I meant to write this about a month ago when Eleanor had just turned 6 months, but alas, things got busy and I’m just now writing.
Before I had Eleanor, and especially after, I was a sponge for information about all things pregnancy, baby and parenting. I read and read – articles, books…anything. The biggest thing I have learned in all of that input is that there is such a spectrum when it comes to it all, and there isn’t one way to do these things. That’s an entirely different post all together, though, so I’ll save it for then.
In the meantime, I thought I’d add my two cents – – –
9 Things I’ve Learned in the First 6 Months of Motherhood
COMPARING >>>“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt said this, and although I have felt this in other seasons of life, I’ve never felt this quite as strong as in parenting. Grab advice from trusted advisors, but don’t look to the left and right to evaluate your own parenting. It’s only going to rob the joy out of the whole thing. My friend Adriel says this on her blog, and I have found it so true – “You may not be a perfect mom, but you are the perfect mom for your kids.” You’re not the perfect mom for your friend’s kids and vice versa. Focus on your little one and your family.
SCHEDULES >>> Even though in a lot of areas, I am very type-A, I found that when it comes to parenting Eleanor, my type-A tendencies don’t actually help me. What I mean by that is I had every intention of following Babywise before Eleanor was born. In the first couple months, I wanted to do it even more because I was so tired, and she was so unpredictable. However, I found that it was actually causing me more stress and anxiety. Hear me, though – I don’t think there is anything wrong with Babywise, and I know that it works brilliantly for some people. I think there are some great principles in it, just like there are many great principles to be found in a lot of parenting books. Like with everything else, though, you really have to figure out what works for you and your family.
CRYING IT OUT >>> Speaking of schedules and sleep – I do believe that crying is ok. I am not going to pretend that it’s easy. I even doubted for a time that it was ok because of other people making statements such as, “Oh I would never let my baby cry it out!” Those sorts of statements are not helpful, friends, because essentially by stating your opinion in that way, you are inadvertently passing judgment on the mum that does it differently than you. That statement basically said, “Wow, Ashley, what a terrible mother you are to let your baby cry!” Robbie and I made a choice that we wanted Eleanor to learn to sleep better. Her habits weren’t improving by doing nothing, and in fact, for Eleanor, they were getting far worse. She was waking sometimes every hour at night. She stopped going for 3-4 hours at a time. She would only nurse to sleep. We made our choice, we stuck with it, and we saw very quick results. Now Eleanor is taking long naps, sleeping from about 7pm-6am with a dreamfeed around 10pm. She’s learning all sorts of new things. She’s so happy. It was hard, but I feel for us this is what worked. I think when it comes to sleep – go with your gut, do what works for you and your family, and celebrate all the other ways your friends do it!
MESSES >>> Messes are ok. This is SO not my area of strength. I am the girl that puts everything away every night, doesn’t like things spilled all over the floor, and cannot stand drawers left open. I’ve learned, especially in the last month as Eleanor is starting to be way more into the world around her, that messes are ok. Eleanor wants a feed, and I am going to feed her even though there are about 40 cheerios on the floor. I can get it later.
BOTTLES AND PACIFIERS >>> If you are someone who wants to use these with your child, there seems to be this ideal window for introducing them. Too early and you could interfere with breastfeeding, but too late and they may want nothing to do with them. We are in the latter camp, and there are definitely times when these things would have been really helpful. There are upsides to both, I suppose. Eleanor thinks a pacifier is a chew toy now, and there’s no chance it’s going to sooth her. She did surprise me yesterday when I pumped a bottle and she sculled it in 30 seconds flat as if she’d drank from bottles her entire life. She has not done this in the past, though!
