My Priorities for Baby’s First Year
As I reflect back on the past year, here are some of the key takeaways I’d like to share with you.
Set your own goals. What works best for you, your partner, and your baby. And, do your best to meet them…but don’t get discouraged if you don’t.
Take classes offered by your hospital and read What to Expect (or similar book).
Be Prepared to Toss Your Birthing Plan Out the Window (or Don’t Have One)
I just knew that I wanted what was safest for baby and me, and that was a delivery at the hospital with a readily available NICU should we need one. And, I knew I preferred the delivery-style of a midwife. Other than that, I just went with the flow and let my nurses/midwife/doctors inducing me early (with pre-eclampsia) and the baby be my guide. As a result, I wasn’t disappointed when nothing went to plan. It also let me focus my energy on delivering a healthy baby.
Establish a Sleep Schedule
Baby Wise came in really handy here and we both read it prior to the arrival of the little one, but kept it nearby for reference.
Become a Swaddlemaster
Happiest Baby on the Block came as a book & DVD combo which we opted for. Once we both were done reading the book during the pregnancy, we watched the video to reinforce our learnings.
Establish a Nighttime Routine That Works for You
Once our little one was able to take baths in the grow-with-me style baby tub (after the umbilical cord had fallen off), we only did these every other night. (Research recommends only twice per week, in fact to help prevent skin dryness). We played the Rubber Ducky song on our smart phones either prior to the bath or during the bath, to remind her what time it was. We also had plenty of bath toys at the ready to keep her entertained while we cleaned her up. The bath was followed by a baby lotion massage with Classical Relaxation Radio on Pandora, a little baby oil on the scalp, brushing of the hair, a “mani/pedi” by filing her nails, and starting around 6-months brushing her teeth with a baby toothbrush (even if there weren’t any teeth there just yet, we brushed her gums and tongue). This was capped off with a couple of baby books, put in her swaddle or sleep sack, and the sound machine and/or crib soother put on. On the non-bath nights, we repeated the toothbrush and reading parts only. Our little one is up at 7am every morning, and at night we follow her cues if and when she was ready for bedtime each night, which falls around 8pm. (Varies depending on the length of daytime naps).
Read, Early & Often*
We received several kids books by way of my baby shower. We started reading to her the first week she came home from the hospital. And, read every single night at bedtime. We also have books available for reading in her play area too.
Baby Sign Language*
Not only is it proven to grow your little one’s vocabulary, but it will help them through the “terrible two’s” when they know what they want, but no way to vocalize it. It’s the same thing as American Sign Language (ASL) and we found the Baby Signing Time 4-disc set helpful in teaching us the signs so we could reuse around baby. We started watching the DVDs while I was still home on my 12-week maternity leave. If you want your child to know it by age 2, then you’re best to encourage it early and often. Once baby was a bit more self-sufficient, sitting on her own, using the highchair, etc. it freed up our hands to get more aggressive in teaching this. Remember, you are your own child’s best teacher. So, teach whatever is most important to you.
Acclimation to Water / Waterbabies “Swim” Lessons*
We’re both kayakers, so we knew we wanted to introduce baby to our favorite hobby when age-appropriate. But, we also wanted her to be familiar with water for this and swimming down the road too. Waterbabies, offered by a local municipal association, was a 6-week program designed to acclimate with the safety of mom and dad holding on at all times. Games, catching floating Easter eggs, and “jumping” into the pool (being lowered down by mom or dad with head kept out of the water) were all taught. Our little one started her lessons at 5-months old.
Update: We did manage to safely take her out to a nearby flatwater lake, with weight-rated PFD and head-to-toe sun-protectant clothing, on her at 10-months-old. See photo to the right.
