Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Greatest Gift

What is the greatest gift that we can give our children?

As expected, it is not the physical gifts that our children will cherish, but the time and experiences they have with us.  Moments of giggles and snuggles, walking and swinging, reading and learning- while the specific days and times will not be remembered, the feeling of love and contentment will be a lasting memory.  Yet, there is an even more powerful gift that we can give our children: the knowledge of Jesus, God, the Holy Trinity, and the LOVE that surrounds us every moment of our life whether we remember or not.  We show the love of Christ daily when we love and cherish our children, when we make small sacrifices for them.  We teach them about Christ through stories, and reading the Bible, through family prayers during meals and before bed.  We also show them the love of Christ through the fellowship at church.

My girly girl--Loves dressing up for Church!

My daughter loves church.  It is a place that she looks forward to going every Sunday!  She looks forward to the breakfast, time in Sunday school, the music we sing and the fun time in nursery during the sermon (one day she will truly hear the sermons, but until then our two year old still goes to nursery most Sundays).  

Yesterday we had our "Ash Wednesday" service directly following our Pancake Shrove Tuesday meal. She had done really well “helping” us cook and serve.  Although the service of ashes is the most important part, I wasn’t sure if we would stay… it had been a long day, my girl would need to be asleep soon, she was sticky from all the syrup and so a bath was definitely a must before bed.  BUT when it was announced that the service would be starting soon, my girl shouted “YAY!! Its about to start! Mommy lets go! We need to get our seat, the Jesus music is about to start!!!”  She was sooo excited and I couldn’t help but be led by that little hand into the sanctuary. 

Did she sit still? NO..she tried...for a 2 year old that had just eatten lots of syrupy goodness and bacon

Did she talk too loudly? YES...she tried to whisper..that is definitely a skill that still needs practice😊

Did she pay attention to the sermon? No….she focused during the music and that was it

But she was there, in God’s House.  Seeing those she loves worshiping God; and though she doesn’t understand much, she will in time.

As we stood to get the cross of ashes on our forehead, she was very serious.  When we left the sanctuary, she asked what was on her forehead and I tried my best to explain.  We have taught of God and Jesus’ unending love, how He provides us with everything and we are thankful, how they live in our hearts, want us to be happy, and for us to be good.  We have not gotten into the depths of God’s love and the sacrifice he made.  

She knows that on Easter Sunday, Jesus is risen but we haven’t talked about what happened on Friday.  

Last night I tried.  I told her that God loved us and the world SOO much that He gave us Jesus.  That Jesus died on the cross for our sins and He Saved Us. 

She teared up. In a heartbroken voice, “Jesus died?? But…”

Such a genuine emotion. Such raw sadness for the Jesus that she has grown to love.  Her sadness broke my heart. I quickly went on to tell her that it was ok! 
             Because what happens on Easter?  “He is Risen!” 
             Yes, my sweet girl, He is Risen…He Comes back and he is with us ALWAYS.

What a beautiful message of salvation and hope.  What better joy can a mother have than to know that her child is a child of God.  That as much love and protection I can provide her, which feels insurmountable, is but a miniscule fraction to the love and protection of her Father in Heaven.

On our way home, we listened to our Jesus music.  This is her absolute favorite and she sings along with all her heart.  The music is the classic, old faithfuls- a beautiful CD by “her cowboy man,” Alan Jackson.  To hear her little voice singing along “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him”.  What comfort in those words.  How I strive to trust him daily, how I strive to let him be in control, how I strive to be the mother and Christian that I know my daughter needs me to be.  

Later that night, her Daddy asked her if she remembered what the cross on her forehead meant, she looked at him very seriously and said "It's ash. Jesus died. But don't be sad, he comes back! Yay!"

So remember mamas, there will DEFINITELY be those church services where you will question why you even went.  Your effort and attention will be focused much more on the squirmy babbling child(ren) beside you than the sermon being preached or the hymns being sung, but that is ok.

You are setting an example for your children.  You are creating a routine in their lives that you hope will continue for the rest of theirs- and for their children after that. 

And I promise you, for every moment where you question your sanity, there will be moments of pride and peace  - the first time your little one starts saying “Amen” after each prayer- the times that your little one claps in delight after a hymn is sung- the times they close their eyes and bow their head in prayer (and continues to peep to see if your eyes are still closed and not watching them 😄 )- the first time they drop a coin in the collection plate that they brought from their own piggy bank at home- and so many other precious little moments.  

These are the moments that remind us that it IS important, and they ARE growing in their love for Jesus. 💓

But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  -Luke 18:16

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.      -Proverbs 22:6

Monday, December 18, 2017

Let it Snow!

So a couple of weekends ago, I tried to be a fun mom. You know, the one that has this great interactive, engaging activity, that is seasonal related and leads to precious memories and pictures!  Yeah...this has a happy ending but I'm certainly no pinterest activity mom. (I'm more of a "lets just go outside" mom)

With all the Christmas movies and beautiful snow scenes that we are SOOOO unlikely to enjoy for real, I found a recipe for making FAKE snow!


