Kids and Sleep: Children Ruin Sleep But You Can Make It a Little Better

My kids are 9, 4, and almost 2. I’m about to talk to you about getting the right amount of sleep, which is hysterical since sleep is the one thing no one in this house seems to get. But I’m going to give it the old college try.

First of all, know how much sleep kids are SUPPOSED to get.

Last year, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, changed its recommendations for how much sleep children should get and the highlights are as follows:

  • Infants 4-12 months should sleep 12-16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • Children 1-2 years of age should sleep 11-14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • Children 3-5 years of age should sleep 10-13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • Children 6-12 years of age should sleep 9-12 hours per 24 hours
  • Teenagers 13-18 years of age should sleep 8-10 hours per 24 hours

Some parents are blessed with kids who come home from the hospital and sleep through the night right off the bat. But if you’re like me and none of your three kids fit this description, you’ll want to use a bat to bludgeon yourself because maybe then, in a fit of unconsciousness, you’ll actually get some rest.

Even when they got older, they weren’t good sleepers. Which is to say, they’re not really good sleepers right now. Will finally sleeps through the night, but Tommy is 50/50 and we often have to go get him once or twice in the wee hours of the morning.

And then there’s Sammy.

This picture is Sam sleeping on a dog bed on the floor in our room. That’s how desperate we were for sleep. Even before bed, Sam is difficult. He requires a set regimen and very specific, detailed agenda before he even considers falling asleep. So every night, I have to:

  • Sing him “In Heaven There is No Beer
  • Then I sing him “Keg on My Coffin
  • I end things with “Wagon Wheel
  • I have to tell a story that involves a dragon and Snow White, but it has to be new and original
  • I spray “monster dust” around the room and on Sam
  • I tuck him in like a mummy
  • I ask him what sweet dreams will have, and he answers either “catching big bass” or “anteaters” (his favorite animal).

Even after all that, chances are he’s going to get out of bed 3-5 times before he settles down. And even when he settles down, he’s going to get up at least once and try to sneak into our bed.

It’s exhausting and I feel like we’re failing ALL. THE. TIME. But we persist, mainly because we have to for their own good. A study published in Pediatrics found that children with non regular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties, and consistent sleep routines lead to positive outcomes such as improved attention, improved behavior, and improved emotional regulation. The bottom line is insufficient sleep in children can also lead to increased risk for challenges with weight, hypertension, diabetes and decreased performance at school (not to mention erosion of parental sanity).

So how do you improve sleep habits, especially with many kids going back to school? Luckily, there are some things you can do to improve your odds along with one thing you should NEVER do. Let’s start with that one first.

No matter how tempting it might be, never give your child an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to make them sleepy. If you are giving them OTC medicine, always read the label as cold and flu medicines may contain diphenhydramine, which can cause drowsiness. It is important to only treat your child with the right OTC medicine for the symptoms they are presenting, not to aid in sleep. And no whiskey on the gums, no matter how much your grandmother swears it’s fine.

Now, here are some things you CAN do:

  • Get into a routine and stick to it – consistency breeds familiarity which (hopefully) results in Zzzzzzzzzs. But if you have them going to bed at 11 pm one night and 7 pm the next, that’s going to be impossible.
  • Use 8 pm as a guideline – Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of Seattle Mama Doc says melatonin levels naturally rise in kids under the age of 12 around 8 pm, and they begin getting tired. We try to follow Nature’s lead and make the transition to bed at 7:30 for Tommy (2), 8 for Sam (4) and 8:30 for Will (9).
  • Limit screen time before bed – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all screens be turned off 30 minutes to 1-2 hours before bedtime. Small screens (like smart phones) are more disruptive to sleep than TV because the light from the devices can impede natural hormones that help us fall asleep. My kids are still too young for cell phones, but when they do get them, they won’t be allowed to sleep with them in their rooms.
  • Start a sleep diary – Granted, I haven’t tried this yet but after looking into it as a suggestion from the folks at KnowYourOTCs, it seems like a smart idea. Also, it would’ve come in handy for us as we just took Sam for a sleep study and other tests, and the information would’ve really helped the doctors as they try to treat him. Click here to learn more.

