Proven Tips to Help Reduce Your Kid's Emotional Vulnerability

What if you could reduce your kid’s emotional vulnerability? Here are a few tips you can borrow from the ABC PLEASE method.

What if you could reduce your kid’s emotional vulnerability? Research suggests that you can. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was initially developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan to help treat patients with borderline personality disorders, but it’s now commonly used by clinicians to help people struggling with various psychological issues.

Over the years, DBT has been found to be particularly effective in helping in the development of emotion regulation skills. Specifically, the ABC PLEASE program developed under the DBT framework provides tools to deal with emotional vulnerability. Although it is a specialized therapy that can only be applied by highly trained practitioners, some of its underlying principles can be easily applied at home to help kids learn to regulate their emotions. Here are a few tips you can borrow from the ABC PLEASE method.

Accumulate positive emotions

Kids accumulate positive emotions when they participate in positive events. Helping your kid focus on positive emotions can help reduce his emotional vulnerability. Encouraging your kid to do things he enjoys – reading books, hanging out with friends, playing video-games – helps him accumulate positive emotions. The more positive emotions he has, the less likely he is to suffer from emotional vulnerability.

There is also evidence that images that evoke positive emotions can help improve one’s moods. In other words, funny movies or humor can help kids reduce stress. Several studies also suggest that viewing positive images is an effective distractor from negative emotions. Thus harnessing the power of positive visualization (having your kid imagine things he likes or displaying images of things he likes) can help kids increase their positive emotions.

Build mastery

Your kid is more likely to develop positive emotions when she feels competent. A kid’s emotional vulnerability reduces when she develops a sense of accomplishment. It’s important to set reasonable expectations and gradually raise those expectations when she attains them. Remember that expectations set too high or too low can lead to frustration.

Cope ahead

Coping ahead begins by teaching your kid to identity different emotions. It also means helping him understand that different emotions can be described in different ways and are often interlinked. For instance, anxiety and insecurity are always associated with fear.

Once your kid is aware of the different emotions, developing an action plan for dealing with difficult emotions can help reduce his emotional vulnerability. Different, easy-to-adapt, emotion regulation strategies can help kids learn to cope when they encounter difficult emotions. In other words, a kid who is aware of the different emotions and how those emotions are manifested in his body is more likely to be aware of emotional triggers and to apply effective techniques to prevent a meltdown.

Effective techniques can include activities such as breathing exercises to help your kid relax, or activities that help distract from difficult emotions like reading, cycling, or listening to music.

Helping your kid practice different scenarios, especially focusing on how he reacts to difficult situations, also helps develop his “coping ahead” skills. According to the ABC PLEASE method, developing a plan to deal with difficult emotions ahead of time helps reduce emotional vulnerability.

Physical well being

Illness negatively affects emotional vulnerability. If your child is highly emotional, consulting a professional can help you ensure that her problems with emotions do not stem from her physical health. Physical well being means consulting a professional every time there is a need to, and respecting his or her recommendations.

Physical well being also includes issues such as fatigue and hunger. Your kid is more likely to be emotionally vulnerable when she’s hungry, thirsty, or tired.

Low immunity

Kids with low immunity are more emotionally vulnerable. Low immunity can be the result of poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and environmental issues. Ensuring kids eat right and get exercise can help reduce their vulnerability. Encouraging your kid to connect with nature every day can help create more positive emotions.

Eating healthy

According to the ABC PLEASE method, eating healthy foods can help reduce kids’ emotional vulnerability. It’s important for kids to eat regular and balanced meals.

Avoid mood-altering substances

Certain foods have an impact on kids’ emotions. An increasing amount of evidence suggests that cutting out certain foodstuffs from your kid’s diet could help reduce anxiety and hyperactivity. Non-prescribed drugs or non-respected medical prescriptions can also have an impact on kids’ emotions, and mind-altering substances can increase kid’s emotional vulnerability.

Sleep

Fatigue increases emotional vulnerability. To reduce emotional vulnerability, kids need sufficient rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, missing as little as 30 to 60 minutes of sleep time can have a negative effect on kids’ behavior. The foundation points out that kids, unlike adults, don’t slow down when they need sleep, they wind up. The foundation provides useful information on how much sleep babies and school-aged kids need.

Exercise

Regular exercise can help kids reduce their emotional vulnerability. Even a few minutes of free play everyday can help increase kids’ positive emotions.

Although the tips presented above can help your kid work on his or her emotional vulnerability, they will not solve serious psychological issues your kid may be struggling with. Seeking help from a healthcare professional is a sign of strength, not weakness. A professional can help you develop an appropriate action plan adapted to your kid’s needs.

6 Simplicity Hacks for Parents Who Would Rather Spend Time Doing Than Planning

Here are some strategies you can use to minimize decision-making and maximize time and energy for the pursuits that bring you joy.

“How’s it going?”
“Busy. Good, but busy.”
We’ve all had this conversation. However you feel about busy-ness – whether it’s a badge of honor, something to be avoided altogether, or just an inevitable part of life – most of us do not enjoy managing the minutiae of the busy life. I know I’d rather spend my time tickling my kids, reading something without pictures after they go bed, or checking out the new yoga studio down the street than figure out how and when I’m going to actually do all that stuff.
I spent my childhood longing for the sweet freedom that adulthood promised. Now that I have it, I find I’m actually happier when I go out of my way to limit the number of choices required of me. That experience, it turns out, is not unusual. According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, less is more when it comes to options. People tend to be happier when they have fewer choices.
Enter routines. We know they’re good for kids but they might be better for adults than we give them credit for. By creating “rules” for what, how, and when we are going to do things, routines limit or even eliminate the pesky choices that drain our time and energy, leaving us with more room to engage with the people and things that matter to us.
Creating routines takes some up-front investment, but once you have them dialed in they’re worth the hassle. Here are some strategies you can use to minimize decision-making and maximize time and energy for the pursuits that bring you joy.

1| Divide and conquer

My husband and I have a deal: Until 7 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday I am free to “sleep in” or work out while he gets our kids dressed and fed. Monday and Wednesdays, we switch roles. This has been our agreement ever since I got the green light to exercise after our first child was born.
Kate Darby and Marc Neff, who are professors, parents of two, and avid runners, have a unique way of making sure they both get their miles in. On weekends, one parent drives the kids to the park and the parent runs to meet them. On the way home, whoever ran to the park drives the kids home, and their spouse runs home solo.
Katie and Daniel Westreich, parents of two, take the concept a step further. Every week, they grant each other an entire day off from parent duties of any kind, including even seeing their two children. Westreich jokes they have trademarked the arrangement “20 percent divorced.”

