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Category Archives: The Baby Years

Finding Grace and Love in the Potty Seat?

Potty training. Again. While I’ve done this twice already with varying degrees of difficulty, I still find the process to be exhausting. Most days, I want to throw all the cloth diapers out the window – other days I want to chuck the potty seat and trainers along with my determination to teach this skill.

What transition are you working on? Moving your child from your bed to a crib, weaning from breast milk to bottle or cup or giving up diapers in exchange for the potty are not small tasks. And even if you’ve done them before, the reality is you’ve never made this change with this child. It’s all new to him or her. Some changes come about quickly while others drag on stubbornly. That’s where we are with potty training.

Before giving up (or forcing my will upon the poor child), I’ve found it’s helpful to examine my motives behind making the transition at this time.

Motivations for change often fall into three categories:

  1. Shame/embarrassment. You know you should have taught this skill sooner but didn’t. Maybe you waited until your baby was nine-months old before introducing a bottle. (I’ve been there.) Or you waited until your four-year-old became so big that you can no longer sleep in your own bed comfortably and must demand they sleep elsewhere. The logical part of your brain knows that developmentally, there is no reason why your child is unable to make the change. But the emotional parent part of your brain is too afraid to make it happen.
  2. Anger/resentment. Do you feel so tired of the way things are and find yourself blaming your child? Perhaps you wonder why they can’t just do this one thing. After a lot of introspection, I realize I’m probably in this category. I don’t feel resentment, but after more than eight years of changing diapers; I’m very, very tired of it. I’m ready to move on whether my daughter is or not.
  3. Competition. You really want to tell the grandparents, or other moms, that your little prodigy accomplished this transition easily and early. You want to brag a little about whatever milestone would give you this edge on being a good mother. It sounds shallow, and you will probably deny you’ve ever felt this way, but chances are you really are competing with another person’s timetable.

I’m tired of changing diapers, that’s for sure. I suspect there’s a little more going on as well. This is my youngest of three children and we are certainly not having any more. I’ve stopped trying to hold on to the baby years mostly because she refused to stay in the baby phase; reaching all of her physical milestones many months before her older sisters.

But I also prefer to breeze through a transition without marking it’s passing; hoping to avoid any sadness or longing on my part. She gave up breastfeeding sometime in her 17th month, but I do not have a memory of the “last” time nor did I want to dwell on it. I loved breastfeeding and while a part of me misses this connection; I knew that marking an official end would be too painful. We simply moved on.

Potty training will also mark a major end to my baby and toddler years. This independence will mean I’ve no longer got any babies in my care. No more diapers. While it will be sweet freedom, it will also mark a major transition for me as a mother. Dragging out this transition for so many months just prolongs the pain.

I’ve come to realize that the one thing that is required of me at this time is love. My daughter will be potty trained in the near future. (I sometimes chant this just to convince myself.)

It’s my job to love her, to love the stage we are in and to use this love to fuel my patience.

It’s this love that will also lift me out of sadness when I realize there are no more babies, no more toddlers and someday, no more little girls in my care.

So, I’ve made a few changes to how we go about potty training. I removed the changing table from her room. We don’t use it anyway and it helps us solidify the transition taking place. I also added disposable diapers to my shopping list. While we use only two diapers a day for nap and bedtime, I need the mental and physical break from washing them. We’ll continue making the transition using consistent behaviors, but I’ll relax my timetable and renew my love for caring for a toddler.

Weekly Dare: Life is filled with one transition after another. Look at what changes you are trying to make in your life and with your children. Examine your motivations, remove the negative emotions and concentrate on love. Use this positive emotion to feed your actions each day as you bring about a positive change.

Grace and Peace.

To subscribe to my weekly message and to take on other Weekly Dares, enter your e-mail on the right under subscriptions, or you can visit at www.babylovecarebook.com

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Now is Beautiful

On this Monday morning, I realize for the first time in a long while:

I am waiting.

This is rare. And it’s peaceful. I’m waiting for good things; anticipating new joys.

But, I’m not in a hurry.

Usually, my life is filled with deadlines and to-do lists. People are always waiting for me to complete jobs, make dinner or help with homework. Oh, I still have a small mountain of laundry to summit and loads of requests. But while I do these things that life requires of me this week, I can think of all the good things to come.