In the end, every kid is different and while a lack of sleep is a rite of passage for most parents, it doesn’t always have to be so hellish and there are ways to mitigate the damage. Well-rested kids are healthier and better adjusted, and so are their parents.

Or so I’ve heard.

This is a sponsored post. I am collaborating with the CHPA (Consumer Healthcare Products Association) Educational Foundation and knowyourOTCs.org. I was compensated for this post but as always, my opinions are my own.

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Tips for Preventing Summer Bug Bites

Summertime means being out on the lake — with bugs!

When this is your view for the majority of your summer (at least on the weekends), that’s a very good thing. But it also comes with some very bad things — namely, a few million mosquitoes and other flying pests that could turn a smooth ride into a bumpy nightmare.

My kids love to be outside. And ever since I took up fishing and got myself a canoe, I love taking them out on the water. We navigate new rivers, ponds, and lakes and pretend we’re explorers seeing new lands for the first time. We catch our fill of bass and pickerel and we SWEAR the biggest fish of our lives just nibbled on our line but barely escaped our clutches. And we definitely chronicle the wildlife we see.

Beavers firming up their dams and gnawing on trees. River otters darting across the river. And, unfortunately, bugs. So many bugs. Which is why I’ve learned a few helpful tricks to cut back on the damage, and teamed up with KnowYourOTCs.org to dole out a few ways you and your family can mitigate mosquito maladies this summer.

When it comes to a day outside and preventing bug bites, it’s all in how you prepare.

The most obvious way is using insect repellent. I’m now going to shout one word at you and if you take anything from this post, this is the word I want you to remember. Ready? DEET!!!!! Use repellent that has DEET. I beg you. This is BY FAR the most effective repellent you can use, and it protects for between 2-5 hours. Get more useful info here.

But when you’re using it, keep a few things in mind:

  • Don’t spray near kids mouths or noses
  • Spray in an open area
  • Apply the spray 15 minutes before prolonged exposure to the sun
  • Don’t use on kids younger than 2 months
  • Don’t use any sunscreen/DEET combos — it dilutes the effectiveness of the sunscreen

Oh, and don’t apply insect repellent directly to open wounds. I know this one from experience, because I’m frequently an idiot. It burned worse than that time in college when — well, that’s a story best left untold.

It’s also wise to wear long sleeves when you can. I know it’s hot and your kids will complain, but they’re probably going to whine anyway so at least they’ll be safer while being annoying, right? Also, avoid perfume and cologne as they attract more mosquitoes.

If your kids do have bug bites, there is some recourse to save what’s left of your sanity in between shouts of “BUT IT ITCHES!!!!”

First of all, consider some OTC meds and skin protectants, which you can find more about here. Also, your kids are going to scratch. They can’t help themselves, but you can do a few things to assist. Use an emory board to soften your child’s nails so when they scratch, they’re less likely to break the skin. And if that doesn’t work, cover up the bites with a band-aid.

And because I so don’t have all the answers, check out this video of Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, who is a lot smarter than I am with even more tips.

So go outside and play because it’s gorgeous out and soon (at least here in New England) it will be winter for 8 months. But make sure you take precautions and don’t mess around with bug bites while you’re hanging out in the yard or park. Because you shouldn’t be collecting mosquito bites, you should be catching outdoor moments like this.


This is a sponsored post. I am collaborating with the CHPA (Consumer Healthcare Products Association) Educational Foundation and knowyourOTCs.org. I was compensated for this post but as always, my opinions are my own.

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Video: Down and Dirty Sunscreen Tips for Parents of Young Kids

One solution to kid sunburns? Wear a hat!