To get prepared for the unknown, we took a class through the hospital. We also relied on the lactation consultants at the hospital where our baby was born. Although she would latch properly, no milk was to come…until ultimately, after five days post-delivery on a hospital-grade pump, I finally saw my first production. Small production. I ended up seeing the lactation consultants at the pediatrician’s office and had to go through some routine testing at my PCP to see if we could find the cause for the low supply. I was also drinking a lot of water and getting plenty of sleep. Ultimately, I found that Fenugreek herbal supplement worked for me, as well as pumping, supplemented by formula where the supply lacked. (The lactation consultant I met with at the pediatric office said that Mother’s Milk Tea would also help if you had several cups throughout the day, which I never knew I would get to). I was so focused on there only being one option here when my little one was born, that I didn’t have a back-up plan to rely on initially. Ultimately the doctors and nurses worked with me to establish this unexpected plan B. I wish the class had taught about the complications that often come with breastfeeding and how to overcome those.
Make Our Own Baby Food
Once our baby was nearing 6-months old, we made several foods ourselves, by way of our already existing blender and food processor (nothing special needed here), and then bought some unsweetened, no sugar added foods, to supplement. We also had prune juice and apple juice on standby (ready to be watered down) when she needed either, but our pediatric office recommended just water when breastmilk or formula were not given. By 6 months, our little one was being offered four 8-oz bottles of formula per day, so we would fit in solids after the first, second, and fourth bottles of the day, which coincided with adult mealtime. We also took a liking to Plum organic baby food packs, since once you open a jar of baby food, you can’t feed the baby right from it (because saliva on the spoon breaks leftovers down faster). These food packs were easy to squirt onto a spoon, baby liked the flavors, and they supplemented the foods we weren’t making ourselves. We made sure not to get stuck in the baby cereal rut by offering low-allergenic foods early and often (if they refuse the food once, doesn’t mean to stop trying). By 9-months, we were offering her foods that could easily be mashed with the gums and long and skinny pieces of food that she could easily pick up on her own (following some baby-led weaning practices).
Establish a Daytime Nap Routine That Works for You
Once our little one was making it though longer sleep at night, we made sure that anywhere from one-two daytime naps, totaling no more than 2.5 hours combined, were part of her routine. We follow her cues and put her down for a nap when she’s tired and as long as it wasn’t coming up on mealtime. Daytime naps are essential for good sleep at night. We don’t want to overdo the length of them either, so that long nighttime sleep can take place.
I had no idea how important this one would be. When we were shopping for daycare centers during the pregnancy, we ended up touring six in-home and four centers. We ended up opting for an in-home, for a multitude of reasons (proximity to home couldn’t be beat, price couldn’t be beat allowing us to save more for her later years, and the license inspections were spotless when compared to those of the centers we had looked at, etc). But, one additional benefit: since the kids are young, but a multitude of ages, our little one is growing up accustomed to other babies, as well as kids who are walking and talking too. She made “friends” very quickly at daycare.
Stock Up When Items Go on Sale
If there’s an item you anticipate you’ll need a great supply of and you know what brands you have affinity towards, take advantage of diaper and food sales. I hopped on two different sales that Target ran during my pregnancy, to get 6 boxes of Pampers plus a $85 gift card each time, for a fixed price tag. We rarely had to buy any diapers once she was born. Also, occasionally our supermarket will run deals on baby food items and we stock up on those particular items when they are on sale. We also traded with other local moms for all the Enfamil coupons that would be printed at the register for the Similac ones that I needed. Since our little one was placed on Similac to supplement, during her first days at the hospital, and had no complications with that, I continued to use that brand at her pediatric doctor’s suggestion. Similac Non-GMO powdered formula is available at Costco.
Take Advice with a Grain of Salt: Do What’s Best for You
I took bits and pieces of advice from everyone. I tried whatever worked best for us. For instance, when we were getting baby to prolong nighttime sleep, my husband’s coworker recommended going up a size of diaper at night…and it worked like a charm. I also was careful to give advice myself, unless requested. Each parent has their own ways for wanting to raise their kids…so did my best to not impede, but be there when needed. So, here I am writing about it…if you so choose to seek it out.
And, Finally…Wipes Do Not Ever Come Out of the Package Just One at a Time
Let me know if you figure this one out. I’m still desperately seeking advice on this one.
*We set three goals prior to baby and focused on those. Although this list is a bit longer than those three, they are other things that just naturally came out of the first year.