All posts by Katie Quirk

About Katie Quirk

Katie Quirk is a mom of two, a boy and a girl. She lives and writes in Seattle, WA.

Nine Great Themes for a First Birthday Party

Let’s be honest: Your one-year-old doesn’t know a birthday from an elephant. But that’s no reason not to have a first birthday party! A first birthday party is a chance for you to celebrate your first anniversary as parents, as well as your child’s milestone, in a way you can all enjoy.

From a First Zoo Trip to a Time Capsule Gathering to a Birthday Brunch, here are nine birthday celebrations that do not involve cartoons, clowns, or goodie bags.

1. A Birthday Brunch

pancakes in a fry pan

Who It’s For: Baby and family

Plan It: Organize an intimate celebration with just the grandparents or your closest friends at a local brunch spot, preferably somewhere a little bit special (and with a high chair, of course). Morning is most babies’ sweetest time of day, and giving the birthday child some extra attention will make him feel like a little king. This might even be your baby’s chance to log a new first: first taste of pancake or waffle, first bite of bacon, first syrupy hand in the hair. Bring a new small toy or two and a snack to keep baby happy until the food arrives.

Why It Will Be Great:  No clean up plus a chance for adult conversation, need we say more?

Extra Credit: Bring your own cake and candle. Be sure to let the restaurant know ahead of time and ask about plating fees  the charges added to your bill for cutting and serving your cake.

2. A Birthday BabyQ

a family having a bbq

Who It’s For: Baby, family, and friends

Plan It: Host a family barbecue to celebrate this one-year milestone in a big way. Hot dogs and burgers are easy and inexpensive party foods that everyone loves (note, though, that one-year-olds can choke on hot dogs, along with chips and popcorn). For the birthday child and his friends, set out a “baby buffet” of finger foods. Instead of a large cake, serve mini-cupcakes; they’re just big enough for one candle!

Why It Will Be Great: Babies and kids get lots of space to crawl, run, and play; you get to celebrate inexpensively with a crowd.

Extra Credit: Decorate your yard with streamers and Mylar balloons, and give each child a balloon as they leave (unlike traditional balloons, Mylar ones don’t pose a choking hazard for babies).

3. A Grown-Up Cocktail Party

some pink cocktails

Who It’s For: Baby, family, and friends

Plan It: Give yourselves a treat by gathering with friends and family for a real, grown-up party. Prepare a variety of appetizers and some specialty drinks, and ask everyone to dress up, baby included!

Why It Will Be Greats: You get to re-experience life before baby (yes, that was just 12 months ago), and s/he gets lots of grown-up attention.

Extra Credit: Make sure to have your phone ready and charged, and take a picture early on during the party. Who knows when your toddler will be dressed up like that again!

4. A Zoo Party

a dad and his son looking at a goat

Who It’s For: Baby and family; friends optional

Plan It: Head to the zoo for a day to remember, whether the “party” consists of just immediate family or includes some of baby’s playgroup friends. Your local zoo might offer special party services, but these are generally geared to older kids. For a one-year-old, plan your own short tour by picking a couple of exhibits. A best bet is the petting zoo, where babies can get up close to animals like chickens, lambs, and goats. Bring your own snacks and cake and have a celebration at the start of the party so guests can leave whenever.

Why It Will Be Great: Having a planned activity and destination cuts down on the stress of entertaining.

Extra Credit: Give each baby a bag of animal crackers to munch on during the stroller tour.

5. A Time Capsule Gathering

a toy train

Who It’s For: Baby and family or close friends

Plan It: The goal of this gathering is to create a collection of things that you can give your little when he turns, say, 21  a gift for the future from the people closest to him, that will show him both how loved he was as a baby and what the world was like back then. At the same time, you’re enjoying a warm, low-stress celebration. So put on a large pot of soup or order in, and invite family members and friends to bring something that represents the “now” for them  some ideas are a magazine clipping, a recent family photo, or a flash drive loaded with a couple of songs or music videos. Collect it all in a special keepsake box with a card signed by the guests. Then, seal it and stash it somewhere safe for a decade or two.

Why It Will Be Great: In ten or twenty years, your child will have a unique memento of this day.

