On Staying Home More as a Stay at Home Mom

You would think that being a stay at home mom would mean you’re at home all the time.  This is often not the case though and I recently found myself spending less and less time at home.

At night, I would start to get a slightly panicky feeling if we had nothing planned for the next day, and try to think of something we could go do together.

I think this happened for a couple of reasons.  James has gotten to an age where it’s really easy to take him out and about.  He is also awake for much longer stretches of time now and I think it can be daunting to think about three hours at home with nothing to “entertain” the little one.

Also, while I used to largely sit back and watch James play fairly independently, I had gotten out of the habit of doing this when he started pulling up to stand.  I was a little bit terrified when he started pulling up because he would just let go and fall straight backwards and hit his head.  So I followed him around constantly.  While this may have been necessary for a week or so, it is certainly not necessary any more.  He’s super capable of coming down gently and intentionally now and rarely falls.  When he does fall, he almost always catches himself with his hands.  I just needed to retrain myself to take a step back again and let him be.

I started reading Your Self-Confident Baby, by Magda Gerber, because I was curious about the RIE philosophy and how it was similar to / different from Montessori.  I am loving the book and it really reminded me that 1) children need long, uninterrupted periods of time to play and 2) to interfere as little as possible when a child is playing / working on something.

These two things are definitely emphasized in Montessori as well, I just needed a reminder.

So last week, I took a step back.  And we were both so much happier.  I chose a spot to sit in the room and let him play without hovering to make sure he didn’t fall.  He played happily and periodically came over to check in with me.  He would usually come over very briefly and climb up on me for a hug before zooming off again.  Sometimes he would choose a book for me to read him before continuing on his own.  It was so fun and interesting to watch him play.

I also realized, while it seemed like James was getting “bored” playing in his room or playroom for a long stretch of time, I think this was really “false fatigue”.

False fatigue is a term we used to describe how the children behaved late in the work period at school.  In a Montessori classroom, the children have three-hour long work periods where they choose work independently.  Often around 10 AM or so, some of the children would start to act a little bit crazy and would stop working.  They would wander around aimlessly chatting with other children and getting silly.  It would seem as if they were done for the morning.  In reality, they were a little fatigued from all of their hard work and needed a little help settling back in.  After connecting briefly with a teacher, many of the children would settle back in to do some great work.  I’ve seen the same thing with James.

He will start “rage crawling” as we call it around the room, not choosing anything and grunting or whining.  It will seem as if he’s totally over playing in that room.  I’ve found that I can often help him settle back into playing by connecting with him.  First, I just talk to him about what I’m seeing, what he may be feeling, and some things I see that he may enjoy doing.

I also find it helps if I put all of his toys back on the shelf where they go.  Since he doesn’t yet restore his own toys, the room is a mess after a while.  I think it becomes visual clutter to him when everything is on the floor and it’s as if he can no longer see anything interesting to work with.  As soon as I put the toys away, he often sees something that strikes his interest.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll read him a couple of books or sing a couple of songs with him and then help him get started playing with something, before backing away and letting him play on his own.

These things usually work really well, unless it’s late in the day, at which point he just may be too fatigued to be as independent as he is most of the time.  At that point, I’ll continue reading books with him or singing songs as long as he enjoys doing it, or take him outside for a change of scenery.

When he is playing happily on his own, I try to really observe him, which is a big part of Montessori as well as RIE.  Honestly though, I don’t find myself able (at this point at least) to just sit and observe him all morning.  So I also bring a book or a notebook and read or write after observing him for a while.  I find that if I have nothing else to do, I often wind up jumping in when he doesn’t need my help.

I alternate observing him with reading or writing, and always put down my book as soon as he comes over to me.  I choose a book because I at least think that it’s beneficial to model reading and writing, rather than being on my phone.  I think that seeing adults read helps children want to read, as they want to do everything we do.  I hope that, with practice, I’ll be able to observe him for longer stretches of time.

While this is just a change in outlook, it has seriously made such a difference in our days.  I enjoy being with him at home so much more, and I no longer feel like we have to have something to go do every day.

I also believe that a baby is part of the family and that involves compromise.  So if I’m going crazy being in the house, I will take him for a walk in the stroller, which he seems pretty neutral about, but I really enjoy.  I try though to make sure he has some free time to play in every block of “awake time” throughout the day, and that he has at least one really long stretch of time every day to play freely.  So far, so good!

