Monday, April 21, 2014

Transition to a bed

Most likely, you have either dreaded or looked forward to this day - it's time to get rid of the crib, and move into a big kid bed! Parents choose to transition their children to a bed at different ages and for different reasons - maybe your neighbor moved her daughter to a bed at 18 months because she needed the crib for a new sibling, but your sister waited until age 3 because there was never really a reason to switch. In our family, we transitioned our twins at 15 months because they were climbing out of the crib, and it just made sense for us. There is no "right" age to transition to a bed - in fact, many cultures do not use cribs (or beds for that matter). However, regardless of your child's age, if you have decided to make the transition, here are some ways to prepare:

  • Make a decision and stick to it. Once you have decided to switch to a bed, trust in your decision and don't change your mind! Switching and then switching back is too much change for little kids.
  • Prepare your child. This is the time to talk about how beds are cool! Read some books (this one and this one are both good), visit older cousins or friends with big kid beds, and maybe even pick out some cool new bedding items with your child.
  • Don't change everything! It's OK to pick out some new bedding, but keep some things consistent. Try to put the new bed in the same place as the crib, keep some items from the crib (such as a blanket), and stick to your bedtime routine. Also, avoid making this transition during other times of change, such as while potty training, moving, or welcoming a new sibling.
  • Safety first. If your child is still a young toddler, protect him from rolling out of the bed. You can use bed rails if you have them, but a few rolled up towels, pillows, or a swim noodle placed under the edge of the bed sheet works just as well (and is a lot cheaper). If you want something a little taller, we used this Bed Bug Bumper with our toddler beds.
  • Bedtime rules. Talk to your child about the rules for the new bed. For instance, "Beds are for sleeping, not for jumping" and "We stay in our bed all night."
Now that you have prepared, it's time for your child's first night in the new bed! Unfortunately, you may not get a lot of sleep tonight (or tomorrow night...), depending on how well your child adjusts to the new sleeping arrangement. Just try to remember that you are basically teaching him a new skill - how to fall asleep and stay asleep in a bed. Although it doesn't seem like a big deal to us as adults (I mean, we sleep in a bed every night!), it can be a scary change for a toddler. All of a sudden, little Joey is higher off the ground, in a bigger bed, with no sides to protect him. On the flip side, some kids see it as a new found freedom to get up and play all night. So, expect the first few nights to be a bit of a challenge. Here are some strategies that may help:

Night 1:
  • Sleep on the floor. At least for the first night, one parent may want to plan to sleep on the floor next to the new bed. This is both for comfort and to correct any unwanted bedtime behaviors (such as jumping on the bed, getting out of bed to play, etc). 
  • Be boring. Make it clear that it is time for sleep, and not for talking, playing, etc. If your child gets out of bed, simply put him back. Be silent, be boring, be consistent. You don't want to give any attention (even negative attention like reprimanding) for these behaviors because you may inadvertently reinforce them.
  • Praise. In the morning, praise your child for sleeping in his big kid bed! (Even if he didn't sleep all night, find something positive to praise!)
Night 2:
  • Sit next to the bed. If your child slept through most of the previous night, you should be able to just sit next to his bed until he falls asleep, and then sleep in your own bed again. (If not, no big deal, just sleep on the floor again and move to this step when your child is ready.) For this night, you may need to hold his hand, but just your presence might be comforting enough. (This is a good time to catch up on a book, email, a quiet game, etc.)
  • Again, be boring. Give no attention for negative behaviors! If you are sleeping in your bed again, and your child comes to your bed, just silently bring him back to bed. You may need to set up shop in his room again if he continues to get up. It is still a very new skill, so don't be discouraged! Just continue to be silent, boring, and consistent.
  • Again, praise. In the morning, give high fives, hugs, and specific words to praise your big kid.
Pretty soon, you should be able to get back to your typical bedtime routine of just kissing your child goodnight without having to stay in the room. If you need to, you may find it helpful to slowly transition out of the room - such as sitting a little further away each night until your little one is falling asleep without you in the room again.