Extra Credit: Make this an annual tradition by adding new stuff to the “capsule” every year.

6. A Baby Carnival

candy floss

Who It’s For: Plenty of family and lots of friends

Plan It: Creating your own carnival, whether indoors or out, may seem like a lot of work, but the payoff is a ton of fun especially if baby has older siblings or cousins. That said, you can keep it simple by setting up a few tables with games, contests, and activities like:

  • Guess and Win: Fill up a jar with Hershey’s Kisses and have people guess how many are in the jar.
  • Ring Toss: Make a ring-toss game out of soda bottles (learn how here)
  • Create a Prize Walk: Tape numbered feet in a circle on the ground and have your guests step from foot to foot while the music plays. When the music stops, each guest stands on a foot. Draw a number from a hat and the person standing on the matching number wins a prize.
  • Face painting: Ask an older kid or one of your friends to adorn kids’ faces with basic animals, rainbows, or flowers.

Purchase inexpensive and cute little trinkets or travel-size games from your local drugstore as prizes. For food, request guests bring a dish to share, potluck-style.

Why It Will Be Great: Who can resist a festive carnival atmosphere with games, prizes and tons of fun?

Extra Credit: Hand out bags of cotton candy.

7. A Birthday Garden

some plants budding in a garden

Who It’s For: Baby, family and close friends

Plan It: Gather loved ones to plant perennial flowers and shrubs, or even better, a flowering tree, that will grow as the baby grows. If possible, pick a species of plant that blooms around the time of baby’s birthday. Ask guests to come prepared to get a little dirty before celebrating with cake and treats. Be sure to take many photos of your baby playing in the mud. Then every year on your child’s birthday, snap a photo of him or her in the garden. If you want, make this a “green” themed celebration with reusable or recycled plates and flatware, and ask your guests to bring seeds or plants as birthday gifts.

Why It Will Be Great: It’s the party that keeps on giving through beautification of your baby’s future environment and the start of a living photo tradition.

Extra Credit: Make a little plaque for your garden or tree with your baby’s name, age, and the date.

8. A Mommy Group Gathering

two moms posing with their babies

Who It’s For: Babies and mommies

Plan It: Turn one of your regular playgroups or baby classes into a chance to celebrate baby’s first year. If other kiddos in the group have a birthday the same week, share the party! You can plan special activities  a sing-along, cake time, and even a group trip to a nearby kid-friendly cafe or ice-cream shop  and talk about how you feel making it to this major milestone.

Why It Will Be Great: It’s a low-key, DIY way to let mom hang out with her friends and baby with his, but with some extra-special vibes.

Extra Credit: If the other moms don’t mind, ask your partner if he can stop by. His presence, even for 10 or 15 minutes, will make the occasion feel all the more special  and he won’t feel left out.

9. A Baby Dance Party

a baby dancing

Who It’s For: Baby, friends, and family

Plan It: Organize an afternoon dance party for friends of all ages, complete with music, snacks and beverages, diaper-changing stations, and areas where little ones can chill out or play.

Why It Will Be Great: You get to relive your pre-baby days and get your groove on with your little one.

Extra Credit: Get the whole family dressed up, decorate with disco balls, and hand out glow sticks.

Which one of these first birthday themes is your favorite? How will you celebrate your baby’s first birthday?

How To Bathe a Newborn Baby

You’re a mom now, congrats! For many new moms, having an infant is both exhilarating and terrifying: you’re in awe, but you might also be a little unsure as to how to care for such a tiny baby. And one area where many moms feel uneasy is baby’s first bath.

Newborns don’t need frequent baths. In fact, bathing them every day risks drying out their skin. Plus, until your baby’s umbilical stump dries up and falls off, you’ll want to avoid immersing your baby in water. A sponge bath once or twice a week is all your newborn needs right now.

Giving a newborn a sponge bath can seem daunting at first. But not to worry, you can do this, mama! We have a step by step guide here to help baby’s first bath go smoothly. Take a minute to read through these instructions and gather your supplies. You might find it helpful to have your partner or other adult at your side when you give baby a bath. It’s always good to have another set of hands close by when it comes to a squirmy baby! Plus, they can be your runner in case you forgot to grab any essential supplies.

