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Tag Archives: routine

If Mama’s Not Happy, Nobody’s Happy: Proven

photo by Michal Marcol

What I’ve learned in 9 years of mothering is that you can’t learn how to take care of your children until you’ve learned to take care of yourself. I’m often categorized as a baby blogger, baby merchant or other kind of “baby person.” In reality, my blog and the Baby Love Carebook are mother-focused products.

A recent study confirms the correlation between depressed mothers and depressed children. The results are startling, considering that nearly 400,000 babies are born to depressed mothers each year in the United States.

Nearly half of the children with depressed mothers will develop depression.

And did you know that the average age of the onset of depression is 34; peak childbearing years? All these facts and study references were published recently in the Wall Street Journal. I encourage you to read the full article by Martha Beck.

And an interesting side note: the most severe consequence of depression happens during the first year of a child’s life because they will not form the necessary attachment to Mom.

The bottom line is that children fare better when Mom gets help as early as possible. So the good news is that this is not a hereditary condition as most people assume; it is environmental. It can be corrected and prevented by teaching your children how to regulate their own emotions.

My retail slogan is Journal. Organizer. Encouragement for Moms. My goal from the very conception of my business was to help new mothers navigate the more difficult day-to-day struggles of caring for a fussy baby. In fact, my About page spells out my mission:

As the mother of three small children, my goal is to help other new parents feel empowered and to instill in them the confidence to care for their babies in a loving, positive way that respects the uniqueness of all children.

If you or a new mom in your life is struggling or seems depressed, the first step is to recognize the problem and to realize it’s not at all uncommon. In fact, lack of sleep is the leading cause of post-partum depression and can be corrected easily and without drugs.

The second step during the baby years is to establish a consistent routine and really pay attention to baby’s cues. When a new mom feels more in control and not at the mercy of her baby, she is better able to experience joy and fight off the feelings of seclusion and depression.

The most common keywords that lead to this blog are “sample routine for xx month baby”. New moms are searching for the magic formula to get through their days and nights. Here’s the real secret: it’s different for everyone.

And from May 25-29, 2011, discovering this magic formula will be even easier. Sign up for Totsy today or tomorrow to view our half price sale of the Baby Love Carebook. This offer is limited to these five days and we have a limited supply of books so I encourage you to make your purchase early. You can opt out of the Totsy emails at any time.

Grace and peace.

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Fussy Babies Lead to Marital Dissatisfaction

While most first-time parents are prepared to some extent for the sleepless nights with a new baby, I’m guessing that the ensuing relationship discord comes as a huge surprise. Research published last year by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reveals that marital dissatisfaction in first-time parents is directly related to daily sleep duration. In other words, less sleep equals less marital satisfaction.

Having survived our two very fussy babies and one easy one, I can certainly attest to the relationship strain that occurred during those years. My girls all had digestive problems and two had a severe dairy protein intolerance. I could not consume any dairy food while nursing them and they were also sensitive to soy proteins. One of the unfortunate side effects of an upset stomach was the inability to sleep for long stretches.

My husband and I had been married for five years before embarking upon our parenting journey. Yet, that first year left our tensions raw and exposed. Three children and nine years later, we can laugh about our first years and the drastic changes in our married life.

But not all marriages make it through the transition to parenthood. In another study of marital satisfaction, 45 percent of men and 58 percent of women reported a decline in marital satisfaction during the first year of parenting.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers these tips to help new parents get a good night’s sleep:
  • Breastfeed your infant. This will help prevent sleep-disrupting problems such as ear infections and diarrhea.
  • Reserve the bed for your own sleep.  Put your baby to sleep in a nearby bassinet, cradle or crib.
  • Try your best to keep your baby on a consistent schedule. Both you and your baby will be able to sleep better.
  • Take naps when your baby is asleep.
  • Make caring for the baby a team effort. Create an “on-duty” and “off-duty” schedule to share tasks with your spouse or other caregiver. This will give both of you opportunities to rest.
  • Recruit family members or friends to help care for the baby when he or she is awake. Use these breaks to get some sleep.
  • Ask family and friends to help with meals and household chores. This will give you more opportunities to nap.

In addition to these tips, I would add a few of my own from our years in the trenches:

  • Make a new date night ritual with your spouse. Carry out a favorite meal, eat in your home wearing your pajamas and snuggle up in bed for the sole purpose of sleeping. Allow each other to take long naps on the weekends, without judgment or resentment.
  • Become friends with your breast pump. I hated to pump, but after enduring our first baby who would not take a bottle, I quickly changed my ways for the next two. Because of our dairy and soy problems, formula was not an option. But pumping in the morning allowed me to express enough milk for a full bottle. This allowed my husband to give a full feeding at night so I could go to bed earlier.
  • Talk about how you are feeling. For moms who give up a career outside the home or cut back on freelance hours, you are dealing with the loss of your old identity. Your spouse may be dealing with new challenges, but mostly his life is still about getting up and going to work. New moms often lose friends and business associates (I was promptly released from a long-term client immediately after giving birth.) It’s important to work through these changes together to avoid feelings of resentment. If you’re not sure about how to discuss these feelings without arguing, seek out a trained pro-marriage counselor.

Most importantly, keep your experience in perspective. The baby year is literally just one year in what should be a long and supportive partnership. But during that one year, make sleep your top priority. Lack of sleep not only kills a marriage; it can also kill a job, a friendship and cause a multitude of health problems. So, seriously, shut off the computer and get your sleep!

Grace and peace.

 

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Smart Moms Put it in Writing

For a better getaway, leave way more information than you think any babysitter could possibly need.

I finally took my own advice. Following three years without a break, I took some time off. Three glorious days involving my husband, a hot-stone massage and adults-only dinners. I slept late, meditated, devoured a book (Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson… a MUST read) and basically found my center again.