Today, I’m waiting on news of a new baby to be born any day in our family. I’m waiting on an amazing sales opportunity for my Baby Love Carebook and excited to see the new product photos. I’m even waiting for Michael Pollan to come to town in November and hoping I’ll meet him.

Last week, I celebrated my 41st birthday. It doesn’t seem possible, but each year is better than the last. Time seems to fly at warp speed. So, after all these years, I finally figured out the key to waiting. I’ve found the cure for impatience/boredom and how to stop the longing for something – anything – to happen. It’s your present. It’s called now.

Last night, my cousin Wade wrote me a nice note that made me laugh. He’s a talented writer and musician with a great spin on life. I always enjoy hearing from him. At the end of his message, he shared a link to this song by Keb’ Mo’. It filled my soul and I hope you’ll take a moment to listen.

Weekly Dare: Slow down. Enjoy the wait. Whether you’re looking forward to something good or dreading something bad; it will happen when it happens. Children, especially, will move through developmental phases and grow up in the blink of an eye. In the meantime, there is now. And now can be just perfect, if you allow it to be.

Grace and Peace.

To subscribe to my weekly message and to take on other Weekly Dares, enter your e-mail on the right under subscriptions, or you can visit at www.babylovecarebook.com

 

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Moms Need a Timeout: 3 Tips and 3 Reasons

Envision your ideal Mamacation; then go do the next best thing...

“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”

“Don’t worry about chores, sleep whenever possible.”

“Schedule regular date nights with your spouse.”

These are all words of wisdom that I was offered upon becoming a new mother. I’ve even repeated these tidbits to other new moms. But here’s the question: how do you really take a break if you’re a new parent?

1.) Ask for Help

NEVER turn down an offer of help and be VERY specific about what kind of help you would like. If a friend or family member asks if you need help, don’t reply with, “Sure, some help would be great.” Instead, say, “Would you mind bringing over dinner one night this week?”

Or, maybe you could call a friend and ask for them to watch your child while you take a nap, see a movie or grab some exercise. It doesn’t matter so much what you are doing on your time off as long as the activity is restorative to you.

2.) Schedule “Me” Time

Experienced moms will tell you to schedule a break for yourself. It can be as short as a few minutes or an afternoon or evening all to yourself (or hopefully, with your spouse.) You must put it on the calendar and really prepare for it. Leave lots of instructions. Whether your babysitter needs the advice or not, you will be more at ease knowing you’ve provided lots of information.

3.) Examine Your Reluctance

Many stay-at-home moms become workaholics. We take our new job very seriously and assume that our role is irreplaceable. Well, it’s true that you are the most important person in your new baby’s life right now. But letting go of the reigns for a few hours to improve yourself is important for the whole family. If you have been reluctant to get help from family or a professional so that you can have a break, are you being honest with yourself about the reason?

Guilt. Finances. Fear. Those are three top reasons moms give for doing all the childcare work themselves. “I quit my job and gave up my salary to do this, so it’s my responsibility.” Even hourly workers are typically allowed sick or personal days on the job. There is no shame in taking personal time as a mom.

Breastfeeding is another excuse. I nursed all three of my children. The first for 15 months; then 14 months (she was a biter); and the baby was still going strong until she was 17 months old. With a little planning, you can still take time off despite being the sole provider of baby’s nutritional needs. I didn’t enjoy pumping, and my babies were allergic to formula, but it was a small amount of effort to get a break.

Why are Breaks so Important?

If you’re starting to understand how to take your break, but still reluctant to try, let’s look at the reasons why you should put in the effort.

1.) Reduces your risk of caregiver burnout and depression.

A recent study tracked nearly 87,000 families in the United Kingdom between 1993 and 2007, and found the highest risk for depression occurred in the first year after a child’s birth.

“After the first year of parenting, a mother’s risk for depression dropped by half, while experienced fathers faced only about a quarter of the depression risk compared with new fathers.” (Source: The New York Times)

What’s important in the results of this study is that both mothers and fathers experience in increased rate of depression during that first year. Most studies focus only on mothers and postpartum depression, but fathers are at risk, too.

Many studies have been conducted on family caregivers. Caregivers are defined as anyone providing assistance to someone else who is, in some degree, incapacitated. Caregiver stress and burnout are well-documented and startling.

40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with approximately a quarter to half of these caregivers meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. (Source: Zarit, S. (2006). Assessment of Family Caregivers: A Research Perspective)

Family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life. (Source: Elissa S. Epel, Dept of Psychiatry, Univ of Calif, SF, et al, From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dec 7, 2004, Vol 101, No. 49.)