3 cups Baking Soda
1/2 cup Hair Conditioner
Mix well!

Well, the recipe was easy enough for me, and I must admit, the texture was really neat! It even felt cool to the touch with the cool conditioner. (I also read that you can refrigerate the baking soda to make it feel even colder like real snow). Once mixed, I set the table.  I had a large trash bag for the tablecloth and placed all the snow in a large cooking pan.  My girl started playing and was very excited...for the first few minutes...

Quickly though, little pieces were making their way out of the pan, into her lap, onto the floor... and my anxiety started to make its appearance...QUICKLY.  Like mother like daughter, my little one felt like everything was getting too messy as well (she asked for clean hands, clean clothes, and a cloth to wipe everything).  Instead of a vicious cycle of play and clean, I said lets take it to the bathtub!  She happily agreed and off we went.

Once in the boundaries of the tub, she had a blast!!!  She was making snow balls and a little snow man.... she really did have fun. When we were ready to stop, we collected as much of the snow into a Ziploc bag. Then she stripped, took a bath, and all snow evidence melting away.😉

Although my initial thought was 100% on point--- that this activity was too messy for me to handle, a quick switch to the bathtub made a messy experience FUN! Trust me, it gave my girl a sense of freedom as well.  She does not handle "dirtiness"(Example: Every meal she has her own damp dish cloth that she uses to wipe around her plate/bowl if she happens to spill anything. After she is finished, she wipes her mouth and hands off, and then while I'm washing dishes, she wipes the table down, and then the bench that she sits on), but knowing she was in the bathtub liberated her, and let her really enjoy the messiness of this snow.

Will we play with this snow again?

Absolutely!...IN the BATHTUB 😉

But for all those mommies like myself that aren't the best at these super creative Pinterest activities, there is always the great outdoors!  Some of our best times together are spend just wandering.

My little one's favorites:

-Going on a March (aka: Sing a marching song, and march instead of just a regular walk)
-Going on an Adventure! (aka: taking a hike and seeing what we find)
-The "Lets pick up all the sticks and pine cones" Game... A favorite!...literally
-Hunting (We use sticks as our guns and she hunts bear and deer during our walk.  We have begun explaining how Daddy harvests the deer meat and we need to be thankful for the gift that the animals are giving us)
-Swinging and Sliding or playing at her little pond beach

Monday, October 9, 2017

Natural Weaning for the Breastfed Toddler

My little one has officially stopped nursing.  She LOVES her food and water, and doesn't ask to nurse (for the most part)!  It was a very gradual process. We went from nursing exclusively at 6 months, to slowly adding in solids and water until nursing was solely a comfort and not a necessity.

Now, at 29 months, we have been weaned for about 3 months now.  I say "we" because it was a relationship that we have had her entire life and we both had to adjust to the idea of it no longer being a part of our routine and life.  Even now, when she is really upset, she will sometimes ask for "baba" and I always say yes.  A few months ago, this would be a few minutes of nursing.  Most recently (this week) she asked and after barely a second on the breast, she giggled and said, "I don't need baba", redressed me (yes, you read that right! lol), and then snuggled.

So how did we go from an exclusively breastfed baby to one that would take a breast milk bottle when mommy is away, to a toddler that is very independent while still needing her mommy for lots of snuggles and love?  Let's take a closer look.

First 3.5 months of life:  Exclusively breastfed except for a small 2-3 oz BM bottle that Noah would give her in the evenings to help her adjust to the bottle.  Surprisingly, our little bird did quite well with the bottle.  As long as I wasn't in the room, she was good!  I know that this is certainly not the case for all breastfed babies!!...and for that I am thankful.  That made my stress of going back to work a little easier.

3.5 months - 6/7 months:
  • Exclusively breastfed when Mommy was home
  • BM bottles while Mommy was at work. Click HERE to read more about pumping and prep

7/8 Months-13 months:

  • Breastfed when Mommy was home.
  • Began to incorporate small foods into her diet at dinner time. Click HERE for Baby-Led Weaning
  • Began to incorporate small snack foods during the afternoons.
  • Minimum food at daycare
At 13 months old, I officially stopped pumping! I was home for summer break and I packed up all of my pumping supplies--- It was one of  the happiest moments of starting summer! :)  Up until that point, I was still pumping every day at work and my little bird was drinking around 12 oz. a day during the 8.5 hour window I was gone.  While our little one was starting to eat very well at dinner time, and eat snacks like cheerios and puffs, she was still a breast milk girl all the way at daycare.

Life without pumping was wonderful! If she wanted milk, we breastfed, otherwise, she drank water from a 360 cup and ate food.

13 months-15 months
We consistently nursed first thing in the morning, leading up to her naps (morning and afternoon), and prior to bed.  She nursed at other times during the day as well, but these were less scheduled and more sporadic.  As the summer got farther along, these sporadic nursing sessions naturally decreased.

