As nearly all first time parents, I had a lot of ideas for the kind of parent I wanted to be and the rules I would follow and ones I would ignore. And like most parents, I quickly found myself throwing most of those expectations out the window.
Admittedly, my list of things of “definitely will do” and “no way, no how” was fairly short to begin with. I had done a fair amount of reading about the first year and what traditionally happens with sleep, eating, breastfeeding and baby’s development, but I didn’t focus too closely on one parenting philosophy over another. I knew a lot of what I would do would depend on my child and my own and Mr. Carrot’s needs as parents, but there were a few things I was pretty dedicated to – until it turned out they weren’t right for my family.
1) Breastfeeding. I had every intention of breastfeeding – I took classes, read books, talked to friends, ordered the pump before Baby Carrot was even born and was ready with an array of nursing bras, shirts and breast pads. And then Baby Carrot was born early and tiny, with little energy to latch and attempt to feed. The NICU wouldn’t let her out until she showed consistent weight gain, and since she would fall asleep after a few seconds on the breast, we ended up supplementing with formula almost immediately. I went to the NICU every 3 hours during the day to attempt nursing her, and pumped religiously throughout the day and night, but even 10 days later, when she was finally able to come home, I got barely an ounce per pumping session and she was drinking full bottles of formula even after nursing. I spoke with multiple lactation consultants, and stuck to my pumping schedule, but it was obvious that Baby C wasn’t getting much from me, if anything at all, and neither was the pump. After 6 weeks of waking up every 2 hours to pump, trying to nurse a frustrated baby, and worrying about whether Baby C was eating enough, I made the decision to stop and switch to formula feeding exclusively.
2) Baby Led Weaning. I read about Baby Led Weaning when looking for tips on readiness for solids, and I loved the idea of letting the baby pace herself in learning how to eat. Baby Carrot was able to sit up on her own by 5 months, so we decided shortly before her 6 month birthday to start trying solids. Unfortunately, we were missing one key item for successful BLW – eating as a family, where Baby C could observe us eating and engage in the process with us. With our work schedules and her fairly early bedtime, by the time we got home from daycare, it was time for her to go to bed, so our only opportunity was really on weekends, and there we found ourselves with tons of errands to run, cooking for ourselves to do, and not a lot of time to just sit down and eat together. So we tried feeding her with a spoon at first and she loved it. Add to that her already small size and our desire to help her gain weight, we decided to start with baby food and let her graduate to more adult food as she got older.
3) Travel. Mr. Carrot and I were avid travelers up until we got pregnant, and I was insistent that we would travel with baby ASAP. We even designed a travel themed nursery, and explored ideas for vacations for after Baby Carrot’s birth. Well, Baby C is now 15 months old, and the farthest traveling we’ve done with her is a 4 hour drive to New Jersey to see her grandparents, once over Thanksgiving and once over Memorial Day. Part of this slowdown is circumstance – our families live within a few hours’ drive, so we haven’t had a lot of need to fly anywhere, and some of it is financial and us wanting to prioritize our savings and some home projects over vacationing. But the biggest reason is that I just hadn’t gotten to a comfortable enough point myself to take on the challenges of traveling with a little person. Becoming a parent was definitely a much harder adjustment than I anticipated, and I found myself focusing much more than I expected on establishing a routine for all of us in order to get my own bearings. After hearing of friends’ challenges post travel in getting babies back to their sleeping schedule, I honestly just got scared off the idea, though definitely not permanently!
In addition to all the “will do’s” that I had, I had a small list of things I never planned to do and found myself quickly adjusting otherwise:
1) Co-sleeping. The whole idea of co-sleeping was always a no-no for me. The list of potential “what if something goes wrong” items was just too long. And then somewhere between 7 weeks and 3 months, Baby Carrot refused to sleep any way other than curled in my arm. She had started out in a Rock n’Play next to my bed, and would sleep fairly long stretches there for the first few weeks, but she always wanted to be held during the day, and then at night too. The only way we got any sleep is if I laid down with her, so for a month and a half, that’s how we slept. Around the time that she turned 3 months, we decided to move her to her crib, since she was due to start daycare and I was worried she’d have a hard time if she wasn’t used to the crib. Miraculously, she took to it almost immediately and slept even better than she had with us, but for that short time, we went with the “do whatever needs to be done” adage and shared our bed despite our reservations.
2) Following a routine. I always understood the importance of having a baby follow a schedule, but I never thought I’d be as rigorous about Baby Carrot’s as I ended up being. A big part of that was really for myself more than for her – as I mentioned, adjusting to parenting hit me pretty hard, and one way that I could feel somewhat normal was knowing when her nap and sleep times were, and following a schedule, especially after I got back to work. In hindsight, it did help Baby Carrot, too – she got to be a fairly consistent sleeper pretty quickly, and we had a good sense of how much she was eating and how well. However, I definitely think I let go of flexibility a bit too much, and our plan for the second year is to try and give ourselves a little more wiggle room and step a bit further out of our comfort zone.
3) Rocking to sleep. Baby Carrot learned how to settle down to sleep pretty quickly once she adjusted to the crib and a general sleep schedule. Naps, however, were always a different story. Be it her insatiable curiosity or just her own rhythm, she would never nap more than a half hour if we put her in the crib or anywhere else to sleep. So for many months, if we wanted to get a long nap out of her, the only way would be for her to nap on myself or Mr. Carrot, after we rocked her for a few minutes to sleep. Around 9 months, she finally began napping more consistently and in her crib, but the practice of rocking her a bit to get her to fall asleep continues to this day. We know that she knows how to settle down to sleep – she does it daily at daycare, and every night at home – so we aren’t particularly worried about setting a bad habit with a couple naps on the weekend. And we figure naps aren’t forever, so we’ll steal this little bit of cuddle time every weekend for now.
What are some of the things you found yourself doing that you swore off? What did you end up giving up that you had planned on?