Mom Moments With A 9 Month Old

My son is 9 months old.

He took his first step a few days before he turned 9 months. He’s still not walking on his own, but he’s taken up to two steps at a time, and he absolutely loves pushing the office chair around the living room. We’re also not trying very hard to get him to walk more. He’s on the early end, and he gets into enough and moves around enough without being a walker too. We’re in no rush.

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Trying diced avocado yesterday

He’s the cutest, most wonderful person. I mean really, is he not adorable? He so smiley, his giggle lights up my life, and he makes the cutest noises that make even people who have had multiple children comment on how cute and funny he is. He’s wonderful.

But, he’s also a little low on weight. He’s always been long and skinny, but he dropped below his normal percentile range, so his doctor urged me to work on getting more calories into him during the day. Thankfully, she didn’t suggest formula. Maybe she will if we go in to weigh him in a month and he’s still at 1st percentile (instead of his usual 5th-10th), but for now she just wants to see if we can shovel a little more food into that tiny tummy every day.

And she suggested avocado. I love his doctor. I’m not sure why I hadn’t ever gotten around to having him try avocado before, but he made some headway on the contents of that plate yesterday, and enjoyed every moment of it.

But really, what is a mom supposed to do when her baby’s health care giver says, “He needs a little more meat on his bones”? What is she supposed to feel? I know I haven’t been doing anything wrong, per se, but apparently I wasn’t as on top of his daily feedings as I needed to be. He was eating 2-3 solid food meals and nursing multiple times a day just fine, usually twice each wake time. I made sure to get at least one good protein source, like a full can of baby meat, into him each day. People commented on him being a good eater, so I thought it was enough, but there were some signs. I was starting to get a suspicion that something was up; I probably wasn’t too far behind the doctor, but she had numbers while I only had first-time mom observations. He hadn’t eaten as well when he had a cold. He had increased his nighttime feedings (he’d been down to waking me up 1-2 times before his cold, and now was back to 3+) and naps weren’t going as long as they should. All of those can be signs of not getting enough calories, and therefore waking up hungry.

I was definitely starting to realize something was up. So hopefully it really was his need for more calories, which he was communicating to me with bad sleep instead of by crying for food when he’s awake.

Last night was certainly encouraging. Yesterday, I got as much food into him as I could. He nursed when he woke up, then ate 3 ounces of baby oatmeal with fruit, then nursed again before his nap. He woke up, nursed a little, at some avocado finger food, we went for a walk, came back and got a good lunch of about 5-6 ounces of food into him, and then nursed a little bit before his last nap. When he woke up, I again gave him a full meal, probably about 7 ounces this time (a full 6 ounce 3rd foods jar of baby food and the last of some banana from lunch). Then he hung out in the kitchen while I cooked, and I gave him a couple of tiny pieces of bacon while I cooked. He had a final late night small meal of 2-3 ounces of meat and veggies, followed by bath, a last full nursing session, and bed.

The result? He woke me up only three times, and did it like clockwork at the times that I would expect him to wake me up (1, 4, and 6), and he slept in until 8:30. Now, after nursing, breakfast, nursing again, he’s well into his first nap without waking up prematurely.

This is amazing.

I have some very real hopes that this is the solution to his waking up from sleep so often. I have some very real hopes for him starting to sleep through the night, or at least get down to waking me up only once. That would be amazing. And while I doubt I’ll ever have a chunk, I am looking forward to him getting his little belly back.

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When he had a little belly at about 7 months when he was in a better weight percentile

 

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Frustrations With Anti-Cry-It-Out Articles

Decades ago, Dr. Spock was the leading authority on parenting in American homes. His method of sleep training was to set a child in his or her crib, walk away, and not come back in until after they had slept.

For some children, who naturally learn to fall asleep on their own quickly and easily, this method might work. For an older child who is refusing to fall asleep on their own long after it shouldn’t be an issue, it might be the best method. But too many parents have children who will be more hysterical after an hour than they were after fifteen minutes, or who will scream so hard for so long that they they vomit every time. This method doesn’t take into account health issues like reflux that can make it difficult for a baby to fall asleep.