2.) Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, Really.

Research conducted by Julia Vormbrock, Ph.D., and others, shows that children grow more fond of their caregivers when they’re separated from them – at least for a few days. After two weeks of separation, however, most children become “detached,” reports Vormbrock. Many attachment parenting experts believe that the detachment phase begins closer to three days in children less than three years of age. So, while an extended trip away from your children may not result in a positive outcome in your relationships with them, a few hours or an evening away is certainly not harmful.

Getting some time away from your child can indeed give you a fresh perspective, especially if you’re caring for a high-needs or special-needs baby. You can be better able to reattach after a restorative break.

What about during the separation anxiety phase? Usually around 18 months, give or take a few months, your baby will go through separation anxiety when the primary caregiver is not around. If you are right in the thick of separation anxiety, keep your breaks to a minimum, or find a way to take a break during naps or at night when your child is sleeping. Forcing your child to cope with your absence during this phase can often make them more upset and insecure. I promise that with healthy bonds and lots of patience, this period will pass rather quickly.

3.) Encourages Children to Bond with Other Caregivers

Your child will also be able to reattach to you when you return. Even if your first few tries at getting away have resulted in leaving a wailing child in another person’s arms, it’s important to remember that your child really does forget about you shortly after you leave. Not in a permanent or debilitating way, they just focus their attention on someone or something else.

Without you there, they begin to take notice of this new caregiver in front of them and will have the opportunity to form a healthy attachment with them. This is especially important if the back-up caregiver is your spouse or a grandparent who has not previously been given access to one-on-one care.

MOM DARE: If you’re the primary caregiver of one or more children, take a break. Schedule a date night with your spouse or girlfriends. Make sure you are doing this at least once a month. Your connections to your husband, close family members and your friends are vitally important to you. While having children definitely limits the amount of time you have to spend on these relationships, the importance of them does not diminish. Think of it as a mini Mamacation; and make the most of any time you can carve out for yourself.

Grace and Peace (or Peace and Quiet)

To subscribe to my weekly message and to take on other Mom Dares, enter your e-mail on the right under subscriptions, or you can visit at www.babylovecarebook.com

 

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Mom, Could You Pencil Me in for a Nap?

"Seriously. Don't feed me again, I'm tired."

One of the most debated and misunderstood tools of parenting has got to be the implementation of a routine. Personally, I think there is some major confusion going on about what a routine is and why it is used. After more than eight years of attachment parenting, I’ve come to realize that routine and schedule are not dirty words, they are simply a reality.

A Routine is Not a Schedule; A Schedule is Not a Routine

While these words often get used interchangeably, they are definitely not the same. Let’s say, for example, you wake baby up at 7 a.m. every day, eat breakfast at 7:15 and are out the door by 8 a.m. This is a schedule.

On the other hand, if baby wakes up (usually at 7 a.m.), gets a diaper change, nurses for about 20 minutes, followed by playtime, then one more diaper check and it’s time to leave the house. This is a routine. It may be bound by some time restrictions, but it’s a consistent set of activities that take place each day in the same order. Your baby knows that as soon as diaper is changed, eating will begin, then playtime.

When you are not bound by a schedule (from work, older siblings or your own daily agenda), a routine can be very flexible. You could let baby sleep in if teething or illness prevented a good night’s sleep, but you would stick with the consistent order of activities. If your baby normally stays awake for 3 hours before needing a nap, you would simply count 3 hours from the time baby woke up to readjust the nap.

Or perhaps you will need to be somewhere outside the home during a time when your baby is usually napping. Clearly adjustments need to be made. My youngest daughter’s natural rhythm involved an afternoon nap at 1 p.m. Unfortunately, this is when her older sister needed to be picked up from school. (The car ride was only a few minutes, not long enough for an actual nap.) I had to tweak her natural routine a bit to meet her needs while still meeting the needs of our family. So, in this regard, our routines are driven by the schedules of all five people in our family.

Why does it matter? Science knows.

Ah, that’s the real question. Whether parents want to believe it or not, routines make happier babies. They cry less because they know what to expect. They don’t need to cry out in hunger or tiredness, because those needs are met before they become urgent. Personally, I fell into a routine almost by accident and, oh, how I wish I had saved myself the eight months of exhaustion and simply set up some consistent routines from the start. (You can read more about that at Confessions of a Disorganized Mom.)