Look, I could type all these well thought out and funny things to tell you how to put sunscreen on kids. But that takes a long time and no one reads anything anymore. So instead of that, I’m just going to show you two quick and funny videos (one of which stars yours truly and Sam!!) that have some great tips on what to look for in sunscreen and how to actually apply it to kids.

Now go forth and seize summer with no burns!

This one is the one with me and Sam:

And this one stars some other top-notch bloggers with ridiculously cute kids:

This is a sponsored post. I am collaborating with the CHPA (Consumer Health Products Association) Educational Foundation and knowyourOTCs.org. I was compensated for this post but as always, my opinions are my own.

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#ThanksBaby, For Proving Me Wrong

Once I held him, all the uncertainty evaporated.

I’m not going to go so far as to call Tommy a mistake or completely unplanned. MJ and I were considering a third but we decided to table the discussion for a few months so we could take stock of where we were and how things were going. I thought that was the smart, conservative, common sense play — especially because, well, I wasn’t exactly sure a third kid was what I wanted.

Two weeks and a couple of pink lines later, the decision had been made for me.

I was more than a little anxious at the thought of a third child. For starters, we lived in a rented duplex we had already outgrown with two kids. Second, I was unhappy in my job and looking to make a move. But lastly, I had always planned on stopping at two kids. Two seemed manageable with man-to-man defense as opposed to being outnumbered and having to resort to zone. Not to mention all the studies that show parents of three kids are the most unhappy and stressed. I just thought it would be…a lot.

But all of that evaporated the second I held Tommy.

He was so chill and alert — eyes open from the start. And somehow I was 100% certain beyond all measure of a doubt that we hadn’t been complete until that very moment. I don’t know how all this stuff works or why it happens this way, as mysteries of the universe owe us no explanation. But I do know I had been worried for no reason because five seconds after holding him, I realized I hadn’t known what I had been missing until right then.

I was right about it being a lot, though. A lot of love. A lot of cuteness. A lot of Tommy’s fundamental awesomeness and his big personality that cracks me up every single day. A lot of brotherly devotion among all three of my boys. And a lot of dope-slapping myself for ever doubting it could be any other way.

And when Tommy arrived, so too did my resolve to improve our lot.

I got a new job the exact day he was born, that allowed me to work in public relations in Boston and join a fantastic group of people where I’m truly happy. From there, I worked my butt off to save enough money to buy a new house in a picturesque town with a wonderful school system where all my kids will thrive. We went from bursting at the seams and paying someone else’s rent to each kid having his own bedroom and even a little yard in which to play.

In a way, it was Tommy who inspired me and gave me the push to be the best version of myself I could be.

Our new home

So to Tommy, I say #ThanksBaby. Thanks for making me realize I don’t always know what I’m talking about and surprises can be fantastic instead of frightening. As someone who LOVES to be right more than just about anything, it’s been the pleasure of my life to have been so wrong.

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Sunday is Father’s Day and I’ve partnered with Pampers on their #ThanksBaby campaign. In addition to this post and some great stuff from me and other dads on social media, we’re also hosting a Twitter chat on June 17 at 8 pm EST, where you could win a VISA gift card worth $250.

Also, please check out and share this amazing video from Pampers honoring dads.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this campaign, but as always, all opinions are my own.

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Stop Telling Parents Not to Talk About Politics

“Stick to parenting.”
“I thought this was a parenting page, stop talking politics.”
“You make this look like a parenting page but it’s just the liberal agenda in disguise.”

I’ve gotten a lot of comments over the years far worse than the ones above, yet I’m less irritated with the threatening and hateful rhetoric than I am with the criticism that comes with running a parenting page that also talks politics.

First of all, this is free content. Facebook isn’t paying me to have a page or write things on it and I don’t host ads on my website so I’m not using that traffic to monetize my site. I do it because it’s fun (most of the time) and I gain some sense of satisfaction from it. If you were a paying customer then MAYBE you’d have some ground to stand on because you could argue you’re not getting your money’s worth, but seeing as this is free and Facebook is optional, stop your bitching.

