Going Deep with Sarah and Teresa on naps, getting multiple kiddos to sleep, accepting vulnerability, and toddler teeth brushing
In this month's Going Deep, Teresa and Sarah answer your questions about effectively communicating with infants and toddlers, getting your baby to nap at home, getting multiple children to sleep, setting aside our stubbornness with our partners and welcoming vulnerability, and how to avoid teeth-brushing turning into a full scale drama. Please send your questions to us here!
I have a 13 month girl, Eva. I’m currently having a really hard time getting her to nap during the day. At night she understands when it’s bedtime and it’s never an issue, but when I try the same routine during the day it’s a struggle. Sometimes she’s so beyond exhausted during the day that I have had to resort to driving her around- something I so don’t like doing for many reasons, but I do it because I know she’ll fall asleep. Any suggestions on getting my daughter to nap at home?
TP: To get Forest to nap at home, I lie down with him in a darkened room, put on a sound machine and let him nurse to sleep (you can use a bottle if you’re no longer breastfeeding). I snuggle with him and run my fingers down and around his back and head to help lull him to sleep. Often times though, I’ll take him for a walk in the pram and he will fall asleep in there. The quickest way though? In the car! We are always on the go, so there are many days that their naps are in the car. I use it as an opportunity to get some work done until they wake up. Good luck with it all, and just liberate yourself from the pressure for it to be any one way.
SWO: I'm sorry mama, this is for sure a tough stage to go through. What I learned from my Mommy and Me group is that this is totally normal, and usually passes but there are ways to make sure you are setting yourself up for the best attempt at nap time. From your message it sounds like you are doing everything the same routine wise as you do at night. What I have been told is consistency is key. They do transition and can go longer stretches, so their cues may come an hour later in the day or they may seem sleepy earlier depending on how many hours your little one is getting at night.
Without knowing your whole schedule, there are some generic questions to consider. Have you ever tried using a carrier? This has worked great for me, and although it isn’t a long term solution, I have a 20 month old who really loves being held when she is falling asleep. The motion as I rock her in the carrier also helps her fall asleep and then I take the carrier off as I am laying her down and she stays asleep. This would never have worked with my son, so every child is so different.
When I was having issues with my son's sleep, I read lots of books and reached out to my network of friends. The Sleepy Planet was a book and website our mommy and me teacher suggested. I didn’t do everything the exact same way, but I did try some of the structure and tips they suggest. It can be a great place to start.
General Sleep Tips:
Let your baby know its nap time. Either by telling him/her or reading a book or singing songs or whatever you do at night to prepare for bed. (I tell my daughter its time to sleep and let her know what we are going to do when she wakes up, but first she has to sleep)
Make the room very dark.
Turn on a sound machine. (We use an air purifier)
A sleep sack works great for some babies. The Woolino sleep sack regulates temperature and gives your baby the comfort of a loose swaddle.
I’ve been considering the discipline/rules/authority of my childhood and how I want to raise my daughter - mainly with respect for her as a person first and foremost. I’m wondering how you approached this style of parenting with a younger baby? My daughter is 9 months old, but into everything. I’m realizing my “tell her no, explain why, redirect” plan is unraveling when she tries to pull a chair down on her head for the 80th time. My “no’s” are now sounding more like my mom every day, and I don’t want to be that person. How did you approach this with your children when they were littler?
TP: I would HIGHLY recommend all of Janet Lansbury’s articles. She is a RIE educator and is my guru for all things baby and toddler rearing! She uses clear and confident communication with all children even very small babies.
I find no matter what age they are that talking them through your choices is really helpful. I use language like “my body isn’t for hitting”, “hot things hurt, I’m going to move you away,” and I also acknowledge their feelings after I've redirected them “you seem frustrated”.
In your case, you could say, “the chair is for sitting, not pulling” and redirect her if she persists. Even though they’re so young, getting them used to this kind of communication makes it easier when talking to them as toddlers and beyond and isn’t so arresting as hearing, “no”.
I also love the idea of having a drawer in the kitchen or a box in the lounge room of things that you’re okay with her playing with: metal bowls, wooden spoons, plastic cups, and anything that she can happily get into that feels different to her from her usual gamut of colourful toys. Things that she has seen you interact with are probably particularly appealing to her. This was very helpful for us, and encouraged Forest to get into things that were safe for his body, but also felt new and exciting for him.
SWO: I have found some great tips from a couple of parenting books. Something I learned from Permission to Parent, is that when they are really little (like your 9 month old), you want to keep it short and don’t over explain anything. If your baby is about to pull a chair on his/her head, they aren’t doing it on purpose. They just don’t know yet that it isn’t a safe choice. So you can go down to their level, show your baby the chair and say, “no thank you, this isn’t safe.” You can say, “ouch this could bump your head.”
If what is happening isn’t something that is going to hurt them, but just isn’t a safe choice or isn’t something you want your baby doing or getting into, you can try saying things like “I see you like playing in mama’s purse, lets go find a bag of yours to put toys in that you can carry around,” or “I see you want to go down those stairs. Let me show you how to do it on your bottom,” or “I see you want to play with your toys but its bedtime, so lets do 2 more minutes and then we will get into PJ’s.” It's never too early to start giving them limits, eventually your baby will be holding up 1 finger asking for one more minute of play time.
The point is, you want your baby to feel heard, and then you can show them the safe choice, or redirect them, or give them a few minutes to finish what they are doing. This will eliminate you saying NO all day long. There are so many great tips and things to try in, The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children and Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love and Limits
How do you go about brushing teeth in a respectful way?! I have a 2.5 year old and brushing teeth is a horrible experience twice a day. I feel so stressed about it and guilty that one her teeth will decay and two that I'm emotionally scaring her with the trauma. I've tried reasoning, different brushes and toothpaste, and rewards. I'm at a loss! Help!
