I have found that as a new mommy, I am very interested in what other babies do all day, more specifically, what their routine is like. Every baby is so different, as is each household they live in. Since this is my first child, all I know is what Ava does.
I have to say, I felt very out of place as an Army wife when we arrived at our first duty station. We only knew one other person here, and so I had zero friends. As female adults, it can be difficult to make new friends. And what does every Army wife sit around and talk about?
Kids. Dogs. Deployments.
At the time, I had none of those. (well, I had experienced a deployment, but we weren't married yet and it was a Reservist Deployment, so it was "not on the same playing field".)
My husband was encouraging me to branch out and meet people, and I had to try to explain to him that I had nothing to talk about, since all the conversations inevitably end up about kids. And all I could do was listen and smile politely. I tried not to interject too often with a sentence starting with "well, the kids at the preschool I worked at...". It just wasn't received as well.
I only knew the "I raise your child from 8-5" perspective (which was actually more like 7-6). Now, to clarify...I am not using the word "raise" in a negative manner. I took my job as a preschool teacher very seriously, and to me, since mom or dad couldn't stay at home with the child, that it was an honor to be chosen to spend the majority of that child's waking hours teaching them. In all honesty, I probably spent more waking hours with these kids than their own parents did. Therefore, it was very important to me that I did my job right and thoroughly and made the most of their day. It was always my goal to send a child home "happily worn out". So I feel that I have a lot of skill sets already when it comes to managing children. A classroom of 9 babies...or 20 three-year-olds. So I know a little bit!
I can already see a MAJOR difference in these conversations now that I have Ava - they definitely revolve around baby talk! Adult conversation with my friends is now more of an idea swap:
"So what's her bedtime routine?"
"How do can I get my baby to like a bottle?"
"What are the best remedies for teething?"
"Have you tried ______?"
"I use ______"
And so on.
So for the sake of idea swapping, pure curiosity, and so I can refer to this for my next baby (haha NOT YET), here is what a typical day looks like for Ava! I know I am always curious what everyone else's baby does, and how they "do things".
7:00 - 7:30 Wake up
Immediate diaper change. She's always very wet.
Then I feed her, but sometimes she's not interested (She wakes at 5:00 to eat sometimes, or if she wakes in the 6:00 hour I feed her and lay her back down to try and squeeze and extra 45-60 minutes out of her. It doesn't always work. She ends up talking and squealing and playing with her feet in her crib.)
Next is lotion, getting dressed, and combing her hair. It's always tangly after each sleep!
Then we feed the cats and feed Duke and let him outside.
Next, she plays on her play mat while I have my breakfast.
If she didn't eat upon waking, I feed her now.
If she doesn't need to eat, then I will sometimes pump.
I usually do "good morning" songs with her. She loves it!
And then we play!*
9:00/9:30 Nap (I lay her in her crib 10-15 minutes before nap time. She has adapted amazingly to her sleep training! 99.9% of the time she goes to sleep without ANY fussing or crying, sometimes as quickly as a few minutes, but it rarely takes longer than 10 minutes for her to fall asleep.)
She usually sleeps 30-35 minutes, and maxes out at 45 minutes.
After she wakes up, I change her and comb her hair.
Then I nurse her.
Diaper change/comb hair.
Diaper change/comb hair.
Diaper change/comb hair.
---I make sure she does not sleep past 6:00/6:15. If she's due for a nap at 6:00, I keep her up and make bedtime earlier.---
7:00 Bedtime routine begins
On Wednesdays and Saturdays she gets a bath.
Then she gets a fresh diaper, lotion, jammies, a story, a nursing session, and I lay her in her crib.
I've been making more of an effort to break the nursing/sleep association at bedtime. Before sleep training, she used to fall asleep at the breast a lot and then having to get up and turn off the light and turn on the sound machine would wake her up. And then I'd have to work to get her to sleep again. But now, I nurse her with the lights on, and I don't turn on the sound machine yet. Sometimes she'll stop and coo at me, or gurgle and smile, or just stop and chat for a bit. I don't encourage too much playtime, but I'll talk and smile back with her, so it is now an extension of her awake time. Then when she's full, I carry her upright around the room until the room is ready for sleeping and I lay her down for the night.
7:30-7:45 She's usually asleep at this time.
