Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Year Of: Finding Routine

Brees Elizabeth will be a year old on November 15.  I know that every mother says this, but
I really can't believe how quickly the time has passed.  As I reflect on this last year and all
the adventures and milestones we have experienced, I hope that you enjoy this series of
posts about our family and all the things we have learned this past year.
A year of finding routine...
Though we are a carefree, adventure loving family, this little tribe thrives on routine.  We
like our chaos a bit controlled, our environment fun yet serene.  There are days when no
one is cooperating and the schedule and rules go out the window but, for the most
part, having some structure makes us a happier, healthier bunch.
I would describe our parenting style as attachment mixed with flexible routine.  We
believe very much in meeting all of our children's needs, keeping them close and
showing them immeasurable amounts of love, and providing them with an atmosphere
that is conducive to creativity and positive energy.  I love reading and learning about
different parenting philosophies, I love talking with other parents and finding out what
works best for them.  Learning is a life long process and I'm not sure if I'll ever stop
searching for new and better ways to live my life.  My parenting is definitely a
reflection of that.
This past year, we have taken lessons we learned from our experience with our first
child, new ideas we read about and wanted to try, and the endless supply of advice
we obtained from friends and family to develop our own way of doing things.  Most
days, being a mama is all trial and error.  Things don't go as planned and babies
most certainly don't come with a manual.  But, having a plan and working together as a
team makes the tough moments seem manageable.
We follow many of Dr. Sears's philosophies on attachment parenting: I breast feed and
wear my baby, we co-sleep and listen to our children's cues.  We believe very much in
the power of promoting independence and confidence in our girls by assuring them that
their needs will be met and all our bases are covered.
In keeping with those philosophies, we have, for both girls, followed a simple, practical, 
and flexible routine developed by Tracy Hogg (AKA "The Baby Whisperer") known as  
E is for EAT
I nursed Brees on demand for the first week of her life, every 2-3 hours for the first 
month, and then eventually every 3-4 hours thereafter.  During the day, if she fell 
asleep during a feeding, I woke her up.  If she slept too long and was going to miss a feeding, 
I woke her up.  I know this may sound insane, especially in the beginning when 
sleep deprivation is in full effect, and I've always heard the saying "never wake a 
sleeping baby" but there IS a method to the madness.  During the day, if Brees fell 
asleep while I was nursing her, I woke her up and encouraged her to finish eating to 
ensure that she got the FULL feeding.  This helped my milk supply to develop in 
abundance and helped Brees stay full longer.  Allowing her to get a FULL feeding kept 
her happy and prevented her from constantly cluster feeding.  She was satisfied at each 
meal and this helped her cycle develop from day one.  If she slept too long and was going 
to miss a feeding, I woke her up from her nap and fed her.  This kept her from being in 
a feeding frenzy later, prevented her from  ever being so furiously hungry that she 
didn't nurse well.  I anticipated her needs, read her cues, and responded to what soon 
became a very predictable cycle thereby making it much easier on both of us.  By feeding 
her on a set yet flexible time line and ensuring she was getting a complete meal, Brees 
was much more content and my milk supply was able to keep up.
A is for Activity
After Brees was fed and burped, we then had an "activity".  No, we didn't do arts and crafts
or repel down a mountain.  An activity is something as simple as a diaper change in
the beginning, a soothing bath or guitar time with Daddy.  As she got bigger, her
activities became play time on her mat, singing with mama and reading a story with
Belle.  The idea here is that Brees was able to burn off some energy before falling asleep,
she was stimulated and allowed to explore which then allowed her to
rest better.

S is for Sleep
By this point, Brees was fed, burped, cleaned, and stimulated.  All of her needs were met,
she was typically very happy and content.  If she wasn't, it was easy to narrow down
the problem because we had covered most of our bases.  I am a big fan of swaddling
and always rocked both of my girls to sleep.  Brees slept either in her bassinet next to our
bed or in bed with us until she was 11 months old.  I have a whole post devoted to
co-sleeping as part of this series, so stay tuned.
Y is for You
While Brees slept, I used those fleeting moments to take a shower, spend time with
Isabelle, tackle a few household chores, catch up on emails, or take a nap myself.  It
seriously came down to prioritizing as I was in survival mode most days.  I love that
this routine includes a space for mama, though.  All too often we forget about ourselves
and the TLC we all need and deserve.
EASY: eat, activity, sleep, you, repeat.  At night, you simply adjust the cycle
to Eat, Sleep, Repeat.  It has worked for us.  It has created a calm
and predictable tone for our day.  Brees has grown with the routine and made it her
own: going longer stretches between feedings, sleeping for longer periods at night.  But
the cycle, the concept of taking care of all her basic needs and allowing her to burn off
her energy before putting her down for sleep has resulted in a happy, healthy baby.  There
are moments, of course, when even the best laid plans don't work and we have to
try something different.  But, for the most part, EASY works for us.  
Being a family is, for us, all about finding ways to take care of each other and make each
other happy.  It's about fitting our lives together in a way that helps us all grow in
strength and love.  We are a work in progress, this little tribe, learning and trying new
ideas each and every day.  And that is what keeps life interesting.

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deanna@delirious-rhapsody said...

ok. i wanted to comment and tell you how much i enjoyed this post, because i could definitely relate....and then i saw the kitchen picture.

so instead i am going to tell you that i need your kitchen in my life. :)

Randalin. said...

What a great post! I love reading about other people's parenting philosophies and practices. It totally inspires me when parents are thoughtful and purposeful with how they decide to parent.

And, of course, the pictures are cute to boot!

Little Gray Pixel said...

Oh man. I was doing it all wrong at the beginning: activity, then eat. No wonder the first four months were such a challenge.

Anonymous said...

this is such a great post.. im gonna remember this for when i have a kiddo! :D

Anonymous said...

p.s. i want your kitchen too LOL

Carly Anne said...

This was a really interesting read as we have recently started trying for baby #1... Thanks for sharing your philosophies!

amy@agoodlife said...

oh this is TOTALLY what we did & it worked wonders with parker. now that he's hit a year our routine is changed up a bit but the eat-play-sleep-relax routine was the BEST for his baby hood!

Nessa said...

We used EASY too! It really helped keep my day sane and remember to take some time for me. That Y is an important one in those early days. I would just daze out at first and not get up and nap or go shower. Just sit. Survival mode to be sure. I love all your photos. And I haven't sais it before - but the brick in your kitchen is so gorgeous.