A bit ago we got a surprise visit from my Mother-in-Law. She had recently had a small gathering and had some leftover snacks, and she is smart enough to know her son is always up for food.
It was in the evening, and I had started getting my youngest prepped for bed by putting together the bath. His sister had knocked on the door and asked if she could jump in too. So there were two kids in the tub and a tired mom squatting on a stepstool when grandma knocked on the door and asked if she could come in too.
The holidays are trying on me. I am not a grinch, but I am not Cindy Lou either and it lingers. I am just a sad and tired mom. And with one child on the verge of bedtime, I was very excited to be non-responsible. I wanted to power down. I wanted to go to a room and shut the door and just...not.
Grandma stayed in with my oldest while I dried, jammy-ed, fed, booked, and put down the baby, and then very shortly later, Grandma was off spreading more cheer to the next on her list (I imagine.) I didn't see her leave.
The next morning, my daughter came downstairs gave me a big hug, and shared the couch cushion with me, saying it was starting to get too small for us both. I said, "nonsense."
I pulled her in close and rested my head on her head, and smelled her, and told her she smelled good.
"Did Grammy help you wash your hair?" Cause I know I didn't.
"Yep, and I used Dad's shampoo, and I like the way it smells."
"Me too. Did you have fun with Grammy?"
And she went on to tell me how much fun, and how great it was she came over and how she loved showing her the decorations she put up in her room and how she helped her get dressed and, and, and...
It was just a few moments. But it was special.
My daughter felt loved and cared for. And especially in these days when I'm battling my own holiday demons and trying to hang on with tears just below the surface, it was a huge gesture of kindness and support that I don't take for granted.
My mother-in-law came over and washed her grandchild's hair, and it was the sort of gift that could never be wrapped.
There was so much energy, so many lists and suggestions for giving experiences this past holiday, and I'm all for it. Memberships to museums, movie or theater tickets, trampoline passes, or trips to places and events. Give to your heart's content.
I just hope that we recognize that our kids need experiences, eye contact, uninterrupted attention, and quality time on a consistent basis. Our kids need support from more than just their parents. Us and our kids need community, to belong, to lean on, and to celebrate with.
Sleep. We all need it, and babies need a lot of it! So...why do they seem to fight it so hard?
Passing out from exhaustion is not a sustainable way to ensure your body has the rest it needs, and that is why helping our children learn how to sleep is an important part of their first year of life.
For babies younger than 4 months, it is not recommended to introduce sleep teaching, or sleep training. But don't fret - there are still ways to help your littles. Here are some not-so-secret secrets to helping your baby while they are in their first months of life!
Routine VS. Schedule
For parents who are weary and trying to understand how they can help their infants with sleep, one way to give them comfort and increased secure attachment to his or her caregiver is to have a routine. A routine is not a schedule.
A routine is a predictable plan that your child can become accustomed to. It helps them understand what is going on around them, it can introduce them to words that are associated with specific activities, and it can prepare them for what is coming next.
For instance, infants older than a month, and younger than 4 who are at a healthy weight can usually begin a generalized routine of sleeping, eating, and "playing." Playing can also be awake time where your child is exploring their surroundings.
This gental routine does not need to have specific times associates with it to be effective. A routine is not a schedule.
When sleeping, try to place your child to sleep in the same location and beging a sleep routine. You can tell them it's time to take a nap, then draw the drapes together, turn on a sound machine, change their diaper, swaddle them for comfort, and lay them down.
When it's time to eat, you can feed them in the same chair or location of the house.
When it's time to be awake, it is not in the area where they sleep to help signify the difference.
It may seem silly, but your baby will pick up on these cues!
Watch for Signs of Sleepiness - And Make Naps a Priority
Babies need a lot of sleep! And they will let you know when things are beginning to be overwhelming if you watch and learn to interpret the signs.
A tired baby may start to be irritated, may not be able to settle, or may make more obvious cues like yawning and rubbing their eyes. If these occur, begin your sleep routine!
Babies from 0-3 months old need a recommended 14-17 hours of rest a day, including naps! For young babies, it may feel like they are sleeping again right after they ate - which is not a typical - eating food can mean they are expending an incredible amount of energy!