There are articles all over the place about cry-it-out sleep training, some for it and some against it. The confusion comes with the definitions and ages being spoken of, especially with the articles against it, because many methods of sleep training get labelled as “cry-it-out” even if it’s much milder than Dr. Spock’s method, and the articles against it don’t differentiate.

Let me explain. A lot of the time you’ll read something like, “Cry it out sleep training damages babies who are allowed to cry for extended periods.” The whole article is then based on that, citing sources that are be difficult to find or need to be paid for in order to obtain. But they so rarely define the most important terms.

Cry-It-Out: does this refer to Dr. Spock’s method, or any method that involves crying, even those that allow for frequent comforting or that limit the crying to a short time? It’s not hard to imagine that there’s quite a different between a baby crying for five minutes and then being soothed versus a baby being left alone to cry, perhaps hysterically, until overwhelmed by sheer exhaustion or defeat.

Damages: this is unfortunately the best defined part of the statement, leaving parents stressed out about what harm they may be doing to their baby.

Babies: What hurts a newborn may not hurt a six month old, even though they’re both babies. For instance, I read recently that the Ferber method (a strict method, but gentler than Spock’s) doesn’t damage babies after about six months old. That implies that, in this case, the “babies” it potentially damages are babies younger than six months old, rather than all babies. Virtually any sleep training method is going to be damaging to a newborn. But a few very gentle things can begin to be done very early, like beginning to put the baby down in their own crib once their asleep, or putting them down right before they’re fully asleep and letting them finish falling asleep on their own. The older a baby gets, the more you can reasonably do. Since we shouldn’t give in to a toddler’s demands just because they’re crying, there’s obviously a point where stopping a child’s tears is no longer necessary to their health in every situation. These articles almost always fail to define the age range or development of the children that can be damaged by certain sleep training methods, or define at what point the risk is lower or altogether gone.

Allowed to cry: there’s a clear difference between a baby who’s just complaining or mad because they aren’t getting what they want, and a baby who is truly in need of their caregiver’s comfort. I don’t soothe my eight month old when he throws a fit because I took away something he shouldn’t have, and the fit usually lasts only moments anyways. But I will comfort my son immediately when he’s hurt, anxious, or otherwise truly in need of my comfort. When he goes down for a nap, he’ll sometimes just complain for a few minutes and then go to sleep, but other times the cry will turn to a “Mommy save me, I really need you” cry, which is different. But what kind of crying are these articles referring to?

Extended periods: what is an extended period? Some parents may feel this is no more than five minutes, while others think it’s an hour. So what is it? Five minutes? Fifteen? Thirty? Sixty? More?

Obviously, it can be hard to make decisions about parenting when you don’t have all the available information. A parent who sees this largely undefined assertion, with the only thing being made clear is that babies can be damaged, might be afraid to do anything for a long, long time, perhaps even into toddler stages. They may put themselves under wholly unnecessary stress, and even rob themselves and their child of the ability to sleep better and longer out of fear.

It’s obviously important to not damage our children. But we as parents also deserve the full evidence available, rather than having unreasonable fear instilled in us.

A lot of parents to choose a middle ground, especially with children who don’t respond to longer sessions of parental absence well. Some kids sleep train quickly and easily, but others don’t. Most parents seem to be of the opinion that, at the very least, a child who resists falling asleep should be checked on and soothed at intervals, especially if there’s any risk of the child vomiting. Some sleep train gradually, one step at a time rather than all at once, which still often allows for some crying as sleep props such as being rocked through a nap or nursing to sleep are taken away and as the child is encouraged to sleep in their own bed and to put themselves to sleep. Obviously these methods aren’t nearly as harsh as Dr. Spock’s method, or even the Ferber method, which are the methods I suspect are being referred to.