Follow these step by step instructions for a stress-free baby bathtime.

Baby’s First Bath: How to Give a Baby a Sponge Bath

  1. Choose a location in your home for the bath. Your baby won’t be immersed so it’s not necessary to do it in the bathroom; instead pick a place where you can safely lie your baby down flat, like on a changing table, your bed, or the couch. Then warm up the room, to a toasty 75-80 degrees for your baby’s comfort. Spread out a large towel.
  2. Gather everything you need. You’ll want a hooded towel, a small hand towel, several baby washcloths, gentle baby shampoo or baby wash, diapers, baby lotion and baby powder, a new outfit for baby, a bowl or basin, a pour cup, and a baby bath thermometer.
  3. Fill the bowl or basin with a little warm water. It should be between 90 and 100 degrees. You can use a baby bath thermometer to test it, and also feel it by dipping your wrist or elbow into the water. The water should feel warm, not hot. Place the water within arm’s reach of the bath location.
  4. Now it’s time to start! Undress your baby except for his diaper, and wrap him in the hooded towel. Lie your baby down on the large towel. Keep one hand on your baby at all times.
  5. Dampen a washcloth with water only, and gently wipe one eye from the inner corner to the outer corner. Repeat on the other eye, using a fresh washcloth. Then use a different washcloth to wash baby’s face, around her ears, and under her chin and neck. It’s ok to use a little baby wash on the face, just avoid baby’s eyes and mouth. Gently pat baby’s face dry with the hand towel.

    New moms can feel unsure about giving baby’s first bath, but these step by step instructions can help them feel confident.
  6. Carefully wipe the rest of baby’s body with a washcloth and a little baby wash, moving from the neck down and uncovering only the area you are cleaning. Wash baby’s arms and legs, chest and back, and in between the fingers and toes. Clean around the umbilical stump, keeping the cord dry. Pat each area dry after you’re finished.
  7. Remove baby’s diaper and gently clean the diaper area with fresh damp washcloth. If you have a baby girl, wipe from front to back. Take care with circumcised boys; there’s no need to push back the foreskin of uncircumcised boys. After you’ve washed and rinsed baby’s bottom, pat dry with a towel and put on a fresh diaper.
  8. Now’s a good time to give your baby a soothing massage. Infant massage can help with baby’s neurological function, sleep patterns, and more. Plus, it facilitates bonding while alleviating baby’s tummy troubles. If you’re using baby lotion, warm up a little in your hands before you apply.

    How to Massage Your Newborn Baby

  9. Finally, it’s time to wash baby’s scalp and hair. Cradle your baby over the basin and use the pour cup to slowly wet your baby’s head. Add a nickel-sized amount of shampoo and gently massage baby’s scalp. You’ll feel baby’s soft spots, which are safe to touch. Slowly pour water over baby’s head to rinse away the shampoo. Use the towel’s hood to pat baby’s head dry.
  10. After you get your baby dressed, you might use a baby brush to gently comb your baby’s hair if s/he has any. Then hold your little one close, breathe in that sweet newborn smell, and congratulate yourself on a job well done, mama!

10 Ways Parents Can Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is nearly here and guess what, mama, you should really celebrate it.

This year it falls on a Friday, making it a perfect date night opportunity! We  know some people consider Valentine’s Day just a big merchandising opportunity for American companies. But don’t even try to tell us that your love life couldn’t use a little help right now, even if it must be inspired by a cheesy box of candy.

We’re not saying you need to go so far as put on heels or makeup. But a little extra attention to your relationship: yes, you should. And here are 10 easy and adorable ways to celebrate your sweetie that even exhausted parents can manage.