Do you like being home a lot or being out and about more?

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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What is Stand-up Diapering?

We made another change to James’s room last week and I’m pretty excited about it.

My husband flipped James’s mirror so it’s vertical (it’s attached to the wall with 3M strips, so this was pretty easy), and added a pull-up bar.  We’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but life has been busy!

You can purchase pull-up bars from Montessori shops or Etsy, but honestly, it is so simple to make yourself with some basic supplies from Home Depot (I say it’s simple, my husband did it, but it did not take him long).  We used this tutorial as a guide.

James can already pull up on the mirror with no bar, by walking up with his hands, but we wanted a pull-up bar so that we could start doing stand-up diapering.

Are you familiar with stand-up diapering?  If you have / have had a baby, you likely know the FIGHT that diaper changes can become.  Once baby becomes mobile, he no longer wants to be laying flat on his back (at least this has been true for James).  James started to really fight diaper changes and he is very strong!

Once baby can stand, many Montessori classrooms and homes switch to stand-up diapering.  The child holds on to something and you change the diaper while the child stands.  We installed a pull-up bar, but I have also heard of children holding onto the bathtub or a low shelf or table for stand-up diaper changes.

The idea is to recognize baby’s new developmental stage and to help him be a more active participant in the diaper changing process.  Doing things with baby, rather than to / for baby, is a big focus in Montessori.  I really like having the pull up bar in front of a mirror so that James can see what I’m doing as I talk about it.  Right now, he helps by carrying his diaper from the closet over to the bar.  Eventually, he will be able to help more by undoing his diaper tabs, pulling down his pants, etc.  I also talk through each step of what I’m doing.

If you have an older baby / toddler who fights diaper changes, it can also be helpful to have two designs of diapers and let them choose: “Would you like an Elmo diaper or a Big Bird diaper?” so that they feel they have some say in the matter.  We’re not to this point yet, but I’ve definitely seen it help with toddlers.

Right now, we are still getting used to the process and it can be a bit tricky at times.  James is very steady standing with one hand holding on, but sometimes he doesn’t want to hold on and chooses to sit down.  I sometimes need to support him with one hand while I finish changing his diaper.  It’s still easier than wrestling with him on the floor though and he seems happier about it.

While this is very new in our home, I used to be an assistant in a Montessori toddler classroom before I got my 3-6 certification and stand-up diapering worked wonderfully there!  I cannot imagine trying to lay down one of those big two year olds to change their diaper, that sounds so much harder to me!  I’m hopeful that this will keep diaper changes from becoming a regular battle in our house.

As a reminder, I am Montessori trained for 3-6 year olds, but not for infants and toddlers.  I found this article from the American Montessori Society website very helpful for Montessori diapering / toileting.

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Four Developmental Milestones you Won’t Find in Baby Books

It can be hard not to get caught up in the “milestones” baby should be achieving.  I try to ignore these largely arbitrary markers though, as I have no real concerns that my son won’t be sitting or walking when he goes off to college.  I don’t really care if he sits at six months or nine months, as long as he’s making progress and getting the opportunities he needs to work on these skills.

I’m not saying these indicators of healthy development should be totally ignored, as there are of course instances where there may be a developmental delay that needs to be addressed.  I’m talking more about the semi-competitive “my child rolled over at two and a half months” type of thing where people obsess about achieving these markers by a certain date.

Instead, I try to focus on the life skills that I believe will help him be successful in whatever he decides to do.  I watch for the development of these skills as he plays and I try to provide opportunities to help these skills grow.  For me, the following are much more important “milestones” of development than those found in most baby books:

1. Concentration

Protecting children’s growing concentration is a huge part of any Montessori classroom.  I believe it is equally important to do this at home.  Sometimes James floats from toy to toy, activity to activity, busy as the little bee he likes to carry around with him all day.

But sometimes, time stops, all is quiet, and the beautiful look of concentration takes over his little face.  This happened recently as he tried to put the purple ring on his new wooden ring stacker toy.  He usually just takes the rings off, which he enjoys very much, but this time he was determined to get that purple ring back on.  He tried and tried, not making a sound, not looking at me, not paying attention to anything else.  I sat very still and watched him.  Though I was tempted to take a video, to capture this moment, I refrained because the smallest of distractions, even just seeing me moving out of the corner of his eye, could easily break the newly developing concentration.

