This is our sweet Chickadee and she has made the last year the best 365+ days of our lives. I must must admit the first three months were extremely trying (you can read all about how we survived the first quarter of her life here). However, once we got to know her a little better and she got to know us…we settled into a very enjoyable, want to soak up ever second kind of groove. Now, that we are embarking on the baby adventure for a second time with the little sprout growing in my belly, I thought it would be great to jot down a few tips for how we settled into that groove.
**And let me be the FIRST to say that all babies are different and what worked for us may not work for everyone, but it’s at least an idea when you’ve reached the end of the rope that we all seem to get to in mommyhood.
1. Listen to your instincts, not Dr. Google or Dr. Facebook Friends You can find any answer you want to any question on Google. And by any answer I mean the positive ones you were hoping for and the negative ones that scare you. Stay away from Google. I learned this the hard way during my first pregnancy and the first year with Chickadee. Turn to your doctor, your mom, or close friends for advice and tips!
2. Establish a routine I say routine over schedule. I have several friends that stick to a time schedule for sleeping, eating, playing etc. I know that works for a lot of babies out there, but it just wasn’t for us. But what worked great, was we fell into a routine. I paid attention to Chickadee’s cues and went from there. For example around 6 months, Chickadee was down to 3 naps a day. It seemed about 1.5 hours after she woke up she would start to yawn, so down for a nap she went. She slept usually for about an hour and a half. For the next stretch she was usually awake for about 2.5 hours before she was tired again and slept for another hour and half to two hours. Then she usually needed one more catnap about 2.5 hours after she woke up from nap #2. The timing is different for each baby but pay attention and they will tell you. Chickadee dropped to two naps around 9 months and is still napping twice a day at 15 months.
When it came to eating, we started solids at 6 months and dropped down to 4-5 nursing sessions a day. On average she nursed 4 times a day until she weaning about a year. For solids she ate when we did, so breakfast when she woke up, lunch around noon, and dinner about 6. Still does.
3. Teaching your baby to soothe themselves to sleep will be a LIFEsaver Yall, this is a HARD one….but now one year later it’s one of the best things I feel like I did for Chickadee. I had to keep telling myself “Short term pain, long term gain,” and it was true. As I keep saying all babies are different so what soothes one might not another. For Chickadee it was after we dropped the swaddle (around 4 months, oh and we used these swaddle blankets and loved them) she found her thumb. I NEVER thought I would have a thumb sucker and I know that will one day bring new battles, but yall she never loses it and it always calms her down. Other suggestions I have from friends is the WubbaNub pacifier or a lovie that provides them comfort.
Some more thoughts on what worked for us. I would say until about 4 months we rocked/bounced Chickadee to sleep and then laid her in the crib swaddled. Then we transitioned to no swaddle (she was breaking out anyway) and rocking her until she was fading and laying her down sleepy, but awake. Around 8 months we went through a bunch of sleeping woes, she was also about to crawl and I think they had something to do with each other. After about a week, we tried putting her down on her stomach and it seemed to do the trick! By 8 months we also reached the point where we could put her down obviously awake, and she would soothe herself to sleep by cooing and thumb sucking. We’ve only ever used her crib for sleeping, never for containment and between the crib and her white noise machine she knows it’s time to sleep. Now at 15 months, she is even more communicative. We can sign sleep or tell her it’s time for a nap/and she will walk over to the stairs. Once we put her in her crib she’ll sign sleep to us and lay down. Out the light goes, on goes the white noise and eventually she is out. I now that was a lot of info, but I hope it is helpful! (We LOVE this white noise machine)
4. Don’t go overboard on toys I don’t know if I can give advice on this. We tried really hard to not go crazy in the toy department but still ended up with too many. We did save money though by buying most of her toys through consignment or receiving them as gifts. Chickadee definitely has her favorites that we played with OVER and OVER. I tried to break some of our biggest hits down by age. From about 3 -6 months her FAVORITE entertainer was this piano play gym. Then from about 6 – 9 months she loved being up in either this door jumper or this exersaucer. It was great for me too when I was cooking dinner because she was contained in one spot and not rolling all over the place. Once she started crawling and walking she became a lot more interactive with toys. From about 9 months on she loves ALL Little People sets, this musical tea setat 1 years old was a big hit and she LOVES all musical instruments. We have this set. OH and anything by Melissa & Doug is a winner!
