I did it! I made it through the first year of my daughter’s life relatively unscathed. Thank goodness for my husband, who was a calming influence, grandparents, who were my favorite babysitters, and wine—no explanation needed.
For all you moms out there who are just embarking on the first year of your child’s life, here are a few key things I learned that I wish I had known at the beginning of the year. But live and learn, right?
Before Baby is Born: Working with Your Partner/Expectations: Whether you’re planning to stay home with your baby, hiring a nanny or sending baby to daycare, you will (most likely) be home with baby for at least six weeks after you give birth. And after that, there will be evenings and weekends if you go back to work. So it’s a really good idea to sit down with your partner and hammer a few things out.
Let’s start with the obvious: breastfeeding. Are you going to do it? If so, you need to establish how the middle-of-the-night feedings are going to go. In my case, I told my husband right off the bat that I would get up and he was off the hook. What, exactly, was he going to do? Watch? It seemed silly to me for him to get up. But I do know couples who both get up. The husband changes the diaper or gives a bottle of pumped milk in the middle of the night, and that’s fine too. Just figure out what works for you. There will be a lot of factors: Are you going back to work? Are you formula feeding, breastfeeding or doing both? How often does your baby get up? If it’s four times a night, you will definitely want some help!
Doesn’t seem fair that you have to get up in the middle of the night to breastfeed? Even the playing field. In our house, on Saturday mornings, instead of sleeping in, my husband would take our daughter for a long walk (at least an hour or so) while I slept. It was great!
The First Few Months: Sleep, Sleep, Sleep: Speaking of sleeping in, or sleeping at all, are you ready for the deprivation? First of all, don’t stress out about it before it happens. For every colicky baby is one who only gets up once a night from the time he’s six weeks old.
Honestly, I found the worst part of the whole sleep thing to be this: Once I would get my daughter on a schedule, she would change. Every few months, babies’ needs change. They start sleeping through the night, taking regular naps, then taking less naps, then waking up in the night again. It’s frustrating to feel like you’ve got the sleep thing all straightened out and then a week later your baby changes it up on you. My only advice is this: Go with the flow. Make sure your baby is getting enough sleep (there are a lot of great books out there, my favorite is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) and try to keep to a routine the best you can.
Saying “So Long” to Baby Weight: Getting back in shape after baby is a bitch. The first few weeks you are recovering from the trauma of giving birth or having a c-section, and then working out is the last thing you want to do. It’s all supposed to just melt off, right?
Right … sort of. Some of it does melt off, especially if you’re breastfeeding. But you do have to put in some work to get the rest off. I will say I found the “nine months on, nine months off” saying to be true, but I didn’t really feel myself again until my daughter was a year old. I started a workout program called Stroller Strides when she was around eight months and it worked wonders. If you can find some sort of group exercise to do, DO IT. There is nothing more motivating than being held accountable by others! And don’t discount a good walk. Put that baby in the stroller and GO!
Weaning: If you breastfeed your child, it’s up to you how long you want to do it. It’s the healthiest thing for your baby, so do it as long as you are comfortable.
For me, I started cutting back when my daughter began eating solids at six months. However, I never gave her formula, her nursing sessions were supplemented with real food. I knew I wanted to be done when she was one year old, so I started cutting out feedings very slowly around nine and a half months.
Now, my daughter loooooved her booby time, so this was NOT easy, especially cutting out the feedings associated with naps or bed, so I went nice and slow. I started cutting out her afternoon “snack” which was not attached to a nap when she was about nine and a half months old. That was the easy one. I just fed her yogurt instead.
Two weeks later, I eliminated the feeding before her afternoon nap. Two weeks after that, I cut out the morning nap feeding. So how did she go down for naps? She fussed, but went to sleep within a few minutes—not as big of a deal as I thought it would be.
So by this time, we were down to two feedings a day—morning and night and it was a few weeks before her first birthday. I would always nurse her first thing when she got up in the morning before she had her cereal, so I was trying to figure out how to distract her from that. Fortunately, we took a five-day trip to grandma and grandpa’s during this time. So I had my mom get her up in the morning and play with her while I showered, then my mom would give her cereal. By the time I showed up, about a half hour after she got up, she had forgotten all about the morning booby.
A few days after her first birthday, I had introduced regular milk (ok, true confession: she got it about two weeks before her first birthday) and was ready to say goodbye to that last nursing session at night. It took one or two nights of her crying for 10 minutes or so and then that was it. It was like I had never nursed her at all. She never reached for it or cried for it.
I don’t want to fool you into thinking it’s always this easy. My daughter LOVES food and eats A LOT. So nursing definitely was not her primary source of calories. Many babies aren’t like this. They prefer nursing or formula for a while. Also, if you choose to wean later (maybe when baby is 18-22 months), it will be a bit harder. Just like sleep training, the older they get, the more aware they are. They will know exactly what you are taking away from them and keep coming after it! But this doesn’t apply to all babies, either. Some just naturally stop because they are done with it.
Weaning, whether it’s from the bottle or breast, is definitely something to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Every baby is different! However, if you want to make it as pain free as possible (for yourself and your baby), take the slow and steady route.
The First Birthday: You made it! The sleepless nights, cranky baby, getting yourself back in shape—it’s been a heck of a year! Time to celebrate!
SO. You may be feeling the pressure to throw a massive first birthday bash for your kiddo. If you have the time, money and space, go for it! But don’t feel like you have to. Remember, the first birthday party is more for you than your kid! Just so long as you have a photo of your child with a birthday cake, that’s all you need to prove what wonderful parents you were. Ha!
We didn’t have the space to throw a party large enough to accommodate all of our friends, so we had a small (around 25 people) family gathering at grandma’s house that was just right for us. Our daughter had a blast and we had a good time, too. Then we poured ourselves a drink and toasted to making it through year number one!