Was he successful?  No.  Does that matter?  Not at all!  He concentrated on the task for several minutes before moving on, which is something I love to see.  I watch for this so that I can provide opportunities to expand this skill.  Observing the types of things that captivate him allows me to provide toys and experiences that may spark this type of concentration in the same way in the future.

2. Problem Solving Skills

This is another area we always watched for in the classroom, and I try to foster problem solving skills at home.  In the classroom, it would be things like does the child immediately ask a teacher if he can’t find paper, or does he look around first?  Does he always ask for help as soon as he gets stuck on a math problem, or does he try different things before asking an adult?  When working on problem solving skills with children, we would ask them leading questions instead of giving an answer right away:  “Hmm, you need paper to write your equation on.  I wonder where you could find that.”

I try to do the same thing at home.  Lately, this has looked like James reaching across the coffee table for something out of reach (often a coaster….).  I could of course just hand him the coaster, problem solved.  But is that what he really wants?  No, I don’t believe so.  I think he wants to be able to get it himself.  So I muse aloud, “hmm, that coaster is too far away to reach.  I wonder what else you could try to get to it.”  I get out of his way so that there’s a clear path for him to edge around the table to get to it himself, which he is totally capable of.  I try to help him see that just because he doesn’t see how to do something right away, doesn’t mean he can’t figure it out.

3. Resilience

Babies and children are constantly trying to do things that are just out of reach of their current capabilities.  This is how they stretch and grow and reach the next level.  When James is trying something new and challenging, I watch to see if he gets frustrated and gives up right away, or if he keeps trying even though something is difficult.

I think babies naturally have a lot of resilience – they almost have to, as everything starts out hard for them and they have to keep trying or they’ll never get anywhere.  I do think though that there are things we as parents can do help encourage this skill:

  • Don’t help too soon – I think it’s important to walk the line so that the child is trying on his own…but not to the point of having a meltdown.  The goal is for the child to push himself, but not so far that it’s a negative experience and he won’t want to try again in the future.
  • Timing – Everyone’s resilience is lower when they’re tired and a child (or any human) may need more help at the end of they day.  He may be able to crawl across the room by himself in the morning, but need to be carried late in the afternoon, and that’s fine.
  • Balance – No one wants to feel like everything around them is hard.  I try to balance James’s toys so that there is something challenging available, but also some easy things that he’s familiar with.  We try to do this with his food too – sure, he loves picking up peas, but he also wants something big and east to hold so that not every bite is a challenge.

4. Creativity

Creativity often brings to mind art and music, but people can be creative in everything they do.  For babies, I think this means letting them explore (safely) in ways you may not have intended.  This may mean letting them combine different toys or build with their shakers instead of their blocks.  I think this gets trickier as they become toddlers and it can be too easy to say “no” before really considering if something is harmful or unsafe.

I try to take a moment to see if James really needs to be stopped, or if he’s just exploring creatively.  Can he play in the grass?  Sure.  Am I going to let him eat a bunch of it?  No, probably not.  But I can redirect him to our basil plant or rosemary bush if he wants to explore what eating leaves is like.  I try to think about what it is he’s trying to do and how can I meet that need in a way that is safe and acceptable.

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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A Montessori Play Space

Recently, a friend asked me where to buy “Montessori stuff”.  While there are of course specialty stores and catalogues focusing on Montessori-friendly items, I think it’s a common misconception that Montessori means lots of expensive stuff.  On the contrary, Montessori-friendly spaces are generally quite simple and it is just as much about the layout of the room as the items available to the child.

So a few months ago when we decided to turn our “office” (aka random room we never used, but called an office because it had a desk in it) into a playroom for James, I had a few things in mind:

  1. Plenty of open space to explore
  2. A low shelf with limited options that the child can choose from himself
  3. Art hung at the child’s level (as opposed to the adult’s level)
  4. A cozy space for reading books

We just finished the room this past weekend (as much as it will ever be finished, as I’m sure we’ll continually adjust as he grows), but have been using it for the last month or so and it has been great!