Ava's naptimes occur at a different time each day. I do what I call a "rolling schedule"...she has 2 hours of awake time, so her next nap will always be 2 hours after she wakes up. So she only takes 4 naps, but every once in awhile we end up with a 2.5 or even a 3 hour stretch until bedtime. In this case I watch for signs to decide what to do. The other day she was sucking her thumb, rubbing her eyes, and lip-smacking (her newest sleep sign) so I decided to lay her down for a nap at 5:45. It was risky, because sometimes she fusses for 20-30 minutes during this late nap. I think she gets confused because she's tired enough for bedtime but there was no bedtime routine, so she fights it a bit. There was no way she'd make it to an early bedtime at 6:45 or 7. She was out within 3 minutes, although I had to go in and wake her at 6:20. She took a little longer to fall asleep at bedtime, but we stayed on schedule. Sometimes we will bump her bedtime back a little. We don't deviate more than 30 minutes from her bedtime to keep her schedule consistent.
A few weeks back I attempted to get her on a set nap time schedule. It didn't work. She was too tired to make the stretches to each nap time because she was only napping for exactly 30 minutes. Here lately she's been napping for a bit longer. So maybe I'll try again in another few weeks for a set schedule if these "longer" naps continue.
I'm finally in a place where I feel like Ava has more flexibility in her schedule. I had so much anxiety with her naps prior to her sleep training. There was so much effort involved in getting her to sleep, and she would only nap for 20-30 minutes. And she wouldn't even stay asleep the whole time! Those 20 minute naps were the devil!!
I had quite a long week doing Christmas prep this week, and man...errands sure take a lot longer with a baby in tow! She had fallen asleep in the car, but I HAD to get to the post office. It was my goal I had for the week to get everything sent out...and it was Friday afternoon. I had a stack of boxes and a whole bag of cards to mail out. So I decided I would disturb her and put her carseat in the stroller and wait in what was probably going to be the longest line ever at the post office. And wouldn't ya know it...it was pouring rain! But I did it anyway, and of course it was windy so as soon as I opened the car door, poor baby got a face full of rain! Thankfully there was NO line in the post office, so going during the downpour paid off! She stayed awake until I got back home, and I was able to lay her down for a solid 35 minute nap after her 10 minute nap in the car.
I would not have dared to do something like that a few weeks ago!
It also helps me feel more relaxed that she doesn't need so much propping while nursing. Just today I decided to stop using the boppy pillow...she's too big for it! She has the neck muscles and enough core strength that I don't really have to hold her as intensely (is that the right word?!).
I'm realizing that I've been pretty stressed out these last 4 months. I didn't really feel it until now, now that she's a bit older and she is becoming a more versatile baby. I've found that I'm so much more relaxed now, and looking back I can see how stressed I was. She's hilarious and is so much fun to play with! Which leads me into playtime!
I decided to describe her playtime down here because I knew I would talk about it for more than just a sentence or two. I learned an insane amount about infant playtime during my practicum in college. We had an incredibly structured classroom (which is a major understatement, if you ask me), and at the time I thought it was so overwhelming, but now I am thankful for the experience and knowledge!
We charted every. child's. milestones.
Every single tiny one. For 9 babies.
Feeding milestones. Gross motor and fine motor skills. Language skills. I don't know...there were like 8 categories. We also made sure they spent awake time in different positions...laying on their back, their side, tummy, sitting, kneeling, and standing. Yeah, you ever made a baby kneel?! They all hated it. Of course we had awesome propping equipment and used the most exciting toys we could find and sang and blew bubbles ALL AT THE SAME TIME in hopes they'd enjoy it.
We rotated toys every 15 minutes. Only 20 minutes in stationary equipment.
There were dry erase boards for each baby's napping schedule. Feeding schedule. Positioning chart. Diapering.
Oh my word. It overwhelms me just remembering it all!!
But I came out with an amazing foundation for being a mommy!
So I try to apply these things for Ava, but it's just not that intense!
I give her lots of opportunities for different kinds of play. She prefers to play on her tummy now, so I make sure to lay her on her back so she can practice rolling over. I help her stand so she can play her at her piano table. I have her sit in my lap, on the floor (with and without a boppy pillow), and on the couch to practice sitting up. I show her how to play with her toys, because babies have no idea what to do unless you show them. I provide her with opportunities to play alone, because solo play is an important skill that most overlook.
I let her "fuss things out" while giving her my vocal support so she can work on a skill. She always fussed when she was on her back for about a week, but it was because she was working on rolling over. If I picked her up every single time, she never would have had the chance to try. I instead sang to her, or just talked to her so she knew I wasn't ignoring her. And then she started rolling over all the time, and the fussing stopped!