Most parents also realize that their newborn should not be sleeping through the night, and that there can be many factors that delay sleeping through the night. Many, like myself, understand that maintaining at least one night feeding can be essential to keeping up breast feeding long term, even if the child is technically old enough and big enough to sleep through the night without the feeding. Most parents approach sleep training by what they can do for the child’s age without undue stress on either themselves for their child. This is again not nearly as harsh as some of the more extreme methods out there. I even read about one a few months ago that suggested starting to refuse night feedings to a baby starting at only weeks old. That one made me angry. Most parents instinctively know that such a thing is horrible to do to their baby.

But most parents also know that their six month old shouldn’t need to be rocked through his or her whole nap, or doesn’t need to be nursed to sleep every time, or can start learning to put him or herself to sleep. And sometimes, that involves a few tears.

It would be really helpful if the articles on sleep training would just define their terms or share more of the pertinent details of their cited sources. Instead of causing many parents to feel condemned or making people think that anyone who doesn’t use their extremely “gentle” method is cruel, we might actually be able to get some answers on what actually is best for our children, and what shades of grey between the extremes are acceptable.

Mama Needs Sleep

We have a little one bedroom apartment. We made a rough transition to my husband being the source of our income in early spring of 2013, so we couldn’t afford anything bigger even knowing that we were expecting a baby. At the time, we thought we were going to be renting my parents house from them by now, since they thought that they’d be moving onto the new property that they’re building on. Unfortunately, their building plans have had changes and delays, and we’re still in a little one bedroom with a seven month old.

We do have prospects for moving out; it’s mostly a question of when, and whether we’ll be making our first home purchase or renting again and waiting a year or two to purchase.

Until then, we’re a family of three in a one bedroom apartment.

At first, having our son in our bedroom was a blessing. Newborns need to eat regularly through the night, and safe co-sleeping — which can include simply sleeping a few feet away from the parents in a separate sleeping space — can be highly beneficial to breast feeding and to reducing the risk of SIDS, assuming parents aren’t smokers and such.

But my son is old enough that he doesn’t need to wake up multiple times through the night. He doesn’t need me the way he did as a newborn, or even as a three or four month old. He’s old enough, big enough, and on solid foods, which all means he can sleep through the night, or at least wake up significantly less often than he tends to.

The stretch between 4am and waking up in the morning, usually by 7am, is the worst. He always wakes up at least once, and it’s not uncommon for him to wake up 2-3 times in that short stretch. A seven month old does not require that. I know he doesn’t require it, because only about two of the times that he wakes me up through the whole night are for actual real, full feedings.

I know that hearing his every little complaint or difficulty getting comfortable doesn’t do my sleep any favors, even on the occasions that he doesn’t start crying and demanding me, and having us and the cats in the room didn’t help him either. Worrying about my husband needing to work first thing in the morning kept me from being able to ignore my son while he complained and resettled, too, because it would wake my husband up and make him potentially get even less sleep than me.

My husband and I finally did what we needed to do a couple of days ago. We rearranged our apartment.

This does mean that the bedroom is not longer our bedroom. It’s like we have a studio apartment for ourselves, and a bedroom for our son. My bookcases are now our headboard, and I can dive onto the bed from our dining area if I wanted to. And from our desk. And from our living room.

I really can’t wait for a house.

However, this is already significantly better as far as getting a good nights’ sleep. My son has actually been able to sleep in after we’ve been out late with family, which used to be a never. Last night, he only woke me up twice through the night, and when I thought we were about to be up at 7:30am, he ate and fell back to sleep for another hour-ish.

Its very possible that I’m simply sleeping through him waking up. He has to actually get kind of noisy instead of just complain in order to wake me up. I’m totally okay with that. It is very normal and healthy for him to learn to put himself back to sleep when he rouses, just like adults do. Adults don’t usually even remember resettling. If he’s truly distressed or in need of me, he’s going to get loud enough to wake me up. That kid is capable of some impressive yells when he wants to. But if he’s not truly in need of me, I’m okay with him complaining to himself for a few minutes and putting himself back to sleep. It will teach him to resettle the same way adults do, which is ultimately more restful for him, and in the meantime I get more sleep, which is more restful for me.