2| Schedule all the things

Savvy parents take the time to schedule all the things in advance. Jessica Ziegler, the co-author of Science of Parenthood, relies on phone alarms for everything: “One for Get The Kids Up, one for 10-Minute Warning/Brush Your Teeth, one for GTFO.” What did we ever do before phone alarms with customizable labels!?
Joy Jackson, a stay at home mom of three, has a phone alarm scheduled to ding three times a week at 9:45 p.m. after her kids are tucked in for the night. “It’s the sex alarm,” says Jackson. “It says, ‘Hey, reminder, you guys like each other, but have your busy days made you forget?’”
Lorin Oliker Allan is a stay at home mom who relies on a weekly delivery from a local farm for her family’s eggs, milk, and produce.
Elyana Funk’s two daughters have piano lessons every Thursday afternoon, which means Thursday is always pizza day. Says Funk, a non-profit administrator, “I order it earlier in the day and schedule it so that it arrives when we do.”

3| …And use a shared electronic calendar app to do it

My husband and I started using a shared Google calendar when our first child was born over five years ago. My husband had been trying to bring me over the dark (read: electronic) side for years, but as a paper lover at heart, I wouldn’t budge – until we had a child and I had to make sure someone was watching our kid every time I went to work on a Saturday, worked out, or met a friend. Now, I’m never surprised when my husband “invites” me to happy hours with men I don’t know, and he’s come to expect “invitations” to girls’ night.
Galit Breen is a mother of three and author of “Kindness Wins,” a guide for teaching your child to be kind online . Breen has had her kids enter their own events on the family’s iCalendar since her two older kids were 10 and eight. “We’re all on the same page,” says Breen. “They don’t need reminders from me because they’re the ones who put them there, they see double-booking instantly so that we can take care of it in advance, and it’s so much less busy work for me!”

4| Simplify your meals

Melissa Proia is a stay at home mom of three kids under the ages of six. She has egg frittatas every morning for breakfast. It may sound elaborate but it’s actually far simpler than even cereal or instant oatmeal. Once a week, she mixes up a nine eggs, a pound of ground turkey, and veggies, bakes them in a casserole dish, cuts and wraps them into nine squares, and all she has to do is grab one and heat it up each morning.
On Sundays, Sam Watts – a busy stay at home mom who juggles five part-time jobs – plans her family’s meals for the week, puts all the ingredients on her shopping list, and does her weekly shopping. Having this system dialed in means she never has to take extra time to think about dinner.
Amy Muller is a mom and project manager who volunteers for her local Boulder, Colo. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America chapter and hits ballet classes in her spare time. Muller takes it a step further with a weekly dinner schedule featuring chicken Monday, taco Tuesday, and pizza Friday, that rarely, if ever, varies.

5| Batch process

Never do something one at a time when you’re going to need to do it every day, every week, or every month. Stay at home mom Meryl Hertz Junick does all her school lunch prepping at once. This way, she says, “I just need to refresh the containers in the insulated totes each night or morning.”
I make a double batch of just about every time I bake muffins or prep a meal in the slow cooker. Those items freeze well and my future self always thanks me.
With two children in elementary school, Elyana Funk says it feels like her family attends two birthday parties every weekend. She saves time by stockpiling birthday presents.

6| Do it the night before

I am the worst procrastinator. The more deadlines I have, the cleaner my house is. But even I swear by doing as much as I can the night before. I make my kids’ lunches while I make dinner.
Elyana Funk has her coffee pot prepped and ready to go before she goes to sleep.
Brittany Bouchard, a bank manager and mom of two girls, makes getting her kids dressed a breeze by putting entire outfits together on a hanger. So instead of helping her children choose a top, a bottom, socks, and underwear, each outfit is pre-planned and ready to wear. All her kids have to do is grab a hanger and go.
Jess Allen – the popular online trainer and fitness blogger at Blonde Ponytail – even preps her kids’ breakfast the night before to make mornings smoother.
When I was a kid, all I wanted was the freedom to be an adult and do whatever I wanted. Now that I’m an adult, that freedom can feel overwhelming and I find myself longing for some of the constraints I had as a child. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional Netflix binge, third glass of wine, or extra helping of dessert. But I am happier when I can put some of my adult responsibilities on auto-pilot and devote my limited mental energy to the areas of my life where it matters.

We Know Remarkably Little About The "Right" Bedtime

Don’t struggle with bedtime. Read up on what’s known about sleep, what’s unknown, and what’s negotiable.

Plenty of parenting websites will tell you the “right” time to put your children to bed. Many of these resources even include age-based charts broken into 15-minute sleeping and waking intervals so you’ll know that if your five-year-old goes to bed at 6:45, she should be up at 6:00.

Surprisingly, these sleep guidelines are based on remarkably little evidence.

Before you waste time charting your child’s sleep or struggle to get your kids into bed while the sun’s still up, read up on what’s known about sleep, what’s unknown, and what’s negotiable.

Sleep is poorly understood

We all know we’re supposed to be getting eight hours of sleep a night. We know that our kids are supposed to be getting more than that. We also know that our families generally fall short of those guidelines, whether it’s demanding work schedules, sleep-resistant toddlers, or just needing to enjoy our quiet houses in the late-night hours.

How do we know how much sleep we need? Emmanuel Mignot, director of the Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine at Stanford, calls sleep “one of the last remaining mysteries in biology.” We know we need to sleep, but we don’t really know why we need to sleep for a third of our lives, or why sleep-deprivation is so profoundly damaging.

Part of why sleep is poorly understood is that it’s really difficult to study. Sleep is governed by the brain, and brains are hard to study. Sleep studies are time consuming and expensive. They often require getting subjects to sleep in a lab connected to various wires and measurement tools for a prolonged period of time.

As a result, sleep studies tend to be quite small. Even then, the results are not necessarily applicable to the population at large. Children with sleep issues may undergo sleep testing to study their sleep patterns. These sleep studies are helpful in diagnosing and treating a range of medical concerns, from sleep apnea to sleepwalking, but they cannot be generalized to how all children should sleep.