Leading up to this event was anything but relaxing. I tossed and turned thinking of all the logistics involved in leaving three children for three days. I filled out medical consent forms for each child, wrote out instructions for each day of my absence, and updated my Baby Love Carebook to detail daily routines for our youngest daughter.

My husband teased me about all the work, rhetorically asking, “You do know your mom has done this before, right?”

Of course I know my capable replacement has babysat before (and raised three children of her own.) If I didn’t feel confident, the trip would never have been a possibility. The fact remains, details will make or break a babysitting assignment. The more information you leave behind, the fewer questions your replacement will have.

When my mom showed up the evening before our departure, I laid out all the paperwork. She heaved a big sigh of relief upon seeing the signed medical consent forms. She read through the three pages of instructions and remarked that I had answered all her questions. She jotted down a few notes of her own then went off to spend time with her granddaughters.

Despite tornado warnings and my mother getting sick on the first evening, we had no major catastrophes. There was only one event that prompted a phone call and a little intervention from grandpa to fix a broken CD player. The girls behaved wonderfully and really enjoyed the extra time spent with their grandma.

My husband and I were able to see each other as people again, not just parents. This was a business retreat with other managers from his company, so I was able to spend time with his coworkers and spouses. It helped give me a deeper perspective on how he spends his time away from home. My husband was also able to see me engaged in conversations with his peers. After eight years of parenting, and 13 years of marriage, this type of interaction has become rare and precious for us. I’m so very grateful we had the chance to reconnect in this way.

On the last morning of our stay, I perused the lavish hotel shops in search of a small token of appreciation for my mom. As the cashier was wrapping up a beautiful silk and velvet scarf and an adorable set of angel magnets, I noticed some note pads. I get my list-making passion from my mother, and know how much she likes a decorative place to write things down. I selected one to put on top of the other gifts, so that this sentiment would be visible upon opening the box: “Smart Women Put it in Writing.”  True. So true.

Mom Dare: Put it in writing. Whatever “it” is for you. Write down your daily routines; you just might discover a pattern or inconsistency you had not realized was there. Complete a medical consent form because you just never know when you might need it. (I got mine from our pediatrician.) Write down your meals, especially if you suspect your child has a food intolerance or if you are struggling to take off a few pounds. Write a love letter to your spouse. Let him know how much he means to you, even though your daily grind may not give you the time you once had.

What are your other suggestions of things to record in writing? How did it help you to write it down?

 

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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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Making Unique Rules for Unique Children

Special. Unique. Different. Amazing.

I spent the last nine days worrying and praying for my 19-year-old niece who was hospitalized again for a problem stemming from her kidney disease. Her strength and stamina are inspiring, her tears are gut-wrenching and her journey is still an uphill climb. One realization for all of us this week is that she can never live by the same rules enjoyed by her peers. While most collegians survive on pizza and experiment with alcohol, my niece can get sick from too little sleep and too much stress. It doesn’t take much to upset the delicate balance of keeping her body healthy. She must adhere to very different rules and regulations.

I’ve based the last decade of my life around finding balance and order out of consistent routines, and modeling consistent behavior as a parent to three young children. I advise countless souls on the wonder of setting up a routine and sticking with it. I preach consistency to my husband in the way he reacts to misbehaving children and to always follow through with a promise (or threat). So what if you need special rules for special circumstances or separate rules for each child? My answer: so be it.

Parenting is not a religion; there are no mandates written in stone on whether or not you should put children to bed before 8 p.m. or after 8 p.m. The world is not black or white, and I literally have zero tolerance for any policy that involves zero tolerance. We are one tribe, but with vastly different life experiences. Our children may be from one family, but they have vastly different personalities and physical capabilities. While we set up our rules for the family about behavior, daily routines and expectations; we are careful about considering all the members of our family and adjusting our rules to fit.

MOM DARE: Well, first, give your children a huge hug and send up your thanks for their good health. You should never take that for granted. Next, relax one rule. That’s it. If you have only one child, watch to see how they react. For multiple children, see who benefits and who does not. And it can be any rule: move back bedtime, let them skip a veggie for dinner, allow them to eat in the family room or whatever works for you. Sometimes parenting (and childhood) can be a little more fun when you loosen a few of your strings.

 

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Be a Better Partner, Get a Better Partner

Love. Fear. Terror. It's hard to tell now (5 years later) exactly what we were feeling moments after having our second baby.

In a 2009 study, a whopping 90% of new parents report a decrease in marital satisfaction following the birth of their first child. As you fall in love with your baby, the extra demands often stress your connection with your spouse. It’s helpful during these times to remember that a happy marriage doesn’t just happen, it’s the result of ongoing communication and commitment. It’s also good to know that marital satisfaction increases with time, provided you’re willing to put in the effort.

How is your marriage now? Do you find yourself short-tempered around your spouse and quick to argue or complain? Maybe you feel like your world has been turned upside down, but they are blissfully unchanged by their new role. Lack of sleep may be your biggest enemy right now, not your spouse. They are likely overwhelmed by this new responsibility and may not know how to help out.

Mom Dare: Devote time each day this week to improving your connection with your partner. Resist all urges to complain or argue. Use words of love and gratitude. Offer to do a small task like picking up the dry cleaning or preparing breakfast. If your relationship has been strained, don’t expect to be instantly compensated for your kindness. Feeding a starved marriage takes time and patience. For more ideas on improving your relationship, visit this blog by marriage expert, Lori Lowe: http://lifegems4marriage.com/2010/04/15/what-have-you-done-for-your-marriage-today/

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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Posted by on May 10, 2010 in Weekly Bits of Baby Love

 

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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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