Prior to even finding out I was pregnant I started preparing my body to house a very special person for his/her temporary stay. Those first 40 weeks of life before birth are sooooo important, and if you mess up you can't undo them. The medical professionals all encourage you to take prenatal vitamins (especially folic acid), but did you know that you really should start taking them before you get pregnant? It takes time to get that folic acid into your system and your embryo needs it right at the beginning so they won't have neural tube defects. Unfortunately I had to sacrifice my daily green tea habit because it can block the absorption of folic acid. Womp womp! I also made sure to find a vitamin that included DHA, because it helps your brain and in this case the baby's brain. I took this one by Nature Made, but I'm sure there are lots of other good ones out there.
Lots of Music but No TV
That's right I said no TV! Studies show that TV is actually harmful to children under the age of two. So Carolyn had to wait till her second birthday to get to watch The Little Mermaid. All of the learning that infants could be doing through interacting in their world is stripped from them when they're watching mindless television or playing on tablets/phones. Studies have even proven that there are language delays in children that are exposed to too much TV. The instant gratification that kids get from video games can cause them to have unrealistic expectations and attention spans, which believe me teachers are noticing the difference in their students!
I used to love having her sit in my lap and playing the piano for her. Of course as she got older she would insist on playing too, now it's more of a game of who can play the keys rather than music time. But it was wonderful while it lasted...
You can take the teacher out of the school but you can't take school out of the teacher. An old teaching habit that I just can't shake is that I think out loud. That means that I am explaining my thought process and how I do things to Carolyn. Babies don't know how to do anything on their own when they are born, but little Carolyn learns by watching and listening to me. I'm sure my husband thinks it's weird the way I thinking out loud all the time, even when Carolyn is not around, but when I explained my reasoning he understood. And let me tell you my sweet little girl wants you everything that I do! The other day I was gardening and she was with me, the next thing I know she's putting on an old pair of my gloves I'm trying to dig just like me! And as I was trying to find a picture that exhibited this, I came across this favorite of the two of us vacuuming, you're never too young to learn how to clean!
Read Out Loud
Carolyn LOVES books. I don't think I can emphasize the LOVE enough. This may just come naturally because both of her parents love to read, but it could also be directly related to the fact that we've been reading to her since she was a newborn. By the time she was four months old it was clear which book was her favorite, Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss. As a young baby she could read books for hours with us, and even now as a two year old she still will. As she's gotten older it's been fun, but also developmentally appropriate, to ask her to find things in the book and tell you things. I like to ask her to point to objects, count the number of things, or tell me what color things are.
Give Directions, Don't Just Say No
As Carolyn has gotten older this is becoming more and more useful. Of course when she was little I would find myself saying things like "No mouth" because she wanted to put everything in her mouth! One of her favorite things to do is to open drawers. We have baby locks on many of the drawers in our house but not all of them. Sometimes she will try to get into my husband's night stand. To redirect her I simply ask her to "Please close the drawer" and for safety reasons I taught her how to close the drawer with her hands flat (not curled around the drawer).
When she was under the age of two she was at a beautiful age where she loves to do what I ask her to do and get praised for it. So this technique is working great for us, when I want her to stop doing something I just give her directions to do something else. Toddler years are a little different, but I'll save that for another post...
I read an article somewhere, many moons ago way before I had a child, about this technique and how it can benefit children in the following directions department. The advice was to not phrase things in the negative way but to phrase things positively. For example you might tell a child, "Don't spill the cup of water." The problem with this is the child will focus on the spilling of the cup of water part of the directions. The don't part will fly straight out the window. A much better way to phrase this is to say, "Keep the water in the cup." This will help the child focus on imagining the water staying in the cup and they will concentrate on that an be more successful. Carolyn is young but so far this seems to be working very well! Even now, 99% of the time she will follow directions and keep the sand in the sand box!
I've read a couple of Dr. Sears books and he is a big supporter of baby wearing. I've also had friends who encouraged it and told me all the things they could accomplish while wearing their child, including breastfeeding on the go. Let me tell you, it's all true! I LOVE baby-wearing. I registered for an Ergo 360, best thing ever, and my cousin gave me an extra Tula carrier and a sling that she had. All of them have had their perfect uses. The biggest and most important reason I chose baby wearing was because of the bond it created with my little one. I'm hoping this will be the foundation to a lifetime of closeness, now of course I know that it will be a relationship that needs continuous effort and care, but I wanted to make sure I started it off successfully. I would say it has worked exactly as advertised, we're definitely close. When she went through her extra clingy phases, the carrier was convenient because she would just go with me everywhere. I would even use it to put her to sleep. And let me tell you about the miracle that it is having your hands free! A-MAZ-ING! Especially once she was old enough to ride on my back, now I have my full range of motion back with my arms.
Exposure to different Situation
Ben and I are active people and have way too many hobbies. It was important for us to expose Carolyn as a young baby to these things and get her used to them early. She is happy to meet new people, see new sights, and sudden noises don't scare her at all because she was exposed young and was taught by us that these things were okay. The opposite is also true, I like to take to to the library and show her how to behave calmly and quietly, although I will admit now that she is a rambunctious 2-year-old the calm/quiet part is a challenge that we must continue to practice in order to be good at. But oh the places she's been to all in her first year of life: church, historical reenactments, the beach, the mountains, the aquarium, the Getty Museum, the farm, the air show, and our monthly dancing class.
Church and worshiping God is so important to me! We brought Carolyn to church at 10 days old, other than the doctor's it was her very first public outing. We attend a very traditional church so Carolyn is learning about singing hymns and modern worship, saying the Call to Worship together and the Lord's Prayer, listening quietly to the sermon, and partaking in Communion (with grape juice). When she turned two we started taking her to the nursery for the sermon so that she wouldn't have to sit still for such a long time, we know the limits of a rambunctious two-year-old, but I like to bring her back in for the Lord's Prayer and the Doxology. Sitting together and worshiping the Lord as a family is still of high importance to me.
I knew I was either going to make my own baby food from scratch or I was going to do baby led weaning. In case you've never heard of it, baby led weaning is not weaning at all, it simply is baby led feeding. In this method, you give your baby food that they can chew on that is appropriate for their stage of development. No spoon feeding purees. Once I saw what type of kid I had on my hands, it was baby led weaning all the way! Carolyn has always shown herself to be an independent child, so I knew the battle of the spoon was going to be a bad one. And after reading about the history of how baby food even came to be a thing, I couldn't stand to fall for the lies spread by the industry. What did people feed their babies 100 years ago? Food of course! They just made wise choices about what was appropriate for a baby to chew/nom on. I'm soooooo glad I chose to let Carolyn feed herself, because she happily learned to love all foods. I actually wrote a whole post on how I did baby led weaning, you can read it here.