5. Don’t freak out over not meeting milestones or if another child is “ahead” of yours Don’t compare! This one doesn’t take a lot of explaining, but remember that most of the major milestones have a big window of time in which they are met. For example, crawling is normal anywhere from 7 to 10 months. Our baby girl was on the late end of this span. However, she was verbal early on. Kids are all over the place in reaching goals…just like grown- ups; you know like that friend who lost all the baby weight before she left the hospital, uggg. If you are truly concerned talk to your pediatrician.
6. Take Time for Yourself This one has nothing to do with baby, but everything at the same time. You will be a better mom and dad if you each take time to yourself, to remember who you are. While MOM is currently your most obvious title, you are also a daughter, sister, friend, runner, crafter, shopper, Starbucks taster, etc. You are also a wife, take time for date night, don’t forget about your marriage. Take that time to re-energize yourself and your marriage. You will be a better mom and wife for it.
7. Reach Out It is soooo each to fall into the trap of thinking your are alone in that first year. Your life has changed drastically and now revolves around this little bundle of joy 95% pof the time. Find other parents in your boat. A few of the things we have done to join in community are participate in a weekly playgroup, attend a music class, we go to the library for storytime, go to a church bible study. And I am sure your city has even more options. We are in Atlanta and I have a friend who is reaching out and getting parents and kids together through her site called Social Cub. It sounds awesome!
8. It’s okay if you are still wearing yoga pants This are bigger things for us to focus on :) I wear yoga/workout pants at least 3 days a week, sometimes more. I stay at home and we are on the floor playing, nursing, housekeeping, baby changing…comfort is KEY. I’ll never forget a day III had taken off and he was out and about with Chickadee and me. We were standing in line somewhere and he says “You know what, all of these moms are wearing yoga pants.” We are in this together. If you want to venture on the wild side, I did find these great Piko tops which “dress up” the yoga pants a little, when you are headed out and about pull on some boots or cute flats, and you are set (but still comfy)!
9. Starting real food and milk You will hear ALL opinions on when to start “real” food with your baby. The truth is breastmilk and formula contain all the nutrients your child needs in the first year, everything else is exploratory and fun, don’t forget that. Again, my tips are what worked for us…I hope some of it works for you! So we started with mashed avocado and bananas at 6 months. We moved on to pureed baby food introducing a new food ever 3 or 4 days to make sure Chickadee wasn’t allergic. You can read all about how to make your own pureed baby food here. We ventured into Baby Led Weaning pretty quickly (around 8 months) and never looked back. Read here for a detailed explanation. Basically, give your baby real food…not like potato chips, but steamed sweet potato bites or a hummus and carrot sandwich. Some of our favorites are egg and black bean omelettes, turkey meatballs and pasta, and anything on a sandwich. Oh, and smoothies (a great way for sneaking in veggies). These cups work really well for smoothies. Chickadee did great and we’ve had minimum gagging/freak out moments on my end. My other advice is introduce the sippy cup before you take away the bottle. Get them used to both so that it is less traumatic when the bottle does go away. We started whole milk in the sippy cup about a year (slightly before since I was pregnant with Sprout and my milk started drying up). We’ve had great success with these straw sippy cups from Nuby, but have also heard great things about these from Gerber.
10. Remember every hard time is just a phase It is ABSOLUTELY amazing how much your sweet little bundle will change from the day they enter your life until they turn one. There will be the highest of highs and some valleys as well. They will refuse to eat, refuse to sleep, and begin to throw tantrums. Remember, it is JUST A PHASE. Their little brains are soaking in so much, learing so many new skills, trying to figure out this life we have brought them into. You will both get through the hard times together and together you will also celebrate the victories and milestones. You can do this, even when it’s hard. Remember you can do it, and I promise there is always a light at the end of those crazy wonder weeks.
10ish. Take lots of pictures, enjoy every snuggle (they get rarer and rarer), listen to your gut, find a baby sitter you trust and loves your baby, join Amazon mom, watch them sleep, again buy consignment (they grow out of clothes and toys fast), soak up every second…they are only little once!
Again, if you want to get more details about surviving the first 3 months (the hardest in my opinion), check out this post! You can do it!
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