What about nursing, you ask? Well, I’m okay with him waking me up 1-2 times. He’s not going to go without. This is the plan, which worked out perfectly last night: nurse him shortly before or right at bedtime (8pm) so he goes to sleep well fed. Wake him up again when I go to sleep, which is usually around 10-10:30pm. Then he can have up to two feedings through the night, around 1am and around 4pm, give or take about half an hour. He then normally wakes up around 6:30-7am, and gets fed again not long after waking up. All this means that he gets to eat every 2-4 hours through the night still, without taxing me beyond what I feel I can continue to maintain long-term. He could probably be perfectly healthy and well fed with one less feeding at night, in fact, but I’ll let that happen after we’ve gotten used to this new schedule. We’ll give up night feedings over time, ending them altogether when he stops needing to breastfeed if they haven’t ended already. Waking up at least once through the night helps keep milk supply high enough to breastfeed to 1 year or longer, but 1-2 times isn’t so stressful on my body that I don’t get enough sleep to function well.

What about getting enough calories in him, you ask? Well, he is on solid foods for some meals now, and I’m increasing as needed. A few other moms have told me that getting foods with higher fat and protein content, like meat, make the most difference. That makes sense, since those are more useful to the body than carbohydrates and take longer to digest. Evening feedings are the priorities with solid foods right now, and I’ve been trying to get in at least one food with more fat and/or protein in it. Basically, he doesn’t get so few calories during the day that he can’t go longer at night, which will be important as we start dropping the night feedings.

I know a lot of people are about feeding on demand for as long as the baby/toddler wants. The problem I was having with this is that he came to expect to be allowed to latch every time he got upset and wanted comfort during the night, because my reaction to any crying or complaining was to nurse. The truth is, you don’t have to stick a boob in your nursing baby’s mouth every time they cry to be a good parent, or to feed them enough. It’s okay to truly take a careful look at their actual needs and your actual needs, and meet both. And its okay for both of you to need to sleep better at night. The transition to doing so may be a little rough, and like my son, they’ll probably need their own room to do it.

That’s okay.

Heck. I know my son and I have both slept better the last two nights than we have in a few months. That’s definitely okay.

Yes, I Sleep Train My Baby. No, I’m Not Abusive.

There is a lot of loaded discussion when it comes to sleep training. I’ve seen enough comments along the lines of, “People who let their children cry it out are cruel!” to know that there is a lot of emotion involved in this topic.

The one that always gets me is when they throw out some study or other that “proved” that crying it out is damaging to children because of something like impairment of brain development or something along those lines. I have to wonder how many people have actually seen the full study(ies), and if they could answer some of these questions for me:

  • What kind of cry-it-out training was studied? For instance, was this a sort where a parent chose a naptime arbitrarily, rather than based on the child’s natural rhythms? Where a parent put them down and walked away without ever checking in, offering comfort, making sure they were fed recently enough before nap time, etc? Or was it a cry-it-out that was based on the child’s natural nap needs, where the parent didn’t just ignore their child, and where it was teaching them to be comfortable falling asleep in bed rather than in a parent’s arms or while nursing or rocking?
  • Was the child well-fed? Did the cry-it-out training involve not meeting their nutrition needs, especially a younger infant’s nighttime needs? Or was it a sleep training that also met their natural eating rhythms, but made them routine and which evolved as the nutritional needs did by, for instance, doing less night feedings as the child needed less with age, weight, and adequate day feeding?
  • Why would cry-it-out training be more damaging than, say, colic? Both involve crying, and colic can involve hours upon hours of crying at a time, which crying-it-out (especially when not done neglectfully) usually does not, particularly after the first couple of days on average.
  • What control(s) were used? Who were involved in the comparison groups? What were the standards and the measurements? What confounding factors, such as age or weight at birth or health conditions, were controlled?

See, not so black and white.

Or the people who claim that sleep training makes a child lose trust in their caregivers and feel neglected or abandoned. Many of the same questions apply as above. What sort of sleep training are you talking about? What objective measures are you using?

I can certainly see how some forms of sleep training can be neglectful or abusive and therefore damaging, but I think that many parents who sleep train are anything but and their methods are anything but.