Sleep recommendations are broad

If the available sleep studies don’t explain how much we should sleep, where do these recommendations come from? How do professional sleep organizations know what amount of sleep is ideal for children of each age group?

In a review of 100 years’ of sleep recommendations, Lisa Anne Matricianni and colleagues found that only one of 35 formal recommendations provided specific scientific rationale behind its conclusions. The reviewers concluded that, “after more than 100 years, sleep recommendations are still being issued in the acknowledged absence of meaningful evidence.” In short, the organizations making recommendations about children’s sleep are not necessarily basing their guidelines on very strong evidence about children’s sleep habits. The evidence tends to be largely anecdotal and practice-based, and while these observations have value, they are often the starting point, not the end point, of scientific research.

The lack of good sleep evidence makes sense. No study is going to definitively prove how much sleep anyone needs, because such a study would need to follow a subject over the course of a lifetime. It would require decades-long data collection on daily sleep, diet, and exercise, and even then there would be so many confounding variables that it would be difficult to draw definitive conclusions about how much sleep is necessary.

Although they were not able to pinpoint strong evidence undergirding each set of recommendations, Matricianni and colleagues found remarkable similarities between the rationales for the amount of sleep recommended in each set of guidelines. In nearly every case, there is expressed concern for children not getting “enough” sleep. The reviewers noted that, whether it was 1897 or 2007, people believed children’s sleep to be adversely affected by modern life, from schoolbooks then to the internet now.

Perhaps the most comprehensive sleep guidelines to date are those put out by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in 2016. Drawing from hundreds of sleep studies, the AASM recommends the following daily sleep amounts for children:

  • 12 to 16 hours for infants aged four to 12 months
  • 11 to 14 hours for one- to two-year-olds
  • 10 to 13 hours for three- to five-year-olds
  • 9 to 12 hours for six- to 12-year-olds
  • 8 to 10 hours for 13- to 18-year-olds

These recommendations, which were endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, are for total sleep time, including naps, during each 24-hour period.

The first thing to notice about these guidelines is how broad they are. There are wide gaps between the low and high sleep amounts for each group. There are also no optimal bedtimes included within the guidelines, or even the requirement that the sleep be continuous. The looseness of the guidelines suggests that either individuals’ sleep needs are so different as to defy categorization, or there is just not enough strong data to draw a definitive conclusion about sleep needs.

The American early bedtime

The above AASM recommendations do not recommend a specific bedtime or wake time, but instead an overall amount of sleep by age group. When translated into articles about parenting, those recommendations often turn into strict requirements for children’s ideal bedtimes.

That’s not necessarily because earlier is better, but because American parenting – and American daily life in general – requires early bedtimes for us all.

First, our kids have to go to bed early because they have to get up early, a point Slate parenting columnist Melinda Wenner Moyer makes in her defense of the “absurdly early bedtime.”

When we say that putting kids to bed early is better, we gloss over a really important distinction. It’s not the early bedtime that matters so much as the amount of sleep children get. Children who go to bed at 7:00 can get 11 hours of sleep. Children who go to bed at 9:00 can get 11 hours of sleep. The difference is that, when parents have to be at work early, kids have to be awake early.

Second, our kids have to go to bed early because we need “alone” time.

Stories about early bedtimes often include the “me” time that parents want away from their children. There’s no evidence that late bedtimes need to disrupt this sacred time for parents. That need for “me” time stems from more than just sleep schedules. It comes from our own cultural expectation to be 100 percent present with our children.

The combination of early morning wake times and the hyper-involved parenting expectations of many Americans is a losing combination that means somebody – maybe everybody – isn’t getting enough sleep.

Sleep is cultural

The sleep guidelines offered by the AASM suggest that there are many different routes to the “right” amount of sleep. Internationally, that seems to be true. How kids get their sleep differs dramatically from one country to the next.

Even as we try to find the “right” bedtime, we can probably all recognize that people sleep differently and happily in different countries (think siestas!). Joanna Goddard’s eye-opening Motherhood Around the World series helps showcase the difference in a wide range of parenting styles, including attitudes toward sleep, from Italian playdates that extend past many American kids’ bedtimes, midnight snuggles during Icelandic summers, and shared bedtimes for Indian parents and kids alike.

As examples from different countries show, there isn’t necessarily a “right” way to get a full night’s sleep. Armed with that knowledge, parents should feel more comfortable negotiating sleep times that work best for their kids and themselves, whether that’s two-hour midday naps or getting the kids in bed before sunset.

This Simple Biohack Will Make You Want to Take Your Shoes off A.S.A.P.

I’m not some crunchy hippie mama telling you to go hug a tree to take all your worries away. I’m talking about the science-backed practice of “grounding.”

Did you know that there’s a super health booster out there that you’ve probably never thought of?
Research has revealed that it helps improve sleep, balance hormones, relieve stress, reduce inflammation, lower pain levels, and prevent or help heal many health conditions.
It’s not a special diet, supplement, or some gimmicky gadget. It’s free, it’s deceptively simple, and it’s literally right at your feet.
It’s the Earth itself.
I’m not some crunchy hippie mama telling you to go hug a tree to take all your worries away. I’m talking about the science-backed practice of “grounding.”

What is grounding?

Grounding, or earthing, refers to contact with the natural surface of the earth, typically by going barefoot. You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever walked barefoot into your front yard or visited a beach and enjoyed squishing your toes in the sand. Feels good, right?
But why is it taboo to go barefoot anywhere else?
Of course, there’s the possibility of stepping on something sharp, so some kind of foot protection is understandably necessary sometimes. But what’s keeping you from slipping off your shoes to enjoy a nice grass or dirt surface when you can?

Are the best shoes no shoes at all?

You may have never given it a second thought, but wearing shoes isn’t exactly natural. In fact, today’s restrictive shoe design can hinder normal foot development in kids.
As for adults, the muscles of our feet, ankles, and lower legs are generally weak and malformed from a lifetime of footwear. Cutting ourselves off from the healing power of direct contact with nature isn’t helping either.
The concept of barefoot running, in particular, was made popular by Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. Many athletes and enthusiasts have followed this philosophy for optimal training and health. They may get some stares jogging along with dirty naked feet, but maybe they’re not so crazy.
According to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, “Mounting evidence suggests that the Earth’s negative potential can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems.
“Through this mechanism, every part of the body could equilibrate with the electrical potential of the Earth, thereby stabilizing the electrical environment of all organs, tissues, and cells.”
You don’t have to run to experience grounding, however. Walking on, standing on, or simply touching natural ground carries plenty of benefits.

