Print Friendly and PDF

Do you have those friends who read three books a week, do yoga before work, take long evening walks with their partner, and can't stop talking about how great meditation is for your mental health? Yes, me too...and they don't have children.

As a mother of a 5 year old and a toddler, I have this conversation with most of my friends a lot.

Yes, I should be practicing self-care...but when on earth would I?

We all KNOW as parents how important it is to take care of ourselves. When we can stay connected to our own well-being, it overflows onto our children and we're more patient, loving, joyful parents. However, knowing and doing are completely different things.

Between drop-off, and work, and pick-up, and soccer, and dinner, and bedtime, and sleep (well, we'll call it sleep), when on earth do we find the time or energy to run...or bike...or stretch...or meditate...or really do anything for ourselves? I personally get caught in a constant cycle of I should, I will, and I didn't today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe on Sunday. Maybe next Sunday.

The reality is that the struggle is real. It's hard. But, at the end of the day you are better for it, and your kids will be better for it too.

To get you started, here are 45 self-care ideas that can help you unwind in under an hour. Some are big, some are small, but all of them are doable.

1. Take time to dream about you.

assets.rbl.ms

Taking time to think about yourself will boost your self-confidence and trust in your own abilities. This is a must when doing the hardest job in the world — being a parent. So, set some time aside and settle into the idea that you are amazing!

2. Get a massage

Who is going to argue with this one? The benefits of massage are overwhelming, and research shows regular massage will reduce stress and anxiety AND help you sleep — umm, sleep? No one should have to tell a tired mom that statistic more than once. If you need more reason that that, check out 9 Healthy Reasons to Make an Appointment Today.

3. Go to yoga

Yes, we love to hang out in our yoga pants whenever we can, but actually DOING yoga is great for you too! Yoga is a wonderful way to get in your "me time" while also reaping benefits for your body and mind. Need some ideas on where to get started? Seek out local Yoga studios, or start at home with a few beneficial poses like these: 5 Great Yoga Poses for New Moms.

4. Meditate

Meditation can have an impact on many areas of your life including helping to decrease stress, better manage your emotions, let go of mental distractions, and be more present and attentive with your kids.The bonus? Teaching your kids a skill like meditation early in their lives will have major benefits for them later in life too. Although finding time for daily practice may see overwhelming, it's so worth the time. Find a meditation practice that fits your schedule and vibe—there are many free online options and apps to help you get started.

5. Declutter something

Clutter can have a psychological impact on parents, which in turn can adversely affect their kids. Who needs more things sucking our brain power and energy, when we already have tiny humans working their hardest to do that? This doesn't mean you have to get rid of everything, but streamlining and getting rid of junk can drastically reduce stress and even take some checkboxes off of your to-do list. Get inspired by reading 'How getting rid of 'stuff' saved my motherhood.'

6. Unplug

Let's face it, we are way too attached to our devices. Don't miss out on life! Find out why it's important to unplug, and the benefits it can have in your life.

7. Take deep breaths at a stop light

This is a way to sneak in meditation with no excuses for lack of time. Don't check Facebook — take a few deep breaths and focus on the present. Check in with yourself in the nooks and crannies of your day, and you will feel better for it!

8. Get a manicure or pedicure

Self-care with instant results! There is no denying that a little pampering will make you feel good.

9. Stretch

Another opportunity to be still, reflect, and take care of your body. Carrying your little one around too much? Stretching loosens your muscles which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. Need more proof? Here are 7 Incredible Results You Can Get From Stretching Every Day.

10. Choose a healthy snack

Eating healthy has a wealth of benefits, but don't feel bad for that drive-through meal from last night when you were exhausted. Start fresh and reap the benefits today by choosing something with whole grains or healthy fats. Nutritious snacks can help with weight and improve your overall health.

11. Go for a walk or run

assets.rbl.ms

Self-care requires that we take a daily preventative approach to the care of our bodies. What does that more than exercise? Bonus? More time to yourself. Stuck in the house during nap time? Check out this Easy 10 Minute Workout for Busy Moms.

12. Just be still

It only takes a minute. Look around and notice your surroundings. Take a breath — and there you go. Yes, we're sneaking meditation practice into your busy day again...you won't regret it.

13. Find the sun and warm up in it

Not only does this feel amazing, it has benefits such as soaking up essential vitamin D. Scientists at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research have created a calculator to tell you how much time you need to get the right amounts of vitamin D — but feel free to splurge!

