My 4th kid is now almost a month old, so it seems like as good a time as any to write up some random tips I've learned for dealing with young kids. Here they are, in no specific order.
Find exactly 1 well regarded book about babies, read it front to back, and then don't read any others. That'll give you the info you need, and you don't risk confusing yourself or stressing yourself out with the stuff that other books disagree about (which is never that important anyway).
Spend the money on a real children's Sonicare toothbrush, not a knockoff, and buy toothpaste with some dang flouride. Kids get cavities like dogs get fleas. It's incredible. Take it seriously.
For the young kid that won't let you brush their teeth without squirming and bouncing around, make them lay down and then sit right behind their head with your legs on top of their arms like this. It works fabulously to keep them still.
Hold the baby in one arm and vacuum a room with the other arm. The repetitive motion and loud white noise seems to work pretty well.
Also, just remember that babies cry. With our first kid, we flipped out every time our baby cried for a few minutes, thinking that something was wrong. With our 4th kid, not so much.
Cold and sickness
Buy one of the NoseFrida nose suckers and just go ahead and get over the "ew that's icky" aspect of it because it works.
A fever below 101.4°F (or 100.4°F that lasts over 24 hours) isn't worth worrying about (source). Same with random rashes and bumps.
Find a type/brand/size of sock that you like, buy a metric ton of that one type, and buy NO OTHER SOCKS! Oh, the endless frustration that I've dealt with over the years from trying to find tiny matching socks when we have 19 different types or designs or brands.
Keep a backup outfit in the car at all times.
Sleep is the one thing that never has gotten easier with time. Every other aspect of parenting gets easier with each kid, but the sleep always sucks. There's no way to properly put into words how miserable it can be to be walking around a dark house with a screaming 2 month old at 4am on only 19 minutes of sleep, knowing that in a couple hours your other kids will start waking up. A friend of mine with 3 kids, when asked for parenting advice, said "just think long and hard about how you are going to deal with the lack of sleep."
If your baby sucks at sleeping as much as mine tend to, then a few pointers:
- Seriously consider sleep training at about 6 months. The Ferber Method has saved our lives. Yes, there will be crying, but it won't last long and it would save you months or years of sleep deprived insanity.
- This auto-rocking bed for babies has worked really well with my kids.
- If your baby will sleep fine on you but not when you put them in their bed, then maybe their bed is too cold - try running a space heater in the room for a few minutes beforehand.
- Speaking of which, try your best to never let your baby sleep with a person holding them so they don't get used to it. When they fall asleep, put them in bed immediately.
- Take it with a grain of salt, but we've had more success by not swaddling our babies. That way they get used to being free and it's not a big transition later, and they can learn to suck a thumb or whatever for soothing.
- When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night and you can tell they're not sleepy, just make a cup of tea and put on some Netflix and try to make the best of it.
Chaos and noise
When your kids are going insane and running around and screaming and you feel totally overwhelmed, put on some dance music and channel all that energy into a sweet dance party.
When they're watching TV/movies, turn on captions because they will read them without meaning to and as they learn to read in school it'll help them practice.
Sharing and fighting
If you have multiple kids, then a rule of "everything belongs to everyone" can help. Just give the first turn to the kid that it actually does belong to, then start setting 10 minute timers to take turns until they get bored with it (which usually happens before the first cycle ends). That usually diffuses the fighting.
Shopping with kids
One of the things you don't think about before you have kids is how impossible it is to have a non-stressful shopping or grocery trip with them, especially once they hit 2 or 3 years old. Get as much delivered as you can afford (including groceries), and save the rest for when you have a babysitter.
Don't even attempt restaurants. It's not worth it.
Relax a bit
Don't try to be the perfect parent because we all suck in our own personal ways that children are experts at identifying.
- It's fine if your kid doesn't have a bath every single day
- Bribing with candy is often totally worth it
- If your kid wants to keep their pajamas on all day, who cares
- If you need to lock yourself in a bathroom to keep from yelling, then do your thing
Just try to do what you need to do to give you and your kids a good time, because a happy family trumps everything else.