James has gotten to the point where he gets sick of being in his room; he wants to explore.  He loves crawling around the rest of the house, and we certainly let him, but it is also really nice to have another space that is his.

This room is also our guest room, so has a large couch that folds out into a bed, but this has actually been nice because James likes cruising along the couch and it is soft, so we don’t have to worry about him banging his head on it.  This isn’t as much of a concern now, but it was especially great when he first started pulling up.

We kept the room simple.  There is a reading nook in the corner and I really love the little bookshelf (from Ikea) because it is easy for James to see and choose the books and it is a good size for him.

It holds about four board books and I rotate them regularly.

Eventually, I’d like to get a cozier rug and cushion like his reading nook in his room, but for now this is working well.

He has a toy shelf with two levels, which is working great now that he can pull up.  I would only use a shelf with one level if he were not yet pulling up.  I originally planned to get the same shelf he has in his room, but Ikea is really far from us and the shipping was really expensive so I got  this one*on Amazon.  It is listed as a closet organizer, but is working really well for this relatively small room.

I rotate the toys regularly, not on a schedule, but according to what he’s playing with.  I observe him playing and, when I see that he no longer chooses a certain toy, I take it off of the shelf and add something different.  I also try to include both toys that are easy and familiar to him, and some that are newer or more challenging for him.

I got this road rug at Ikea when I was in Houston.  I think it was $15, so much less expensive than other ones I’ve seen.  It’s pretty small, but a good size for this room.

I originally wanted a white rug…but then I realized his spit up is now a whole array of colors since he’s eating solid foods and that was impractical.  Also, while he’s obviously too young to play with cars on the rug, he really likes patterned rugs and stops to examine different parts of it as he plays.

One of our favorite parts of the room is the big window, which James loves to look out.  Unfortunately, the couch blocks it and there really isn’t another configuration that works, but when James goes over to the window, I help him get onto the couch to look outside.

Lastly, I wanted to hang some art at his level.  I got a simple Winnie the Pooh Art Print for his reading nook.  I wanted something literary themed, and while I know some prefer to not include any children’s books with unrealistic talking animals, I like to make an exception for the classics because they are so wonderfully written and such good stories.  I have a very old copy of Winnie the Pooh that belonged to my grandmother and can’t wait to read it to him some day.  I also liked the simplicity of the image.

Since he can pull up now, I also wanted something for him to look at when he was standing at his shelf.  I decided to get 12×12 frames so that I could use calendar pages.  This is super inexpensive, especially if you buy calendars from past years, and allows you to easily change out the images as the child’s interests emerge and change.  I went with clouds for now.

Lastly, I added some black and white images to the inside of his shelf.  These are from this Art for Baby – it comes with a fold out of all of the images and I simply cut out a few that he seemed to enjoy from the book.  He sometimes sticks his whole head in the cube to get a better look and touch the picture.

While we’re using the room daily now, there are still a few things I would like to add:

  • Plants!  I would like to add at least one hanging plant.  I have the plant actually, I just need to figure out how to hang it.
  • A cozier cushion and rug for the reading nook
  • Either a mobile above his reading nook (I’m working on one, but am not sure I’ll ever finish) or some type of pretty glass hanging in the window

I really just thought the playroom would be a fun use for a room we never went it, but it has seriously been so great to have another space for him to play!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

Do you enjoy home design projects?

If you could redo one room in your house, what room would it be?

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Montessori Floor Bed Update

Good morning!

I’ve been somewhat scared to write this post as it seems like anytime I start to write something about James’s sleep improving, I jinx it and the improvements immediately disappear.  In an effort to overcome my superstitions though, I wanted to share an update on James’s sleeping situation, his naps, and specifically, the floor bed.

I wrote here about the reasons for using a floor bed and how it was working for us.  In short, it worked GREAT for the first six months or so.  James hated his bassinet, and loved his floor bed.  I liked that he could look around his environment and that we could comfort him easily without taking him out of bed.

Not surprisingly, everything got a little more challenging when he became more mobile, around six months.  Obviously I knew this time would come and he would some day be able to get out of bed.  I did not know how that would impact his sleep, but figured we’d deal with that when the time came.