  1. Feed each other candy message hearts. Do the whole bag. They’re so corny, you might even share a laugh over some of them.
  2. Give a toast. Raise a glass of something, anything, and really speak from the heart about why you love your partner. Bonus if you do this in front of friends or family.
  3. Put your phone away. Spend an evening doing something together, even if it’s just watching a movie, without the distraction of Instagram pulling your attention away.
  4. Look through the photos of your life together. Pull out the wedding album or swipe through your pre-baby moments.
  5. Go out: This one’s obvious, but it should still be said: getting out of the house together without your baby is pretty magical these days, right? Splurge on a sitter!
  6. Tag in. What’s something your partner does that you could take on for a time? Maybe it’s a cleaning project, paying the bills, or tackling the shopping. Give him or her the week off and handle it instead.
  7. Do a special meal. Not to worry, it can be take-out. Just so long as it’s somehow special.  For example, it could be something you dislike but your partner loves, just this once.
  8. Re-enact your first date. Can you remember where you went and what you did? What you said? Do you still have any of the clothes you wore? Haul it all out of the old memory bank and star in your very-own first date memoir.
  9. Set up a treasure hunt. With the treasure being you, of course (wink, wink).
  10. Really look at each other. When’s the last time you did that?!

What do think of these ideas, mama? Will you do something to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your partner?

Great Irish Names for Your Baby

On March 17, millions of Americans of Irish heritage celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with parades and parties.  If you love the vibe of St. Patty’s and want a little luck o’ the Irish, consider naming your baby one of these popular Irish names. According to irishcentral.com, these are the top Gaelic names being used in Ireland today.

Of course if you’ve ever stared at the name “Sean” and wanted to say “scene,” you understand that pronunciation can be an issue for Americans using Irish names. One suggestion is to “Americanize” the spelling. For example, we named our son from the Gaelic name Tadhg, but changed the spelling to Tighe so it better resembles the pronunciation (TIE-guh). Plenty of people still mispronounce it, because they haven’t seen it before. But it’s definitely an original name and in seven years we’re only met one other boy with the same name. For that we love it!

If you think you might want an Irish name, you need to check out this list of the top Gaelic names (and their pronunciations).

Top Irish Girls Names

  1. Aoife (ee-fa): In Irish mythology, Aofie is the greatest female warrior in the world. The name means beautiful, radiant, or joyful.
  2. Caoimhe (kwee-va or kee-va): It means beautiful or precious.
  3. Saoirse (ser-sha): This name has only been around since the 1920s, and means liberty or freedom.
  4. Ciara (kee-ra): This name comes from the Gaelic ciar which means dark.
  5. Niamh (neev or nee-iv): This translates to radiance or luster.
  6. Roisin (ro-sheen): An old name dating to the 16th century, Rosheen means little rose.
  7. Cara: Cara is the Gaelic word for friend.
  8. Clodagh (cloda): The river Clodagh runs through Ireland’s Tipperary and Wexford Counties.
  9. Aisling (ash-ling): This one has only been in use as a girl’s name for the last 100 years. It means dream or vision.
  10. Eabha (ey-va): Eabha is the Irish form of Eve.

Top Irish Boys Names

  1. Conor: This one’s already been Americanized, from the Gaelic name Conchobhar. It’s often translated as lover of hounds.
  2. Sean: The Irish version of John, Sean means God is gracious.
  3. Oisin (uh-sheen or o-sheen): In Irish mythology, Oisin is the son of a renowned hunter and a goddess. After dark forces turn his mother into a deer, she raises him the forest. Oisin means little deer.
  4. Patrick: The Gaelic version is Padraig, the patron saint of Ireland. It means nobly born.
  5. Cian (kee-an): This name means ancient or enduring.
  6. Liam (lee-am): Liam means strong willed or protector. It’s the Irish version of the German-origin William.
  7. Cillian (kill-ee-an): It can refer either to war or the church (there are several St. Cillians in Irish history).
  8. Fionn (finn): Popular in the United States as Finn, this name means fair headed or small blonde soldier. Well known in Irish mythology, Fionn MacCool is the generous, brave, and handsome leader of the warrior band “The Fianna.”
  9. Rian (ree-an): From the Irish word for king, Rian means little king.
  10. Callum: Callum means dove.

What do you think of these cool Gaelic names? Which ones do you love?

Sad caucasian autistic little girl

How to Handle Toddler Tantrums

Toddler tantrums: there’s no escaping them. As a parent, all you can do is try to find the best possible way to deal when your little one rages against the machine (which, unfortunately in this case, is you). So, as the mom of a toddler, I was happy to read – and re-read – this great advice that Megan posted in the Moms of 2-Year-Olds group:

“I look at tantrums as an opportunity for my son to learn how to manage his emotions while also staying safe and following directions. We use choices, choices, choices. We just make sure that all of the choices we offer have a desirable result.