A few of the many science-backed benefits

Improves circulation

One study shows that just one hour of earthing improves circulation of body fluids, including blood flow. This allows for better nutrient and oxygen delivery and faster clearing of waste materials, which all lead to lower blood pressure, improved heart health, better digestion, clearer thinking, and increased energy.

Improves sleep and relieves stress

This study revealed that eight weeks of sleeping on a conductive mattress pad improved dysfunctional sleep patterns and reduced cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Participants reported better sleep, lower stress levels, and less pain.

Reduces inflammation

More studies associate earthing with a reduction in inflammation. Excessive inflammation is responsible for many ailments, including chronic illnesses, impaired immunity, and cancer.
Grounding’s ability to affect multiple inflammatory markers means it is useful to prevent and/or treat many conditions such as digestive issues, arthritis, asthma, hormone imbalances, and more. It has even been shown to reduce redness and pain while helping wounds and injuries heal faster.

Reduces muscle soreness and speeds recovery

You know that annoying soreness you get after an intense workout that can last for days? That’s DOMS – delayed-onset muscle soreness. There are all kinds of methods for speeding recovery, including stretching, icing, massage, and foam rolling. Apparently, simple grounding can help with this, too.
A small pilot study showed that subjects who underwent grounding after an intense workout reported less pain, recovered faster, and displayed differences in multiple inflammatory markers as shown by blood tests.
Wow.
This is all pretty unbelievable, right? How can something so simple and uncomplicated yield such amazing results? How does this work?
The Journal of Environmental and Public Health explains further: “It is an established, though not widely appreciated fact that the Earth’s surface possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons. The Earth’s negative charge can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems which may be important for setting the biological clock, regulating circadian rhythms, and balancing cortisol levels.”
By being in contact with the ground, we are able to absorb Earth’s ions into our bodies, which balance out the other harmful charges we carry around.
In other words: Good energy in, bad energy out.

How much grounding time do you need?

This is an emerging “technique” with no set prescription and varies based on individual needs. Positive effects are instantaneous, but obviously, the more the better.
Keep in mind these studies have involved earthing sessions ranging from one hour to overnight, but any time spent connected to nature is going to help. There is no time too short, and certainly no time too long.

Some tips on how to do it

Exercise outside

Sans shoes, of course. Walk or jog in a grassy area or on the beach if you’re lucky. Do a workout on your lawn. Try some yoga or stretching on the ground. Gardening counts, too. Try it without gloves for more skin-to-earth contact.

Just get out!

You don’t have to be active to reap the benefits of grounding. Simply stand or sit on the ground or in a chair with bare feet touching the ground while you read, talk on the phone, watch the kids, do work, etc.

Take a hint from your kids

What kid doesn’t love running around the yard barefoot? Join ’em, or at least take your shoes off while you supervise (making sure the area is clear of hazards, of course).

Connect from inside

It’s not always practical to spend time outside, depending on weather, ground conditions, and your living situation.
You can still do this indoors with an earthing system, which transfers energy from the ground outside via a cord connected to a conductive mat, sheet, or band indoors. This makes it easy to ground yourself while you sleep. You can also use it while you do things like work on your computer, read, or watch a movie.
All in all, whether you’re going for grounding or not, spending time outdoors is a surefire body and brain booster for your whole family. Simply slip off your socks and shoes when you can, and let nature do its thing!
To learn more, check out the book “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever”.
What do you think of this? Share your thoughts below.

Move the Baby or Let Her Sleep? What the Research Says About 3 Non-Ideal Conditions

Carseats, cribs, and couches: all come with dire warnings about the dangers of laying down your baby the wrong way. But what are the real risks?

We all know to put infants “back to sleep,” but babies have a habit of falling asleep in all sorts of positions, in all sorts of places, at the most inconvenient times.

While SIDS awareness campaigns have dramatically reduced the numbers of infants dying in their sleep, they have also dramatically increased the number of parents needlessly panicking about their children’s sleep.

Carseats, cribs, and couches: all come with dire warnings about the dangers of laying down your baby the wrong way. This piece breaks down the actual risks of babies sleeping in non-ideal conditions.

In the carseat

You spent the last three hours trying to get your infant daughter to nap before you had to take her with you to a meeting. True to form, she dozes off in her carseat about five minutes before you need to be inside. You’ve read that you’re not supposed to let babies sleep inside their carseats anyplace outside of the car. Do you wake your daughter up, knowing that she’ll likely howl through the next hour? Or do you let her sleep?

Although it’s difficult to calculate a precise number of children who died while sleeping in carseats used as carriers, we know that the number is small. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded 47 infant deaths between 2004 and 2008 related to devices for carrying kids (slings, strollers, carseats, etc.). 31 of those deaths happened in carseats, so we can estimate that approximately six infants per year die in carseats that double as carriers.

The CPSC reported that the carseat deaths occurred in two ways: strangulation due to improper use of straps or positional asphyxiation, which means that the infants wriggled into positions that obstructed their breathing.

Those numbers may make you terrified to let your child nap in a carseat, but the case studies included in the CPSC report suggest that the carseat itself should not be an object of terror. In one case study, a caregiver left an infant in a carseat with only the chest straps buckled, and came back an hour and twenty minutes later to find that the child had shifted down in the seat, strangling himself. In another case, a child was left unbuckled in a carseat placed within a crib, surrounded by three pillows and a blanket.

These cases, as well as others included in the report, suggest that the problem is not with the carseats themselves, but with either inappropriate use or inappropriate supervision. The authors conclude that “most, if not all, of these deaths might have been prevented had the device been used properly and/or had there been adequate supervision.”

Rest easy, the data suggests that if your child is appropriately buckled in the carseat and you continue to supervise her, she can snooze safely.

In the wrong crib

Back to sleep in a brand-new CPSC-approved crib without pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals. You memorized those basics even before your baby was born. Then you bring your baby to your parents’ house and find with horror that they refinished your old drop-side crib and expect your baby to sleep in it. Do you risk co-sleeping? Do you drive to Target to buy a new crib? Or do you just use that death trap for two nights?

Infants spend more unsupervised time in cribs than anywhere else, so cribs need to be safe. Concern for crib safety has led to an incredible number of product recalls. Crib recalls are so common that they’ve been parodied not once, but twice on The Onion. So how dangerous is an old crib?