14. Laugh

It's TRUE, laughter is the best medicine.

15. Call a friend you haven't talked to in awhile

Self-care is about connection with yourself, but don't forget that connecting with others is good for your soul too!

16. Write in a journal

Writing requires mindfulness. Journaling helps balance emotions, and requires you to set time aside to think and dream. Believe it or not, it has many health benefits, and bonus — you can write down all of those amazing things your little ones say that you never want to forget (and you will.) Grab a journal like this one and get writing.

17. Help someone

Donate to the food bank, help an elderly friend with their groceries, mow your neighbor's lawn. Believe it or not, helping others has been shown to make people happier, and let's be honest—it feels great. Plus, generosity is contagious — so just a little goes a long way!

18. Make a connection with someone you don't know

Connections open up a world of possibilities. What better gift can you give yourself than the opportunity for something great? Maybe it's a career shift, maybe a new mom friend (we know how hard those are to find). So take a leap and put yourself first by stepping outside of your comfort zone and making a new connection.

19. Plan a vacation

assets.rbl.ms

You may not be basking in the sun or getting couples massage yet—but you can think about it, and science says that may give you the boost you need until it's time to hit the beach—or slopes, or mountains. According to an article in the New York Times, a study showed that a large boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation.

20. Watch the sunset

Nature is beautiful—soak it in. Take time to think about the passing day, and practice gratitude for what you have encountered in your journey today.

21. Watch the sunrise

Set your intentions for the day. Do you want to be more patient today? Do you want to try something new? Setting intentions requires time for inner reflection, and a chance to start new daily, despite what happened yesterday. Not sure of your intentions today? Here are 30 Intention Setting Prompts to get you started.

22. Read

Whether you want to learn something new, or just be taken away for awhile, reading helps reduce stress and brain fog. So, work that most important muscle in your body! Can't find time? Here are a few ideas to sneak in reading time for busy moms.

23. Cook your favorite meal

Okay, this might just sound like more work, and, maybe it is — but do it for you! Scrap the family orders and make something that you love. Take time to soak in the aromas, enjoy the quiet time chopping and prepping, and reap the benefits of a healthy, delicious meal.

24. Listen to your favorite song (or album)

According to Neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin's research, music can positively alter brain chemistry, and boost chemicals in our brain that support things like immunity. Plus, how do you not get happy when you hear your favorite song?

25. Practice gratitude

The benefits are endless. Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal can increase well-being and life satisfaction. Really, there is science behind it!

26. Get rid of clothes that are old or don't fit

Believe it or not, your wardrobe could be dragging you down. A study in Fashion Theory Journal found that 85% of women keep things in their closets that don't fit. Take some lessons from the KonMari Decluttering Method, and get rid of old items that you haven't worn in years.

27. Just breathe

Are you catching on to a theme? In case you aren't convinced, here is some scientific information on why your brain needs more downtime.

28. Paint or color

Jump in with your little, or get your own coloring book — coloring is trendy and it's great for you! Plus, it's a great time to bond with your child. Feeling childish? Find out why coloring is so great for your mental health.

29. Drink water

60% to 70% of your total body weight is made up of water, so it's not hard to understand why this is good for your health. Pregnant? Are you breastfeeding? Now your water consumption has an impact on your little one too. Drinking water can also help with your skin, fight fatigue, protect your muscles, help with achy joints, and more!

30. Hire a sitter and do whatever you want

I'm not going to elaborate on this one, you know "me" time is good for you. Schedule time just for you to do whatever you want, and don't get caught running for groceries or catching up on housework. If you're feeling lost, take this time to do a few items on this list!

31. Re-Prioritize

Motherhood mode can take over and make you feel in a constant spin to keep up. Slow down, trust yourself, and take time to align your highest priorities and your to-do list. Take time to consider what must be done, what should be done, and what can wait...and focus on the things that matter most!

32. Ask for help

You've seen it, you may even be one—moms don't ask for help. But asking for help doesn't make you anything less than a superhero. And, the truth is, we generally are least likely to ask for help when we need it the most.

33. Plant flowers

Gardening can reduce stress, clear your mind, and help you sleep better. Add in the benefits of getting extra vitamin D from above, and you have a great cocktail for a happy mommy.