For instance, in our stroller conflict (which right now is our carseat conflict), we’d get down to his eye level and in a calm voice (even if he is screaming) say, “Max, do you want to buckle yourself in the stroller or do you want mommy/daddy to do it for you?” We usually give him a 5 count to answer, and if he continues throwing a tantrum, ask him calmly one more time. Nine times out of 10, he’ll make a choice. Those times that he continues throwing a fit, we’ll say, “Okay, it looks like you are upset and don’t want to make a choice right now. I am going to buckle you in.”

By getting down to his level we are showing him that we are not being authoritative, but want to talk to him. By staying calm we show him that his tantrum will not get us riled up. By giving him two options that will end with him buckled in the stroller (carseat) we get what we want, which is to keep him safe, and he gets the control that he is throwing a fit over. And for those times when he continues to throw a tantrum, we will take the reigns and show him that sometimes he just needs to do what mommy and daddy say :)”

How Common is an Unplanned Pregnancy in Your 40s

An unplanned pregnancy might sound like a teenage problem, but it’s very possible to have an unplanned pregnancy in your 40s. At my son’s elementary school right now, two 41-year-old moms and one 45-year-old mom are pregnant. And they aren’t shy about telling  everyone that these babies weren’t planned.

I wasn’t shocked to learn these mamas were pregnant; my grandmother had a baby at 40 and my own mom had one at 42. (I can’t speak for the women in question, however I imagine they were quite surprised!). But with so many women struggling with infertility these days, and the media constantly telling us that getting pregnant after age 35 might be challenging, it’s easy to fall into thinking that most of us are washed-up baby-makers by age 40 (without IVF, at least). This is especially true if a woman experienced any difficulty conceiving her last baby. If that one didn’t come easy, there’s small chance of having another, right?!

But the truth is,  many women can and do still get pregnant in their early 40s (and later). In fact, the Mayo Clinic advises women who don’t want any more children to use birth control until they have been in menopause for a year, which for some women could be age 55! As more women delay having kids, the birth rates for older moms are rising, and plenty of those moms get pregnant naturally. (The statistics say for a 40-year-old woman there’s about a five percent chance every month of getting pregnant).

It’s encouraging news for 40-something year-old moms who want kids. For the rest of us, it’s a reminder not to quit or be careless about birth control (unless you’re actually secretly wishing for an “oops” baby). Because it can happen!

One mama on the playground said it best: “You let your guard down, stop playing defense, and bam! It happens.” Although unplanned pregnancies don’t have to be regrettable — we love kids around here! — if you think you’re done with raising babies, having another one will surely be an adjustment in both attitude and lifestyle.

What do you think? Would you be surprised to find yourself expecting again?

Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous For Your Baby?

It’s one of the first sources of mom guilt for many new mamas: Sleeping with their baby. For years, parents have been advised not to do it. But is co-sleeping dangerous, really?

Modern moms are told that babies should sleep on their backs in a crib or bassinet free of any loose bedding, blankets, bumpers, or pillows. When the crib is placed in the parents’ room, it’s the safest sleep environment for an infant. But despite this guidance, one in four moms choose to bring baby into their beds instead. That number has risen fourfold in the past 20 years. And during this time, the number of sleep-related infant deaths has not increased, but held steady at about 3,500 annually. So is co-sleeping dangerous?

Co-Sleeping Can Be Safe for Some

As a new parent, I’d assumed co-sleeping was an absolute no-no, and we never had our firstborn in bed with us. But it was a different story with my daughter, born four years later. Her crib was in our room, and she always began the night there. But by morning, she’d be next to me. And every morning I would feel guilty about putting her “at risk” like that, and vow not to do it again. But my morning willpower was never quite as strong as my midnight sleepiness, and so she’d end up in bed with us again.