At this age, she was also still nursing at night.  At this point, she was not nursing for a true need of milk, but she was using me as a pacifier.

15 months- 21 months
I was officially back to school (Remember, I'm a Chemistry teacher!).  I sent milk on the first day as a "just in case" but I had already talked to daycare about the fact that she hadn't taken a bottle since the last day she was with them in June, and the fact that she was eating really well now.  When I went to pick her up, she had only had food and water all day!  They said she didn't even ask for milk! (Trust me, when a kid is breastfed, they don't think they can get milk unless they see mama)  As soon as we got home, she was ready to nurse and this led into her afternoon nap.

As we drew closer to the 1.5 year mark and on toward the 2 year mark, the nursing continued to decrease as the food and water intake increased.  This was a very natural process. Never once did I deny her a nursing if she asked**.  She simply stopped asking as much as she had other options.  However, what was consistent: Morning nursing, once in the afternoon, bedtime nursing.

**Clarification: I would deny her nursing, IF I was in the middle of an important task.  If I was washing dishes or cooking supper, and she asked for baba, I told her that she had to be patient. That mommy couldn't give her any milk right then.  While she got very frustrated at times, she learned that there was a time and place to nurse, and that there were times when she had to wait.

Still through this entire window of time, she was still using nursing as a pacifier during the night.

21 months
Prior to 21 months, we never intentionally decreased our nursing, it just happened.  It was the perfect concept of natural weaning.  At 21 months, I was EXHAUSTED! Not from nursing, but from lack of SLEEP!!! She was still not sleeping through the night and I was suffering the consequences.  While my little one caught up on her sleep with extra naps at daycare, I was not that lucky.  It is hard to explain to your coworkers my level of exhaustion.  Questions/comments like "Shes almost two! My kid starting sleeping through the night after a few months!"  "You still nurse at night?"  and so on....

Yes, I was still nursing at night.  No she didn't need the milk--honestly, my body had adjusted to the point that very little milk was being produced at night.  She nursed as a pacifier to get back to sleep every time she woke.  That meant she would cry for mommy, I would go into her room, nurse her for 5 minutes max, then she would fall back asleep.  I would get her back in her crib and head back to my room.  Just to do it ALL OVER AGAIN the next hour, two hours, or if I was really lucky after 3-4 hours.

So, finally, when she was 21 months, Noah and I decided to make some BIG changes.  We purchased a toddler bed, removed the crib, added a sound machine and night light (red bulb to promote sleeping while still letting her see her surroundings) and we decided NO more nursing to sleep.  This was the first time I didn't do child-led weaning.

Was my daughter ready for this? NO... (mainly because she had never once gone to sleep for the night without being nursed to sleep.)  Did I feel really really guilty? YES.  Could I have kept doing the same thing...sure, but my personal sanity was on the line, and I have an obligation to my students, husband, and daughter, to be a sane person.

So, night 1 was tough... I won't go into the details again, but please read my post about Sleep if you have not already.  It goes into detail about the transition to the toddler bed and how we adjusted to having no nursing at night.

Long story short!---after one week, she stopped asking for baba at night and she then was only nursing in the morning and 1-2 times in the after noon. Side note: she started sleeping through the night!!! Can I get an AMEN!

21.5 months-24 months
  • Morning nursing
  • 1 afternoon nursing session
  • If she didn't ask for more, I didn't offer more. ***BIG RULE: One of the key rules in natural weaning is to let the child lead.  This also means letting them reduce sessions on their own.  If my little one is tired, I KNOW that offering to nurse will put her right to sleep, but this has to be a decision she makes.  If you actually want to begin weaning, you cannot continue to use nursing as a fix-all crutch.  (Which I did often! me) If she she asked to nurse, I was happy to provide. BUT, if she didn't ask, I would not offer.
  • She also started potty training at 23.5 months

25 months
  • Morning nursing IF she asked--this was greatly decreasing since our morning before school was now focused on going pee pee in the potty!!
  • Occasionally in the afternoon--normally, she was only asking if she was really tired, grumpy, or got a boo boo

26+ months
  • Our mornings started with focusing on going potty.
  • Once she was up and going, she wanted breakfast and that was that!
  • She usually requested to nurse at some point during the day, and we would, but she started refusing after a few minutes and redressing me. It was like she wanted to make sure nursing was still an option for her, while not really wanting it.
All the snuggles
So....while my nursing process was a very natural one, I sincerely believe that there were big turning points in becoming weaned in the early stage of her second year.  Firstly, it was the cut off of night nursing at 21 months, and secondly, the potty training starting at 24 months.

IF I had not stopped night nursing, and if I had not had potty training to keep a lot of her focus, I truly believe that she would still be nursing now!  She was a big nurser.  She loved it.  It was her go-to.  If we were still nursing I would be fine with that.  Am I completely content not nursing right now? Yes.  My little one and I have such a strong relationship.  We snuggle all the time.  When she needs comfort, I am still her go-to.  With or without nursing, I am still providing her with the love, support, and comfort that she needs.

