To The Weary Mama of Sick Kids

Hello mama of sick kids.

I woke up this morning weary after getting very little sleep. Our 8 month old has an ear infection and pneumonia. After trying to rock, cradle, nurse and soothe her to sleep for hours, I gave up around midnight. In all honesty, I was getting frustrated with the situation, and with her.

I mean, just GO TO SLEEP already.

But being frustrated was not good for either of us. What she needed was her mama to help her feel better and just be there. I needed to stop trying to force sleep and just accept we were doing the best we could. So, we just got up. At midnight.

We came downstairs where she was happy to just crawl around on the floor. With her content, I did prayed and my bible study homework (although my answers sure needed some help in the morning – a little jumbled and scribbled with bleary eyes). She finally went to sleep after 3 am and slept for a couple of hours. Then she was up for 2 more and back down just when the big kids were getting up.

Some days, there just isn’t enough rest to go around. Are you in this place too?

You are not alone. I am walking through this season right along with you. Every time one child gets sick, it sets off a chain reaction and the others get sick too. One by one. Sometimes it is hard to tell when the first sickness ended and the next one began.

These winter months can feel incredibly long.

And isolating.

I am sorry you’ve had to cancel play dates, volunteering, your own doctor appointments and so much more. I know you were counting on these activities to break up your week. I know you needed a change of pace from just being at home with the kids all day, every day. Missing these activities leaves a void for your children and for you. It is hard when you have little adult interaction for days (or weeks).

I also know how cancelling over and over can make you – a responsible and good friend – feel flaky. Parenting little ones sometimes makes you feel like you have no control over your schedule – because the sickness and these little people control the schedule instead.

Although you may feel that way, as I’ve experienced in my own life, your friends and family DO understand. Many experienced the same with their kids and are happy to extend grace and encouragement to you. They also appreciate you not sharing your illness when you do show up. Be honest and just reach out when you can. Then, extend grace when this happens the other way around.

Because we’re all in this thing together.

This morning I was greeted by a now-healthy child who brought the plague home in the first place. He was ready for breakfast and all I could do was muster a smile and grunt as I rolled out of bed.

So. Very. Tired.

I sent him downstairs so I could take a few minutes to myself before jumping into the day. My main thought was sleep. In moments like this, I must confess I may be worshiping sleep – as if I will never, ever get any more again. I speak from experience when I say being mad about sleep is not helpful. With three kids, a nap for me will not happen. So I decided to just pray for help to survive the day.

But as I prayed, I gained some perspective and realized sleep will come, as it did with all other sicknesses, and with the other two babies. Then the following came to mind:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

Today it will not be my power but God’s as He equips me to serve Him and my family well. For His power is perfect in my weakness. And it is certainly enough for my tiredness.

It is no coincidence that my daily devotion later this morning just ‘happened’ to be based on this same scripture. Apparently God really wanted me to hang onto this truth today. I’m so glad He did. It’s a lifeline I desperately need today (and every day).

Now I am passing it along to you.

What do you need an extra measure of today? (Besides the obvious need for sleep and healthy kids – lets just trust He will cover those in His perfect timing). Maybe you need more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control? I sure do. I believe He delights in being generous to us when we ask Him for more fruit of the Spirit.

Ask Him to shine through your tired eyes and work with those worn out arms and hands. And He will. Just surrender – you’re too tired to stifle His power, and that is to your benefit.

He is strong. He is capable. He is full of energy and joy when we feel depleted. And He has compassion on us and our children when we are struggling.

Tap into His strength and power today. He will carry all of you to easier, healthy days.

Hang in there mama, you’re not alone. These kids are worth it and you are exactly the mama they need today.

sick-baby

She may be sick, but she has amazing hair 🙂

Goodbye sickness, we’re over you. Go away.

 

Infant Silent Reflux Is Not Silent – 10 Survival Tips for Parents When Your Child Does NOT Sleep

Infant Silent Reflux Is Not Silent - 10 Survival Tips for Parents when your child does NOT sleep

There are infants who sleep through the night right away, or even within a few months of bringing them home from the hospital.

We were not that family.

Read more about our experience with infant reflux:

As I’ve shared before, our firstborn had silent reflux. Acid burning, pain abounding…heartburn. In our experience, reflux is worse at night, and greatly affected his and our sleep.

When many parents say they had a hard night, it means the child was up a few times, perhaps staying awake for a (whole) hour, or that perhaps they were up at 4 am for the day. Let me be clear that I am not diminishing how this feels in the morning – tired is tired! But I think it is fairly safe to say most babies and parents manage one solid 2-4 hour stretch of sleep per night, most nights. They are tired, but are usually functional the next day.

When I say we had hard nights, I mean that most nights, he did not sleep. There were 3-5 hours stretches of crying and discomfort followed by a 40-minute nap. But even this short stretch was interrupted by writhing and painful screams.Then we repeated the crying and short nap, or he was up for the day. He did not sleep a 3-hour stretch until 10 months.