Turns out co-sleeping like this isn’t the death sentence that I assumed it to be. Our situation put my daughter at low risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or other sleep-related infant death: she was born full term and a healthy weight, and I don’t smoke. I’m also not obese, don’t drink alcohol or do drugs, or take any medications that might make me drowsy or a heavy sleeper. Plus as as breastfeeding mom I probably naturally curled my body in a protective stance around my daughter. This is something that may not happen with co-sleeping moms who use formula.

Given all these low-risk attributes, having her in bed with me put the risk of her dying at 1 in 16,400, according to NPR. In other words, the risk of her getting hit by lightning was higher than the chance of death by co-sleeping. Of course the risk was even lower if she stayed in her crib, dropping 1 in 46,000.

This graphic originally published on NPR’s website shows the risks of co-sleeping as compared to the leading causes of accidental death for children.

Co-Sleeping Is Dangerous for High-Risk Babies

These numbers are shockingly different for babies deemed of moderate or high risk of SIDS, however. For babies with low birth weights or born prematurely, or babies sleeping next to parents who smoke, or who have been drinking or using drugs, co-sleeping is much more dangerous. For these high-risk babies, the chance of dying while co-sleeping is a scary 1 in 150.

Some of the reasons for that: Inebriated parents might roll on their babies and be unaware and fail to wake, suffocating the little one. Parents zonked out on drugs are less likely to take care that the sleep environment is as safe as can be. And babies of parents who smoke have a much higher risk of SIDS no matter where they are sleeping.

Co-Sleeping Precautions

Room sharing, in which your baby is in a crib, bassinet, or co-sleeper, is the absolute safest way for your baby to sleep. But if your baby and your situation puts you at lower risk for SIDS, careful co-sleeping might not be as risky as traditionally believed. Even the fairly conservative American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has acknowledged the increasing occurrence of co-sleeping in the U.S. While they still don’t recommend it, they encourage parents to share, not hide, their sleeping arrangements with their pediatricians, who are advised to listen and provide co-sleeping advice without judgement.

If you do choose to co-sleep, experts recommend following these precautions:

  • Babies should be on a flat, firm surface, away from pillows, with only their bodies covered by light bedding.
  • Moms who use formula should avoid or exercise extra precaution when co-sleeping, as their co-sleep patterns haven’t been as well studied as those of breastfeeding moms.
  • Breastfed babies should be next to their moms, who will instinctively protect them, studies have shown.
  • Never co-sleep when any of the adults in bed have been drinking or using drugs.
  • If you or your partner smoke, don’t co-sleep (even if you don’t smoke in the house or in bed).
  • Never swaddle your baby while co-sleeping.
  • Low-weight or premature babies benefit from being placed in a co-sleeper, but should not sleep in bed with adults.
  • Avoid family-bed situations with siblings and baby.
  • Never sleep with or lie your baby on a sofa or chair; babies can become trapped against the furniture and suffocate.

What’s your feeling on co-sleeping? Do you sleep with your baby?

 

Why Infant Massage Could Change Your Life

Before you buy another piece of baby gear in the hopes of soothing your fussy newborn, consider this: You may already have the solution to some of baby’s crying, tummy troubles, and sleep challenges in the palms of your hands. Literally: we’re talking about infant massage.

The benefits of infant massage are many. Here’s what some of the research on infant massage has found.

Benefits of Infant Massage

Massage Means Improved Sleep: Babies and toddlers whose parents massaged them prior to bedtime fell asleep faster and demonstrated more alertness when awake, indicating better sleep.

Massage Could Mean Weight Gain for Preemies: Babies born prematurely gain more weight when they receive regular, gentle touch. (Parents of preemies, speak to your doctor before beginning an infant massage routine as it may overstimulate babies born at younger than 32 weeks gestation).

Massaged Babies Have Lower Levels of Stress Hormones: Infant massage has been found to lower babies’ cortisol levels and contribute to a less fussy baby.

Moms Who Massage Show Improved Moods: Studies have shown moms who engage in infant massage may suffer less from postpartum depression.

Infant Massage Leads to Better Bonding: A short, 15-minute daily massage is enough to increase mother-infant attachment, this study and others have shown.

Before you get started, watch this quick tutorial on how to massage your baby.

