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How We Settle Our Energetic Toddler Down At Bedtime

Anyone who knows us, knows we’re not big on routines. They just don’t work for us. I’m guessing we can’t be the only people in this world that don’t mesh with routines. Drake is no exception. We attempted routines over and over for the first year and a half of his life and  they just weren’t working the way all the books and pediatricians said they should. Just one more reason why I don’t believe one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to raising children. We manage just fine without strict routines. Obviously there are things that repeat daily in Drake’s life (i.e. brushing his teeth twice a day, bath time every evening, eating three times a day, etc.), but that’s as close to routine as we get. You’re probably wondering how we get anything done this way. Funny thing, we accomplish more this way.

One thing that we struggled with though was bedtime and how to get Drake to settle down at night. We did the whole bedtime routine for a year and a half and he still didn’t go to settle down. For a year and a half we  had set nap times and a specific bedtime routine consisting of bath time, teeth brushing, Story time, cuddles and sleep was supposed to come after that. It never did. My son just doesn’t like to sleep. It took us a while to figure out what was causing him to stay up or wake up in the night and not go back to sleep. In the process we learned several things that help him settle down and wake up less and we’re still learning and trying new things.

Drake at Naptime

Drake at Naptime

Overtired = No Sleep
Most of our friends and family suggested that we drop his second nap and keep him up and active. I imagine this is good advice for most people. Problem is Drake didn’t sleep from nine or ten at night until six or seven in the morning. He still doesn’t sleep that way. He sleeps about eight hours, sometimes ten. Needless to say as new young parents we listened to everyone. We dropped his second nap and didn’t let him sleep passed 5:00 PM. It was brutal and Drake was more cranky. It didn’t take us long to drop the advice and try it our own way. We realized he wasn’t ready for just one nap a day. So we reintroduced his second nap and decided no sleeping after 6:00 PM was more reasonable. His naps usually only last about one to two hours, sometimes even less.

The Lesson Learned: A child who is overtired will not be able to settle down and go to sleep.

Grumbling Tummies Keep Kiddos Awake
This one was another one we learned pretty quick. Even at two Drake doesn’t always tell us when he’s hungry. We learned how to read his hunger cues long ago, but we’d often heard that you shouldn’t eat before bed. I did a lot of research on this because I realized Drake was often peckish just before bed. What I discovered was that there is plenty of evidence to support and oppose that theory. So I did what I thought was best. About 45 mintues to an hour before bed, if Drake is peckish, we give him a light healthy snack like apple slices dipped in peanut butter or a Happy Squeezy which is an organic fruit and vegetable puree. This usually keeps him full through the night. We found a lot of great tips and bedtime snack ideas on the blog Super Healthy Kids.

The Lesson Learned: Make sure your kiddo isn’t hungry around bedtime. Sometimes a small snack makes a big difference.

Sleeping Environment Preferences
I know what the books and the experts say. Keep the room quiet, dark and cozy. That worked great when he was an infant. Once he turned one, that didn’t work so great anymore. Drake doesn’t like the dark. He’s good if it’s a dimly lit room, whether by a lamp or moonlight (which we don’t get through our windows in the big city). So, we keep one lamp on at night in our room. Now for the quiet part. Drake does not always relax when it’s quiet. He tends to enjoy filling the silence with his voice. He’s not one to be bored to sleep. We found having background noise whether it’s a favorite TV show or a favorite music CD playing, helps him fall asleep. Sometimes just hearing our voices singing or reading works, if he’s especially tired. Now for cozy… Drake gets overheated very quickly. Our room is above our building’s laundry room. The pipes are all right below our floor. This heat in this room year round is unbearable. We have to regulate the room temperature with our air conditioner. I think this may have lead to Drake developing a preferene for a cooler environment, which is what mom and dad like too.

The Lesson Learned: Kids have preferences too. Not every child likes the Quiet, Dark environment so often recommended.