I make sure to give her lots of physical contact - snuggles and hugs and touches. Lots of FaceTime and smiles and laughing! This girl is so happy, which makes playtime so fun! I make sure she gets lots of floor time to work on her gross motor skills. I give her time in the swing so I can do a few things. She gets time in her jumperoo, which she LOVES, and she has just started to figure out how to "jump" in it! It's great for when I am working on a project or something - I can sit on the floor and she is at my eye level, so we can chat! Plus she loves to watch Duke when she's in there because then they are at each other's eye level. I think he likes it, too!
I will mix things up and have her play in her room (this was especially important when I was sleep training so she learned her room was also a comforting and fun place). There are different toys up there as well, so she's usually pretty entertained. I do "rotate" toys in this way - I swap the living room toys for the bedroom toys since we spend most of our time downstairs. She occasionally hangs out with me in her Rock and Play in the bathroom while I shower and get ready for my day. Or we put away laundry in the bedroom (you know, the 3 baskets of it on the floor, haha) while she chats with the ceiling fan and plays with her feet.
She used to spend a lot of time in her play gym, but now that she rolls over to her tummy most of the time, its pretty useless to her. So I detached the toys so she can play with those, and put the "arms" of the play gym away and we use the mat for playtime around the house.
My favorite playtime toys for her right now are:
Foam letters - these are advertised as bath toys, but they are amazing teething toys! Just the right size for Ava to hold in her little hand and get in her mouth and chomp down on! They have a texture on one side and are smooth on the other, so they are a great sensory toy too! Of course, they are fun bath toys as they float and stick to the side of the tub when wet! Ava will get a lot of use out of these as I can obviously teach her letter, number, and color recognition when she's older. And did I mention you can use them for art? Dip them in paint for stamping or press into play dough for different markings. For $6.99 this is a purchase you simply cannot regret! (Can you tell I was a preschool teacher now?! Throw 'em in a sensory tub with rice/sand/water/dry beans/leaves/etc for older kiddos...I could probably think of more activities, too!)
Fisher Price Interactive Baby Grand Piano - this is Ava's favorite toy BY FAR right now! This toy was a hand-me-down, and I never would have thought of purchasing something like this for her so young. But it was hanging out upstairs in the closet, and I realized she has had the leg strength to stand with help and play with it. At first, she had no idea what to do. She just stared at it. But I took a good 10 minutes and went through all the buttons and switches and keys with her, and man, I was blown away! So many sounds and lights and songs! Now her face lights up when I put her in front of it! She loves music, so she gets to work on her balance, standing, and core strength while playing! And now, of course, I know all the tunes by heart and I sing along while she smiles and squeals! She has even started bouncing her butt back and forth - we suspect she's trying to dance!
Soft crinkle books - Ava loves to munch on these! She prefers soft toys for her teething gums, so this is one of her go-to toys right now. 4 weeks ago she couldn't have cared less about it. One awake time she spent almost 30 minutes just crunching and gumming this toy and gabbing to it.
"Taggies" toys - Ava is obsessed with the little loops of ribbons on these toys...or the tags on anything, really! She holds it and looks at it, and then puts it in her mouth for a few minutes, and then holds it out and stares at it some more. And then repeats the process over and over! She also enjoys grabbing her shirt and sucking on it. Or her sleep sack. Or her car seat strap before I get the chance to tighten it.
If she is really into an activity, I try not to disturb her; she may be in the midst of learning something new! I try to give her a solid 15-20 minutes at each toy/activity. This girl rarely cries...like, at all, so for that I am very grateful. But when she is fussing, I don't immediately go to her. I don't pick her up until she is clearly done with the activity.
Ava has changed a lot in this past month, and I'm sure this schedule of ours will change before I know it! Time is going by so fast - I just packed up her newborn and 3 month clothes!!
In case you are interested or curious about sleep training, I just finished reading a great book recommended to me by another mommy friend of a July baby that thoroughly explains so much about babies (and children all the way up to 5 years old) and their sleeping needs and how to train them. Even though I read it after I was done sleep training, it was exactly the method that I used! It made me feel even better about my choice since so many people are against "Cry It Out" sleep training. I think people get judgmental because that phrase just sounds so harsh. Anyway, I highly recommend reading the book The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West. I snagged a used copy for only $1.38! Just some bent pages and some marker scribbles in the back, which was fine by me!