I wish I were some awesome parent with everything put together, but it's just me, your older imperfect sister with four crazy kids. I've got nothing but some of my favorite books, my favorite products, and personal, unproven, highly-suspect opinions about how everything should be done. I'm sure you can form your own opinions as you go, so I'll try to leave those out. But here is my advice on the all-important subjects of sleeping, eating, and surviving.
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby by Marc Weissbluth provides lots of research based, good advice. Although, his philosophy seems to focus entirely on the baby's sleep, and doesn't take into account that you must live. I liked his charts so I could look and see what the "norm" for hours slept was each age. And he's right about sleep being a HUGE factor in how happy your baby is.
- Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg This is one of my favorites. I like her sense of humor and practicality. Her EASY (eat, activity, sleep, you) philosophy is a simple, easy to remember (because your sleep-deprived brain needs simple things) method that really works. I definitely struggle with parenting my children once they get past two, but I have had happy babies and I attribute following this method as the reason why.
Tools to help you succeed:
- White noise machine. I didn't use this with Kenzie or Hannah, because I didn't really need it yet. We were mostly quiet people. But once we got to Ellie and Norah, there was no quiet. If it is quiet, there is trouble brewing. So they definitely took longer naps when the white noise machine was on. Maybe you'll want one now because it's noisy with the dog, or someone snores (Ali?). But nothing is worse than waking up a baby accidentally. Okay, maybe if the baby got hurt it would be worse, but really it is a terrible, terrible tragedy to wake a sleeping baby. And for traveling or camping, the white noise machine can be your best friend.
- Benadryl. Just kidding. That's for desperate, desperate times and only when they're older. And it can backfire. (Not that I have any experience with this. I've just heard. From a neighbor.)
My Two Cents:
- Start as you intend to go on. It may seem silly because she's so little right now, but if you begin a routine before bed she will learn when it's time to sleep. Choose what you like to do and then do the same thing every time. We keep it simple. With Norah, I give her her binkie, swaddle her in a blanket, sing her a song and lay her down. Then I walk out and she goes to sleep. When she was tiny, obviously this didn't always work, but now it works like a charm. Mike's routine is a little different than mine, but the key is that we do the SAME thing every time. I've added a story, and I just put her blanket on instead of swaddling her, but it's still the same 10 min routine every night. (Even my older girls love routines.)
Best books: What to Expect the First Year This book is a general book about almost everything, but I like its section on feeding the baby and I like the Q&A format. Also they talk about how to mix nursing and bottlefeeding, which is great. I muddled through a nursing/bottlefeeding mix with all of my kids and never found a non-crazy book about breastfeeding. They all seemed to say "Feed your baby, whenever wherever she/he wants." Crazy. The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer is much more practical about setting up a schedule. I'm sure there's a good feeding your baby book out there, maybe someone else can tell you what it is.
Tools to help you succeed:
- Medela Breast Pump -Seriously those hand pumps are for people who like to grind their own corn into flour with a stone.
- Formula- Some books/people might make you feel bad about using formula, but if you use it, try to block them out-it's food, it allows your baby to be full, grow and be happy. Yes breastfeeding is awesome and wonderful and bonding, but so is formula. No one I know has ever said to their mother, "It's because you didn't breastfeed me when I was a baby."
- Burp Cloths --You need like 47 of these. At least. Because who has time to do laundry when you have a baby? And spitting up/throwing up is normal. Babies do it a lot.
- Awesome Nursing Bra -- I already told you about these Bravado bras, but it's worth repeating. Take care of the girls and life will be better.
- Good Bottles-The Playtex Drop-Ins are my favorites. It is kind of a bummer to buy new liners, and you're ruining the environment, but at 2:30 a.m. when all the dishes are dirty and the baby is wailing and for the love of everything holy, you just want to find a clean bottle, the liners are fantastic.
- Sippy Cups-- Eventually your child will grow and it's time to ditch the bottle. Find a sippy cup that is spill-proof and doesn't use a removable valve. We just use the removable valve ones, since they leak the least. But I always lose the valves. I swear, they should have spill-proof cups until they are 18.
- Baby food Grinder Buying baby food is fine, but it's so much easier to just plop some of your food into a grinder and feed it to them. Plus, it introduces them to the kind of food you will expect them to eat eventually. (Start as you mean to go on!)
- Routine. Follow the EASY routine and you will be happy. Once she turns two you can start making her clear her plate and sweep. Ok, maybe not sweep yet.
- The Girlfriends Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood by Vicki Iovine. Hilarious and true. If I wrote a book, it would be this one.
Tools to help you succeed:
- A good husband (oh look, you already have one of those!)
- A good sister (wow! You have one of those too!)
- A good friend to talk to
- Your mother
My Two Cents: Find a routine for yourself that involves exercise, spiritual nourishment, service, and set some goals in the major categories of life: Physical, Spiritual, Mental, Emotional.
Don't be afraid of feeling down sometimes, talk about it, share what you're feeling or it becomes bigger than it is.
You are doing great! And when you don't, it's ok, you get another chance tomorrow. And the next day, and the next. . .