At first, it was fine.  Bedtime and nap time were a little more challenging, as he’d scoot out of bed a few times (on purpose, very cautiously, he never hurt himself this way).  I would go in and silently put him back in bed without making eye contact to avoid stimulating him / making him think this behaviour would lead to play time with mom.

With some experimenting, I learned that if I went in right when he got out of bed, it quickly became a game for him.  So instead I would wait 4-5 minutes and then go put him back in bed.  This often worked and he’d go to sleep after a few round of this.  Sometimes for naps though, he would get too riled up and excited so I would help him go to sleep.  I would sit next to him silently with a hand on his back, avoiding eye contact or stimulation.  This worked well, but I did feel like it was a step backwards since he had previously been falling asleep on his own.  Still, I hoped that it would improve with time as he adjusted to his new freedom.

I should also mention, I removed all toys from his shelf whenever he went to bed so that there was nothing too enticing in his room.  Still though, he easily amused himself by looking in his mirror or playing with his rug or window shade.  No toys needed!

Separately from this, we had the nap struggles I mentioned many times.  James had always taken a long morning nap and two short afternoon naps.  Suddenly at about six months, almost all of his naps were short (35 minutes).  This had happened a few times in the past for a period of a few days, but this time it went on and on for weeks.  I went a little bit crazy….

I read everything I could find on baby sleep, circadian rhythms, ideal durations between naps, ideal times for naps, etc.  I tried keeping him up longer, keeping him up shorter, putting him on a nap schedule based on the information in Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child.  Nothing worked….

I tracked all of his naps, trying to decode what went right when he occasionally took a longer one.

Possibly the funniest, but worst strategy I tried was what I fondly refer to as “poking the bear”.  I read that sometimes babies just get in the habit of short naps, and if you can interrupt their sleep cycle by gently nudging them a few minutes before they wake up, they will sleep longer.  Yeah, this was a disaster for us.  He just woke up, understandably pissed off, turning a 35 minute nap into a 25 minute nap.  NOT GOOD.

Honestly, I think this was a total missing the forest for the trees situation.  I was so focused on the details of his sleep times and trying to get it exactly right that I failed to take a step back and consider the broader situation.

James had always stirred at 35 minutes – if I watched the monitor, he would turn his head or move his hand, but go right back to sleep.  This was just when his sleep cycle naturally transitioned.  However, once he became mobile, he would pop his little head up and get right out of bed to explore.  He was just too curious, too drawn to roll, and then crawl, around his environment.  Who needs sleep when the big wide world awaits?  Everyone, that’s who.

It felt a bit like giving up, but I decided I needed to try something other than the floor bed for naps.  My friend Laura had told me about the Lotus travel crib and I liked it better than a traditional crib or pack and play for several reasons.  It’s on the floor and James is used to sleeping this way – I didn’t know how he would react to suddenly being up high and wanted to minimize the disruption of the change.

It also unzips in front.  I like that I can unzip it and let him come out on his own when it’s time.

Lastly, I love that it travels!  We have several trips coming up and I love that I’ll be able to bring this with us to help the little guy sleep as well as possible on vacation.  It folds up very small and the case can be worn as a backpack.

I had been thinking of trying this for a few weeks, but I had no idea if it would work and it was a little bit expensive, so I was hesitant.  I got desperate though and decided to try it.

It was like magic!  The very day I started using it, he took his normal two short naps, but then slept for an hour for his third one!  It’s been two weeks since then and there has only been one day that he did not take at least one long nap.  Things have actually been getting gradually better too, with his morning nap lengthening to an hour and twenty minutes many days.  There have been several days where he’s taken two, hour plus naps and not needed the late afternoon cat nap.  It seemed like this would never happen!

I was so stressed about him getting enough sleep, not to mention how unpredictable our days were and how difficult it was to do things with him always on the verge of being over-tired and needing to nap.  This thing has been a life saver!

After a week of excellent (for him) naps, I decided to use the Lotus for night time sleep too.  He was sleeping okay at night, but it was sometimes taking him a really long time to fall asleep at bedtime.  After seeing how well it worked for him during the day, it was an easy decision to move away from the floor bed at night, for now.

This is by no means meant as a knock against the floor bed – I’ve seen it work well for many babies at the school where I taught!  It was just a great reminder for me to remember to observe my own specific, unique baby and do what works for him.