Relaxing An Energized Toddler
Drake is energetic, even after getting the environment right, making sure his tummy’s full and so on.He just loves to play, no matter how tired he is. I call him my little energizer bunny. It took us a really long time to find things that relax him. One of the first things we tried was lavender bath soap and bubbles. That really didn’t do much since he gets so excited and energized for bath time. We tried a book before bed, but he’s a bookworm like his mommy and it excites him.

The first thing we found that settles him down is cuddling. He likes when mommy and daddy snuggle with him before sleep. Sometimes, though, he just wants to play with us instead of sleep. I started stufying herbalism when I was in high school and picked it back up again about a year ago. My husband and I both knew the calming properties that Lavender has to offer and we just so happened to have lavender essential oil and dried lavender. So we tried three things:

1) We put a single drop of lavender oil on Drake’s stuffed dragon, called Draggy’s tail. Whenever our little dude is tired he rubs the tail of his dragon under his nose. This would probably work for anyone who’s child sleeps with a stuffed animal or a special blanket.

2) We burned lavender essential oil in our oil burner about a half hour before bedtime. This fills the room with the smell of lavender and even makes me and Colin a little drowsy.

3) We placed a satchel dried lavender under our pillows. Sometimes Drake pulls it out takes a whiff and then puts it back, but often it just stays there and keeps us all calm.

The Lesson Learned: Lavender is magic! Sometimes we need a little extra help settling down.

That’s what works for us. We haven’t had any more sleep trouble. What works for you guys? What tips and tricks do you have? Do routines work for your kids? Let us know below in the comments.

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10 Tips & Tricks for Teething Infants & Toddlers

 

This picture is a little old (from last year), but I felt like the Toothy Grin went with what I'm writing about today.

This picture is a little old (from last year), but I felt like the Toothy Grin went with what I’m writing about today.

So, Drake’s last 4 molars are coming in. The molars are meant to be the most painful. On the bright side these coming teeth mark the end of teething! Drake got his first two teeth at 3 months old (top, front). The rest came in quickly after that.  By 10 months old he had almost all his teeth, except these molars coming now. It wasn’t easy, but I feel like now we’re pros at it. The hardest part is always the helpless feeling that you get when your baby is in pain.

With his first few teeth we were using baby Ora-gel to try to ease that pain. Big mistake! Besides the fact that it’s not in the least bit natural (which we hadn’t considered that when we first used it), Drake hated it. It numbed everything and caused him to gag. It was a pain in the ass to get him to let us rub it on his gums. Plus it was too expensive. When we started looking into natural living, I found a variety of different opinions on how to handle teething naturally. We tried a few and some we didn’t get around to trying. Most of the ones we tried worked. So today i want to share 10 tips and tricks with you. About half of these we tried with Drake and the other half we want to try with future babies.

