My poor first child. She was brought into this world by a mom who relied on Google, herself, and this so-called 'maternal instinct' I just knew would kick in to save me from embarrassing and stressful baby moments. Little did I know that there was way more to parenting than I ever could have realized.
As many of you know, we just recently welcomed home our second child. Although I'm still no expert, I feel so much more confident this time around. I know there will still be blunders, but if I can reduce the number of them, I might just survive parenting two children!
Below are 6 things I'm intentionally doing differently this time around to make life just a little easier for all of us. I can tell you from experience that doing the opposite of these things with my first led to a lot of sleepless nights, anger, hopelessness, and money spent that I'd rather have been spared. If this is your first, consider implementing these things - it might just spare you some of those unwanted side effects of parenting!
As I mentioned in my post about the 12 things I learned after my daughter's first year of life, I definitely was no breastfeeding/nursing champ the first time around. In fact, I absolutely hated it and didn't even make it a week before I ditched nursing altogether and went straight to exclusively pumping.
Don't get me wrong, pumping is a great alternative to nursing, especially if you plan to return to work. But what I found was that it didn't get rid of the stress of nursing like I thought it would.
Even after I stopped nursing, I was still equally frustrated, sleep-deprived, covered in milk, and uncomfortable. I was still getting engorged, had to pump several times a day and night to keep my milk supply up, and leaking almost constantly. Plus, I felt like with the bottle, we were constantly cleaning them and always overfeeding her, which led to a lot more spit-ups. Then after just 6 months on pumped breastmilk, we had to start supplementing with formula. Have you ever looked at the price of formula? It is crazy expensive!
This time around, I am making a better effort to nurse our daughter as long as possible for a few reasons:
If we listen to our bodies, work with our babies, and pack a little patience, breastfeeding/nursing can actually be easier than the alternatives. So if you are thinking nursing isn't for you, I urge you to give it a genuine try before you throw in the towel!
But if you do find yourself feeling hopeless and beyond frustrated, please know that above anything else, "fed is best" really is the most important thing to remember.
With my first child, I was gifted both an Ergo baby carrier and a ring sling. The Ergo carrier was used a grand total of two times, and I could never figure the ring sling out. Both ended up collecting a lot of dust in my daughter's closet. This made for a lot of me trying to do things around the house while carrying her, leaving her in her rocker most of the day, or just not getting anything done because I was stuck on the couch holding her.
It really was just a lack of knowledge and fortitude that led to this. I should have asked other moms how to use the carriers and I should have persevered past the initial frustrations of learning something new.
This time around, I invested in a Moby wrap as well as a Tula carrier. On top of researching the benefits of these two baby-wearing tools, I enlisted the help of a friend who I consider a pro-momma. She has walked me through the basics of the wrap and I can confidently say that I'm a baby-wearing momma now!
Once you get the hang of it, it takes less than a minute to get it on and put baby in it. My daughter is fussy right at first, which as a first-time mom would have made me tear the wrap off and never try it again. But with a little more patience and perseverance, I've learned that being in the wrap eventually makes her snooze so hard that it's worth the initial 2-3 minutes of fussiness.
I'm able to do so many things while wearing her; write my blog, make the bed, do the dishes, fold laundry, change my older daughter's diaper, do my make-up, play with my older daughter - all while my baby sleeps peacefully on my chest.
So instead of resigning yourself to the couch, consider baby-wearing as a way to give yourself the freedom to maintain a somewhat normal day (and give baby a warm, cozy place to nap)!
With my first child, we started trying cereal and purees at 4 months. She took to it pretty quickly, but she couldn't feed herself by any means. We had to spoon feed her everything, and a lot of it ended up getting tossed out because she either didn't like it or could only eat a few spoonfuls at one sitting.
So this led to a lot of wasted money in the long run. Have you ever peeked at the prices of those cute little bags of pureed everything? They sound wonderful with all their many fruits, veggies, and grains mixed together, but they cost WAY too much. Especially if your kid ends up not liking them and they end up in the trash.
So this time around, I have explored the idea of 'baby-led weaning.' A few of my mom friends said this is what they did and it saved them a lot of money and got their kid feeding themselves so much sooner than the traditional puree method would. I've also combed through other blog posts on the subject and the benefits just seem to be too many to ignore.
What I've learned is that baby-led weaning:
So if you have never heard of this method or maybe you have but don't know if it's right for your family, go do some research of your own to help you make that decision. I know that after having done the pre-packaged purees before, this method sounds a whole lot more cost-efficient, fun for baby, and beneficial in the long run!
allow pacifier as long as baby wants it
Pacifiers came in very handy with our first child. She was bottlefed, so she took a pacifier easily. She only used them at nap time and bedtime to help her fall asleep, which made regular napping and sleeping through the night an easier feat.
But as a first time mom, I knew about the stigma concerning older children still using a pacifier; the looks people gave, the questions about when you were going to take it away. I was not looking forward to any of that, so at one year old - an age where she really wouldn't even notice something being taken from her - we took away all pacifiers.
