Monday, October 1, 2018

Intentional Decisions for Raising a Baby

Today I'd like to do something a little different, I'd like to share with you all of the very intentional decisions I've made while raising Carolyn, in particular when she was a baby. I am one of those people who likes to make decisions thoughtfully and research them thoroughly. As much as I was dying to become a mom I wanted to wait until my husband and I were settled enough to feel comfortable in the money department and make sure I felt confident to take on the challenges of being a mother. With all this extra time waiting I've been observing all the mothers around me picking and I've been choosing the parenting decisions that I think are best. These are some of that strategies that I have decided to follow while raising my daughter. I put in a disclaimer that I am not the most educated person in the world; I only have a bachelors degree and a teaching credential, and am not a professional in early childhood development. All I know is what's important to me, and that's what I want to share with you today.

Prenatal Choices
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.

It's not just about the pills though, I also chose to eat lots of leafy greens and vegetables that I knew would help my body and my baby's body to be healthy. I cut out as much junk and processed foods as possible; in particular I avoided soda, high fructose corn syrup and foods that had food coloring in them. Remember everything you eat goes straight to the baby! This also includes what is absorbed through your skin, so I swapped out my shampoo, daily moisturizer, soaps, deodorant, and even nail polishes for ones that are safer.

I tried extra hard not to have added stressors in my life, because studies show that "When babies are exposed to high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, they are more likely to develop behavior problems and stress-related diseases later in life." Link here. Now that is not always an option, but I did make a conscious effort to not let myself get stressed out over things. Let me tell you, after she was born we could totally tell that our moods affected her. Babies can feel your mood, and even as a toddler I've noticed that Carolyn's energy feeds off of mine (this can be problematic at times but can also be very good if your a nice calm person).

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!

Instead I played a variety of music; in particular lots of classical music for in the background. And sometimes I put on my Pandora station that I made with children's songs such music by Rafi and we would sing and dance together. We also attended (and still do) a music class through the city that is the highlight of my (and I think her) week! I sing lots of baby rhymes to her and do different activity songs, her favorite was always The Grand Old Duke of York and since she was not a fan of tummy time would give her airplane rides to help her enjoy it more. 

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...

Think Out Loud 
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!

Getting back to when Carolyn was just a baby to aid this I would either wear her in a carrier or I'd sit her where she could watch what I was doing. If I was cooking, I'd tell her each step that I did while I was doing it. If we were hanging up diapers I'd talk to her about the color/pattern of the diapers as we went along. I even made up a little song to sing (to the tune of the Hokey Pokey) while I dressed her, let me tell you, by 1 she knew her rights and lefts and could hold them up for you when asked.

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...

Phrasing Things In a Positive Way
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.

I found the ring sling was great for when she was a newborn, I could cradle her while still having an arm or two free, I could nurse with privacy while still checking on her and she could be in a laying down position. I was taught how to wear her in a more verticle position, but I kept worrying that she would slip out so this was not something I ended up doing, but I'm sure others find it very helpful. It's ironic, Ben actually loved the sling best out of all three!

The Tula carrier was also awesome, the fun thing about them is that they come in lots of pretty fabric choices. This carrier ended up being my favorite get the baby to fall asleep carrier because it doesn't have Velcro, so it is quiet when you go to take it off.

My favorite, the Ergo 360 gave the best back support and was the most comfortable for me to use, in fact I just used it on Saturday when we went dancing and had no back problems even though Carolyn is now over 30 lbs! She can ride front or back in it, or technically on either hip but I found that awkward, and it really is so comfy! She was always so cheerful riding in the carrier going places with me, and when she was old enough to ride in front and face forward that was the best. She would just smile and people and get all sorts of attention.

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.

Sitting together in church
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.

Baby led weaning
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.

I hope that by sharing my thoughts and opinions on raising a baby I am able to help others. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have about these choices I made or things that were unclear. So far the choices that I've made seem to have made a positive influence on my darling daughter. In a little bit I'll write about my toddler decisions, but first I think I need to live out those experience more...


  1. Very interesting post. I love how you involve your little one in all your hobbies and activities, especially worship.

  2. Such a great post! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  3. This wonderful post is a FAMILY feature on the November You're the STAR blog hop:


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Missing Photos

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