What I feel now?  A complete satisfaction.  I am so PROUD to have nursed for a solid 25 months.  I am proud of the bond that my daughter and I have.  I am so happy to know that I am still her source of comfort even though nursing is not longer in the equation.  I am excited to begin this new phase in our lives!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dealing with the NO, NO, NO Days!

I LOVE my daughter with MY WHOLE HEART.  I have the best time with her!  We have such a good time reading books together, playing with stickers, telling stories, playing outside, taking walks....the works.  But like anyone, she has her days...

Days when she doesn't want to do what I ask her. Moments when she thinks NO is always the best answer.  Moments when she thinks that not looking at me means I cannot see what she is doing. Moments when I ask her to look at me, and she purposely turns and faces the opposite way. Moments when I say "1,2,3, sit down" and she responds "1,2,3, stand up." Moments where she thinks crying on the floor will get her what she wants.  Moments when no matter what I say or do, Mommy is the bad guy.  

I hate to say that we have entered into the "terrible two" age.  I truly DO NOT like this label...I've got too much educational training to not fully believe in the "self-fulling prophecy" and the idea that a child becomes what you expect of them.  So while I use the "it's just a phase" to comfort myself after a tough day, I always strive to address the situation at hand with an understanding heart and some level of reasoning (but I will not let the "terrible two" concept justify her behavior).

Prior to starting back to work this summer, my little lady was having a TOUGH day.  Everything was going bad according to her.  Nothing was right.  She didn't want to eat. Then she did.  While I fixed breakfast or lunch I wasn't "paying enough attention to her", then I was "touching her too much" (...I was giving her hugs...)...we weren't outside... we weren't reading the right book... we weren't swimming...we weren't was endless.  I was about to lose it.... then we went to check the mail and you would never believe what book was waiting for us in the mailbox! (We get 1 book a month mailed to our house via the Dolly Parton Imagination Library) 

My No, No, No Day! By Rebecca Patterson

I hadn't actually checked the mail in a couple of days, so I'm sure this book was delivered earlier in the week, but for me, I felt like God was giving me a much needed gift.  As soon as we got back to the house we went in and read this book.  It was like reading about a parallel universe....this was the written form of how our day was going.  This is a wonderful book!---exceptional for those testy toddler days when your child needs to SEE what it looks like to act "badly" (and how other people see the behavior) and for you as a parent to try and reach a level of understanding rather than anger.  Lets just say, I ended the book in tears.... tears of guilt for being so frustrated with my little one when I know that we ALL have bad days sometimes.  When we ALL feel like things are just not going right and we have a domino effect that leads from grumpy to grumpier.  I felt guilty for showing too many signs of irritation and maybe giving her too many time out sessions rather than trying to comfort her during her trying moments.... guilty for not trying to truly understand why she was feeling this way.

[I even had a moment of giggles. In the book when the little girl says "nobody!" my little one contradicted her with "YESbody!"  AHHH!!!....a whole new level when you argue with a book itself]

I am certainly not saying that my girl doesn't still get "in trouble" often. We still discipline her's part of how she learns what is acceptable and what is not.  What is right and wrong.  What is allowed in our home, and what is not.  BUT--I have also strived to take a step back after she throws herself on the floor in a fit of tears, or after she shouts "NO" about whatever and try to remember that she is only TWO.  She is still figuring out how to calmly and verbally describe her emotional state...and, just like with us, there are times that she doesn't even know why she's grumpy. She just is! 

Being a toddler is hard. They are still learning how to communicate their thoughts and emotions. They are developing their independence that at times, is strongly encouraged by parents, and other times strongly deterred.  For toddlers, it is hard to understand why we allow them to do one thing and not another.  AND there are times when a toddler's own capabilities are not at the level they want-- they just cannot understand why they aren't tall enough, or why their little fingers just can't get that puzzle piece in the right spot.  It gets frustrating! 

So on those days when you are on your last straw....when you are at your absolute limit...when if your spouse doesn't get home in the next ten minutes you are going to CRY.... remember that your little human or humans are just that...human.  They are not trying to make your day a living h***.  They are trying to sift through a whole array of emotions.  They are testing their boundaries. They are extra hungry, or sleepy, or just having a bad day for no apparent reason.  Try to be understanding.  Try to offer them the chance to explain why they feel the way they do, or why they are acting the way they are acting.  Try to respect their emotional outburst as being the only way they understand how to express the way they feel.... and then YOU EXPLAIN to them how YOU FEEL.

