Ask Fatherly: How Do I Make My Baby Sleepy?

This week, Fatherly's parenting expert explains how to make a baby sleepy as well as how to best protect a child from ticks and Lyme disease.

“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email advice@fatherly.com. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.

 

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Yo Fatherly,

I live in the Northeast where I’m raising a three-year-old with my partner. We are hearing a lot about ticks and Lyme disease up here. My partner and I love the outdoors, but we’re really freaked out about taking our kid out into the woods for a hike. Should we just stay out of the woods or is there something we can do to protect our kid?

Adam
Buffalo, New York

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The difficulty of protecting kids from ticks in your neck of the woods has placed parents in a crappy situation, Adam. Yes, the most obvious solution would be to simply not go outside. But the problem is that the outdoors is hugely beneficial to your kid’s development. Not to mention, you sound like a pretty outdoorsy guy and staying cooped up would probably affect your mental health. The answer? Go outside, but go outside with preparation and a game plan when you return.

The first thing you need to focus on is prevention. Because the best way to make sure your kid doesn’t get lyme is to make sure a tick can’t do what ticks do. So when you head out, make sure your kid has on long pants and a long sleeve shirt that is tight around their ankles and wrists. This will keep ticks from traveling to their favorite human dining areas around the armpits and groin.

It will also help to use bug spray. Yes, insect repelling chemicals aren’t the best thing in the world, but neither is Lyme disease. Experts recommend using a repellant that is at least 30 percent DEET.

Here’s the good news about how ticks feed (if there can be said to be such a thing). It takes a tick quite a while to decide to have a “blood meal” on a host. In a way, they’re like a Dad trying to decide on what show to watch on Netflix. It can take a lot of time to commit. In fact, it can take anywhere between a day or two. That will give you ample opportunity to track the suckers down. If you find them loose and cruising on your kid after you come inside from outdoors, you can be pretty sure they’ve yet to feed on your kid and transfer the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Once you get in from outdoors, have everyone remove their clothes and toss them in the washer. Then check for ticks around the areas that would have been covered by the elastic of underpants or training diapers. Also, make sure to check the hairline and armpits. Remove any ticks you might find and dispose of them with extreme prejudice. As a final bit of protection give your kid a bath within a couple hours of coming in from outside. Washing should remove any ticks you may have missed.

Finally, if you were roaming with pets, give the animals a once over too. Fuzzy friends are notorious for bringing ticks into the home from the outdoors.

Do all that, Adam, and you have a pretty good shot at keeping your kid tick free. So get outside and play!

 

Fatherly,

I had chores when I was a kid and I think it really made me a more responsible guy. My wife and I have a one-year-old named Lee and I’m curious about when we would be able to start making him chip in.

Jordan
Shreveport, Louisiana

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I mean, you could always put your baby in one of those floor-cleaning onesies and let him go to town on your kitchen floor, Jordan. But, somehow, I don’t think that’s what you’re asking about. Still, Lee will be able to get involved in chores way sooner than you might expect.

When exactly can you get your son to start helping out? As soon as toddlerhood, actually. The thing is that toddler love to feel like they are helping. It makes them tremendously happy. The problem is that the quality of their work is pretty bad. But that’s okay. The point here is that you want to make helping in the house a habit. In the beginning, you’re going to have to manage your expectations about quality.

What can a toddler do around the house? They can definitely help pick up toys. They can swish around a dust cloth or feather duster. They can hold the dustpan and empty it into the trash. Things of that nature. You should not expect them to vacuum, or clean out the garage, or wash windows. Though they can help you weed the garden.

Understand that you’ll need to be patient with toddler chores. You’ll have to show them how to do it several times, essentially working beside them. But with encouragement and a bit of fun, they’ll get the hang of their chore eventually. So sing a song and praise them for their effort.

It’s important that you not bribe your kid into helping when they’re little. No quid pro quo, here, Jordan. And later, keep money off the table when their chores get more complex. The idea is that Lee will understand that helping his family is its own reward. If he wants to negotiate an allowance, well that’s another thing altogether.

 

Hi Fatherly,

My wife and I are having a hard time getting our baby sleepy. Not getting him to sleep. He does that just fine when he finally mellows out. It’s just getting him to the sleepy phase that tricky. Any tips?

Winston
Corvallis, Oregon

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Have you tried reading your baby the U.S.Tax Code in full? That might work. Or you could watch the director’s cut of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris which is so plodding and slow I’ve yet to make it through the whole thing. Or you could take the advice of baby sleep experts, which is probably a better idea.

The fact is that when you kid comes into the world, they don’t know night from day. And they’re not particularly clued into the behavioral expectations people have for these two distinct times. That means you have to teach them. You do that by developing a super tight nightly routine that carefully walks your kid down the path to sleepy town.

The routine should start about an hour or so before bed. This is the time you should start dimming or turning off lights, shutting down the TV and other blue light producing screen or lowering the volume on your music or podcast, if that’s your bag. The idea is to make the world, less bright, quieter and exceedingly less interesting.

A warm bath before bedtime will help a baby feel a bit more relaxed, as will some gentle rocking and a massage including the application of baby-skin-safe lotion. Actually, this sounds so nice I’m getting drowsy myself.

From there, you can read a book to your kid in dim light and offer a pre-bed bottle or some breastfeeding (well, you can’t offer the breastfeeding but you get the idea). From there, experts say you should rock your kid in a dark room until they are just super drowsy and not fully asleep. They can be placed in their crib at this time, where they should do the rest of the work for themselves.

The key here is robotic unfailing consistency in your routine. Eventually, your baby will begin to respond to the first signs of bedtime and start calming down as they get closer to sleep.

Of course, don’t forget to offer plenty of stimulation during daytime hours too. That will help. Growing a curious brain is incredibly hard work. Soon they’ll feel as beat as you do after a day on the job.

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