You see, my six month old son has learned to go to sleep almost every nap time without tears, and with no more than a minute or so of protest. I make sure he has his binkie, his “cuddle buddy” (one of those tiny blankets with a stuffed animal head in the middle), and a blanket. He cuddles up with the cuddle buddy and falls asleep happily most of the time. I don’t have to feed him to sleep. I don’t have to rock him as he fights me (him fighting me is what prompted me to begin sleep training). I don’t have to kill my back rocking him for half and hour or more when he gets sleepy and cranky. I wait until he’s clearly tired, usually about three hours after he last woke up, and I put him down with those comforting things, and he falls asleep.

How is that cruel? How is that neglectful?

It’s not that we never have a rougher nap time. He’s in transition from three naps to two right now, so he’s often still very tired in the evening, but not willing to sleep. I’ll often still put him down when he gets cranky, but if it’s clear he’s not going to fall asleep, he comes back out of the crib, usually within half an hour. I can’t force sleep on him, after all. I’m looking forward to when this transition is done, because a cranky baby who won’t sleep is no fun for anyone, including the baby.

And that’s natural.

We’ve also begun working on giving up the night feedings that he doesn’t need, being six months, about 14 pounds, and eating some solids. He still comfort feeds when he wakes up between sleep cycles, and since he’s capable of finding the comfort he needs right in his own crib with little or no fuss, we began working on doing so this week with one of his night feedings. Last night, it took only about fifteen minutes for him to fall asleep when he’d normally nurse. There was some protesting, but no screaming. No tears. I rocked him for a moment, and then set him down the same way I do at nap times. I am hopeful that in a few days, or at most a few weeks, he will have learned to put himself back to sleep quickly on his own. Then we’ll move on from there to another night feeding. My goal is to get from 4-5 to 1-2 night feedings very soon. Who knows? Maybe training him with one feeding will naturally carry over to the other feedings where he’s not actually hungry, and we’ll both sleep better at night in no time. Consistent night sleep is good for both of our brains, after all.

How is that cruel? How is that neglectful?

Honestly, children cry, and sometimes they do so in response to learning good things. Sometimes they fight things really hard, even if it’s something they ultimately will benefit from. There’s a difference between making them cry through cruelty and neglect, and making them cry because you’re teaching them something beneficial. There’s a difference between putting them down and ignoring them, regardless of their current needs, compared to teaching them a new habit and a routine.

The parent shouldn’t abdicate involved in the process of them learning this. They shouldn’t assume that the bed has become the parent the moment they are put down. My own son has this silly habit of rolling onto his stomach when he’s fighting falling asleep, and it will make him so mad that he’ll cry, spit out his binkie, and won’t roll back over. I check on him frequently enough that this never lasts more than a couple of minutes, because I’ll go in, roll him back over, replace his binkie, hand him his cuddle buddy, cover him back up, and give him a smile or a soft touch or spoken reassurance or a song before leaving again. Many times, this has been all he needed to calm down and fall asleep. Occasionally, I’ll pick him up, reassure him and cuddle him for a minute, and then put him back down. This has also often been all he needed to fall asleep. And because of this, he now often falls asleep easier in his own bed than if I try to rock him to sleep.

How is that cruel? How is that neglectful?

Routines are good for children, even very young ones. Finding comfort and familiarity with something good — their own bed at nap time — is a good thing. Children sleeping through the night is a good thing, as long as their needs aren’t being neglected (such as a younger infant’s need to eat at night still). And being able to do this while saving a parent’s body, mental health, and even giving them less sleep interruptions, is a good thing too.

Book Review: Baby Wise

 

I wish I had read this book sooner.

This book was recommended to me, but exactly what it contained and when it could be implemented wasn’t communicated to me until my son was five months old, at which point I went out and found it at Value Village and read it through the next day.

Since that was today, I obviously haven’t implemented it yet, but I have heard about other moms’ experiences with it and seen their children, and it’s very encouraging. I will likely report back on the effectiveness of the method at some point.

The point of Baby Wise is to help establish a routine and awareness of how a baby’s needs can me met best within a (flexible) routine, with the outcome of establishing sleep,  eat, and wake patterns that lead to sleeping through the night faster and to a better sleep schedule and a rested baby in general.