Tell them that you too are tired.  Tell them that their screaming is making your head hurt.  That if they keep acting this way, they may make you feel so bad that you will cry.  YOU TOO have emotions.  You too have a lot on your plate to deal with and they need to understand that their behaviors and actions can negatively impact other people and not just themselves.  Kids, even little two year olds can understand sooooo much more than we sometimes give them credit. They are excellent at learning cause and effect.  Our job as parents is to support them, love them, but also teach them (for my little one, the softer spoken my voice, the more receptive she is to stopping and listening).  They need to learn that crying doesn't equal getting a cookie. That asking nicely and saying please will get them a cookie.  As they get older, they learn that just because you ask nicely and say please STILL doesn't mean you will get that cookie!! A hard lesson to learn indeed.

So after the tantrum, and the tears (from mommy and child), the discipline, the conversations, the hugs, the kisses....everything that goes into these tough days, remind them of this:

We will all have bad days sometimes.  Our goal is to make every day the best day we can.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One Phrase for an Eclectic Eater

So our little bird has always been a pretty good eater. She began by eating everything we gave her.  Then we hit a few bumps on the road to independence where she would say "no" just because she realized that she could!!

Noah and I agreed that we wanted to have a child that loved food and would make sitting down to eat an enjoyable time.  Personally, I didn't want to fix a separate meal for a picky little one and then make a "grown up" meal as well.  So what did we do?  We never made it an option for her to eat anything besides what I was cooking for supper.  In all honesty, I've actually incorporated more vegetables and more well-balanced options into my meals once we had our girl eating with us BECAUSE I wanted to ensure she was eating top notch healthy.

So how do you get a kid to eat broccoli, steamed cabbage, green and black olives, pickled okra, carrots, pintos, kidney beans, tomatoes, bruschetta, and the list goes on....

You provide your little one with a mini version of your own plate.  Of course you cut up things as necessary for their size.  You sit down and begin enjoying your wonderful meal.  You help your little one take bites as they need it, and whenever they say "NO" or "I don't like this" or "I don't want this" you say this:

ONE PHRASE: "That's fine.  You don't have to eat it...just leave it on your plate."  

Say nothing more.  Continue eating your food. Don't make their "no" and your "yes" into a power struggle.  Just keep enjoying your food.  If your little one said "no" to the carrots, make sure to talk to your spouse about how yummy your carrots are! Say they are your favorite! But don't talk about it with your child. He/She chose to not try it and you are letting them make that decision without argument.  BUT....let's be real.... they LOVE to be like mommy and daddy, and when you are eating carrots and daddy is eating carrots, and you are not pushing them to do something they don't want to do, suddenly it doesn't seem so bad.  He/She will suddenly pick up that carrot and eat it, and they will want you to see that they like it too!  Trust me!

We add the "just leave it on your plate" for two reasons.
1. Our little one use to drop food on the floor or take whatever she didn't want and put it on the table or try to put it on my plate.  I wasn't having that kind of mess....
2. It allows the food to remain an option for later when/if they change their mind

This one phrase has become a staple in our home, and it has always led to our little girl trying whatever it is that she thought she didn't want.  AND not just trying it, but liking it and eating most if not all of it off of her plate.

I know things could always change with a child's palate, but at 2 years and 3 months old, our little one eats everything that we eat.  She loves everything that I listed above and so much more (literally the only thing that she has consistently said no to, and hasn't changed her mind on is mashed potatoes or boiled potato chunks...she just doesn't care for it!).  Even when she doesn't care for certain things, she will at least want to try it, because she sees us eating and enjoying it.  Just like us, she will have her days when she's not in the mood for something and will say "no" but when I fix it a few days later, she's back to eating it at full speed.

So go fix supper! Try our the phrase and see how it goes!  You have to be consistent with it, but it does work.  It makes for a much more relaxing and enjoyable meal without having a power struggle or argument about what they are or are not eating.

One last piece of advice to help the process: make sure your child comes to the table hungry...not overly or course, but don't let them fill up on snacks pre-meal.  They need to be ready to eat, and look forward to food!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Baby-Led Weaning...with added Caution

Prior to having a little one, I never even thought about the transition from nursing to eating solids. Once my little one was was born, I began looking into it, and after speaking with the pediatrician, set my sights on beginning solids at 6 months.  At 4 months old, I started looking into baby foods and the proper process for transition.  I was actually looking forward to adding solids into her diet! Physically, I was literally getting drained trying to keep up with how much milk she was drinking... mainly due to the stress of starting back work and pumping. (Stress is a MAJOR milk-making killer...if you need some milk supply tips, check this blog post out !).

Ironically, once my little bird was 6 months old, I had found a new balance, and we were smooth sailing with exclusive breast milk.  Such smooth sailing, that I half-heartedly started solids.  I made three different kinds of homemade baby food: green bean, apple, and sweet potato.  I froze the baby food in ice cube trays.  This created perfect sized portions!--IF she had eaten it, that is.

Each night I would thaw one of the types, and she would try it, but without much appreciation.  Most of the meal, she spent watching our food go from plate to mouth.  Since she didn't seem interested in the baby food, I didn't push it...but since I didn't think she was prepared to handle anything with more substance, we pretty much kept exclusively nursing until she was about 7 months. Even then, she honestly wasn't relying on food as a true source of nutrients until she was closer to 9-10 months probably....breastmilk was just such an easy go-to and I knew it was certainly healthy!

