Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Get Your Child to Sleep

"Martin Family Boot Camp"...that's what our friends and family call our approach to getting our kids to sleep.  While I wouldn't agree that we put them through some torturous procedure in order to establish a great sleep routine, I will admit that when it comes to that precious commodity known as sleep, we are very disciplined with getting our kids on board.

Ironically, I was thinking about our methods while I was laying in bed, unable to sleep.  I had read this post by Melanie yesterday, and was trying to decide if there was even anything that we did that would be worthy of your attention.  I don't think we do anything creative or revolutionary, and I also think perhaps we were just blessed with kids who like to sleep.  Personally, I love to sleep, so maybe it's genetic?  

We are an early-bird type of family, so we get up early (for school and work), we eat our meals early, and we go to bed early.  I realize other families have different schedules, and it wouldn't make sense to put your kids to bed at 7 pm only to have them awaken at 6 am.  For us, that is the perfect sleep schedule, and what we consider "sleeping through the night".  I would also like to mention that some of our children were sleeping through the night at 4 months, and some took up to 19 months.  We did find out that the ones who took longer needed ear tubes and possibly took longer because of the pressure and fluid in their ears.  Or not.  It's not an exact science.

And so, with all these disclaimers, and for what it's worth, here's how we get our kids to go to bed early and sleep through the night.  I do realize as soon as I post this, my kids will prove me wrong and become insomniacs.  Murphy's Law.

1) Tire Them Out
When you get a puppy, and you want him to get out his energy in order to go to sleep, what do you do?  Let him run around outside so that he comes in and collapses.  Right?  Well, we do the same with our kids.  Did I just compare my children to a puppy?  Yup! Well, hey, both are cute and cuddly ;)

I think it's super important for our children to be active everyday, and we make sure they have the opportunity to physically tire themselves out.  We let them play sports, take them to playgrounds, and put our babies on the floor so they have the chance to roll and crawl around.  Just as adults sleep better when they have exercised, children do too.  There's few things worse than laying in bed at night when your body is restless from lack of activity.

2) Fill Their Bellies

When they are babies and nursing, my children tend to naturally cluster-feed in the evening.  It's like they know they are storing up for their long sleep.  Once they can eat and drink real food, we make sure they have enough healthy foods to eat during the day, especially at dinner, and when we feel they haven't got enough calories in (picky eater syndrome) we give them a big glass of whole milk before bed.  When our kids don't eat well, they always wake up super early the next morning asking for breakfast.  Keeping their bellies satisfied (not stuffed) before bed alleviates this problem.

3) Create a Routine
I don't tend to read any books about parenting, because I think we all do better when we trust our guts, but from any article that has caught  my eye about children and sleep, I have learned that creating and maintaining a routine is a standard concept.  And I agree with it completely.  I think adults need a good winding-down routine before bed as well to let our bodies gently transition. 

For our children, the routine is pretty simple: dinner, bath/shower, pajamas, watch a show, brush teeth, say prayers, get tucked in.  That's it and it's the same every night.  No bedtime stories because we have found that it prolongs the stalling ("just ten more stories...pleeeeease?).

4) Set the Stage
This one is important.  Children's bedrooms need to be set up in a way that induces sleep.  Every family and house is different, so you must find what works for you individually. 

For us, setting the stage means:

~ One child per bed
While I think young children prefer to share bedrooms so they are not alone, we feel they need their own space in that shared bedroom.

~ A dark room
We use room darkening shades in the windows, and a small nightlight hidden behind a piece of furniture.

~ A sound machine that plays white noise
This helps because when you have multiple children in one room, the white noise masks everybody's little noises/snoring/sleep talking, as well as any outside noises.  Plus, the soothing sound is associated with sleep, and so when you travel, you can recreate their bedroom just by bringing the white noise along.

~ A "lovie" or blankie or pacifier, etc.
Letting our babies and toddlers have something that is soothing to them helps them get cozy in their bed.  And it must stay in their bed.  That way they look forward to going to bed in order to get that pacifier or stuffed bear they love.

5) Be Strict
You have to set the rules for what you expect and stick to them.  Isn't this true of parenting in general?  Our children know that when it's bedtime, that means that playtime is over, and they are not to get out of their beds unless they have to go to the bathroom or there is an emergency. 

Once our babies are old enough to stop needing a bottle at night, we try not to take them out of their crib unless they need a diaper change. We have never let our kids cry-it-out in order to get to sleep, but we try not to pick them up once they go down either.  We will stand by their crib and pat/rub their back, sing to them, shush them, or whatever it takes for them to be comforted.  A lot of times, we have just laid down on the floor and as long as they can see that we are there, they fall asleep quickly, and then we sneak out. 

By holding or nursing or taking our babies into bed with us, we are not teaching them that they have the ability to put themselves back to sleep.  We make sure to do all of this lovingly and gently.  During the day they get plenty of hugs and kisses and cuddles, and we tell them all the time how much we love them.  But night time is for sleeping, and honestly, our kids have never given us an issue once the routine is established.  They will go through various stages, and we try and reevaluate the routine and just remember that it is a stage, and it will pass!