10 Teething Tips & Tricks We’ve Tried and Want to Try

  • Wash Cloths: We had tons of wash cloths and burp cloths for Drake that we had accumulated throughout my pregnancy. A simple trick you can try is to wet a wash/burp cloth and let your baby chew on it. This will massage their gums and release some of the pressure. You can also  put a piece of ice  in the center of the cloth and then wrap it up and secure it with a rubber band. The cold helps to furthur relieve the pain but numbing the gums. This did work for Drake. We found that a cloth with Ice wrapped in it worked better when he was able to hold it himself (Drake started teething at four weeks old)
  • Teethers: Good quality teethers are another great option. You can refrigerate or freeze them. Just make sure you get teethers that are right for your child’s age. This works similar to the cloth, it massages the gums and when cold numbs them as well. We freeze ours and then let Drake gnaw on them until they go warm. If you don’t mind loads of drool everywhere, this is a good quick trick.
  • Sophie the Giraffe: This thing was all the rage when I was pregnant. My mom bought us one for Drake. It’s meant to smell like vanilla, which is supposed to be soothing, but I’ve never been able to smell it. It’s completely safe and marketed towards natural/crunchy parents. Drake loved to chew on it’s legs and squeeze it so it would squeak. He doesn’t chew on it much now, but he loves to play with it and make it squeak. Even my three and a half year old niece still likes to play with it. It’s on the pricey side, but that just might be because we live in NYC. The quality is great though so it’s worth it.
  • Amber Teething Necklace: We unfortunately never got to try this. I only learned about it last summer. Drake had already all but the four teeth breaking through now, so I didn’t bother to buy one. We plan to try it with our next child. How this works is that the amber releases succinic acid which relieves pain, and is anti-inflammatory. The necklace should be worn against baby’s skin. It shouldn’t be worn at sleep times, however you can loosely wrap it around an ankle and secure it with a sock and it will still be effective. Some companies even make matching mommy healing amber necklaces.
  • Frozen Pops (Breast milk/fruit juice or formula): This trick is a simple trick you can do yourself. Simply freeze fresh fruit juice (cut with water if your child is under 2 years old) or breast milk. Some say you can do this with formula as well. Once it’s frozen solid, you can let your infant or toddler suck or gum the frozen pop. This will numb the gums for a short period of time. We tried this when Drake was old enough to drink fruit juice, but we plan to try it with breast milk with the future babies. Drake really enjoys them and they give him instant relief. They can be messy though, so if you’re cool with that give it a try.
  • Hard Frozen Fruits and/or Veggies: This is another yummy way to relieve teething pain. If you have any hard fruit or veggies (i.e. carrots), you can freeze these too. This will both relieve pressure and numb the gums. We tried this when Drake was older and able to chew and swallow solids, so his first frozen fruit was strawberries. They did work for him though.
  • Feeding Teether: I believe Munchkin is one of the companies that makes these. We never got to try this, but again we plan to next time around. Basically, these have a handle and a little mesh part that can hold solid food. The mesh prevents large piece of food from getting into your baby’s mouth and possibly getting swallowed. They can chew on the mesh part and taste the food. This will relieve pressure and if the food is frozen or cold it will numb their gums as well.
  • Razbaby Teething Binky: These are great! We stumbled upon them when Drake was just starting out with teething. They’re hard bumpy/ridged binkies that are shaped like raspberries. They are a bit bulky so we found that prior to six months, Drake didn’t like it. It didn’t fit in his little mouth and it was too heavy to hold. But as he got older he grew into it and it really did help. It relieve the pressure by massaging the gums. There is no plastic parts so the whole binky can be chewed on, even the handle/hook piece. These are great for on the go relief.
  • Massage Jaw, Under Ears or Gums: This really helps and you can do it any stage. Drake doesn’t like us putting our fingers in his mouth, so we would massage his jaw and under his ears. This works great if your child is in full freak-out mode or if you have absolutely nothing else (like if you’re out and about). Drake calm down very quickly whenever we give him the massages. It’s relaxing and soothing for baby. It might even put them to sleep (it does occasionally for us).
  • Humphry’s Tablets or Hylands Teething Gel: last bur certainly not least, are homeopathic natural remedies. The two mentioned above are ones we tried and love. First is Humphrey’s Tablets, which you dissolve in a little water and then massage into your baby’s gums. We tried these when Drake first started teething. It worked great for the first six months. Eventually he needed something more, which is when we found Hylands Teething Gel. This works like oragel, but it is completely pure and natural. The numbing is not as intense so baby won’t gag. Like Humphrey’s you massage this into your baby’s gums (and around teeth if they have a few already). They both numb the gums and based on Drake’s experiences, I assume they are different levels of intensity. We love them though. They are way better than Baby Oragel. You can find them at any health food store, Whole Foods Market and even some drugstores carry them now.

So those are my tips and tricks. As you can see for the most part everything we’ve tried so far, worked for us. So I hope this helps if you’re a new mommy or daddy and you’re not sure where to begin with teething relief. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried or plan to try any of these tricks. IF there’s something you’ve tried that is natural and not on this list, again let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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