I really do not write about "baby stuff" as often as I thought I would. Mostly it's because I really enjoy that I have a job outside of being a parent that allows me to do and write about so many different things. And, of course, it's because I am raising my daughter with Paul, not 92,000 opinionated strangers on the Internet. ;) But because I am sort of mum (pun intended) about a lot of random parenting things here, I end up fielding a ton of questions on Instagram and via email so I thought I would just post a big "baby" FAQ that I can link to in the future.
The biggest thing to note is that all of this is just what works for me, Paul and Ellerie. I am an expert in exactly nothing. I just refuse to sweat the small stuff (my first motto is real problems vs. pretend problems) and try to do the best for me and my baby. I would even take this a step further and say I don't even recommend anything here. This is our experience with Ellerie and will no doubt look completely different with any future kiddos.
On a "sleep schedule." for the most part Ellerie has slept through the night from seven weeks on. We did nothing remarkable to make this happen. I never got blackout shade or invested in a white noise machine or read about sleep training or sleep methods. We won the lottery and our baby sleeps. We put her down awake, full and dry around 7pm every night and she wakes up happy around 7am every morning. I'd say every 2-3 weeks she'll wake up in the middle of the night (either because of a loud noise, or she's the wrong temp or she's hungry) and when she does we change her and feed her and put her back down. In a perfect world, she'd take two naps a day - a short one in the morning and a long one in the afternoon. More often than not, these days we get three cat naps each day. I don't fret about this. It's all going to even itself out eventually. People like to joke that our second kiddo is never going to sleep ever and no doubt they are correct, but that's not stopping me from enjoying this kid who sleeps.
photo by Tara Whitney
On milk. Oh man, I had such grand ideas about what breastfeeding would be like. While I anticipated it being hard physically in the beginning, I thought for sure that I would just LOVE it. I think I was prepared for the initial pain (sort of, it was intense) but I was not prepared on any level for the mental challenges that for me came with breastfeeding. I didn't like it. I felt like I was drowning. The day we switched from feeding at the breast to pumping and bottlefeeding (six weeks in) a giant weight lifted and I finally felt like I could do this. I could keep going. For other moms, I have heard that the exact opposite is true; breastfeeding pulls them out of baby-blues and helps them see the light at the end of the tunnel. That's so awesome and I am so glad that most people don't struggle like I did. I have pumped and bottlefeed Ellerie breastmilk exclusively for seven months. I've pumped anywhere from four to nine times a day depending on what my production is like, our schedule and how much she's eating. We follow the 5-5-5 rule with expressed milk... 5 hours out of the fridge, 5 day in the fridge, 5 months frozen. Not going to lie, it's such an incredible hassle but we are making it work and the good news is we are all thriving (physically and mentally).
On food. Ellerie has been eating baby food from about 5.5 months on. We feed her "dinner" in her highchair and she loves everything we give her. She didn't digest rice cereal or oatmeal as well as I would have liked so we stick to just pureed fruit or veggies right now. At this point in our lives, I find it easier to buy my baby food (the stuff that's just a mix of veggie/fruit and water without any extra preservatives or sweeteners) instead of making it and so guess what...we buy it. (My second motto is don't make this harder than it needs to be.)
On cloth diapering. We use 19 bumgenius elemental cloth diapers. There's so much already online about cloth diapers so have nothing to add but here are two posts (one & two) that I referred to when I was waiting for the baby.
On all the stuff. Early on I wrote a post about newborn essentials. Hilariously at 8.5 months in we still use every single thing on this list (Ellerie still sleeps with her legs in the swaddle bag, arms free). The only big things I would add: our Stokke highchair (with infant seat), Bob stroller, Bobby shopping cart cover and our Ergo (with strap cover teething pads). That's really all we need.
On a baby book. Ellerie does not have a traditional baby book. When she turns one I am going to combine the dear ellerie letters and a ton of photos into a digital photobook and that will be it.
On parenting books. I read Great with Child and Bringing Up Bebe (loved them both!) before Ellerie was born and have not cracked a parenting book since. I know nothing about various methods or stages. Reading about how my baby should act or what I should be doing stresses me out, so I just don't read any of the books and take things a day at a time. (related, I am preparing a post about our favorite children's books.)
On what I wish I'd done differently. The number one "regret" I have is that I didn't invest in a great, comfortable rocker/glider. The ones that look good (that I wanted to own) are expensive and I couldn't justify the cost. I think that a comfy chair would have made a difference during those middle of the night feeding sessions and could have been what helped me push through with nursing. I intend to try breastfeeding again if and when we have a second kiddo and I will make this purchase.
On the whole thing. Parenthood is so hard. There are about 1000 things to think about each day and then 1 million things to consider if you allow your mind to wander to the future. Before I had my baby, I had all sorts of thoughts and theories and opinions about what I would be like as a mom and how it's "best" to raise kiddos. Then on June 20 my baby was born and my world turned upside down and my life as I knew it exploded into million pieces. As I've put the pieces back together (to form a brighter, better picture), I have learned that all I can do is slowly find what works for my family. So my message for new moms has nothing to do with diapers or food or milk or sleep, while it doesn't seem like it now, that stuff is temporary. Instead, know this :You're doing an amazing job. You are already exactly who you need to be for your baby. Just keep swimming and don't be afraid to ask for help.
I am leaving the comments section open in this post but please remember there are many other forums online to debate pros and cons of breastfeeding, sleep schedules, transitioning to solid food and cloth diapering. There are 6 billion ways to raise a healthy, happy child. I respect your way and I appreciate that you respect mine.