34. Go to bed early

Moms are notorious for not getting enough sleep. This can have an incredibly negative impact on your health and well-being. Can't get to bed on time? Here are a few additional tips on how to combat new mom sleep deprivation.

35. Create a quiet space and go there

In today's constantly connected world, finding time along has become a lost art. But, creating some time for solitude can have major benefits for your health.

36. Take a long shower or bath

More time for yourself is good for all of the reasons above. Put the kids to bed and take a minute (or twenty) to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate for the day ahead. Solitude can change your brain in amazing ways.

37. Shop for yourself (no kid clothes allowed)

When is the last time you actually did this? And no, I don't mean a last minute ad- on to the Amazon Prime diaper order you placed last week. It doesn't have to be big, but it has to be for you.

38. Get a beauty treatment

As moms we take care of everyone else before ourselves. Sometimes that means forgetting to shave, or letting your eyebrows grow uncontrollably across your face. So get a wax treatment (if that's your thing), book a quick facial or get your hair done. Your children think you are beautiful no matter what, but sometimes the littlest things can make us feel beautiful again.

39. Listen to an energizing podcast

Podcasts are a great way to stay connected, learn something new, or just be entertained. Listen during the mundane tasks of your day. Here are a few ideas for parenting podcasts to get you started. Or, want to build on your self-care practice, here are a few podcasts on becoming your best self.

40. Visit your favorite museum

Museums are a great way to learn something new, get inspired, and to share something you love with your children. Stimulate your own mental juices, and be an awesome mom at the same time by hitting a local museum on a rainy afternoon.

41. Take a community education class

Take time to nurture your mind by learning a new skill or taking on a hobby. Often moms feel guilty for taking time out of the day to do something on their own, but stepping out of toddler talk to time with adults can keep us sane. We promise, it's not selfish to take care of yourself!

42. Sing

In the shower, in the car, on a kid-made stage in your living room—singing has a ton of benefits like reducing stress and releasing muscle tension. It's a fun and energizing way to improve your well-being. Add in a little air guitar and your kids will think you are awesome.

43. Have coffee with a good friend

It's easy to feel isolated in this incredible journey of motherhood. Your friendships are so essential to your spirit during this time in life when you will be stretched to your limits. Take time to nurture your friendships by getting together with a good friend sans kids, and focus on your friendships that will get you through this crazy life!

44. Acknowledge and release your stress

Another short meditation practice that you can do anywhere, any time, and even in the heat of the moment. It will help you be a more present person, and a more mindful parent. See crazy coming? Stop, identify, and release! Find more tips on reducing stress in just two minutes a day.

45. Revel in the absolute joy of being a parent

Kiss your babies, smell their heads, dance with them to crazy music Because it's the most amazing, important, impactful thing you will ever do, and you are awesome at it!

My message to you, new parents and pros... make time. You are important. It doesn't have to be all or nothing! Do little things every day that take care of you. Maybe just start by doing one a day, maybe you do as many as you can. It's called practice for a reason and it doesn't have to be perfect. Start today, and make yourself a priority now and every day after.


The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$99.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

Our Partners

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

When the race began, it was a crowded field—but the closer we get to 2020, fewer and fewer Democratic candidates remain in the race for the presidency. Exits of once high-profile candidates, including Kirsten Gillibrand and Beto O'Rourke, have narrowed the field, and when the fifth democratic debate occurs this week, only 10 candidates are expected to take the stage.

The fifth debate is happening Wednesday, November 20 at 9 p.m. ET and will air on MSNBC.

So where do the 10 candidates in the fifth democratic debate stand on issues of importance to parents? We're keeping track of the plans they're putting forth and how they could impact your family.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Paid leave: Wants to see "at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave" as noted in her Green Manufacturing Plan.

Childcare costs: Warren plans to introduce Universal Child Care as a right for every child in America. The plan would see the federal government partner with states, municipalities, school districts, nonprofits, tribes and faith-based organizations "to create a network of child care options that would be available to every family."

Health care: Warren is down for Medicare for All, and wants every person in America to have full health care coverage without any middle class tax increase.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Paid leave: Biden has not made a statement about a specific plan or number of weeks he wants to see for paid family leave.

Childcare costs: Biden plans to "provide high-quality, universal pre-kindergarten for all three- and four-year-olds."

Health care: Biden plans to build on the Affordable Care Act to offer an affordable public option to American families.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Paid leave: As noted on her website, "Harris will fight for the FAMILY Act to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave" and her Children's Agenda includes plans for "up to 6 months of paid family and medical leave for workers nationwide."