One of the keys to this is feeding upon the baby waking, rather than feeding the baby randomly or feeding the baby to sleep. This encourages the baby to feed when it has the most energy to get  a full, good feeding, to not use feeding as a sleep aid and therefore not learn to self soothe or fall asleep on his/her own, gives plenty of energy for fun, productive, happy wakeful times, and decreases reflux and gassy tummies.

One good thing about this method is that it goes to neither extreme. It doesn’t schedule feelings so strictly that the baby could be left hungry for long periods or hurt the mom’s milk supply, nor does it leave a mom a slave to a baby’s unpredictable schedule or every cry. It doesn’t leave a mom constantly holding a fussy, sleepy baby, nor does it leave a baby with absolutely no comfort or as a slave to a schedule that might not work for his or her developmental stage.m

It makes sense, but more importantly, I know a number of moms who loved this book. If only I had sooner understood why! I fully expect to be among those moms who have gotten good results from this method. And I am so, so looking forward to my little man sleeping through the night finally.

Church, We’re Failing Our Youth

I recently bought a copy of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, when I saw it at my local thrift store. I don’t particularly want to read it. I expect it to have a lot of misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lapses in logic, and to generally be very condescending towards my beliefs. But I also expect it to be a fair representation of how many atheists and agnostics feel and what they believe, which is important to understand, both for apologetics and effective evangelism.

You see, people get to high school or college and hear liberals and atheists and skeptics bashing their faith with intellectualism all the time. Sometimes this happens later in life, too, but it’s endemic among our young people. I don’t want my child to leave the Christian faith in eighteen years because I didn’t equip him with the answers or the ability to find answers.

I find it annoying when atheists try to say that Christians shouldn’t seek to include intellectualism in their faith. This idea probably comes from a basis of believing Christianity to be inherently non-intellectual or pure make-believe, and that true intellectualism leads to atheism. Okay, fine. But if Christianity is true, it will be intellectually compatible. If Christianity is true, intellectualism will support it. What does the atheist lose if Christians seek to be intellectual in their faith? Either they will find support, or they will find that their faith lacks the support truth should have.

Jesus told us that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27)

The church tends to approach faith, and what it should be based in, in two ways.

First is to base faith primarily off of emotion and experience. There’s a moving alter call at summer camp, a teenager gets saved. There’s a powerful sermon, someone raises their hand in church. The songs are moving. The experiences are stirring. The problem is that, while you’re loving God with all your heart, there’s very little mind going on here. Experiences are encountered in many worldviews, so they’re not a very strong basis for faith. When it comes to loving God with the mind, this faith is very weak, and it can be enough to cause people to lose their faith when they’re confronted with atheists’ intellectual views.

The second is a more legalistic, controlling approach. This approach tends to be very conservative, even to the point of fundamentalism. This approach often discourages questioning, or controls questioning in such a way that someone may feel that they’re allowed to ask questions, but it’s mostly an illusion because they’re subtly guided into asking “safe” questions with “safe” answers that can be obtained from “safe” sources. These people tend to be strong in their faith in/love of God, but their mind is neglected. When confronted with skeptical or atheistic views, they either shut them down and exercise blind faith, or they lose faith.

The most dangerous is a combination of these two approaches. Cults and false religions often use the combination, because it makes it easy for members to justify and maintain blind faith and to avoid challenges to their faith. The combination is also the most likely to produce atheists when a member does actually confront the hard questions.

There’s an alternative, though. We can obey Jesus and nourish our minds when it comes to loving God. We can feel the feelings, but we know the feelings are going along with reasonable beliefs. We can be strong in our faith, but not blindly so.

Most importantly, we can train up our children to have this sort of faith of the mind as well as faith of the heart and strength in their faith. To do this, though, we have to be willing to seek out an intellectually honest faith and be able to answer the hard questions.

This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to read The God Delusion like I will be doing. It does mean that if your teenager is given a copy by an atheist friend, you should have equipped them to know how to deal with the contents.