In line with learning cues - being sensitive and aware of how easily a baby can become overtired is a way to help them learn to sleep without needing a bottle or nursing session to settle down.
Having several restful sessions of sleep during the day will help with more restful sleep at night.
It may seem counterintuitive - but sleep begets more sleep for young ones.
Having knowledge that your baby is satisfied nutritionally can give peace of mind to know they are not fussy because of hunger. If you are a nursing mother, it becomes important to make it clear when your baby is nursing for nutrition, and when they are nursing for comfort.
There are many ways to keep track of feedings both electronically and traditionally (with paper!)
Tools we love are Baby Connect - available for both iPhone and Android, and Everyday Mother*.
*Discount code for 10% off Everyday Mother order: "BAARIEL"
Try to Avoid Comparisons
While having feedback from other parents is helpful, and recommendations for what you should do can be a great guide, your baby may not respond well to what worked for another baby. Even if it was a sibling! The first months are not only for your baby to begin to understand the world around them, but also to learn and develop trust in you! You also are learning about this new individual. Guides are just that - guides. Just like one position may not be good to help burp your baby, it makes sense to try a new method, not believe your baby is broken.
Your baby may need help to figure out to sleep soundly, but you are there to offer comfort, preditability, and safety. You can do it!
Patience and Help
Learning your baby will require patience. To have it, you may need help to delegate other responsibilities, or to have a break yourself.
As the adults, we have the cognitive ability to reason, and choose how we want to respond in situations. We we are tired, it makes responding appropriately more difficult.
If you need sleep, you need help. Help to re-prioritize, help to complete tasks, or help to reduce the worry and possible shame associated with life a new expanded family.
Nannies, doulas, family support, and regular self care are ways "successful" parents have learned to acquire the help needed. The myth of the "do-it-all" parent simply won't go away. That parent is hanging on by a thread. We want to help you weave a healthy and stable safety net of support so both you and your child have what they need.
Written by Ariel Swift
Does this sound familiar?"She was sleeping fine and now I can't put her down!"
"I don't know what's wrong. He is fussy all the time and he acts like he wants to eat, but then he doesn't eat. Is he okay?"
"She was on a great schedule and now I can't seem to get her back in sync!"
As much as you plan and as much as you read, parenthood will never go the way you think it will. We get into patterns. We start to rely on certain behaviors from our children. We think we know what is coming next.
And that's when it happens - the organized world you worked so hard to create starts falling apart. Regardless of your parenting philosophy, your baby is going to go through life and experience what experts are now calling mental leaps. These are periods of development and learning that babies go through where (it seems) all of a sudden, they didn't know something, and then they do.
"Research has shown that babies make 10 major, predictable, age-linked changes – or leaps – during their first 20 months of their lives. During this time, they will learn more than in any other time." explains the Wonder Weeks Team.
You may have called them growth spurts.
Growth spurts occur between 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 9 months (more or less). And they continue on into adolescence and teen years. But because your baby can't tell you what he or she is feeling, as parents, we'll see the cues (or not) and try to meet our babies where they are.
So what are the cues? Each child will respond to these developmental changes a little differently, but some common behaviors are:
You may be reading a book about your child's behavior at the same time they are going through one of these changes and not put two and two together.
Because when your baby is fussy, and you are tired, or you need to get work done, or dishes, or laundry, or a shower, it can be difficult to stop and remember,
"OH! My baby just learned that he has hands!
... And he can operate them!
...And that means he can grab that toy that I've been shaking in front of his face!"
So if your baby need a little more of your time, it's for good reason. If she seems to require a bit more attention and caring and love, try to remember that she may feel like she just jumped off a cliff, and needs some help finding a safe way to land.
Our Postpartum Doulas are just a call away if you need help for a few days, or long term support. We are well aware of the trials that come with leaping babies and we will help you, and them, every step of the way.It's a wide, wide world. You are your child's guide through it- itty bitty steps to great huge leaps.
Written by Ariel Swift
Ariel Swift (she/her) does most of the writing around this blog, but we love having guest writers and visits!