Childcare costs: Harris wants to pass the Child Care for Working Families Act, which would see caps on the amount amount of money low- and middle-income families pay for childcare (with some families paying nothing) and would invest in childcare providers. She also wants to try extending the school day to close the after school care gap.

Health care: Harris wants to see Medicare for AllMedicare for All "cover all medically necessary services, including emergency room visits, doctor visits, vision, dental, hearing aids, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment, and comprehensive reproductive health care services".

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Paid leave: Sanders co-sponsored The FAMILY Act to give workers at least 12 weeks of universal paid family and medical leave.

Childcare costs: Sanders has stated he is in favor of universal childcare. "We have a dysfunctional childcare system in this country, which is too expensive for parents, while providers are paid totally inadequate wages. We need to do what other countries around the world do—develop a high quality universal childcare program," he tweeted.

Health care: As noted on his website, Sanders plans to "create a Medicare for All, single-payer, national health insurance program to provide everyone in America with comprehensive health care coverage, free at the point of service."

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg

Paid leave: Buttigieg supports the FAMILY Act and wants to see 12 weeks of paid leave.

Childcare costs: Promising a "comprehensive child care plan will make high-quality child care free for families most in need, and affordable for all."

Health care: His plan is called Medicare for All Who Want It. As explained on his website, under this plan "everyone will be able to opt in to an affordable, comprehensive public alternative. This affordable public plan will incentivize private insurers to compete on price and bring down costs. If private insurers are not able to offer something dramatically better, this public plan will create a natural glide-path to Medicare for All."

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang

Paid leave: As stated on his website, Yang plans to "propose and fight for a paid family leave policy, requiring employers to offer at least 9 months of paid family leave, distributed between parents however they see fit; or 6 months of paid leave for a single parent."

Childcare costs: Yang plans to "create a pre-kindergarten public education system for all 3 and 4-year-olds" to "get kids off to a better start, and [relieve] families from having to find and pay for daycare for their children".

Health care: Yang says that though a "Medicare for All system, we can ensure that all Americans receive the healthcare they deserve."

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar

Paid leave: Her plans to support workers include: "garanteeing up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and allowing workers to earn paid sick leave."

Childcare costs: Worked with Republican Dan Sullivan to introduced the the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act, "to bring the cost of child care down and provide more child care centers in areas that need them the most."

Health care: On her website she states she: supports universal health care for all Americans, and she believes the quickest way to get there is through a public option that expands Medicare or Medicaid. She supports changes to the Affordable Care Act to help bring down costs to consumers including providing cost-sharing reductions, making it easier for states to put reinsurance in place, and continuing to implement delivery system reform

Cory Booker

Cory Booker

Paid leave: Like several other candidates, Booker supports the FAMILY Act, which would give parents 12 weeks of parental leave. His website states he "also supports efforts to expand paid family and medical leave proposals to help more low-income workers start with higher wage replacement rates."

Childcare costs: Booker plans to build on the Child Care for Working Families Act, to create "sweeping federal investment in high quality child care to make it affordable for all working families."

Health care: Plans to fight for Medicare for All (but he is not calling to eliminate private insurance companies).

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard

Paid leave: Like many of her fellow candidates, Gabbard supports The Family Act. which would see parents get 12 weeks of leave.

Child care costs: Plans unclear.

Health care: Gabbard "supports the Medicare for All Act and serves on the Medicare for All Caucus".

Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer

Paid leave: Plans unclear.

Child care costs: Plans unclear.

Health care: Plans to "create a competitive public option to drive down costs, expand coverage, and deliver quality care to everyone who lives here, including the undocumented community," according to his website.

News

While dropping my son off at preschool the other day, I saw a grown man kneel down, stare deeply into his daughter's eyes, and sweetly say, "Be kind, be strong, and have a wonderful day!" The whole scene made me feel like I needed to step it up in the mom department, since my goodbye consists of yelling, "Bye son!" as he runs towards his singing, maraca-shaking teacher. This preschool father was clearly a saint, and his heartfelt speech made me feel bad, so what kind of parent did that make me?

We've all read about the "types" of parenting styles and maybe even taken an online quiz or two to figure out if we're a Snowplow or a Helicopter or a Laid Back Progressive. All the types I read about never really felt like a perfect fit, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and create some new parenting styles that I can get behind.