6) Have Fun and Praise Them
We try to make going to bed somewhat enjoyable, and so we do games like The Tickle Monster (where  the last kid up the stairs gets tickled) or we show them a funny way to march to bed, or we count how fast they can get upstairs.  Whatever works. 

We also praise them for doing a good job going to bed without much stalling or talking.  Sometimes when they take a nap on the weekend, we have been know to reward them with a piece of gum or a lollipop.  Kids love to be praised, and it's so easy to encourage them to continue the good behavior through praises than to try and correct difficult behavior.

So have fun, praise them, discipline them, and most of all....love them. 

Good luck and sweet dreams!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

1) Tomorrow is my Blogiversary!  I can't believe I've been writing about things nobody else cares about blogging for four years!  Here was my very first post!  Maggie was just a newborn when I started, and now she's four going on fourteen.  My how time flies.

2) And speaking of kid's ages....
My baby turned 6 months old yesterday.
  Mom, stop bothering me while I'm spinning the wheel.

How can it seem like he was just born, yet also like we've had him around forever?

3) We had the first snowstorm of the winter last weekend. 
(view from the porch)

our neighbor's car:
The kids loved playing in it and Phil even took the older four sledding on Sunday, while I cleaned and Xander did this:

4) We spent the morning indoors while the snow fell, and the kids actually played quite nicely together (and separately).  These small occasions fill my heart with hope that one day they will be the best of friends:

5)  This little whippersnapper got in trouble at school for putting up his middle finger. 
He has no clue what it means (thank God!) and for some reason tends to point with that finger.  His cousin (also in his preschool class) told him to stop doing it because it was bad, and then the teacher saw him and he got sent to the principal, who explained that it's not a nice thing to do.  Poor guy, he was crying so hard when he told me what happened.  The teacher (whom we love) had already called me to explain the situation, and said she brought him to the chapel and Eamon said sorry to Jesus.  Needless to say, I don't think he'll ever use that finger again!

6) And speaking of getting in trouble at school...
John-Paul  has gotten two detentions (his first ones ever!) within the past two weeks.  One was for constantly talking with the pretty girl who sits next to him, and the other was for accidentally hitting a girl while learning a dance/song in music class.  At least he says it was an accident, but then the girl hit him back, and they both got detentions for hitting.   We took away his snack money and made him write an apology note.

The good news is that he asked his teacher to please move his desk away from the girls he gets into trouble with because they "tempt him".  Ha!  I guess he understands the whole "occasion of sin" teaching in the Catholic church.  The other good news is that my little bookworm talks to girls :)  

And from the "I'm Obviously a Girl with Four Brothers" Files:

Maggie told me yesterday that her wiener hurt.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Secret Talent #2

Are you ready for me to embarrass myself again?


  Good, here goes my next trick (and yup I am wearing pajamas):

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Reviewsday

Review One:

My kids got Just Dance Kids 2 as a Christmas gift.  They love it, and so do I!

It's one of the few Wii games they can all do together without fighting.  

And it's great for these cold and snowy New England winter days, when they need to stay indoors.

Review Two:

After five babies, we have finally found the PERFECT teether.

So simple and easy for a baby to hold and for Mommy to wash.

Xander just got his two bottom teeth a couple weeks ago, and he loves chewing on this seahorse.

(Oh, sorry, this is just a gratuitous baby photo!)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pro Patriots and Pro Life

Awesome but close game last night. 

Tommy Boy even threw an interception! 
(we still love you Brady)

 Phil questioned the validity of one of our touchdown calls, but thanks to the nerves of the Raven's kicker, who lost the opportunity to tie the game, we won!

I thought my family was going to have heart attacks from the stress (and all the great food).  But it was worth it because the Pats are going to the Superbowl!

Looks like it will be a rematch from four years ago:

Except this time WE are going to win! 

In a much more important note....

Please pray for the courageous men, women, and children who are marching in DC today protesting abortion and celebrating life!! 

We are with you in spirit:

Love each other, respect each other, be pro-life every day!

Friday, January 20, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

1) These are actually pictures from New Year's Day, when we went to a local ice cream restaurant and got a family-sized sundae with 12 scoops of ice cream. 

I only got to eat one peanut butter cup because someone...
...ahem, someone...wouldn't let me get my spoon in. 
That girl is just like her grandmother when it comes to ice cream!

2) Well, Xander has his first ear infection.  And it's a double whammy.  Looks like he'll be our fourth child to need ear tubes. 

3) Scenes from the weekend, where it was too cold to send the kids outside to play (like 12 degrees).  The boys love doing this:

And Maggie loves hamming it up for the camera:

4) I was forced by Phil went to a Women of Grace informational meeting this week, and it looks like a cool program.  We are new to our parish, which is thriving, and has lots of things to offer.  I guess better complete this program or I will remain a woman of disgrace.

5) So Mrs. Jennifer Fulwiler herself left a comment on my post yesterday.  How exciting is that?!?!?! 

6) We got snow last night!  Only an inch or two, but more is expected for tonight.  We are still at the exciting stage of the winter when snow is welcomed, soon we'll be cursing the white slippery stuff.

7) Have I confessed my love for these before?

I can literally eat the whole (big) bag, and was wicked excited to find out they come in individual bags. 

Yes, I know I have issues.

Have a great weekend!!