Luckily, my baby food making efforts didn't go to waste, as my nephew loved baby food :)

If you look up baby-led weaning online, you will, per usual, find a spectra of opinions. For the most part, TRUE baby-led weaning is when you immediately give them large pieces of regular food and they learn to feed themselves. While that sounds lovely in some respect, I was concerned about two key points:

1. It could get too messy for my style.  I've got enough to deal with besides a huge mess of food on her tray, in her seat, on the floor, in her lap, hair, clothes....

2. First time mom here!! Safety is always analyzed.  What if she didn't realize it was too big for her? What if she took too much at once and choked?!  That scared me...still does.

So here were the steps to OUR version of baby lead weaning. In my opinion, it's a good balance of baby-led weaning with some added caution

1. Provide her with what we are eating just mashed up a bit. (still has texture and lumps)
Some of this was mashed with a fork or spoon, others were literally chewed up a little in our mouths, and then passed on to her via spoon....Ok, I'll give you a moment to process what I've just described.   You are either thinking: A) Is that child abuse? B) That's weird...but ok  C) Are you a bird now?  D) HEY! That's what I did!

Regardless of where you are on the spectra...I understand.  If I had seen someone doing this prior to my own, I would have thought it was a bit gross myself.  Heck, even my family looked at us sometimes like we were going a bit too far.  But Noah and I thought nothing of it.  It seemed natural. Our little bird (no pun intended...ok, maybe a little) was enjoying her food, loved being a part of meal time, and greatly appreciated eating exactly what mama and daddy were eating! (Which let's be honest, is the easiest for everyone!!!...I am not about to fix a different meal for my kid....)

2. As she got older, and we felt that she was handling pieces of food better, we simply decreased the amount of mashing or chewing, until she was getting small pieces of our fruits and vegetables.  I was still wary with meat so I continued to do a pre-chew on that.  What size are we at?  Think the little frozen mixed vegetables you get for soup?  This was cooked with a lot of my meals, because it was already a perfect size!

3. Continue allowing food pieces to get larger until you are not changing it at all!  This happens surprisingly quickly.  I know our little one began having her plate look like a miniature version of ours before she was 18 months old.  At age 2, I help her cut up meat or noodles, but that is about all we change.

With this process, my little one has become an excellent eater! Occasionally she has overfilled her mouth, and she will spit it out into her hand. For the most part, she has learned how much she can put in her mouth at a time, and she has never had a choking episode.

The following is a short clip of her eating right after she turned 19 months old:

2nd Birthday Dinner.  (And those are not grapes, but her favorite--black olives!)

No matter how you go about it, your child will become a successful self-feeder!  Just like your child will become successful with the potty, and sleeping through the night, and all the other big concerns that we have as parents.  We know our kids will get there, but that doesn't mean we won't try to help them in what we believe is the best way possible.

Upcoming Blog post??  How to raise an eclectic eater that enjoys their food... without the battles!  It just takes ONE Phrase and some time. I'm not saying it would work for every kid, but it certainly was the golden ticket for our little one!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sleeping...or the lack thereof

You hear about all of these parents that have the best sleepers.  Children that started sleeping through the night when they were only months old! You can read on pinterest, all of these wonderful how-tos regarding sleep training and getting your child to begin sleeping through the night almost immediately.  THIS is not that kind of post.  I may know what I'm doing when it comes to nursing, increasing milk supply, and cloth diapering, but I am no sleep whisperer.

This post is not a how-to.  This is not a fix-all.  This is a "oh my gosh, you are not alone" post.  An "I feel you...I understand what you are going through...I get why you are exhausted" post.  BUT, it is also, a "there is a light at the end of these sleepless nights" and "it will get better" post. Finally, it is a "here are the things I tried that kind-of worked" post.

So enter into my world... let's travel through the past two years of my little one's life, and explore the many ups and downs that we experienced.

When our little bird arrived, we were still in the final stages of building our house! What was originally going to be finished pre-baby turned into a house that was not move-in ready until she was 6 weeks old!  Due to this hiccup, we did a couple things different than we would have if we were already in our home, but for the most part we maintained our expected sleeping plan.  

Sleeping Plan Goals (prebaby)
1. Our little angel would sleep in her own crib at night.  We would start her in the pack-n-play just because it is smaller, and then move her into the actual crib after the first few weeks.