If you don’t know where to begin with this endeavor, here’s a few books to start with. The first four are easy enough that you can probably read these with your children by middle school, if not sooner, and the last one should be readable no later than high school.

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

On Guard by William Lane Craig

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Frank Turek

Ten Tips For Surviving Early Motherhood

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My son is four months old. He’s pretty much the cutest thing ever. He’s also the most challenging, time-consuming things I’ve ever experienced. Don’t get me wrong, he’s actually a pretty easy baby as far as babies go. I don’t get screamed at much, and when I do there’s usually something I can do to fix it within just a few minutes. But even the best baby (which he isn’t) is still demanding and time-consuming by nature.

But I’m surviving it. Not only am I surviving it, I’m enjoying it. To do so, I’ve had to learn some things, and learn them fast. You see, I barely even babysat, and never infants. I think the last diaper I changed before having my son was when I was fourteen. Under duress. And supervised. Seriously. Heck, I didn’t even want kids until I was about seventeen, when I finally realized that creating another person who is half of you and half of the person you love might actually be kinda amazing.

My mom was a bit worried about how well I’d handle motherhood, at least at the beginning, because of this. How well could a completely inexperienced person who had barely known what to do with a baby except support its head take to motherhood? Thankfully, I’m a listener, and I pay attention. I’ve got seven nieces and nephews thanks to marrying a man with said nieces and nephews, my own mom had plenty of tips, and I listened to other parents. Maybe I hadn’t changed a diaper on my own since I was fourteen, but I’d sure seen my sister-in-law do it a few dozen times, and the concept is easy enough.

Well, I’ve been doing fairly well, I think. My mom says so. I haven’t had to call anyone because I’m having a complete freak out or break down. I’m crazy about my son, and love time with him. I’m not saying this to brag; I’ve gotten tons of good advice, and I would have been lost if I hadn’t paid attention to it. So I want to share some of that advice — and what I’ve had to figure out — with other new moms.

1) Sleep when the baby sleeps. 

I know many moms’ first reaction to this is, “When will I do anything else?” Well, a baby’s minimum sleep requirements is greater than your maximum, so if your little one gave you a few hours less sleep during the night than you need to function well, sleep during one or even two of their naps. You’re probably still going to have at least one of their nap times where you don’t need to sleep and can get other things done. I promise, you’re going to be a lot more functional and able to handle the baby — especially a colicky or cranky baby — if you’re not running off of too little sleep.

2) Don’t be afraid to baby-wear.

This recommendation isn’t just some granola it’s-good-for-you-and-baby thing. This can be extremely useful to your ability to get things done and be semi-normal even if your infant is being clingy. There are limitations to what you can do with a baby strapped to your chest, but there are a lot more things you can do than if you’re having to hold them. If your baby just won’t be comforted or entertained in a swing, on their back, or wherever else, strap them on and figure out what you can do with them on you.

3) Accept down-time.

There have been days when my son just needed to cuddle me while he slept. Even being next to me wasn’t enough; he needed to be sleeping on my chest or in my arms. Well, moms, we’re so quick to complain that we don’t have time to just sit and read a book anymore. So do that. Or watch a show. Whatever. I’ve had a number of times where I just propped myself up on some pillows and read a book, played on my iPad, or watched How I Met Your Mother while my baby napped on me. It’s okay. Your baby will give you opportunity to get something done later, or tomorrow, or sometime.

4) Forget perfection and quickness.

It took me a month to scrub my kitchen floor. Part of that was because I don’t think any previous tenants had done it in years, so the dirt had compacted into the lines in the linoleum to the point that I literally had to scrape it out with a screwdriver. Yeah, that’s as gross as it sounds. No way I was going to leave that undone knowing my son would be crawling on that floor in just a few months. But what would have taken a few very long days before I was a mom took me a month, because I was limited to a few hours a day and couldn’t get to it every day. That’s okay. It got done. Don’t get me wrong, I was sick of it and relieved when it was finished, but I don’t have to do it again and I won’ t be horrified when his little hands go from that floor to his mouth in a few months.

5) Smile when they cry.

No, really.