Second, I’m not hiding anything nor am I out to trick anyone. Yes, this page is mostly about parenting. However, right there in the “About” section DIRECTLY ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE, here’s what it says:

Yup, that’s right. The same people bitching about the “liberal agenda” masquerading as a parenting page didn’t even bother to check the freaking “About” section, which would’ve told them, in no uncertain terms, I regularly write about politics.

Third, this is my page. I created it, I crafted it, and I and I alone decide what gets posted. That means the people whining about what’s on my free page that they’re under no obligation to visit, have essentially come to my virtual house where they decided to bitch about how I decorate and offer me unsolicited advice on how it can look better.

To which I say “Get bent. Screw you. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”

You want to disagree with me? Fine. I love debate and I’ll gladly engage in it with you. But debate the issue. If you think Donald Trump is the best president we’ve ever had and all my criticisms are unfounded, then argue your point. Prove it. Back up the things you say with facts and supporting evidence. I promise, I’ll hear you out. I’ll disagree with you vehemently, but I’ll listen.

What I won’t listen to is you telling me what I should and shouldn’t be writing on the page I created and run all by myself.

I’ve been doing this a lot of years and 99% of the time it isn’t that people don’t want to talk politics — it’s that they don’t agree with MY politics. It’s so indicative of the ridiculously polarized environment in which we currently find ourselves. When people find their way to my page via a non-political article they enjoy but then scroll through my archives or social media and discover I’m a liberal, that’s it. After discovering they don’t share my political views, they can’t like one or two things about me — they have to dislike EVERYTHING about me. Because otherwise, they’re supporting liberals and liberals are BAD. It’s all or nothing, middle ground be damned. Even though they like the parenting and fatherhood stuff, they don’t want to hear me mix in my political views if they don’t jive with their own.

Sure, there are some people who genuinely don’t want to talk politics at all, and those people I direct to my good friends at Life of Dad. There’s something to be said for desiring a little escape from the overwhelming political mess and divisive atmosphere we’re in right now, and I’m glad there are sites out there that provide it.

But my page is not that. It was never meant to be that. It never will be that. And in fact, I feel a responsibility to talk about politics MORE, not less, as we get further into the failed experiment of the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

The thing that infuriates me the most is the belief that parenting discussions should be separate from politics, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

What’s happening under Trump is unprecedented and awful and must be discussed at length. And newsflash — it not only impacts you as a parent, it affects your children as well.

The  anti-immigrant sentiment has many children worried about losing their family members and having their lives uprooted when Trump deports them. There’s been a spike in hate crimes since Donald Trump won the election, as xenophobia and fervent nationalism has caused increase violence under the “America First” umbrella — especially in the classroom where some teachers report bullying is on the rise in the name of Trump.

And just last week, Trump began the process of pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement. The man who holds the highest office our nation offers doesn’t believe in basic science, and has us joining Syria and Nicaragua as the only two  nations who won’t do their part to combat climate change.

The main goal for every parent is to leave the world a little better for their kids than they found it, yet we’re living under a presidential regime that is pro-coal, anti-science, and anti-planet. If you can’t see the importance of politics as it relates to parenting in the context of “we need to take care of the freaking planet for our kids,” then something is fundamentally wrong with you.

Think about that — we can’t even agree on saving the planet. That ain’t right.

So no, I will not stop talking about politics on my parenting page. As comforting as it may seem to bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is normal, that’s just not the case. So while all well-reasoned, intelligent, factually based arguments are welcome on my page, the one thing you aren’t allowed to do is tell me what I should and shouldn’t be writing about. Facebook is free, so if you want a parenting space without politics, start your own or scroll on by to one of the other millions of pages out there.

What’s happening in our world is worthy of discussion, especially among parents.

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