Maria Montessori was a scientist who observed children and tried things based on what she saw.  I don’t believe she would ever say that one thing worked for all children or that a method should be blindly, rigidly applied without considering the individual child.  She wrote of following the child and of giving the child freedom within limits – I think James needs more limits than the floor bed gives him right now, and that’s okay.

The great thing about it is, it’s just a twin mattress, so it’s not like I bought an expensive piece of baby equipment that is going to waste.  We’ll just put it away for now and watch him to see when he’s ready to give it another try.

I definitely don’t regret using the floor bed, but I am SO happy to have moved on to something that’s working for us now!

 

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Baby Led Weaning – High Chair versus Weaning Chair

As I mentioned here, after much discussion and general wishy-washiness, we ended up getting both a high chair and building a “weaning chair” (a weird name for a baby-sized chair).  Now that we’ve been using both for about a month and a half, I wanted to share our experience for anyone else out there feeling indecisive on the matter.

Weaning Chair

My husband built this little chair for James and I love it so much.  He usually eats breakfast and lunch in his little chair.

Some of my favorite things about the chair:

Independence: I love that James will be able to get in and out of his chair by himself when he’s a little older, since he’s not strapped in.  I also love that he’ll be able to help set and wipe the table later since the table is at a height he can reach.

Balance: I’m sure this depends on the specific chair, but ours does not hold him in as tightly as the high chair.  This was a challenge when he first started using it, but in a good way.  James is not too interested in sitting, always wanting to be on the move, so sitting in his chair for meals was one of the only times he really practiced balancing while sitting.  Will sit for food!

Food Waste: The way the chair is built with the tall sides, much of the food James drops winds up on the seat of his chair, rather than the floor, so that I can give it back to him.  This results in much less food waste and a less messy floor.

The things I don’t like as much about the weaning chair:

Harder to Clean: I love that it’s made of wood, but it is a lot harder to get it fully clean than his plastic high chair, especially after something like oatmeal or avocado.  I used a natural beeswax wood polish, but maybe I need to apply another coat?

High Chair

We have also been enjoying our Ikea high chair (only $20!).  We use this mostly for James’s dinners.  The things I like about the high chair:

Family Meals: As I’ve mentioned before, we aren’t really doing family dinners right now since James needs to eat early to protect his early bedtime.  However, my husband often gets home while James is eating dinner and comes and sits with us at the dining table.  I can easily sit on the floor at James’s little table, but it’s too small for two adults and a baby, so the high chair lets us all sit together for a meal.

Easier to Clean: The high chair is very easy to clean. It is a simple one with no fabric and not too many pieces, which makes it easy.  If it’s been a particularly messy meal, it’s easy to carry it to the backyard and hose it off.  I will say the food spreads out further on the floor though since he is dropping it from a greater height.  I also like that I can keep James in there while I clean up to show him more of the process.  He is not stable enough in his little chair for me to leave him there while I clean up after a meal.

All in all, while I definitely don’t think both are necessary, I love having both the weaning chair and high chair for James and think we’ll likely keep using both for years.  As far as I can tell, James doesn’t seem to have a preference – he’ll eat anywhere as long as sweet potatoes are involved 🙂

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Baby Led Weaning Update – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Good morning and happy Friday!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a month since James has started eating solid foods.  It’s become such a part of our daily routine and he’s become so much better at it, I can barely imagine our day without it.

Overall, I’ve been a huge fan of baby led weaning (BLW), or really the hybrid approach we’ve taken (James eats with a spoon too – I put the food on the spoon, and he holds the spoon / puts the food in his mouth).  Here’s a little bit about our experience so far.

The Good

Fun: I’m sure feeding baby any way is fun, but I am seriously loving meal times with little James!  He gets this extremely serious look every time I bring him to his chair.  He eats so eagerly unless he is tired, and has started making little “mmm” noises, it’s just too much 🙂

Same meals: While, as I mentioned, we don’t often eat dinner together at this point due to timing, it’s getting to the point where I can sometimes give James some of what we had for dinner the next day for his meals.  I just put aside a portion before adding salt / anything else he can’t have.  I know this will be more and more true as he continues to try more foods and I love the convenience of it.

