Thursday, May 10, 2012

On babies, schedules, and my parenting crutches...I mean secrets!

Its been almost 5 years since my little girl was born and I became a mommy. Which seems fairly ridiculous because time has flown by and suddenly my baby is out of babyhood! And my lovely friend asked last week how I approach baby scheduling etc so I thought I might write a little about it now. All non-mommy readers feel free to glaze right over ;)

I come from a fairly attachment parenting friendly family. My Mom was all about breastfeeding on demand, and child-led weaning (even after the age of two), and baby wearing, and natural home birth, the whole nine yards pretty much. So needless to say I'm very used to these ideas and I've seen them play out in our family and for the most part thought this would be the way I'd go in parenting as well, although I have to admit I really didn't have too many preconceived ideas of my parenting style before having my first baby-and that was probably a good thing.

When Gemma was born I had no intention to put her on a hard and fast routine/schedule or breastfeed on demand, I basically thought I'd roll with how she rolled. But things got a little rough pretty quickly. Her birth was fairly tough on me, to the point that I couldn't sit up or really walk comfortably for the first week at least, and it took about 3 weeks until I was up and sweeping my own floor-which I was oddly thrilled to do! Then she hopped on board the colic train. Which meant that for the next 8-9 weeks I hardly slept at night. I really only slept at night when my husband, mom, or sister took a shift with her. It was brutal. I was a complete mess, she cried almost all the time, sleeping didn't happen much during the day and wouldn't happen any time after 9 pm. While this was happening I was falling fairly hard into postpartum depression. I couldn't really distinguish the postpartum from the exhaustion at first, but as she improved and I didn't, I realized it wasn't just lack of sleep that was making me feel miserable.

I came to the conclusion, probably with more than a little help from my husband, that I needed to make some changes to my day that would positively impact how I was feeling and help me recover. I needed routine, the baby needed routine. Thankfully, because I was so laid up after the birth, Gemma was an all-star nurser. But with the colic nursing quickly became a try-any-time solution to the non-stop crying which created a super snacker! Anytime she would fuss I'd offer her the boob which was a bad habit. Whenever she'd fuss I'd feel obligated to sit and nurse her, people would hand her to me anytime she made a noise and I'd give in to her and she'd nurse for less than 5 minutes. It was a terrible cycle. I felt like my day was held hostage to the demanding little snacker, but at the same time I thought that this is what it meant to breastfeed on demand, which was wrong of course. And the snacking also led to 15 minute naps. I had no time to myself, or even to do the dishes and I thought that if this is what motherhood is all about I'm hooped!

To get all these snacking/sleep problems under control I looked into some books and decided to give The Baby Whisperer a try. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that this book has had such a positive impact on my parenting/family that I can't laud it enough. Basically the Baby Whisperer proposes that babies are best kept to a routine of Eating, Activity, Sleep throughout their day. Eating becomes a more scheduled every 3 hr, and then as the baby gets older every 4hr thing. Then the baby happily plays and is awake for a little while before its peacefully put to bed to fall asleep on its own and to nap for about two hours at a time. I know, to anyone who has had a baby this sounds completely impossible. I didn't believe it when I first read it, but thought what the heck, I might was well try out what she suggests because I need any help I can get! And over the course of a couple weeks, and lots of hard work on my part, it did work. I suddenly had a routine to my day. I knew the times I could devote to breastfeeding her and wouldn't feel like she was making me her milk slave, she'd be awake and happy! for a good couple hours, and she'd sleep for more than 15 minutes! It was a miracle!

I actually don't think that the Baby Whisperer is contrary to attachment parenting ideals. She never promotes the cry it out method, but gives great tips to encouraging an independent sleeper. And I think independent sleeping is such a valuable skill!! Especially if you want to parent/attachment parent more than one child per decade! And I like to think that the principles behind attachment parenting motivates whatever other techniques I use, like independent sleep. I don't follow the book to the letter of course, but I've used lots of different tips with different babies and they've all worked in different situations. I've continued to use to the book's ideas of scheduling/routine right from birth with my following three kids and I can't tell you how awesome it is to be able to put a baby in his bed awake and know that he's going to fall asleep and stay asleep. With the way our family has grown and how close in age our babies are, I'm pretty confident that I would have lost my mind if my kids didn't nap!

