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Sometimes babies don’t sleep

I can’t fast-forward to an easier season, so I may as well lean into the hard ones.

Sometimes babies don’t sleep

Before my son was born, I was a typical first-time mom-to-be. I signed up for every weekly email update. I read all the books. I researched car seats for weeks before settling on one, and the nursery was complete by the time I started my third trimester.


I'm going to have him sleeping in his own crib and through the night before I come back to work, I vowed to my co-workers during a conversation at my office baby shower. This was, of course, when I thought the books were right and good sleep habits were just a matter of structuring a consistent routine. The seasoned mothers wisely said nothing, knowing my baby would soon teach me what books could not.

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Truthfully, my confident, assertive exterior masked a terrified, emotional mess lurking just below the surface. At one point, my husband found me sobbing on the floor of our yet-to-be-born son's room after my last baby shower because we had five changing pad covers and no changing pad, and this was obviously the worst thing ever and how could we bring a baby home to a house without a changing pad and still call ourselves parents?

I thought I would be a good mom if I had all the knowledge and the gear and the clothes. Having the “right" everything mattered. I registered for the Diaper Champ, since it takes regular trash bags, instead of the Diaper Genie. So practical. So researched. I had my checklists and my hospital bag lists and my baby registries. I was a great mom, on paper.

The problem was I didn't bring home a paper baby. I brought home a real one.

My son was born three weeks early and weighed only five pounds. He was a hearty eater and steadily gained weight, but he was still waking at least twice during the night when my maternity leave ended. He slept in the Pack 'n Play (and on a bad night, the swing) inches from my side of the bed. Each work day, I felt like I was slogging through fog—I would grab a nap in my car during my lunch break and more than once I fell asleep at my desk while pumping.

I must have read the wrong books, I thought. There had to be a solution to my sleep-deprived woes. I started soliciting outside opinions and was quickly inundated with tips. Turns out, everyone has sleep training advice. Everyone.

Have you tried Babywise? Yes, but it seems babies can't read schedules.

Did you try swaddling? Yep, he hates it.

Cry it out? Yes.

Ferberize? Also yes.

How many solids is he eating? Plenty, but I'll try feeding him more. Ah, nope—if I overfeed him, he just throws it all back up again.

Maybe you should move his bedtime up? Tried that.

Or back? That too.

You're too stressed out. Babies pick up on emotions. You just need to relax. Oh, of course. Relax. Yes, that's very easy to make myself do. Thank you.

All the different suggestions only further confirmed my fears—something was wrong.

I felt as though I was failing one of the first tests of motherhood. Even though Nathan was hitting every other milestone, the only thing I could focus on was the one place we were falling short.

My tunnel vision, combined with months and months of sleep deprivation and postpartum hormones, was ruining my view of motherhood

At nine months, my son was measuring firmly in the middle of the growth chart, but he still wasn't sleeping through the night. I was out of ideas. I pleaded with his pediatrician at his well visit that month.

“What's wrong with him? Why won't my baby sleep?" I asked.

She looked at the healthy, happy baby in my arms and saw past the question I asked to the one at the root of it all—what's wrong with me? She smiled, patted my hand and gently said, “Nothing's wrong. You're doing great. He'll figure it out eventually, I promise."

Wait, what's that you say?

Nothing is wrong?

I'm not a bad mom?

“Of course not," she assured me. “It's just that sometimes, babies don't sleep. This is a hard season, but you'll get through it."

None of the books said that. Every single one of them suggested that the hard could be trained or scheduled away. A wave of relief washed over me—it was as if she'd taken a heavy load off my shoulders. I couldn't control this. I wasn't supposed to control this. Nathan would sleep when he was ready. Until then, I just needed to be patient.

We put the books away and went off-script. I started savoring those 3 a.m. wakeups, buoyed by the assurance that they wouldn't last forever. I discovered the quiet peace that comes when it feels like you're the only two people awake in the world, as I held Nathan close while I fed him, then rocked him gently back to sleep. The irony is that the whole process only took about 15 minutes when I stopped fighting it.

Three weeks later, Nathan started sleeping through the night. Just like that, the seasons changed.

Sometimes we forget that no season lasts forever.

In the cold, dark, dampness of January, it can be hard to remember what spring feels like. It can also be difficult to believe that there will ever be a time when your baby doesn't wake up precisely every 74 minutes during the night. Rest, energy, and a clear mind feel as foreign as warmth, sunshine and green trees.

Those first 10 months of Nathan's life taught me something important, though. I can't fast-forward to an easier season. And sometimes, the best way to navigate a challenging one is to lean into the hard. Winter may never be my favorite, but I also can't will it into spring. The seasons will change when it's time, and no sooner.

So, if you're currently bouncing on an exercise ball, hoarsely singing “You are My Sunshine" while your arms burn from swaying your baby back and forth in a futile effort to force those eyes closed, take heart.

This is not your season, momma. And that's okay. I'm going to say that again because well-meaning family, friends, strangers and Google are all going to try and convince you otherwise.

It is okay.

Everyone has a hard season. No one escapes unscathed. Sometimes, toddlers don't eat. Seriously. For days. Sometimes, preschoolers throw tantrums in Target, school age kids forget to do their homework, and teenagers break curfew.

It's not that we didn't prepare for this. It's that we can't. Sometimes, there is no preparing. There's just doing, inch by inch and day by day. Some days are light and effortless, but frequently, the seasons are heavy and the work is relentless. The trap of thinking if I could just do more/be more/know more, things would be easier is all too easy to fall into.

There's nothing we love more than a good life hack to make a tough job easier. I've yet to find a hack for parenting, though. There is only the slow, long, daily work of getting to know each child as an individual, and then tailoring your methods to meet them where they are.

Some kids are more challenging than others. Some seasons are harder than others. And sometimes, babies don't sleep.


This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs. Check out their book, The Magic of Motherhood, for more heartwarming essays about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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