How to Massage Your Newborn Baby

And here are couple of things to keep in mind before you begin:

  • Babies benefit from routine so try to give your baby a short massage at the same time every day. A good time is before the evening feeding, to stimulate appetite and also to settle baby down for the night.
  • Start with a light touch and pay attention to your baby’s reaction. Since your little one can’t tell you how she’s finding the massage, it’s important to notice her nonverbal cues for confirmation that your level of pressure is comfortable and soothing for her. Any wincing, grimacing, or tensing up is a sign that you should ease up.
How to Help Your Child Fall Asleep

Top 10 Tips To Get Your Kiddo To Sleep

We know the basics: have a bedtime routine, warm baths, soothing music, etc. But many of our kids still struggle with sleep problems. If your kiddo has trouble nodding off, perhaps it’s time to try a scientific approach. Tricking her body into producing sleep hormones, or providing it with proteins that promote sleep, may work better than any gadget or lullaby.

Here are a few methods to try that could help your child fall asleep faster.

Get Rid of the Blues

Multiples blue dots

Phones, TVs, tablets, computers, and pretty much every screen all emit a blue light reminiscent of daylight, and the more your child looks at it, the more her body will respond as if it’s daytime. Limiting the amount of screen time, especially at bedtime, can help. Some tablets and smart phones have apps that filter out blue lights, and computers can be fitted with a screen that does the same thing. Also be sure that any night lights have a red glow, not green, white, or blue.

Everything to Know about Raising Gender-Neutral Kids

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are doing it, as are celebs like Kate Hudson and Angelina Jolie. Unisex baby names are off the charts. Stores like Target are removing boy and girl labels from their toy aisles and introducing gender-neutral clothing sections. Schools are creating gender-neutral bathrooms. And Christianheadlines.com reports that, yep, raising gender-neutral kids is a trend. Here’s everything to know about how parents are raising gender-neutral kids.

Here’s What It Means to Raise Gender-Neutral Kids
The goal is to avoid imposing gender stereotypes of any kind on your child so that your kid can explore the world without the restrictions of societally-imposed gender roles. Parents committed to raising their kids in a gender-neutral way actively avoid suggesting gender-specific things like color preferences, clothing, behaviors, and toy and activity choices to their kids. 

Some Parents Are Letting Kids Choose Their Gender
For example, girls are provided the same encouragement to play with trucks as boys have access to skirts and headbands. The adults in the home make a point to avoid engaging in stereotypical gendered roles, so as to not portray “female” or “male” roles. Parents try to speak to kids in a gender-neutral way as well, for example replacing comments on their daughter’s appearance with feedback instead on her actions.

In the most committedly gender-neutral homes, parents are allowing the child to choose their gender. They refrain from telling family and friends the sex of the child so as to remove outside influences on the child, and refer to the kid as “they” and “them,” not he/him and she/her.

Some parents are even skipping declaring their children’s sex on official forms like birth certificates, instead using the new third gender designation of X or other non-binary notations that have been added to birth certificates in some cities and states including NYC, Washington D.C., Oregon, California, Maine, and Washington State

<i>Gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming increasingly common around the country, including at elementary schools.</i>

The Benefits of Deemphasizing Gender 
Americans are increasingly rejecting rigid gender roles, and research indicates that is probably a good thing. Research has shown that the gendered messages common in cultures around the world instructing girls to be passive and boys to be aggressive are linked with negative health effects including teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease exposure in girls and substance abuse and suicide in boys. Other ways gender stereotypes negatively affect people include: 

  • Diminishing boys’ emotional intelligence through messages like “boys don’t cry”
  • Linking worth to external factors like salary (men) and
  • Pressuring girls to always look perfect and pretty
  • Deempahizing the female voice by insinuating that women who are outspoken are “aggressive” 

In contrast to what we used to think, babies aren’t born with “girl” brains or “boy” brains, predetermined to love pink or blue. It’s when we encourage our girls to seek out dolls and direct boys to blocks that the stereotypical shaping happens and we see girls navigating toward nurturing roles and boys toward analytical ones. In this way, parents and society play a large role in the career and life paths that kids end up pursuing. 

Is there a downside to deemphasizing gender roles? What steps are you taking to raise gender-neutral kids?