TP: I just really spoke to Bodhi about why our teeth need brushing. We talked about cleaning away “the bugs and germies”. He also knew that if we didn’t, we could get holes in our teeth and would need to get them filled up by the dentist. I was just truthful with him. When he was younger, we had a deal that he would do the first minute of brushing while I brushed my teeth next to him and he would copy my movements. Then, I got to have the last minute of brushing his teeth to ensure they were thoroughly done. We celebrated it and kept it really positive. He liked that special time with Mama. If he ever complained I’d say, “I know, sometimes it’s really hard to do things we don’t want to, but it’ll make our teeth and bodies happy!” We also let him pick out his own toothpaste flavour and toothbrush, which seemed to help a lot.
SWO: We found that our son got more excited about brushing his teeth when he had an hourglass or sand timer for him to watch. Our dentist gave us ours, but I just looked it up online and they have them with little teeth on them specifically for brushing teeth. My husband also just found a toothbrush with a blinking light. The light stops blinking when it is time to stop brushing teeth. Also if you don’t have a step stool at the sink, get one. It makes them feel so grown up, and they can reach everything. You could also try brushing your teeth at the same time, Or you could try having your 2.5 year old brush your teeth while you brush hers. I have tried all of these things and it has made for a funny and MUCH more enjoyable experience.
None of my friends co-sleep or rock their children to sleep. I have 3 and 1 year old girls who are 22 months apart. I’m really struggling with getting the youngest to bed now with a toddler, I find it very hard to rock her to sleep with my oldest being a distraction. How do you ‘rock’ or get multiple children to sleep?
TP: With my two, I am resigned to the fact that they both have to fall asleep at the same time, as doing one then the other on my own hasn’t worked very well in our household! If my husband isn’t available to put one of them to sleep, then I bathe them together, read them both books in bed, all of us snuggled up and then put a sound machine on and breastfeed Forest to sleep. I might spend 5-10 minutes chatting to Bodhi about the day, what he learned, what felt nice to him, anything that made him feel sad, etc. We will do a little purging of the day, and then he knows it’s time for sleep. I say “shhh shhh, it’s sleepy time” and if I have to repeat that, I’ll say “I want to remind you that it’s sleep time”. If Forest isn’t tired or wants to play, I’ll let him play with toys on the floor while I lie in bed with Bodhi. For me, it works best focusing on getting Bodhi to sleep first, and usually they’ll end up falling asleep around the same time. Maybe try getting your eldest to sleep first and then rock your littlest to sleep afterwards. Good luck!
SWO: My husband and I divide and conquer. We do books together when we can, and my husband will sing songs to our older one while I rock my younger one to sleep. Then after I get the little one down (who still co-sleeps), I will walk back into my son's room and sing one last song to him if he is still awake.
When my husband is out of town, I have my son lay down in my bed while I rock the younger one to sleep and sing songs to both of them. My older child knows if he is being rowdy in my bed while I am trying to get the little one to sleep, then I will move him back to his room. It’s also easy to transfer him at night back to his bed. BUT yours are younger, so I can see where this method probably would not work. I would ask you what your routine is with getting the older one to sleep?
When my son was around that age, we would sing three songs to him, he knew this was the routine and then he would fall asleep on his own in his pack and play next to my bed or in his crib. Of course there were nights when he would fight sleep but most of the time this would be his routine. I co-slept with him until he was 2, but I always started him in a crib or pack and play and then pulled him into bed with me at some point in the night. My daughter sleeps in a dock a tot on the floor until I go to bed and then I put her in bed with me for the rest of the night. My son now comes back into bed with us around 3 am, so I am happily sandwiched between the two of them. This isn’t for everyone, but I do love it.
If I had to do it the way you are, I would have my little one in a carrier, while singing to the older one and then lay the baby down when the baby is asleep. Consistency is really important.
What is your advice on going deep when [perhaps the child in you] has their feet dug into the ground and is refusing to go forward?? I am shocked to learn that I have such a hard time with communication and my boyfriend is actually so much more open and patient than me! I have a hard time admitting that I am wrong and I have a hard time sharing my feelings because I don’t want to go through the pain of understanding my own feelings/I want to just store them away. I know this is so unhealthy and I want to be more vulnerable with my sweetheart - how do I make the process easier?
TP: I would suggest doing some self work. Find a therapist or listen to an inspiring podcast. I love “On Being” by Krista Tippet. Read some books that resonate, my favourite “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle is a go-to. Just the action of understanding that there is work to be done is the first step, your acknowledgment of that should be celebrated. We have all been conditioned since childhood, but not all of us have the awareness you have surrounding the need to dig deeper. Lean in to that, embrace all that comes up. If you cast your eyes in to the abyss long enough, the light will enter you. Best of luck on your journey.
SWO: Sometimes this is how we were taught communication from our parents or others around us. It’s hard to communicate in an open and vulnerable way when we have never really been exposed to this kind of interaction. I struggle with this still. I would agree with Teresa in that having someone to talk to about the way you are feeling is so incredibly helpful. Therapy helped me to open up and understand that it's okay to be wrong, it's okay to fail, and no one is perfect. It's so much more raw, beautiful, and empowering in a relationship to be honest about how you feel, where you are at, and what you are struggling with. You know and can see where you need work and what you want to work on. That is HUGE and some people go through their whole lives not wanting to see where they could change to improve themselves or their relationships. Sometimes we learn the most in the uncomfortable place, so when you feel yourself fighting against it in these moments, try letting go. Good luck to you!