2. Use a Levana Oma+ baby movement monitor with vibration and alarm.  Use a regular sound baby monitor, once baby was in another room

3. NO pillows or blankets. Footie onesies to stay warm

4.  Our little one would love sleeping flat on her back (... as stated by all doctors...)

What actually happened

**Levana monitor was used for almost a full year.  I love this monitor.  It vibrates to stimulate your baby if they stop breathing for a brief moment.  If they still haven't moved after a certain period of time, an alarm goes off.  The alarm went off a total of 3 times during its use.  Once, we believe it was because she stopped breathing for a short time (something that little ones tend to do while they are sleeping apparently).  The other two times, her monitor had actually gotten separated from her diaper.  Was this totally stressful to wake up to that alarm?? Yes.  Did it also make me feel good to know that the alarm would go off if no movement was felt? YES.

Our sweet little bird came home from the hospital one day old, and it was wonderful.  I had her little pack-n-play all set up in our bedroom.

Night 1: She slept well.  Too well... I actually had to wake her for her feedings every 3 hours.  

Night 2: She ended up spitting up some milk after one of her feedings.  I was scared to death.  How was she suppose to spit up safely while on her back?!?  I panicked, and she spent the rest of the night sleeping in her Rock'n'Play Sleeper, which elevates her back and head.  

Night 3-7: She continued sleeping in her Rock'n'Play Sleeper.  I woke her every 2-3 hours to nurse if she didn't wake first. 

Night 8: We began laying her flat in the Pack'n'Play again, after my pediatrician strongly encouraged me to get her comfortable with sleeping flat again. She did well, especially considering she was waking every 2-3 hours to nurse anyway.  At times she would stay latched for over an hour!  She wasn't getting milk, but she wanted to continue suckling.  I dug into the hospital bag and got the soothie (paci from hospital)--she took it! YAY!  Now mama could get a little more sleep. 

Fast forward to 6 weeks: We moved into the new house!!!! The only space that separates our bedroom from the nursery is our bathroom.  Beginning at 6 weeks, my little one began sleeping in her big crib in the nursery.  She continued to wake every 2-3 hours and I nursed in the nursing chair in her room. She would only accept the soothie paci during the day at this point. She's decided it's a no-go at night time...

Fast forward to 3 months: She continued to wake every 2 hours to nurse. I continued to offer her the soothie (paci from hospital). Sometimes she would take it, most times she would not.

Fast forward to 4 months: She continued to wake every 2 hours to nurse, and I was now back at work. I believe she began using nursing more as a pacifier at times than a true need to nurse for milk. Most attempts to lay her down in the crib resulted in her waking back up and I started the "nursing back to sleep" process all over. I began to buckle her into the baby swing in the living room to let the swinging motion keep her asleep longer....I was sleeping on the couch, just feet away from her.

Fast forward to 5 months: Nothing changed in her routine and needs. I'm getting exhausted from being up so much at night and having to function as a chemistry teacher during the day.  I need to start sleeping in a bed again!  I know she likes the comfort of the swing, the way it curves up around her body.  I begin letting her sleep in swing with no movement to get accustomed to that.  Then I try to simulate the experience in her crib:

Rolled up towels underneath the crib sheet create a little nest
Maybe two of the night time nurses are genuine needs of milk. All other times she is just using me as a pacifier to go to sleep (nurses for 5-10 minutes until she falls asleep). Once, asleep, she is staying asleep more often now that I have the "crib nest".  If she is still waking by 4am, I place her in the swing so I can get at least 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

6 Month Doctor Checkup: SHE IS FINALLY 12 Pounds (closer to 13) !!!! What does this mean?  She should officially be able to sleep for at least 4-6 hours without needing to nurse.  My doctor had not encouraged any form of "cry it out" method yet because she wanted my little one to reach the 12 lb mark first.   So, now it is time to break her nursing/pacifier needs.  SOOOOO much easier said than done....

My pediatrician encouraged me to nurse her before bed, and then not nurse again for at least 4-6 hours.  If she cried, I needed to let her.  She needed to learn to self-sooth.

I HATED THIS! I honestly knew she needed to learn to fall back asleep on her own.  I knew she truly didn't need any milk.  I knew, I knew, I knew... but it was still so hard.  I caved... I just couldn't hear her cry.  I continued on the path of self exhaustion.  Yes, I tried the paci...No, she wouldn't take it.  Yes, we tried letting Noah give her a breastmilk bottle..she would not cooperate.  She continued to cry until I held her.

Fast forward to 7 months:  I literally could not continue. She was now so dependent on nursing to put herself back to sleep that she cried to me every hour on the hour.  It had to stop.  I emotionally prepared for the crying.  I removed the "nest" so that she could fall asleep anywhere in the crib.

Night 1 of Crying it Out:  I nursed her to sleep per usual.  I laid her down for the night.  Like clockwork, she woke up one hour later.  We let her cry....after thirty minutes, I was crying.  I was literally humming hymns to deal with the guilt.  Noah was trying to soothe me. He hated it too but he saw the necessity in it.  She continued to cry... and cry... at 1 hour, the cries were quieter. At 1.5 hours, we just heard a few whimpers and then silence.  I peeked in the nursery, she was fast asleep.  She slept 6 hours straight!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I however, woke every 2 hours and checked on her to ensure she was breathing. (paranoid much?)