FEATURED VIDEO

As you're pigeonholing yourself via the types I've come up with, feel free to mix and match, since most of us shapeshift between a Hummingbird and an Authoritarian and a Permissive parent, depending on the day...

The saint

Like the dad at my son's preschool, Saints kneel and listen. They respond to toddler tantrums with superhuman patience and they recite soothing mantras while their child flings spaghetti at the wall or dunks another Elmo toothbrush in the toilet. There aren't many of these parents in the world, but I know you exist because I saw one at preschool drop off and immediately felt like repenting.

The free(ish) range parent

Unlike the more common Free Range Parent, the Free(ish) Range Parent will let their kids roam and explore, but only if they're within shouting distance. Like yearning to be cool as a teenager, I now yearn to be a Free Range Parent.

The problem is that I live in a city and not a lovely and endless piece of land, so it's hard to disguise my terror when it comes to moving vehicles, strange people lurking at parks, or pools, ponds, lakes, fountains—basically bodies of water of any kind.

The Free(ish) Range Parent doesn't need to hover when their toddler goes down a "big kid" slide or scales a 3-foot climbing wall. Yet, although they may appear relaxed, they're primed and ready to pounce if a fall or scrape occurs.

The cosmic mama

Wouldn't we all love to be a Cosmic Mama? The kind of parent who chooses a home birth, who is bold enough to refuse an epidural, and who finds breastfeeding relaxing. I'm not so bold, but I did have a few, very brief cosmic moments when my son was a newborn. Over the three months that I nursed him, I would say there were maybe one to three total minutes of heavenly bonding bliss, which were quickly overshadowed by the more mundane moments of pain and discomfort. Those fleeting moments were pretty great, but probably not enough to qualify me as a Cosmic Mama. Again, I repent.

The keepin' it real mama

This type of parent can often be seen walking into an important work meeting with a large patch of dried baby spit-up on the front of their black Anthropologie jumpsuit, which they bought because it made them feel stylish after being on maternity leave and wearing nothing but a dirty robe and plush socks for three months. They sometimes eat their child's Puffs at the park because they're starving and desperate and forgot to pack their own adult snacks. That said, no matter how ravenous they are they always selflessly leave enough Puffs for their kid.

Depending on their level of exhaustion, if a pacifier falls onto the airport floor, the Keepin' it Real might just give it two halfhearted wipes on their pants leg and mumble, "Well, it'll build their immune system," before handing it back to their child. They might not make gourmet meals for their kids, but they're highly skilled at hiding broccoli and spinach inside of quesadillas. The Keepin' it Real is no Saint, but they're trying—really, really hard.

After careful consideration, I've come to realize that I am approximately 98% Keepin' it Real, with 2% Free(ish) Range Parent thrown in, and I'm okay with it. I've surreptitiously eaten the Puffs and been oblivious to the spit up on my clothes, but that doesn't mean I don't love my kid.

When it comes down to it, we're all just trying our best, regardless of our parenting styles.



Life

You may have watched your child struggle during play dates, talking over their friend, laughing when the joke is no longer funny or becoming too upset over the littlest thing, and wondered when or if you should step in.

As a mama, coaching your child to improve their social skills is the best way to help them learn. Some kids need help developing social skills that will allow them to feel comfortable interacting with others. But when a football coach is watching a football game they do not suit up and take over. They make notes to give the players at half time.

FEATURED VIDEO

The best thing you can do for your child is to coach them in private and then act as a silent observer when they are putting their skills into practice. Let your child take ownership over the skills and then you can discuss afterward how it felt.

Here are a few strategies to help you coach from the sidelines during play dates, mama:

1. The problem: The other child is being mean and not listening to your child's requests to play with certain toys.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: This is a great teachable moment. Being mean is never okay. Explain that everyone should be treated with respect.

What you can do: Ask the other child if there is something you can help with. Help the children problem solve and set expectations for things we can say or not say.

2. The problem You hear your child being rude and thoughtless.

Should you intervene: No

Reason: As long as your child is trying to practice his emerging skills, it is important for you not to interfere all the time. As long as your child or the playmate are not being mean or cruel, allowing your child and their playmate to work out sharing and meeting each other halfway is part of your child's growth. Additionally, feedback from other children help your child learn about social communication and its consequences—what's funny, what isn't, what keeps play going and what stops it. Any challenges are just showing you what you need to work on before your next play date.