As his nursing mama, neither did I. And often, neither did my husband.

We tried everything. We held him, we tried walking, co-sleeping, swinging, bouncing, singing. In desperation we tried crying it out but it was short-lived and agonizing for mom and baby  – a hurting baby cannot self-soothe, nor should he have to.

Nothing worked.

We spoke to doctors, lactation specialists, other parents and read books, articles and blogs by sleep consultants. There were many great tips, but none helped our son sleep.

If you think that sleep-deprivation is hard on your body and mind, imagine how it affects a baby – they are supposed to sleep twice as much as we are!

He, and we were exhausted – a term I no longer use lightly.

After 10 months, his sleep ebbed and flowed along with his silent reflux symptoms until FINALLY at 15 months, he slept through the night. This too came and went, but his sleep generally improved so MOST nights were silent nights.

That is, until the reflux returned with vengeance when he was 2 1/2 and I was 7 months pregnant with our second baby. Then his sleep success derailed and we recognized old patterns of returning pain and chronic coughing. This was no sleep ‘regression’. It was sleep succession. But we will save the story of toddler reflux for another day…

Because our sleep experience was a struggle, my goal is to share how to survive – to endure, to wait for healing, and to do everything in your power to encourage sleep. But more importantly, my goal is to empathize, and encourage parents that sleep does come, even if not right away.

10 Survival Tips for Parents – When Your Child Does NOT Sleep

1. Schedule YOUR sleep

While parents may not need as much sleep as a newborn, they do need consistent sleep. When your child doesn’t sleep, sleeping when the baby sleep doesn’t work. Consistent sleep-deprivation has consequences. Parents need to make their own sleep a priority. Be creative. When our son was young, I worked. Some days I went home and slept for 2 hours before picking our son up from daycare. OR, I’d work a few longer days, and take off early on a slow day and sleep for (gasp) 3 hours! If you don’t have daycare as an option, read on…

2. Enlist help

While not all parents have volunteers to stay up at night with the baby so the parents can sleep, most have someone who will come during the day. Ask for help. And accept it when it is offered. Don’t be prideful. Don’t shrug it off. Sleep is necessary and important. Ask them to come over and snuggle your child. Be sure they understand your child might cry the whole time. Our son’s grandparents, aunts and uncles and our close friends were willing. We weren’t good at asking.

3. Be transparent

Nothing good will come from pretending everything is fine. Don’t sugar coat what is going on. While there is a fine line between explaining the facts and complaining, if you aren’t truthful and transparent, your sleep-less existence will be lonely, and without help. And, others will not understand why you suddenly traded your social life for sleep.

4. Request advice from professionals

Assuming you are already navigating reflux treatment, don’t neglect to see lack of sleep as a symptom that needs to be addressed. When sleep is this difficult, more than just a pediatrician may be needed. Request a consult with a GI doctor, ask for a sleep study, or meet with an occupational or sleep therapist.

5. Try new strategies

I cannot advocate the ‘cry it out’ method because we learned that a hurting baby cannot self-soothe. They hurt and need help. However, there are many other great options to try. It is a good idea to try different sleep positions, but instead of buying a bunch of rockers, swings, crib wedges or chairs, borrow them. Research them. We used a Nap Nanny (no longer sold, but this Dex DayDreamer™ Infant Sleeper is today’s equivalent product) with an angled back to help with reflux. It was the only place our son ever slept at all for most of the first year. Please note: the most important comment on these sleepers is to never place them in a crib. They are intended to use on the floor for baby’s safety. 

6. Join a support group

Did you know there are GERD support groups all over the world? You can find the Reflux Rebels or Reflux Support Group on Facebook. The Facebook groups are generally closed, which means only group members can see your posts. You will find people struggling with the same issues, encouragement, and wise advice from real-life experience.

7. Don’t wake the baby

If your baby does not sleep, DO NOT interrupt sleep for any reason. The theory that sleep begets sleep is true in our experience. There is no event more important than your child’s sleep if they NEVER sleep. Do your best to set conditions for sleep and then protect that schedule. If that means leaving early, coming late, or not attending something, SO BE IT.

8. Pray

The best comfort I found during this time was prayer. And scripture. It is no surprise to God that you are tired or struggling. He sees your child and He sees you. Let Him carry you, and trust that He will bring both healing and sleep in His time. AND, know that your struggle has purpose, even if you cannot see it yet. Trust His plan, purpose and promise that He is working in all things for good of those who love Him…

9. Hang on to hope

Our son struggled for much longer than we wanted him to. And there were days we thought he would never, ever sleep through the night. But he did. And now he sleeps hard, and well. Eventually, even your child will too.

10. Know you are not alone

Other moms have endured what you are enduring. Find them. They won’t waste your time with advice that won’t work, they’ll instead spend their time listening and encouraging. They will understand that not all problems can be fixed with a book, herbal remedy, fancy swing or sleep-training method and they will remind you that some problems  have to resolve with time.