But, there’s research to back up the importance of a routine as well. In June, 2010, a sleep study involving 8,000 children (the largest of it’s kind) revealed the following:

  • Children in households with bedtime rules and children who get adequate sleep score higher on a range of developmental assessments;
  • Results indicate that among sleep habits, having a regular bedtime was the most consistent predictor of positive developmental outcomes at 4 years of age. Scores for receptive and expressive language, phonological awareness, literacy and early math abilities were higher in children whose parents reported having rules about what time their child goes to bed. Having an earlier bedtime also was predictive of higher scores for most developmental measures.

“Getting parents to set bedtime routines can be an important way to make a significant impact on childrens’ emergent literacy and language skills,” said lead author Erika Gaylor, Ph.D., early childhood policy researcher for SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park, Calif. (SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, June 7, 2010, read full text here.)

Behavioral Impact of Routines

Literacy and language skills are one thing, but behavioral improvements can drastically impact a household. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL is now a part of Vanderbilt University, one of the leaders in autism research) published a reference manual for early childhood teachers titled “Helping Children Understand Routines and Classroom Schedules”. Here’s an excerpt:

Studies have documented that schedules and routines influence children’s emotional, cognitive, and social development. For example, predictable and consistent schedules in preschool classrooms help children feel secure and comfortable.

Also, schedules and routines help children understand the expectations of the environment and reduce the frequency of behavior problems, such as tantrums and acts of aggression. Activity schedules that give children choices, balanced and planned activities (small vs. large groups, quiet times vs. active times, teacher directed vs. child directed, indoor vs. outdoor), and individualized activities result in a high rate of child engagement. (Read more here.)

Let me repeat that last sentence about the importance of activity schedules that give children choices. Many parents resist routines because they fear it will become too rigid or create a child who is unable to be flexible when necessary. What happens, however, is just the opposite. Children become more adept at making choices based upon what is available to them; as opposed to demanding something that they simply expect will be available.

A Routine is not a Label, It’s an Action

Our children are at our mercy. We set the tone and the pace of their days. As a parent, I strive to create a flexible, fun and nurturing environment for my three daughters that respects the unique needs of each child, and I help many new parents do the same.

I also advise new parents that for the first four months your routine is this:
Fall in love with your baby, eat healthy foods, get more sleep.

MOM DARE: The key to setting up a positive routine is to resist the notion that “one-size-fits-all”, and develop a strategy that respects the individual needs of each member of your family (including yourself). If you don’t have a consistent routine for your young child, this is the week to try it. Write everything down to see what works best. Then repeat. If you need help based on the age of your baby, write a comment or question here. I’ve got sample routines that I can post.

Grace and Peace.

To subscribe to my weekly message and to take on other Mom Dares, enter your e-mail on the right under subscriptions, or you can visit at www.babylovecarebook.com

 

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Motherhood’s Magic Mirror

It starts off simply enough. I smile, you smile. Then it gets more complicated.

My daughters had a hard time using the word, “please.” I noticed this several years ago, when I was constantly correcting their demands, making them insert the word before I would honor their request. They always said, “Thank you,” just not the “p” word. I remember the moment when I discovered why this phenomenon was occurring and needless to say, it was a head-slapping revelation. I asked my child (about age 4) to do something and she looked at me while asking, “please?” She was correcting my rudeness.

So, I listened in on all my conversations that day. Do I ever use the word? I frequently use the words “thanks” and, “I’m sorry.” I say “you’re welcome” and I always say “I love you” at least twice a day per family member. Somehow I had gotten into the habit of issuing orders without the basic nicety of “please.” It didn’t matter that I was telling my children to always use this word, they were simply mirroring my own behavior. It was so basic. So many trite sayings have formed out of this one constant of human development. Monkey see, monkey do. Do as I say, not as I do. But there it was staring me in the face without me really seeing it.

There are many times in raising children when you need to stop, examine your world through your child’s eyes and ears, and really think about what they are learning from you. Are you telling them not to hit, but spanking them as a form of punishment? Do you raise your voice when angry, but reprimand your child for yelling? (This is one of my uglier problems that I’m still working on.) Do you wish they would interact more with other children, but spend all your time with them instead of making strong connections with other adults?