What you can do: Employ a subtle cue or code word to remind your child of his mission like entering the room with snacks, suggesting a specific game or saying a code word like "popcorn."

3. The problem: The children are excited and implementing dangerous behavior.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: Whenever there is a safety issue you must jump in to make sure all children are safe. If children are playing with something dangerous, planning an adventure that will lead to safety issues, playing too rough or playing in a space that is not child friendly, jump in and make sure the children know what they are doing is unsafe and what your expectations are going forward.

What you can do: Reinforce safety rules. Create a space and situation where danger is removed and manage any behaviors that might cause harm.

4. The problem: A specific toy or activity is causing arguments between the playmates.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: This is a great opportunity to teach your child how to manage conflict.

What you can do: Limit your management of the situation by promoting problem-solving, suggesting that the children put the toy away and offer them a timer to promote turn-taking. After the play date, help your child formulate strategies to help your child learn to manage conflict with friends. The goal is to teach your child the skills to manage relationships without you.

5. The problem: Your child is being clingy and is coming to you to solve every problem.

Should you interfere: No

Reason: You want to help your child stop the clingy behavior rather than reinforcing the idea that they can constantly come back to you.

What can you do: When your child repeatedly approaches you, ask them to think about how they can handle the situation. Prompt them to problem solve, ask what is making them come back so often. Remind them of their mission. What can they do to have fun in the circumstances they're in? Explain that you expect them to try that before coming to get you.
Ultimately, your goal is to help your child generalize the new skills and behaviors—take them from the small stage of home practice to the larger one of a play date. To do so, your child needs to learn to recognize and address what's getting in the way.


Learn + Play

We know how it goes, mama: You finally start finding your footing in the new mama life, and them BAM! Baby is up again at all hours and you seriously don't know why—or when you'll ever get to sleep again. The good news: The 4-month sleep regression is normal, common and temporary. You've got this. But in the meantime, we tip our ☕️ to you!

We talked to the experts at the Baby Sleep Site. Here's what they had to say about how to weather this sleepless storm:

Sleep regressions are normal

The 4-month mark is a big milestone, because it marks the first (and usually the most disruptive and challenging) sleep regression of your baby's life. At 4 months of age, your baby undergoes some major brain developments that impact her sleeping patterns. They become more aware of the world around them. And simply put, your baby starts sleeping less like a baby and more like an adult.

FEATURED VIDEO

What changes can I expect?

During this time, you can expect a baby who may have been sleeping fairly well is suddenly waking up every 20 minutes during the day, and almost as frequently at night. It's also common for your little one to experience shorter naps, fussiness at nap and bedtimes and a general disdain for sleep.

Sleep regressions are different for every baby, but you can expect the regression to last from two to six weeks.

This is a challenging time, but try not to worry. Your baby will be looking to you to help navigate them through this—and there are many ways you can do that.

The solution

There is really no fix for the 4 month sleep regression; these changes to your baby's sleeping patterns are permanent and unavoidable. But don't despair. You CAN reclaim your nights by simply teaching your baby how to fall asleep without the use of any sleep associations, like rocking or feeding to sleep. That process is called sleep coaching but understand that it's not for everyone. But if sleep is a real problem in your home, then sleep coaching can be a nice option.

Sleep coaching methods include putting baby to bed drowsy but not asleep, picking up your baby for a bit when they cry and then putting them back down, sitting in a chair to provide a reassuring presence, or even allowing baby limited time to cry it out. There is no one size fits all method for babies and families, so you need to test what works best for you.

Also, understand that four months is generally the earliest you should work on sleep coaching, and it's best to use gentle, gradual methods at this young age.

Sleep times will vary

During this time, you can expect your baby to sleep 14 to 15 hours each day—11 to 12 hours at night and three to four hours during the day spread out over four or five short naps. Some babies are able to sleep eight straight hours or more at night by 4 months, but the large majority don't. In fact, one to three night feedings are still considered very normal at this age. Learn your baby and discover what works best for your little one.

Be flexible

Your baby may be ready for a more by-the-clock sleep schedule at this age, but many aren't, so be flexible. You are still learning what works for you and your baby, so give yourself grace. Know that things will get better and the discomfort of the 4-month sleep regression is temporary.

Do what works for your family and trust yourself to know your baby better than any external authority.

Learn + Play
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.