It also has really suited my personality. I think that that's an important part of motherhood; following what works for your personality. Obviously motherhood forms you to holiness in everyday life and wears away at our selfishness, but we've also got to acknowledge our personalities. My crazy control-oriented personality deals better with knowing how my day is going to play out. I wish I was more easy going, lived more in the moment, and didn't worry about getting things done quite so much. I also still want to have a small slice of time to have to do what interests me apart from babies. You know, important stuff like Facebook, drinking wine, and sitting in the bathtub for hours at a time!  I love knowing that I will be able to give my full attention to my baby at the times he's supposed to nurse and while he's awake, AND get time to get things done around the house. We have bad days where the kids need more loving and snuggling, and of course my schedule and what I wanted to get done flies out the window, but for the most part having a daily routine from babyhood has been great for me. But the schedule/routine idea has served me well through all their ages thus far. Nap times have turned into quiet times for the older babies and as they've always been used to regular times for naps, its easy to keep up the habit of a least a little quiet time during the day. I could go on but basically naps are gold.

I could go on for about a 500 page or so book about the intricacies of babies and their schedules...because lets face it...when you have 4 in 4 year you become kinda an expert, but I'll save some to tempt you to come back! Am I a mommy quitter for admitting I love that I make my kids nap everyday?


  1. First of all: your glasses are adorbs. That being said, I had such a hard time during Benjamin's first year because of terrible colic/reflux and NO SLEEP. NO FREAKIN SLEEP. And constant two minute nursing sessions. I was so relieved to know that it wasn't typical baby behavior and that I wasn't just a complete wimp. It was tough. The experience definitely showed me that each baby is different, each family is different, each situation is different and no "parenting style" is perfect for everybody. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  2. A very interesting post Christy! I actually just came across one of the Baby Whisperer's books (the third one I think)and am quite taken with her ideas, especially the whole eat,awake, sleep thing. I think I am going to give it a try with my next one and see what happens. It's good to know that you recommend it, and that it still fits in with attachment parenting philosophy. I will only have 2 kids to worry about, but the idea of a nice routine sounds splendid!!
    Thanks for the post and keep me in your prayers, as Baby should make his/her appearance any day now :)


  3. LOVED the Baby Whisperer! You recommended it to me when Maria was around 6 months and boy did it change my life! It makes such a difference if you can depend on having some kind of schedule to your days, especially with a newborn..and its crazy how well it works!

  4. I really appreciate this post. I wish I had had the nerve to ask you about this about 8 months ago, because here Isaiah is already one (how did that happen?) and is in the same awful situation that Noah was in... will only NURSE TO SLEEP for naps... which means 40 minutes naps. Oh brother. He sleeps alright at night but not stellar. Does the Baby Whisperer's advice only apply to newborns? Or could this work with my near-toddler? I realize I have to wean him off nursing to sleep (a bad habit of mine, partly due to some mistaken advice from diehard AP families) and right away. I'm afraid I will be in naptime battles with him the way I was with Noah for almost a year. And now he's outgrown them! (Thankfully he'll still lie on his bed for an hour a day). I can't tell you how much I envy these moms whose kids all take naps of reasonable, predictable lengths and synchronized with their siblings. But I know a lot of that depends on the efforts of the mom, and I need to step it up.

  5. Loving this this. Thanks Christy for being real and sharing! Feeling like a slave was a huge red blinking signal to me that maybe something needed to change, because I am also a control-oriented person. In high school I LIVED by my day planner and always thrived in college when I was on a set routine. Over breaks my life would go to chaos because I had no schedule. I know you live in a rural area, but how do you manage unannounced grandparent visits, friends wanting to stop by, etc?

  6. Hey Christy,

    Firstly, I LOVE your blog and the Fountains of Carrots podcast. Let's just say it gets me through many a household task these days! You're so relatable, especially as I have two under two and seem to be on that track...anyway, my oldest sounds a LOT like your oldest re: the constant nursing/crying whenever put down. We were able to finally get her to sleep alone around 11 months but it did take some crying sessions. My second, now 8 months, had bad colic too, but overall much better sleeper than #1. Buuut...she still doesn't put herself to sleep 90% of the time AND sleeps with me from her first wake-up onwards. Do you think The Baby Whisperer techniques would work with a not-newborn? I fear she may have to just CIO like her sister did but maybe should give BW a try. I'd love to get more sleep at night, and sleeping with her means she wakes up anytime one of us moves a muscle or she realizes the nipple is no longer in her mouth. :) Would love your thoughts on breaking the habit!


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