*Look for next week's post about dealing with other common sleep problems!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Flying with kids

This topic is on my mind since I just took a cross-country trip with my kids. This was the first time I have flown by myself with the kids, and thankfully things went smoothly!  But, traveling with kids can be very stressful, so here are some strategies to help keep you sane!

Flying with infants (0-2):

  • Check your stuff!  Although you may have to pay to check your suitcase, most airlines will check baby gear for free - including car seats and strollers. The less stuff you are hauling through the airport, the better!  A simple umbrella stroller can be used in the airport, if needed, but a carrier like a Bjorn is also very convenient.  (Also, you don't need to purchase one of those expensive car seat covers to protect the car seats in transit - just buy some heavy duty garbage bags, they work great!)  
  • Ship necessities ahead of time. Particularly if you have an extended stay, it makes sense to ship your bulk items (like diapers, baby food, or formula) to your destination to save space in your luggage.
  • Pacifier clip. If your baby uses a pacifier, you won't want it to accidentally fall on the floor of the airport or airplane. This clip is awesome (and cute)!
  • Pack smart. Make sure to be prepared with anything you may not find at an airport or on the plane. You should have a change of clothes for the baby (and a fresh shirt for yourself), plenty of wipes and diapers, a disposable changing pad, infant pain reliever, and some toys and books. You can always buy snacks and water/juice/milk while traveling if needed.

Flying with older kids (2+):

  • Be safe. Airports are busy places, and kids can get lost. If your kids are too young to understand rules (such as "Stay with mommy"), consider one of those backpack harnesses. Whatever you may feel about these products, my view is that whatever keeps your kids safe (and you a bit more sane) is worth looking into! If your kids are older, and capable of sticking with you and following directions, you still need to ensure their safety. Consider writing your cell phone number on your child's hand or arm (in Sharpie so it doesn't easily wash off), and maybe even your flight number. 
  • Screens. Throw away your rules on limiting screen time! Your child's brain will not rot after a day of watching movies or playing games on the iPad, and it will make your trip so much more relaxing. Plus, new regulations allow you to use electronic devices from gate to gate, which makes take-off and landing so much easier. Be sure to have a variety of your child's favorite movies and games to keep their attention. (On our recent flight, my kids and the little girl right behind us were all watching "Frozen" at the same time!) You will need some child-friendly headphones, and also a splitter if you have multiple kids and one screen (we use this one). A kid-friendly case for your device is also a good idea (we have this one and it has been virtually indestructible)!
  • Food and drink. If money is not an issue for your family, you don't have to worry about packing meals, drinks, etc. You can just purchase these at the airport or on the plane. But, if you're like me, you will want to pack everything ahead of time. I recommend bringing an empty spill-proof water bottle (like this) to fill with water at the airport (most airports now have filtered water for this very purpose!). Bring plenty of snacks, preferably non-refrigerated and individually packaged - such as fruit snacks, boxes of raisins, applesauce pouches, granola bars, and small apples. If you have foods that can be crushed (such as cookies, chips, and crackers), put those in a plastic container first.
  • Potty breaks. Try to plan out trips to the bathroom as best as you can, but also know that potty breaks will come frequently and at the worst times - be prepared! Have a plan for how you will handle airplane potty trips if you are alone with multiple kids. In my case, I was traveling alone with my two 4-year-olds, so I would leave one in our seats (entertained with the iPad) while I took the other one to the bathroom (where we would both squeeze in). Assume that potty breaks will have to occur "NOW!" at the most inopportune times. My kids announced they needed to go right when we were supposed to board the plane, and also right when there was bad turbulence and the seatbelt sign went on. The 4-year-old girl behind us announced her own potty emergency right when the plane landed and everyone was standing in the aisle waiting to de-plane. In general, people will understand that kids have to go when they have to go! And, if they don't understand - oh well! It's better to deal with some bystander grumbling than to deal with wet pants!
Things to remember:
  • The trip will go smoother if you are well-prepared, but you can't be prepared for everything, so expect the unexpected!
  • Traveling gets much easier as your kids get older - they understand directions, can sit still for longer periods, and can (mostly) control their impulses. I have flown at least once a year with my kids since infancy, and this last trip was infinitely easier now that they are 4 1/2!
  • Just get through this one day...and enjoy that glass of wine tonight!