In the early 2000s, the CPSC recalled over seven million cribs due to suffocation and strangulation hazards. Those seven million recalled cribs all had drop sides, which were connected with 32 infant deaths between 2000 and 2010. The problem wasn’t with the drop side itself, but with detached, poorly-repaired, or incorrectly-assembled drop-side cribs.

Although the vast majority of these cribs caused no harm and were deemed safe for use, the CPSC determined that drop-side cribs were not as safe as cribs with four fixed sides. That’s because the CPSC’s mission is not to create products that are safe when used properly, they want products to be as safe as possible even when used improperly. The CPSC therefore employs “foreseeable use” to set its product-safety standards. That means that, when the CPSC develops crib safety standards, it considers both the person who saves the Allen wrenches and re-tightens a crib monthly alongside the person who duct tapes a crib together.

One consequence of the foreseeable-use standard is that parents using a product properly needlessly panic about safety risks that would only exist if they used the product improperly. In the case of cribs, the danger is not so much “drop-side crib” as “broken-side crib.”

Rest cautiously, cribs themselves appear to be safer than ever, and the babies sleeping in them are safer, too. If grandma’s crib is in good condition with a mattress that fits appropriately and side slats that are not set too wide apart, it’s a reasonably safe short-term solution.

On the couch

Your cluster-feeding infant woke up on the hour all night. Today, despite drinking every ounce of caffeine that your doctor recommends you can safely consume while nursing, you can’t sit down without starting to nod off. You’ve read terrifying accounts about babies who died after their parents nodded off while holding them. Each time you sit down to nurse, you set alarms to make sure you won’t fall asleep, but the house is so quiet, the baby is finally sleeping, and you know if you move you’ll wake her up. Can you take a nap too?

A study recently published in Pediatrics determined that couches make up almost 13 percent of infant sleep deaths, which may make you never want to snuggle on the couch again. However, thinking about that percentage in context may let you rest easier.

If couches were responsible for 13 percent of infant deaths, you would be justified in listing your couch on Craigslist. That would be the wrong way to interpret this study. To put it into perspective, for every 100 infants who die from sleep-related causes (SIDS and SUIDS), 13 die on a couch. That’s not necessarily a reason to be scared of couches. What’s most terrifying about sleep-related deaths isn’t where the babies are dying, it’s that they are dying in their sleep at all.

The proportion of infants dying in their sleep is already low to begin with. The proportion of infants dying in their sleep on the couch is even smaller. The study identified 1,024 couch-related infant deaths that occurred between 2004 and 2012. The study included 24 states so it’s hard to know exactly how that figure would translate to the entire country, but assuming that the 24 states were roughly representative, that is 2,000 deaths over a nine year period. The birth rate in the U.S. is approximately four million per year, so that’s roughly 2,000 deaths for over 36 million births (a rate of .006 percent).

In the majority of the cases in the study, the deaths occurred in a “shared surface,” meaning that there was a caregiver sleeping with the child. That fact has led to many articles about the dangers of allowing kids to fall asleep on snoozing caregivers.

Some other details from the study suggest other already-known risk factors may contribute more to infant deaths on couches. For example, many of the infants in this study were placed on their sides (13 percent) or on their stomachs (29.9 percent), both of which are considered unsafe sleep positions. The study also drew a connection between maternal tobacco use and couch deaths.

Rest warily, the risk of SIDS is incredibly small, but SIDS risk does appear to be slightly more elevated when parents and babies sleep on couches together. Sleeping with an infant on the couch also increases risk of falls. If you do nod off, be gentle with yourself. In an imperfect world of tired parents and colicky babies, it’s helpful to know that the couch is statistically unlikely to lead to death.

Could Your Sleep Issues Be Rubbing off on Your Kids?

A new study shows how a mother’s insomnia can impact her child’s sleep patterns as well. So what can we do when sleep just won’t come?

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to fall asleep at night when all you accomplish is tossing and turning for hours. About a third of adults in the United States – between 50 and 70 million – suffer from insomnia. They may have difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep throughout the night, or wake up too early in the morning. Some experience short-term insomnia, which is brief and lasts for up to three months, while others have chronic insomnia, which occurs at least three times per week and lasts for at least three months.

Insomnia is not uncommon for parents. Moms, in particular, tend to develop sleep issues since their schedules are so different when they have a young child at home. Between middle-of-the-night feedings, crying babies, and simply worrying about everything from our child’s health to getting the laundry done, it’s no wonder that moms develop insomnia. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 74 percent of stay-at-home moms reported having some insomnia symptoms.

Unfortunately, insomnia can lead to health problems including high blood pressure, anxiety, or depression, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It can also interfere with daily life due to the following symptoms: fatigue, inability to focus and concentrate, poor memory, mood change, low motivation or energy, and increased errors or accidents. A new study from the University of Basel reported in Sleep Medicine also shows how a mother’s insomnia can impact her child’s sleep patterns as well.

During this research, about 200 children, ages seven to 12, and their parents were studied. The children’s sleep patterns were analyzed with in-home electroencephalography (EEG) equipment. This technology records electrical activity in the brain to show different sleep stages throughout the night. The parents reported their own insomnia symptoms and their children’s sleep problems that they witnessed.

The data collected indicates that children whose mothers have insomnia symptoms fall asleep later, get less sleep, and spend less time in deep sleep. These sleep issues potentially impact the children’s development and mental health. Interestingly enough, there was no link between the fathers’ insomnia symptoms and children’s sleep, so Dad, you’re off the hook in this case.

What could be the reason for a mother’s sleep habits impacting her child’s? The researchers offer a few possible ideas for this link.

  • In most cases, children spend more time with their mothers, and they learn sleep habits from the parent they are with most often.
  • Stress in the household, such as family fights, could impact both mom’s and the children’s sleep patterns.
  • They may share genes that predispose them to poor sleep.
  • It’s also possible that the moms suffering from insomnia are hyper-vigilant to sleep issues, so they recognize their children’s sleep problems more easily. They could also be monitoring their children much more often than mothers who sleep soundly at night. Maybe it’s because they can’t fall asleep, so they keep checking on their kids!

If you and your children are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, try some of these tips. If the problem persists, be sure to visit your doctor for an evaluation.

