, noisy toys, etc. can all help baby not realize where the milk is coming from until its gone.

  • Let your baby pick out the cup they want to use (and even what you put in it sometimes).

For the super-attached:

A child very attached to the bottle may benefit from the cold-turkey method. Even if you choose to go this route you should prepare your child ahead of time and avoid being sneaky. There is no need to wait until she’s asleep and throw out all the bottles. The best way to go “cold-turkey” is not cold at all. Talk up the day that is coming and have gifts and rewards readily available for when it does. Show her and tell her what you are doing with the bottles and what will happen now. This will cause much less anxiety and confusion for your child and allow her to adjust far more quickly. There may be tears and even a fit or two but, again, it won’t last long and then it will be over for good.

Tip for breastfeeding moms:

Make it easy on yourself and your baby, never introduce the bottle to begin with. If you have nursed your baby exclusively until they are at least 6 months old you can skip this step altogether.

 Why Parents Sometimes Hang on to the Bottle too Long

Oftentimes, it is not necessarily that a baby is uninterested in using a sippy cup its that mom and dad are reluctant to introduce it. The first reason for this can be the ease of use, bottles are spill free, portable and easy to prepare. The next is that they make babies happy. When baby sees that bottle they get excited and smile and many parents feel that the same would not occur with a cup. And finally, some parents have difficulty letting go of some things. A bottle says baby all over it and your little one is still your baby while they have it.

Whether you relate with one or all of the above it is important to understand the real implications of keeping your baby on a bottle for too long, which can be long-term and painful.

What Worked for Me

For some reason this was a topic I really paid attention to even long before becoming pregnant with my first child. I would watch toddlers walk around with bottles and others with sippy cups and I wanted to understand why. I researched and researched and found all reputable sources gave the same advice, off the bottle by one, so that’s what I did. Obviously many things you think you’ll do when you become a parent change when you do become a parent but for me there was no alternative here. All three of my boys were given sippy cups at 11 months old and within a few weeks were completely bottle-free. I never experienced the crying for the bottle that so many parents describe. Actually, the only reason the transition wasn’t immediate for all of them was the fact that they needed to learn how to use the cup and each of them preferred a different kind. None of them ever held their own bottle or even their own cup for a couple weeks. My oldest primarily used a straw cup early on because he never learned how to lift the cup up to get the liquid to come out. My second liked a hard spout sippy and always laid on a Boppy to drink it. My third was on a 2 year old cup by the time he was 13 months because that’s what he liked.

This is what worked for me, I’d love to hear your stories as well!

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