The learning never stops

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of change, almost as an extension of this post I wrote last year on adjusting to motherhood. Change is inevitable as a parent and no matter how much equipment you have, or how many instructional books you read, nothing can quite prepare you for the incredible impact a baby will have on your life. It is a time of learning like no other; and it never stops.

But even as things change, it is important to do what makes you and your family most happy and comfortable. Whether it’s sleeping, feeding, teething or overall growth and development, there is always something going on, and figuring it out is part of the journey.

The areas of change and learning I want to touch on in this post include baby needs, appetite, developmental milestones and the world of childcare.

  1. Baby needs: Routine versus demand

As I may have mentioned before, I am a routine kind of person, and after some research I learned how to make this work for my baby too. We are somewhat flexible in our routine and can adapt when we need to be somewhere at a certain time, but he is woken up at the same time each day and put to bed at roughly the same time, depending on how long he feeds for, which works extremely well for everyone in this household. As much as I admire those parents who leave their day (and night) entirely up to their baby, we learned early on that this wasn’t the best option for us.

2. A baby’s appetite

As a baby grows, they need less breastmilk/formula and when regular solids have been established, even less (although much more real food)! Now on his way to being eleven months old, my son is happily eating three meals and one snack and having four breastfeeds a day. I feel confident that his little belly is satisfied but the food preparation journey was quite a lot to get used to. My son quickly moved from purees to mashes and chewable foods and now I am constantly on the lookout for baby friendly recipes to try. I must admit now that I hav been doing it for a while, I do enjoy preparing his meals and coming up with a daily menu each night before I go to bed.

3. Developmental milestones

When a baby rolls, sleeps, walks, talks or behaves in a certain way, it is a huge deal. But as parents we need to remember that these milestones are times of change that occur at different stages for everyone. A friend’s baby may get their first tooth at 7 months when your child may not have had any come through at 10 months. A baby’s development is not something that fits into a routine or schedule. Rough timelines are available but there is no set age when a baby should be doing a particular thing, which is somewhat reassuring. There is absolutely no need to compare your baby to anyone else’s, as tempting as it may be.

4. Navigating the world of childcare

Navigating the world of childcare (and getting used to the idea that our baby will be away from us at some point!) can be difficult, especially if advice is coming from all directions. It may be important that you return to work or study for personal, professional or financial reasons but whatever it is, unless family help is available, some form of childcare will need to be considered. Making this decision can be tricky but remember that opportunities for socialisation and learning can be a good thing. Make sure you find out as much as you can by visiting a few centres and asking lots of questions so that you understand what they have to offer.

At every stage of your parenting journey, you are going to encounter change; big and small. The four areas I have discussed are currently relevant to me, but I know that there is so much more. As a takeaway, I want to emphasise the importance of responding to change by learning what works best for you and your family and remember that the learning really does never stop.

I realise I haven’t covered everything here so if you have something you’d like to add please leave a comment!

Adjusting to Motherhood

I wrote about my start to living an eco-baby life a couple of months ago. It is still going really well, and I am continuing to pick up tips and tricks and apply them in my own way, as I adjust to my newfound role as a mother.

The journey of motherhood is one that never ends. Having someone that all of a sudden depends on you to survive can be a lot of pressure, and a lot to get used to. The feed, sleep, play cycle can get very repetitive and leave you with little time for anything else.

I was recently made aware of the term “Matrescence”, the developmental transition to motherhood; the idea of a mother being born. This thoughtful article by Lauren Hughes, a Child Health Nurse, explains the term is used to describe the emotional, physical, mental, social and psychological process a woman goes through when she becomes a mother. Lauren describes it as a “change that launches us into a new phase of life with an evolved and expanded sense of who we are.”

There is a lot going on in a mother’s life before, during and after pregnancy and so much to adapt to, as well as new concepts and rituals. Unfortunately a somewhat negative term that is commonly used as an excuse for apparent vagueness is “baby brain”, when the mother (or father) has a lot going on, and may be unable to find the words for adult conversation, or make questionable decisions.

Baby brain is a stereotype that new parents (including me) fall victim to. When I’m having a conversation and can’t find the words, it must be baby brain. When I forget to shut the front door behind me, it must be baby brain.

Stereotypes aside, a lot of mums might struggle with their new identity, or be confused and unsure where their old self has gone, as the term Matrescence acknowledges. There are books and other resources that focus on this topic in an effort to normalise it which can help us to recognise that people adapt in different ways, whether rational or not.

Right now I think it’s ever important to make time each day to do something for myself, even if it is for only 10 or 15 minutes. Time is so precious when you have a little one on your hands, and so much of it is spent helping them grow. Your priorities may have changed but you are still the same person.

As I watch my baby boy drifting in and out of sleep, I know that I wouldn’t change a thing. Seeing his eyes light up and his gummy grin as I read him a story, sing him a song or turn on his mobile is simply delightful. Life has certainly changed, and I am embracing everything that comes with this amazing adventure, while remembering to continue to do the things I enjoyed doing before, in smaller doses. Not because I have lost my sense of self but because I am not my main focus anymore.

Living the eco-baby life

I know I said it would probably be a while before I published another blog post, but I have learned so much in the past month I couldn’t resist!

In an ideal world, many people would prefer a natural birth with no drugs or interference and a labour that is not particularly lengthy. This is what I also hoped for but as my due date grew closer, I was readying myself for anything.

After being told I may need to be induced early, something changed for me. I was ready and understood that the baby was ready to come out!

So, my birth didn’t start off going to plan but after being induced, having my waters broken and a couple of hours of contractions, out he came.

Our beautiful baby boy is now with us and we are loving every bit of the journey. We are learning so much every day, and instead of feeling constantly overwhelmed, we are enjoying it as much as we can and I am focusing on expanding my knowledge because there is just so much to learn!

Being the eco-conscious person that I endeavour to be, I ordered a bunch of both cloth nappies and biodegradable bamboo nappies before the birth. I had heard that cloth nappies weren’t the easiest on newborns, but I was keen to eventually give them a go and planned to use the bamboo nappies in the meantime.

After returning home from hospital, we got to work on our eco-baby routine. Bamboo nappies, check. Bamboo wipes, check. Biodegradable nappy bags, check. We were set and it felt really good. But I felt like I could do more, I mean I had enough cloth nappies for part time usage and a heap of old school terry towelling nappies too.

It’s like people tried to put me off, telling me cloth nappies aren’t easy, and that I wouldn’t last long using them, especially without a dryer. But I am pretty determined, and I don’t mind cleaning a bit of poop here and there. The biggest issue I am having at the moment is with the fit. Once he is a bit bigger I think I will find them more useful and won’t need to change the sheets so frequently! But I have decided that a little bit of extra water usage in the interim is better than a mountain of waste that will take a lifetime to break down. I know that even biodegradable nappies take a while to break down, but their environmental footprint is better than that of non-biodegradable nappies.

I have also been researching the best chemical free or chemically reduced options for things like nappy rash, sunscreen etc and have been asking anyone with a child what they did. I am now using paw paw ointment as barrier cream for nappy rash, which seems to be working well. Apparently nappy rash will be an issue with cloth nappies, due to moisture build up so I make sure I lather it on at least once a day!

I had to order of a different type of (still Australian made) biodegradable nappies, as the ones I started using decided to start leaking occasionally too. These new ones I have ordered claim to have a high absorbency and have been pretty good so far.

This is my life now and I am loving it! It has been such an important time of learning and we love watching our baby as he takes in the world and responds differently every day.

If anyone has anything they want to share, please leave a comment!