A baby has only a few simple needs, and you’re capable of handling all of them, which means that you don’t need to stress or freak out when your baby is letting you know they have a need. Are they hungry? Need to burp? Need a clean diaper? Tired? Want to be held? If they’re older, do they need to be put down to play? Be engaged or allowed to look around? Are they teething? And sometimes, a baby just needs to cry. That can be tiring, but it’s okay. You’ve got this, and they aren’t going to cry forever.

Keeping more or less positive when they cry is probably harder with some babies than others. I know my little man has a pretty easy-to-handle cry. It’s not shrill or annoying. He’s also got the most ridiculously cute pout. Not all babies are like that. So if you’re at a point where your kiddo won’t stop crying and you just can’t handle it anymore, it’s okay to set them down somewhere safe or hand them off to someone trusted and take a break for five or ten minutes.

6) Take a walk.

My son loves when I go on walks, whether he’s in the stroller or the Moby wrap. Most babies love the outdoors and taking in new sights. My kiddo often falls asleep, or is ready to do so by the time I get home. More than once, he’s been fighting sleep or being cranky, so I’ll load him up in the stroller or strap him on in the wrap and head out. Sometimes I just walk a couple of blocks to the coffee stand for a chai tea and come back home. It’s my plot to get him to sleep while getting myself a pick-me-up, and it’s usually successful. Walking is also very good for you for a number of reasons, such as exercise and endorphins (which can help combat any baby blues), so make it happen. If the weather isn’t great, just bundle up yourself and your baby, but short of it raining too heavily, go anyways.

7) Think of them as an extension of you. 

Breaks are good, but you can only get them so often, so when it’s just you and baby, just take it as a matter of fact. Checking that you have an extra outfit and enough diapers and wipes in the diaper bag, loading them up in the car seat, and getting them, their stuff, and your stuff out to the car is your new routine. Accept it. It doesn’t have to excite you, but don’t get grumpy over it either. I know life is way different with a kid, and nothing is quite as simple, but it will be a lot easier on you emotionally if you accept that instead of living in a constant state of annoyance or negativity over it. Finding tools to make this as easy as a possible is helpful, of course. Swings, bouncers, boppy pillows, Bumbo seats, floor gyms, a wrap or carrier, a good jogging stroller…whatever you need.

8) Cherish (and ask for) breaks.

I’ve loved the couple of date nights my hubby and I have had child-free, thanks to my mom babysitting, and I love handing my little mister off to people I trust when I’m around them so that I get small breaks. Even five minutes of him not being attached to me is a blessing. I know that most of the time I exist in number seven, so number eight is very helpful for staying sane. If you have to, ask for a break. See if a family member, trusted friend, or your spouse can give you time to nap, or run to the store baby-free, or entertain the baby long enough for you to shower and do the dishes.

I remember a couple of days after we got home from the hospital and I was rather short on sleep. It was bad enough that I felt somewhat disconnected from my baby, which is not a good feeling. My mom came over, and I handed off the baby and took an hour long nap. It was magical. There was a night and day difference in how I felt after that.

Take breaks, and make the most of them.

9) Prioritize your time.

When your kiddo is sleeping or entertained, sometimes your first instinct is to scrub your house from top to bottom. I get it. But when your baby gives you time, sometimes you need to put off the dishes in favor of a shower, or vacuuming in favor of a big meal. You can’t take care of your baby well if you don’t take care of you well. When your greatest needs have been handled, then move on to your house. It may not be as perfect as you’d like it, but I promise you’ll find enough time to make sure that monsters aren’t growing out of your toilet.

10) This will end someday.

There’s two sides to this one.

The first is that they’re not going to be helpless forever, or teething forever, or unable to communicate forever. The colic will pass. Waking up every couple of hours through the night will pass. Just get through this, because it will end someday.

The second part is that this is the only time they’re going to be this tiny, this in need of you. Someday they’ll no longer curl up in your arms with a precious little hand on your skin as they nurse. Someday they’ll be starting school. Someday they won’t want to be held. Someday they’ll learn to tell you “no.” Cherish this time for what it is, because it will end someday.