Now, she did transition quite smoothly to life without a pacifier. It was as if they just never existed in our home. She still slept fine at nap time and bedtime, and it seemed like we had done the right thing.
Then we started giving her juice during the day, and she loved it. She loved it so much that she wanted it all the time, including before nap time and bedtime. This led to her developing a dependency on using a sippy cup of juice to lull herself to sleep. Uh-oh.
By taking away her pacifier, we had inadvertently taken away her self-soothing mechanism. And by introducing a sweet and satisfying drink like juice, we had given her something new to long for as she drifted off to sleep.
So my reasoning for allowing our next daughter to have her pacifier as long as she wants or needs it is simply to avoid the whole "I need a drink to fall asleep" notion our first daughter developed. Even though we plan on avoiding juice this time around (see below), we don't even want her to depend on water because that leads to a very wet and heavy diaper when she wakes up (which comes with a whole slew of problems I won't get into here).
I truly believe that it's not so much the juice that she needs to calm her down and soothe herself; it's the oral fixation, the sucking motion that kids learn to love as babies. At two years old now, she is still clinging to baby attributes, and I think this is one of them.
So with our next child, I don't want to remove all 'baby' things from her life just because of that silly stigma. I want to encourage growth and maturation, but not force it and have it lead to other issues down the road (i.e. juice dependency).
If you're wondering if you should even introduce a pacifier, WebMD had this to say about the pros of pacifier use:
If you are open to pacifier use but wondering when is a good time to take it away, my advice is this: let your child show you they are ready to get rid of it - don't force it. Because taking it away might just lead to a worse habit that you aren't prepared to deal with.
introduce water earlier
With our first, I had heard so many horror stories about babies being given too much water in their formula or parents diluting breastmilk with water to make it go further which led to their baby's untimely death. I'm not trying to freak you out, but yes, this happens!
Babies don't need water because they are getting their hydration through breastmilk or through the exact amount the formula labels tell you to use. But when extra water is introduced, it "dilutes a baby's normal sodium levels and can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and death" (source). So naturally, I was so horrified to give my daughter water that we just avoided it like the plague.
Well, now that she is two and a half and never actually been given straight water, she hates it. She even hates flavored water or watered-down juice because she knows there is water in it. It's very frustrating because juice is terrible for her teeth, plus it's sticky when spilled and contains way too much sugar. But it's the only thing she will drink at this point.
I take full responsibility for this one, which is why I will NOT be making the same mistake with my younger daughter. I've done some research through Kelly Mom as well as asking a few mom friends, and what I've gathered is that a safe age to start introducing it is 6 months.
At this age, it should only be a few sips when eating solids, as breastmilk or formula should still be their main form of hydration. But by introducing water before any other alternative form of liquid (i.e. juice), it will set baby's palette up for being totally okay with just water, no sugar necessary!
So if you are freaked out by the whole water thing like I was, know that after 6 months it is okay in limited quantities. As your baby approaches the 1 year mark and beyond, it should be offered more and more so that it does not become an issue like it did with my first child!
ask for and accept help
This last one is by far the most important, and has already helped me so much in the first few weeks with our second child.
With my first, I was so prideful that I'm a little ashamed to look back on how negatively it affected my family in those first few months. When I didn't know something, I Googled it and hoped for the best with the result. When someone offered to bring us food or clean the house, I put on a front that I was taking care of all of that myself (ha, I definitely was not).
I thought that as a woman, I should automatically know what to do in every baby-related situation that arose as well as maintain my household to the same standard it was before baby came. How silly is that? I'd never raised a child before and had been around a baby maybe a handful of times in my entire life, so how could I possibly be an expert by simply pushing one out of me? And how could I keep our lives the same when they had been utterly changed forever?
Don't get me wrong; mother's instinct does exist and in the end, you should trust that momma gut more than anything else. But when your head and your gut can't come to a conclusion or you are too worn out to parent/clean/cook anymore, asking for help is the best thing for everyone involved.
Some ways I've asked for and accepted help with this second baby so far are:
I feel so much more supported this time around because I am reaching out and letting people in, whereas last time I put our little family in a cocoon and repeatedly told friends and family that we were "just fine" on our own.
We were NOT "just fine" and this second time around has been so much better because we simply humbled ourselves to the people who wanted to be there for us in any capacity possible.
I know babies are inevitably difficult - whether it's your first or your fifth. There is no one-size-fits-all or cure-all for the inherently unpredictable nature of babies, but I am hoping that making these changes will make things a little smoother as we navigate parenting two little ones.
And I hope this post helps you if you're currently debating how to handle these six specific topics. My humble experience is not much to go on, but if it helps even one mom or dad make a decision that prevents them from feeling as much frustration as we did the first time around, then it's worth sharing!
Are you currently expecting or the brand new parent of a newborn? If so, head over to my post about Life with a Newborn - it's chock full of real, raw, and spot-on wisdom from several moms who have been there and lived to tell the tale!