  • Stick to a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Set a regular wake-up time.
  • Create a relaxing, comfortable sleeping environment, such as comfy pillows, stuffed animals, room darkening shades, and soothing music.
  • Shut off all types of technology at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Keep the room cool – Babycenter.com recommends setting the temperature at 65 to 70 degrees for young children.
  • Do a quiet activity right before bedtime, such as yoga, coloring, reading, or journaling.

4 Ways to Keep Bad Dreams From Ruining Your Kid’s Day

There are ways to help kids combat the effects of bad dreams so they don’t ruin their days and even identify what the dreams are about in the first place.

I dreamed that my husband didn’t recognize me. We were the same age we are now and I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and I went in for a kiss and he recoiled, politely and with great care. And then he smiled at me, pried my fingers off his arm, and turned back to whatever faceless person he had been talking to.
It was that smile that did it. It’s the smile he gives people when he wants to get away from them, but can’t, because he’s so nice. He had been nice to me, and when I woke up I resented him for it. How dare he use the fake smile on me? And for the rest of the day I let him know it. I was proper and distant, like a well-behaved roommate or Stepford wife, and by that night we were in a full-fledged fight because of a something that never even happened.
The thing is, I knew it was a dream. It was ridiculous to think that he would do that to me in real life. I’d birthed his three children, so chances are he’d kiss me on the mouth in public. But the feelings wouldn’t go away. They crossed their arms and nodded to themselves like they’d finally shown me the light. I know. I don’t need Freud to explain all the knotted insecurities in that one.
There’s a reason dreams follow us in to our days. According to an article in NY Magazine, “dreams are the number-one way in which we process emotions, particularly emotional tensions that we are experiencing in waking life.”
Maybe it was his longer hours at work. Maybe it was the fact that it was the tail end of summer and I was done with the free-for-all days. Whatever the reason, I was clearly feeling forgotten, even if it wasn’t true. And it makes sense that I would carry it with me into my waking hours. A study in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that, depending on the emotional intensity of the dream, the mood can stay in an altered state the following day or even longer.
I see this in my kids, too. I see them wake from a nightmare about being lost in the grocery store or unable to find us in a crowd and they hug my legs like cling-wrap for the rest of the day. That feeling of aloneness is hard to shake.
But there are ways to help your kids combat the lingering effects of bad dreams so they don’t ruin their days and maybe even identify what the dreams are all about in the first place. Here are a few ways to help bring your kids back to reality:

1 | Re-write the ending

We know dreams aren’t true, but the best way to remind your kids of this is to have them re-write the ending. Let them write down, or tell you, everything they can remember, detail by detail, until they get to the end … and then change it. Help them to fix it and make it as it should be, like righting an overturned table. They’ll tell you how it should have ended, probably with everyone safe and sound and eating ice cream on an island, and be happier for it. That’s how I’d end every one of mine.

2 | Do a little pre-sleep self-care

If psychologist Michale Breus is correct and we tend to “dream about whatever it is that is going on in our lives as we are falling asleep,” then it would make sense to do a little pre-sleep prep. Sit with your kids and meditate. Pray. Deep breathe. Say a few positive aphorisms. Turn on the sound machine and turn down the thermostat. Make a calm environment where they can put their minds at ease before bed.

3 | Talk until there’s nothing left to say

There’s a reason people pay good money to see a psychologist and it’s not just to sit in a quiet room away from kids, although that is an incentive. Hearing yourself voice your fears makes them smaller. This is true for kids too. Talking it out releases the emotion that built up in the night and helps them put it in its proper place. Help them talk to you, your spouse, their sibling, a best friend – anyone they can trust to be a sounding board and then let them sound away.

4 | Identify the real-life trigger

Chances are, the primary emotion in the bad dream is one that has carried over from real life. Like following the strand of lights until you get to the knot, identifying the culprit can be the final undoing that will give them some rest. Help them to make a list of the main stressors in their daily lives and the emotions that go along with them. This is especially important if they’ve been having a recurring nightmare. Somewhere in there is a knot that needs unpicking and you can help them find it.
Bad dreams don’t have to ruin good days. Let them be what they are: the fiction that points to a truth your kids can’t see clearly when they’re awake. Hopefully, once they do see it, they can move on to better things.

Parenthood: Always Waiting, Often for Sleep

Parenting is, by definition, a kind of waiting. We, the parents of the world, are all holding our collective breaths together.

It’s the same thing every day.

I’m told that sameness is a comfort for toddlers, and after living with this one, I can believe it. He smiles and laughs as we climb the stairs hand in hand, he brushes his teeth standing on his little red stool (“No no, we don’t run with our toothbrushes in our mouths”), and then we read a story. After the story, he runs, joyous and laughing, into his own room. We hug and he tells me how much he loves his stuffed panda and his blanket, and then I put him in his crib and say, “I love you, have a good nap, I’ll see you soon.”

Then I walk out and close the door. At that point, every single day, he cries.

Will the child sleep?

It’s the question on my mind each and every day. There are no breaks from the question, and there are no breaks from the impossible waiting. The pattern, the sameness of every single day, is less comforting for me than it is for him. I sit on the couch, and I wait. I listen to his sweet baby babble. I listen to him singing songs to his panda. I wait, I listen, and I wonder. Will the child sleep? Often it goes quiet, and I breathe a sigh of relief, and wonder how much time I have. Often, the sounds get louder, and I breathe a very different kind of sigh and drag my tired self back up the stairs to say, “Seems like you’re having some trouble, huh?”

I remind myself that he’s tired, he needs the nap, and it must be more frustrating for him than it is for me. I remind myself of lots of things. When you’re a parent, and you’re waiting (always waiting), you fill your brain with a thousand platitudes.

It used to be different. A few short months ago, he still wanted to breastfeed, and nursing was emphatically the only way he would fall asleep. So there he would be, a giant baby cradled in my arms, and I would be there too, waiting. In those days it was both easier and harder: I had a ready way to calm him and ease him into sleep and I never had to close the door on him, but I also lived with the constant knowledge that a poorly-timed sneeze would wreck any chance of a daytime nap, ruining both of our days. Those days, the waiting was unbearably, achingly quiet. These days the waiting is filled with sounds that my ears zoom in on, sounds I am obsessed with. I listen to him singing, whining, and just breathing. I listen as hard as I can, trying to decode the sounds. I try to picture him in his crib in a restful position, as though this will somehow help.