ROUTINES >>> Babies are smarter than I think we give them credit for sometimes. Eleanor picks things up pretty quickly, and she notices routines. Once we got back from our States Trip and wanted to start working on sleep, one thing we implemented was a bedtime routine. It consists of a bath, baby lotion/massage, new nappy, pyjamas, a breastfeeding session, and a story w/Dad. Then we say “I love you! Time for bed”, say a prayer for her, turn on the sound machine, turn the lights off and lay her down. We have done this every single night since we started, and I think I’ve noticed how helpful it is for her. She knows what’s coming, starts winding down, and usually will fall asleep pretty quickly after we’ve laid her down. One thing that was really funny and proved that she was starting to understand was after about a week of doing it, she would start to “fake cry” in the middle of the story. It was pretty comical. She’d do a little whimper and look at us to see our reaction. It’s cute. Routines are gold, though!
GEAR >>> I think a big thing with baby gear is to think about your lifestyle and what/where you should spend your money. I knew that I would use a pram/stroller A LOT. We live next to where we work, there are lots of cafes, parks, grocery stores in walking distance, and there are tons of walkable places all around Newcastle. I knew that probably the most used way of carrying Eleanor would probably be the place to invest. Some advice I got with prams:
- Spend money up front rather than having to buy multiple prams because they break after so much use.
- Buy one initially that can grow as you add more children so you don’t have to buy another, bigger one later.
- Inline double prams are easiest to manoeuvre through doors, etc, but think about how each kid can see out.
- Test them out. Read reviews. Ask friends.
All that to say, I came across the UppaBaby Vista. I L-O-V-E this pram! We got it in the US, so it was about half the price as in Australia and included the bassinet. The bassinet came in handy in the initial months for sleeping in our lounge room, naps at the beach, etc. It has the biggest basket I’ve ever seen on a pram. There are many adjustable options – the handle, which way the seat faces, reclines, etc. It’s super easy to add another seat, and there are multiple configurations! I knew the pram was going to be important for us. What wasn’t as important was to buy a capsule carseat simply because we don’t drive enough and for long enough distances to warrant it. It’s also not really cold enough in Australia that you can’t carry your baby all bundled up to the car. We used a capsule in Tulsa this past trip, and I certainly see the convenience. With the cold weather, it was especially helpful. For us here, though, we knew a convertible, simple option would be better. So with any gear, try to think ahead as much as possible, read reviews, ask friends, even borrow. I borrowed an Ergo, and I realised that in the future when I buy a carrier that’s the one I would buy!
REMEMBERING >>> I got an app when Eleanor was first born called Sprout. It’s $4.99, but it is SO worth it. I track her feeds on it so I don’t have to remember when I fed her or which side I did last. I also can track if she takes medicine, her weight/height, upcoming Dr’s appointments, and SO much more. Aside from the Feeding Tool, though, my favourite thing is that you can track memories. Each time Eleanor has reached a new milestone, I can put it in there. I love it because I can use it to fill out a baby book and reference ages and stages in the future. I really recommend this app!
TIME >>> One thing I have learned since Eleanor was born is that a lot of things simply take time. I had this naive idea that motherhood would click much quicker than it actually turned out. I have always loved kids and been around them, but motherhood is entirely different! I found that finding my stride took a good 6 months. 6 months really was the biggest turning point, although there were other, smaller ones along the way. The 2-week mark made a difference for me physically. I felt out of the daze of “what just happened!” The 6-week mark made a difference with Eleanor. This is when she really started to interact with us by first smiling! The 12-week mark made another big difference for me physically – this was when I felt like I could really start working out again even though I was technically “cleared” for it around 6 weeks. The 5-month mark made a difference with Eleanor’s development. She really started noticing the world around her more than ever. The 6-month mark, though – it’s made the biggest difference. Breastfeeding is really great. Sleep is getting better and better. Eleanor is a little more predictable (as much as a baby can be). She is on developmental overload, learning new things almost every single day. Physically I am starting to feel great. Some things just take time, and that’s ok!
Honestly, I think if I sat here for awhile, I could probably think of a lot more. These are the major areas that jump out to me, however. This is by far the steepest learning curve I have ever been on, but it’s been the best season of my life so far. I am LOVING motherhood, and I have a feeling it’s just going to get better and better.