It’s not easy realizing that your children are so much like you, yet so different. You assume they will only pick up your strengths and excel at the areas you have mastered. In addition to picking up your bad habits, magnifying them and mirroring them back to you like a carnival fun house; children also pick up on your energy. They know when you are tense, sad, angry with your spouse or worried about life. They know instantly when you don’t like someone. Unfortunately, children assume that they are the cause of your negative emotions, not an outside influence. My oldest daughter has the eerie habit of plucking thoughts right out of my head. It happens so often now that I’ve come to accept her ability as yet another reason to focus my thoughts and energy into positive messages.

MOM DARE: Spend this week listening in on your conversations, really hearing yourself the way your child does. Are they imitating you? Can you see how one of their troublesome behaviors could be related to something you have inadvertently taught them? Are you stressed about something and your child is picking up on your anxiety? Try spending a little more time this week reassuring your children that they are doing a good job, that you love them, and that life is truly beautiful. Please.

Grace and peace.

To subscribe to my Weekly Bit of Baby Love and to take on other Mom Dares, enter your e-mail on the right under subscriptions, or you can visit at www.babylovecarebook.com

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Bond, Babes Bond

Daddy's Girl. Giving Dad some room to make mistakes and take on the mundane chores of childcare really strengthened their bond to one another.

During my first few months caring for our very fussy first-born daughter, my exhaustion had reached its peak. My husband urged me to use the breast pump that sat unopened on the counter. He was able to take the first late night feeding on weekends, allowing me to get four to five hours of uninterrupted sleep — something I desperately needed. Just as important, my husband was able to bond with our daughter in a new way. After a long week at work, he savored these late night feedings alone with his baby girl.

Are you allowing others to bond with your child? Mothers and fathers (and grandparents) have very different ways of holding, playing and interacting with their babies. Research shows that babies recognize and thrive on these differences. Do you constantly correct others on the proper way to hold, feed or comfort your baby or do you let them develop their own technique? It’s great to let others know what your child prefers, but hovering and immediately taking over once a baby cries is not really the best answer.

MOM DARE: If you’re caring for an infant or young toddler, this is the week to work on loosening your strings a little. You won’t be giving up the connection that you have with your child, but allowing someone you love to form a stronger bond. Whether it’s your spouse, a grandparent or a trusted friend; let them spend time with your child without you swooping in for the rescue. Give yourself some time off and let your child understand that there is a whole village of loved ones to whom they can turn. You will see over time how relaxed and joyful a child can be when they form loving connections with the people around you. (And trust me, you will feel the same relaxation and joy knowing that your community of support is loved by your child.)

Grace and Peace,
Sharron Wright

To subscribe to my Weekly Bit of Baby Love and to take on other Mom Dares, enter your e-mail on the right under subscriptions, or sign up online at www.babylovecarebook.com/weeklybit.html

 

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Weekly Bit of Baby Love: Shifting your paradigm

Hat, sunglasses. Useful for masking your third day without a shower.

Nothing rocks your world quite like becoming a parent. Many of us had not yet mastered the art of taking care of ourselves when we became responsible for another little being. With the coming of new responsibilities is the “going” of our old way of doing things. Some pieces of our old lives are hard to give up, despite the joy that a new baby brings.

What do you find yourself struggling to get back? I remember feeling so defeated as a first-time parent simply because I could not drag my sleep-deprived self out of bed early enough to take a shower before my baby awakened. I work at night and truly need every minute of morning sleep I can get. I finally realized that the days of greeting the world freshly showered, fashionably dressed and with a current hairstyle were temporarily on hold. I always hated showering at night, but found it was the only way to make this new life work. And, after awhile, I came to enjoy scrubbing off a days worth of baby spit-up or the various messes created by a toddler. I shifted my paradigm (or at least my shower time) and it made a world of difference.

MOM DARE: This is the week to make a change in your life to incorporate at least one thing you find yourself complaining about or longing for. What is it: exercise, a date with your spouse, the mountain of laundry that children mysteriously create? Shift the pattern you’ve gotten yourself into and make the necessary change to fit in (or remove) the source of stress. Your solution does not need to be permanent, but may help you realize that adaptability will become one of your greatest strengths as a parent. As my mother always recites, “This too shall pass.” So shift your current expectations, and make this week work for you in a whole new way.

To subscribe to my Weekly Bit of Baby Love and see if you’re ready to take on other Mom Dares, enter your email on the right under subscriptions, or sign up online at www.babylovecarebook.com/weeklybit.html

 

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