During the waiting, time changes shape. I can wait for half an hour and think it’s been five minutes, and it happens the other way around too. I always feel like I should be using my time more productively, but I’m afraid to make a sound and I can’t focus on anything anyways. My brain is elsewhere, every part of me consumed in the question:

Will the child sleep?

There is so much waiting. Once, I was waiting for it to be time to try to make a baby. I didn’t want to wait, I wanted to rush headfirst into parenting like a cannonball into the clouds, but it wasn’t the right way. For one thing, I’m gay, so there were months of prep. We met with the sperm donor, we set a date, we drew up a contract, and we waited. Then I waited for those magical fertile days to arrive. I put stickers on my fertility charts, waiting to find out whether or not conception had occurred, waiting for the nausea to subside (it did not), and then, of course, waiting for labor to start.

I had thought that I was waiting to become a mother, and that once I arrived at that coveted status – motherhood – I would feel, well, arrived. Maybe I do feel that way, some days, but mostly I feel like I’m constantly in limbo. Mostly I feel that parenting is, by definition, a kind of waiting. We, the parents of the world, are all holding our collective breaths together.

Will the child sleep?

We wait for milestones. Once he’s this age, I’ll be able to do that thing I want to do. Once he can talk, I’ll finally stop worrying about his development. Once he can sleep through the night, we’ll have sex again. Once he’s school-aged…and on and on.

I wait for my wife to come home. I wait for organized activities that might give structure to the totally structureless amoeba that is life with a toddler. I confess that sometimes when I’m outside with him, I watch the clock like a hawk, waiting for it to be a reasonable time to return to the simpler world of our living room. We are waiting, waiting, waiting. I have given my life over to this strange stretch, the push and pull on time itself, the sensation of the constantly-baited breath.

Will the child sleep?

Today, it’s almost certain that he will not, so I am taking a deep breath and trying to prepare myself to climb those stairs again. The day will go on and, soon enough, it will be time to wait for bedtime.

How to Prevent a Parental Disaster During Your Afternoon Witching Hour

We have all suffered through our children’s witching hour around dinner time (typically between the hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.)…the tantrums, the whining, the arguing. But have you ever stepped back to notice that parents have our own witching hour around 2 p.m.? If we don’t take some precautions, things could get pretty frightening at home.
Several studies point out how it may be harder for us to think clearly, make good decisions, and avoid making mistakes during the middle of the afternoon. This is due to our circadian rhythm, a 24-hour internal clock that helps regulate hormones in our brain to cause us to feel either sleepy or energetic. That circadian slump time is widely referenced in the business world, but it also affects stay-at-home-parents trying to take care of their kids.
A new study in The Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology went one step further and discovered that our brain’s reward system also goes haywire around 2 p.m. Essentially, this system is responsible for helping us evaluate potential risks versus rewards to make an effective decision.
The study found that rewards we receive in the morning or evening tend to come as more of a surprise than rewards we get in the afternoon. That surprise factor causes certain parts of the brain to light up more. This means that we are better off skipping certain activities during our own witching hour.
Want to avoid overreacting and saying something to your kids you will regret later? Try these tips for making the best of your witching hour:

Eat a healthy snack

Like our kids, if we go too long on an empty stomach, we are bound to lose our balance. Your best bet is to choose a snack that combines protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar levels steadily and keep them up. This will give you a boost and help improve your mental performance and decision-making ability.

Schedule nap time for both you and your child

Feeling drowsy in the mid-afternoon is totally natural, according to neuro specialist Dr. Fiona Kerr. She explains that humans are physically designed to take two naps per day, although very few of us actually do so.
Our hormones ebb and flow throughout the day, typically dropping around 2 p.m. During this period, we have reduced attention capacity, executive function, working memory, quantification skills, logical reasoning, motor dexterity, and mood. Experts recommend taking a power nap for about 15 to 20 minutes to recharge.

Talk a walk outside

Another way to beat the 2 p.m. slump is to head outside for a walk. Put your little one in a stroller or baby carrier and take a walk around your neighborhood or at a local park.
This will get your muscles moving and oxygen flowing. Breathing in the fresh air and soaking up some nature will reinvigorate you and reduce your stress. Being out in natural sunlight can also help reset your internal clock and give you a much-needed energy boost.

Do some light exercise and stretching

Experts also recommend doing some light exercise and stretching to get through the slump. Try doing some yoga poses with your kids, or put on some fun music and have a family dance party.
Alternatively, tap into technology for a movement break, using programs like Go Noodle. More than 60,000 elementary schools in the United States are using this creative online program to give their students active breaks throughout the school day. Why not use it at home for both you and your kids?

Plan a calm activity

If you sense your mood heading for a dip, be sure to plan a calm activity for your kids so you can have some down time. Send them to their room or another comfy spot to do some reading or coloring on their own. Or maybe take this opportunity to afford them some screen time.

Accept your limitations

When all else fails, plan ahead to get help. Hire a babysitter, invite a grandparent over, or work out a system with a friend or neighbor who will watch your kids for a couple hours. You can do the same for them another day.

The First 90 Days of Parenting: How to Crush Your One Job

You have one job for the first 90 days of parenthood: Keep baby alive. So let’s strategize.

