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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 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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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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Springing Into Allergy Season

Look at that face. Cute as hell? Absolutely. But the puffy face, filth, and perpetually runny nose? Welcome to springtime allergy season at the Daddy Files household.

I don’t remember this being a problem when I was a kid. I played outside all the time, delighted in baseball, and rolled around in freshly cut grass. But my kids? They are snot factories and the tap is always running (right down their faces). When the seasons change, my kids are more stuffed up than the teddy bears they use for snot rags and it lasts for MONTHS!

And as it turns out, I’m not alone. Did you know:

  • Allergies are the third most common chronic disease among kids 18 and younger
  • Allergies prompt 17 million doctor visits each year

The hardest part is nighttime when they lie down. As soon as they go horizontal, the coughing begins. And then the hacking. Followed by copious amounts of nose-blowing. We have to put boxes of tissues right next to their pillows so they can have access to them all through the night. Picking them up in the morning is a joy, let me tell you.

Antihistamines seem to help a little bit, but they never cure the sleeping issue. It’s actually gotten so bad we’re actually taking Sam to an ENT next month to see if there’s anything else going on in addition to allergies.

In the meantime, if you’re a parent of a kid with chronic allergies, here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re thinking about giving your children a dose of something, courtesy of KnowYourOTCs.org (who I’m working with on this sponsored post):

  • Some OTC oral allergy medicines are available in different dosage strengths. Read the Drug Facts label carefully for appropriate child dosing information and contact a healthcare provider as directed.
  • Some oral allergy medicines may cause excitability or nervousness, especially in children. If you have any questions, contact your child’s healthcare provider.
  • Never use any allergy medicine to sedate or make a child sleepy.

In the meantime, check out this great infographic and if your kids are anything like mine — good luck! You’re going to need it this allergy season.

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Kids Are Quick So Keep Your Medicine Out of Reach

Keep your meds high and out of reach!

If you’re a parent I don’t have to tell you how quick kids are.

It’s never when you need them to be fast like getting out of bed, getting dressed, putting their shoes on, or picking things up off the ground. Those times? Slow as molasses. But take your eyes off them for 1.4 seconds at the grocery store or stop holding hands at a traffic light for a millisecond and you’ll see EXACTLY how quick they are as you experience some of the scariest moments of your life.

We all those fears of our kids getting lost in a crowd or escaping from us near the street and toddling out into traffic, but there’s something many parents, myself included, haven’t given much thought to — how quick they can be getting into unsecured medicine cabinets.

Seeing that this week is National Poison Prevention Week (March 19-25), it’s a great time to drop some knowledge about kids getting into medicine that can be severely harmful. Tell me if these two data points shock you as much as they did me:

  • Approximately 60,000 kids go to the ER every year due to accidental medicine ingestion. Think about that number. It means four school buses full of children EVERY DAY go to the ER because they get into medicine they’re not supposed to.
  • According to SafeKids, “half of the 2 million calls to poison control centers in 2011 were for exposures and ingestions among kids 5 and under.” That’s a lot of little hands opening cabinets they shouldn’t be able to access.

While restricting access as much as possible is important, so is the messaging we give our kids about medicine. Namely, we need to have honest and frank conversations with them about what medicine is, and that only parents or a trusted caregiver should administer it to them. And NEVER tell them medicine is candy, no matter how difficult it is to get them to take it.

This is especially important to me right now because we’re moving to a new house, and that means packing. So while we’re generally careful with where our meds are stored (even putting a lock on the closet so the little ones can’t get in), it’s an issue we need to keep in mind now more than ever since everything is being put away and in transit. It’s also not just a problem we need to deal with at home, but also when we travel and when our kids go to other homes (like a visit with grandparents). A lapse could mean a life, so I’m going to ask you to do something.

Lock ’em up (the meds, not the kids)

Please take some time this week to double check that your medicines are stored safely up, away, and out of sight of the kids. I know it sounds like something that could never happen to you, but it can. It can happen to all of us — the best of us — and it’s entirely preventable if we just take a little time to be proactive.

Please check out Up & Away for more information and tips, and keep the Poison Control Centers’ phone number handy at home and lock it into your cell phone:  (800-222-1222).

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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