Night 2 of Crying it Out: I nursed her to sleep per usual.  I laid her down for the night.  Like clockwork, she woke up one hour later.  We let her cry...after 45 minutes- silence. I peeked in the nursery, she was fast asleep.  She slept 6 hours straight again!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This time I only woke once in the night to check on her.

Night 3 of Crying it Out:  I nursed her to sleep per usual.  I laid her down for the night.  Again, she woke up after one hour.  We let her cry...15 minutes later- silence. I peeked in the nursery, she was fast asleep.  She sleeps 6 hours straight again!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Night 4 of Crying it Out:  I nursed her to sleep.  As I laid her down for the night, she woke.  I left the room anyway.  She cried 5 minutes and then, she was asleep.  She sleeps for 6 hours.

At this point I was only waking up once around 3-4 am to nurse!  My sanity slowly but surely returned as this routine continued for several weeks.  We had a small set back around the 8 month and again at the 10 month mark.  According to several sources, these are common sleep regression ages.  Teething caused a few more minor setbacks.

Fast forward to 1 year: My little one was still "sleeping through the night".  Our schedule was:

              9pm- Final Nurse for the night
              3-4 am Nurse   (She now calls out "Mama!")
              6:30 am- Nurse
              Leave for work

At 18 months we hit another sleep regression, and  this one was pretty tough!  It is tough to ignore, "MAMA, Come get me!!!".  We had to do a mini "cry it out" series of nights again.

At 20 months, she continued to wake too much.  I went against other people's opinions, and decided to replace her crib with a toddler bed.  While others said this move should not be made until ages 3+, I decided her sleeping couldn't really get any worse--and if it truly did, I could bring the crib back.

So right before she was 21 months old. Noah built the toddler bed.  We also decided to add a sound machine (since her room is right by the living room---best purchase ever!!! Why I didn't start using one sooner?!?!?!?...) and a small light (I was fearful of her running into something now that she would be able to get out of her bed by herself). I had spoken with some BM friends and nurses, and they told me that at this age, I need to just cut out the night nursing all together.  I can't keep nursing her to sleep, because that continues to instill in her that she always needs me to fall asleep.  At this point, I agree.  The first night was tough.  She just did NOT understand why she couldn't have "Baba".  She got mad...upset... I felt guilty.  Noah and I finally got her in the bed and we sang songs.  She fell asleep.  Every few hours she would wake, and come to her door and knock as she called out to us.  Each time, I would go in, lay her back down, and sing until she fell asleep.

This continued for 3 weeks. Each night, bedtime got a little easier....she would sleep a little longer, and when she did wake and knock on the door, it would take me minutes to get her to lay back down and go to sleep.

Sometimes, she would fall asleep, but not in the bed... oh well :)
Note the folded quilt "bed pallet" I offer on the floor as well (I've spent some good sleep hours there :)

After about 6 weeks in the toddler bed, things became lovely. We would brush teeth, she would give hugs and kisses, and then she would walk herself to her room and climb in bed. I would sing one song, and she would be asleep.

Now, after 5 months. Corinna LOVES her toddler bed! Since we no longer nurse to sleep, she has learned to successfully go to sleep on her own if she wakes in the night.  If she ever has a bad dream, she simply comes and gets me.  She is able to navigate out of her room and into our bedroom.  She also quickly cooperates about going back to sleep in her own bed!  She prefers it! Our rule has become, if its not light outside, you have to go back to your own bed.

So, at 25 months.... at 2 years old, I finally feel like I have the sleeper that others have had since infancy (mild exaggeration lol).  My little one is a consistent 9:30pm-6:30/7am child who takes one 1-2 hour nap midday.  I know of little ones who have slept this long and longer since they were months old.  My child just wasn't that one.  Did my nursing hinder her sleep progress....probably some...maybe quite a bit... but that was our journey.  I don't think I could have done much differently in hindsight.  When you have to nurse on demand until they are 6 months old due to weight, its hard to break those habits.  That child is already at a cognitive age to know what is going on and what they want.

Loves her bed! Loves having a little (pretty flat) pillow and blankie.
She has ownership of her space, and shes enjoying every minute. 

Do I hope for a better "sleeper" next time? Of course.  It would certainly make life easier.  Am I prepared to do a replay of what I did with my first little one? Yes, but certainly with some changes.  I will begin the sound machine right away--it just helps to drown out the other noises in the house considering our nursery is in the center of our home. While I will nurse as long as it is wanted by my child and myself, I will cut out the "nurse to sleep" bedtime method much sooner than 21 months!!

While there were some serious months of pure exhaustion and emotional trials, in hindsight, it truly does pass quickly. There will be various causes such as teething, sickness, a vacation, etc. that will cause your little one's sleep habits to backslide, but know that with a little time, things will return to an ideal state.  Your little one will continue to grow, they will sleep better, they will still need you for something....and we will be there. With love, open arms, and understanding.

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