We’re in deep. Baby #2. Week #6.
I’m of the belief that the real shaping of your child’s personality, intelligence, and behavior – the “hard part” – really doesn’t begin until about six months. You can let them watch “Scarface” naked at 2 a.m. while listening to gangster rap without doing any permanent damage. The “fourth trimester” is the time in a baby’s life from birth to three months and it is all about physical endurance – yours and theirs. So don’t stress about their minds and emotions quite yet. You have enough to do keeping your precious meatloaf happy and alive and taking care of something equally as important: You.
Dr. Harvey Karp has a wonderful video called “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” in which he demonstrates a weird-looking but very effective method of calming a cranky newborn, which basically involves wrapping him up tightly and jiggling him on his side while saying, “Shhhh!!!” loudly in his ear. It works. Most of the time. For me, however, the more important takeaway from the video is the “why” behind the technique, and the concept of the fourth trimester.
Most animals do not experience this unique aspect of human life, because they are born much more physically advanced than humans. Take for example a horse, who is up and running on day one, because the ability to walk and run is important for its survival. The human brain, on the other hand, is our most important tool for survival, and we therefore have proportionally big heads. If newborn humans were to be born as physically advanced as a newborn horse, human mothers would be birthing 20-pound babies. The size that human babies come out is the absolute maximum it can be, or their heads would not fit through the exit. So, due to their oversized heads, human babies come out “early,” and are therefore not really ready to be out in the world yet. They should still be in the womb – hence the “fourth trimester.”
There’s a reason they look like aliens. They don’t belong here.
You can read lots of articles detailing techniques to utilize during the first three months in an attempt to recreate the familiar womb environment for your baby. But this article isn’t about the baby. It’s about you. Let’s talk about you.
Bottom line, you have one job for the first 90 days of parenthood: Keep baby alive. That may sound overly simple, complex, or dramatic depending on your perspective, but nevertheless, it’s true. You really don’t need to overthink her physical, mental, or emotional well-being during this time. That will come later when she’s four and throws her string beans across the room because she didn’t get invited to the 13-year-old neighbor’s birthday party.
The good news here is that the baby is on your side in this task. He’s a meatloaf, but a meatloaf with an inclination to stick around, so it’s not like you’ll be fighting an uphill battle of survival with an unwilling meatloaf. He really only needs two things in order to survive: food and sleep. And he has built in mechanisms to ensure he gets these things: A loud alarm will sound from the baby when food is needed, and the automatic power-down function will engage when sleep is required. So, your job is simple, but not easy. Keeping yourself rested, fed, and sane while doing it is a different challenge entirely. I’ll share some things we’ve done, bought, and learned that have allowed us to remain relatively functional through one and a half fourth trimesters. Functional enough for me to write this article anyway.

Buy baby buy

I’m still astounded when I look around the house and in the car at all the stuff that a newborn baby “requires.” At one point, however, I realized the two things he truly requires – milk and sleep – you can’t buy at Buy Buy Baby. All this stuff wasn’t really for him. It was for us. Getting the right stuff is essential to your surviving the fourth trimester.

1 | Changing table

These are built tall so you can change your baby’s diaper without bending down, and after a few hundred changes, you (and your back) will understand why this is important. Changing tables also have storage drawers that fit pretty much all the baby’s clothes, blankets, etc., as well as a ready supply if diapers, wipes, and changing paraphernalia. It’s all in one place, so you don’t have to think about it, or look for it. Baby doesn’t care where you change him, or often even if you change him at all. The changing table is for you.

2 | Stroller

So you don’t have to carry the baby and all her stuff around. The stroller is a baby, baby supplies, purse, and grocery holder all in one. Don’t leave home without it.

3 | Swaddle

Funny thing about newborns: They can’t control their parts. It’s all new to them. Their heads flop around like tennis balls on noodles. They smack themselves in the face and cry. Their own farts scare them. They are small living versions of those inflatable display beings outside used car dealers. Swaddles are like little baby straitjackets that stop them from swatting or disturbing themselves inadvertently. The thing is, the tightness of the swaddle recreates the familiar cramped quarters of the womb, so they dig it. They sleep better, so you sleep better. I imagine that throughout history millions of babies have slept badly in their fourth trimester, and have not only survived, but thrived. But trust me, do yourself a favor – swaddle. And sleep.
Note: Get a swaddle with Velcro or a zipper. They are easier to operate in a foggy 3 a.m daze than the ones the hospital nurses make from cloth and magic, and babies can’t do their Houdini-esque escapes from them.

4 | Bassinet

We use ours exclusively at night. When baby goes into bassinet and lights go out, it’s night, and night means sleep. Both kids seemed to “get it.” Baby #2, who only sleeps for two hour stretches during the day, is going down for five hours at night, and baby #1 was going for six hours a night at three weeks! And the longer baby sleeps, the longer you sleep.
We also bought a wooden rocker thing for $50 to put the bassinet on. It elevates it, which is nice, and you can rock the baby in it until she falls asleep.
Note: There are mixed schools of thought as to whether newborns need to be woken to eat or not. Follow your doctor’s advice. A friend’s 70-something-year-old pediatrician did say that he has yet to hear of a case in which a baby slept itself into starvation. We let our newborn sleep crazy long at night and she was off the growth charts until she was six.

5 | Bottles

We bought new “recommended” bottles that only served to make baby mad and took baby forever to empty. We now use six-year-old bottles that baby drain happily in minutes, like his big sister did. Happily fed babies are much easier to deal with than grumpy, hungry ones. Get a bottle that makes baby happy. For your sake.

6 | Monitors

We’ve developed a schedule/routine in that after what we determine is baby’s “last” feeding for the day, he goes “to bed.” Sometimes depending on how feedings shake out, that is at 10 p.m., and we join him, but sometimes it’s 8 p.m. and we have two hours of “free time” before joining him – all due to the presence of a baby monitor.

7 | Seats

In the daytime hours of the fourth trimester and beyond, there are basically two places baby will be: in your arms, or in some kind of seat. This may sound obvious or trivial to non-parents who have never had to find a safe place to put a human for 12 to 14 hours a day, for 12 months. There are so many varieties, and babies have different tastes in seating, none of which you will know until after you have bought the seat.
My advice is to buy a few and experiment. Our first one loved her high-tech swing that played lullabies and emitted a sparkly display of stars. The new one hates it, and prefers the old spat-up-on brown and pink cloth stationary rocky chair. It’s worth the effort, because if you don’t find a seat that baby likes, you will become his favorite seat. Babies often seem happiest the more completely they can incapacitate you, so get them used to sitting somewhere besides in your arms as early and often as possible, so you can do fun stuff. Like pee. And bathe. And eat.
My biggest piece of advice for surviving the fourth trimester: Get stuff. It helps. A lot. Trust me. Yes, having and using all this stuff for only three to six months seems crazy. Do it. If guilt is an issue, pass it on when you are done with it. This is not the time to be cheap or luddite or earthy or brave or paleo-minimalist. Buy stuff. Your survival depends on it.
If cost is an issue be smart about how you acquire stuff. We saved a lot of our daughter’s things in the attic for six years till we had our son, and he certainly doesn’t mind the pink boppies and burp cloths. We’ve had so many clothes given to us from families who have outgrown them, we’ve barely bought any. When we were told that our old car seat had “expired,” we erred on the side of safety and sprang for a new one, but when we were told that our old $700 stroller had similarly “expired,” I called bullshit and stuck with the old one.
The fourth trimester can be tough, so be prepared, and remember that in this time your meatloaf will smile at you for the first time, and all the sleepless nights, spit up, and seat drama will be worth it.