Social Eating: I love that I’m able to sit across from him and eat with him or chat with him while he eats since I’m not focused on getting a spoon in his mouth.  I like being able to model table manners and how to have a conversation.  I think these things are best taught by modeling, so might as well start young!  Along these same lines, I love that there is usually something we can offer him (sometimes just avocado) if we go out to lunch.

Fine Motor Skills: I can’t believe how much James’s ability to use his fingers to pick up small things has grown this past month.  I’m sure some of this is just due to his developmental stage, but I think part of it is also due to BLW because, apart from food, it’s hard to give babies opportunities to develop these skills since they want to put everything in their mouth and many tiny objects are unsafe.

He currently uses his thumb and two fingers to pick up little bits of food.  They don’t always make it into his mouth, but it’s amazing to watch him concentrate on picking them up and holding them steady.

Drinking from a Glass:  This is a little random, but watching James drink from his tiny glass (a shot glass from Ikea) has become a favorite pastime in our house.  I think it’s pretty much the cutest thing in the world.  When I first gave him the glass a month ago, it seemed like he would never be able to use it on his own, but just in the last week or so, he’s become so proficient with it.  He still spills of course, but is able to successfully hold the glass on his own and drink from it – and he loves it!

I did three things to help him with this skill:

1. I sit across from him and model drinking from a glass, holding it with two hands, before giving him his.

2. I hold his glass out to him, with my fingers on the very bottom so there’s plenty of room for his little hands.  When I just put the glass on the table, he knocks it over, but he can take it from me with great success.

3. Lastly, I started holding the glass up a little, by his nose, so he would lean his head back when he drank.  He’s still practicing this, but it has helped him actually drink the water instead of just blowing bubbles in it or sticking his tongue in the glass.  Now that he can use his glass, I’m excited to make him a smoothie soon!  Just in time for summer.

The Bad

Food waste: This is absolutely the number one downside we’ve seen.  It makes me sad to see all of the food that goes onto the floor and can’t be eaten.

I do try to minimize this in a few ways.  With something like a fried egg or pancake, where I could just hand him the whole thing, I cut it into strips.  This way I can put one strip at a time on his tray and if he drops it, the whole thing hasn’t gone to waste.  In generally, I only put a couple of pieces of food on his tray or placemat at once, usually one of each thing he is eating, so he can choose.  I think this helps him concentrate on picking up a specific piece of food instead of just swiping around aimlessly and knocking food onto the floor.

The Ugly

Mess: Ohhhhh the mess, my friends.  This depends on the day and what he is eating, but especially if he’s using his spoon for something like avocado or oatmeal, he is usually covered in food by the end, not to mention the chair and the floor.

As my friend Natalie wrote here, I do not think mess is a bad thing.  Mess is part of the process and I involve James in the only way I can right now – showing him and talking to him about how we clean up after eating.  As he gets older, I’ll involve him more as he becomes more capable of helping.  But despite the beauty and learning opportunities of a big mess, it can be a little tiresome at times 🙂

Fortunately though, there are plenty of foods I can offer him that are less messy (pancakes, banana, zucchini, egg, etc.), so I sometimes group messy foods together at one meal so, for instance, lunch cleanup will be super easy and dinner will require a more thorough effort.  He loves oatmeal for breakfast though, so breakfast is always super messy.

Gagging: I had read that gagging is a normal part of baby learning to eat, but it still terrifies me every time it happens.  Babies’ gag reflexes are further up on their tongues at this age to protect them from choking, which makes gagging happen more frequently.  From what I’ve read, this is a safer time for them to learn to eat finger foods because of this extra protection…but it’s still not fun to watch!  James has only ever gotten upset at all by this once though.  He normally just spits the offending food out and keeps on eating.

I’ll probably post soon on our experience with the weaning chair versus a high chair and on Jame’s favorite meals so far.  Let me know if you have any other questions about baby led weaning!

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James at 7 Months

As of yesterday, out little guy is officially seven months…decidedly over the hill toward the one year mark 🙁

It has been a challenging, but very fun month.  We got out to explore more than ever and spent tons of quality time with family, the best!  We also enjoyed some truly beautiful weather and spent many hours out in the sunshine.