 

12 Tips for Parents and Kids to Have a Great Daylight Savings Week

12 Tips for Parents and Kids to Have a Great Daylight Savings Week | thisgratefulmama.com

Daylight savings.

It. Is. Coming.

Changing clocks to maximize daylight hours seems like a good idea.

Before kids, moving the clock wasn’t a big deal. Go to bed earlier, and sleep a little later…in a few days we forgot it ever happened.

But then we had kids.

Changing the clock creates a BIG problem for the little people in my life. And, in turn, their parents.

It takes seconds to set the time on the clock. Unfortunately, it does NOT happen so quickly for our children’s internal clock.

A one hour time change isn’t welcomed by their bodies. They are tired when we need to get up. They are not tired at naptime or at bedtime. They are hungry when it isn’t meal time – and not hungry when it is.

In our experience, a child’s natural clock takes a minimum of one week to shift an hour. And in many cases, it will take even MORE time.

Last year, we naively sprung the time change on our kids. Sure, we expected a day or two of tired children, but a full week? More?

Sigh. The unwanted effects of the week following daylight savings are undesirable, at best.

How parents approach the inevitable time change can make a big difference. We can accept it and face it head on, or we can dread it and complain our way through it (the latter did not work well for any of us last year).

So, how do we face it head on?  Here are some strategies for surviving and thriving in the aftermath of daylight savings.

12 Tips for Parents and Kids to Have a Great Daylight Savings Week

1. Plan Ahead: A week before changing the clock, start gradually moving bedtime up. Start with 5-10 minutes earlier, and add 5-10 minutes per night until the big day. It might not work well every night, but hopefully their little bodies won’t go into complete shock by trying to change it all at once.

2. Be Flexible: Keep your family schedule loose the week after daylight savings. Be willing to let some things go if the kids (or you) are just too tired to do it all. With small children, decide it is alright if they do not nap. They may have trouble falling asleep at the new time, and falling asleep late may affect night time sleep. Be OK with whatever happens.

3. Take Care of Yourself: It isn’t just your kids who are adjusting to a new schedule. As you help them, help yourself by continuing to work out and eat well. Even if you’re tired and wanting to take shortcuts. This will help you ensure good habits survive the change.  Oh, and don’t forget the coffee. You will need lots of coffee.

4. Spend Time With God: No matter how tired YOU are, don’t sleep in at the expense of taking time with the Lord. You need to be filled and refreshed to face this challenge! Spending time with Him will equip you to extend grace, patience, and gentleness when your kids need it the most. This  will be an investment that blesses YOU and your kids.

5. Be Grateful For Evening Daylight: Focus on the fact that daylight savings means SPRING. Spring means warmth. Sun. And Summer. This change is a promise of lovely weather and days to come. Embrace those evening hours and use them to get yourself and the kids outside for a walk, or to do something productive around the house when you’d usually feel like hibernating.

6. Have Reasonable Expectations: Know that each child is going to experience some kind of struggle the week after daylight savings. Expect that they follow non-negotiable family rules, but expect that they may struggle with emotions and behavior. Recognize when they are doing the best they can. Practice patience. Extend grace. Forgive quickly and move on.

7. Avoid Comparison: It is also not fair to expect each child to adjust quickly, or at the same rate. Comparing will not help anyone. It may take different strategies to help each child – adjust as needed to meet them where they’re at.

8. Have A Backup Plan: Stock up on quiet activities to distract and help kids wind down. Invest in some inexpensive new activities – new library books, a new puzzle, new bath toys or new coloring books to keep kids interested in quiet and calm activities. Pull them out when they’re having a rough evening (or day).

9. Be Consistent: Don’t forgo the bedtime routine. And avoid adding or neglecting anything that you don’t want to continue in perpetuity or  to have to battle over later. For example, extra books at bedtime may sound like a good idea when they aren’t tired on those first few nights, but then the kids will EXPECT them going forward – instead of reading extra books IN the bedtime routine, read them downstairs as a seperate activity and THEN continue with the normal bedtime routine.

10. Don’t Forget About Food: If your child is struggling, try to determine if they are just tired, or if hunger may be contributing.  It isn’t just sleep that can cause problems after daylight savings – our stomachs do too! Consider moving meal times up slowly the week before, or providing small snacks to get kids through hunger pangs before or after mealtime. Better to allow a snack than to deal with a hangry child.

11. Increase Quality Time: Sometimes when kids struggle the most is when they need us the most. Play barbies, LEGOS, or whatever interests them most. Read more books and soak up snuggles. Keep them engaged with a family game of hide-and-seek or a board game. Let them help you cook dinner, even if it is slow and messy. As they soak up the attention, you may see their attitude and ability to cope with how they’re feeling improve.

12. Keep It In Perspective: It will not last forever. These tired, hungry, cranky children will return to their normal sweet selves. This too shall pass, even if it takes longer than we’d like.

Here’s hoping sleep returns to all of us quickly.