Here’s a little bit about what life looks like with James at 7 months:

Eating

I was talking to a friend the other day and she told me her daughter (one month older than James) takes around an hour to eat, taking tiny bites.  I had to laugh because that is so opposite of James.  He shoves literally as much food as will fit into his mouth.  He eats enthusiastically for about 15 minutes and then is DONE.  He will start banging on the table and straining to get up.

He’s currently eating three times a day, but is sometimes not that into breakfast.  Some days I feel like he eats almost as much as I do and some days he eats barely anything.  I’m just following his lead on how much he wants.

His favorite foods right now seem to be sweet potatoes, pear, watermelon, and fried egg yolks.  He does not seem to care much for lentils, but will eat some if they’re mixed with avocado or spread on sweet potato slices.  I’m planning to make him pancakes this weekend, which I’m excited about!  His meal times are still one of my favorite parts of the day.

Gross Motor

If I had to characterize this month in one word, it would be MOVEMENT.  James is not yet crawling, but he is 100% mobile and can roll across the room in a flash.

In addition to speed, he’s come a long way in being able to get to precisely where he wants to go.

He is an expert at pivoting his body so that he can roll in the desired direction.  He still prefers to roll in one direction though (to his left if he’s on his back), but this doesn’t slow him down much.

I’m curious to see if he will actually crawl since he’s so mobile already with just rolling, I’m not sure if the motivation / need will be there.

He still resists sitting unless he’s at story time or something super interesting is happening in front of him (such as cars driving down the street….)  He does fine sitting in his chair to eat though.  I think he’s just more interested in being on the move these days.

Fine Motor

I will write more about baby led weaning soon,  but one thing I love about it is the impact it’s had on James’s fine motor skills.  His ability to use his fingers, rather than his whole hand, to pick things up has grown dramatically in the past month.  If he sees a little piece of one of his favorite foods, he gets a look of intense concentration and uses his chubby little fingers to pick it up and bring it to his mouth, almost in slow motion.  You can see all of the effort it takes.  What could be more motivating than tasty food?

He is also more and more able to manipulate objects in his hands to get a desired part into his mouth (whether it’s food or not….)

Sleep

Sleep has definitely been a challenge this month.  I honestly don’t have the energy to talk about it too much right now and my thoughts are all over the place.  Suffice it to say we’re working on getting naps back to a reasonable length (he’s actually taking a nice long one as I type, hooray!).

We’re also working with helping James fall asleep now that he’s realized he can get out of his floor bed.  This just started this week so we’re still adjusting to this and figuring out the best strategy.  I will definitely post a floor bed update once we figure out what works best for him and our family.

Personality

Seven words for seven months: joyful, energetic, curious, independent, friendly, determined, loved.

I know I mentioned that James went through a couple of weeks of feeling really grumpy, but thankfully he is back to his happy self.  At the time, I thought his mood was due to short naps, but he is so happy again even though his naps are often still short.  I now think it was likely due to all of the developmental leaps and changes he was going through (becoming mobile and learning to eat solid foods mainly).  Change makes me grumpy too; I get it little dude.

He has been really cheerful the last couple of weeks though and this age is equally sweet and hilarious.

He loves being outside, playing silly games with his Dad, and EXPLORING.  He likes toys, but I think he likes exploring the house just as much, which I love.  He also likes sneezing – he always gets a big smile on his face after he sneezes, which I find hilarious.

He went in a baby swing for the first time the other day and LOVED it.  He was laughing and smiling so big.

He also loves story time.  I originally started going to story time at the library mainly for myself, to meet other moms with babies, but he now gets so excited when we’re there, grinning with his signature tongue-out smile the whole time.  He seems to like going out in general more than he used to, as long as he can move around some while we’re out and not be cooped up in a carrier or stroller the whole time.  It has been so nice to get out more this month.

James used to sometimes burst into tears if a stranger came over or if he was surrounded by too many people, but he has been so friendly lately.  He gives huge smiles to strangers we see when we’re out and talks up a storm.

Speaking of talking, he has started saying “mama”.  I honestly have no idea if he’s using this to refer to me though, or just saying the sounds, so I’m not sure if this counts as his first word?  How can I tell?

He also continues to love bath time, and for some reason, particularly loves the time right after he gets out of the bath and before he gets ready for bed.  He becomes giddy and ridiculously happy at this time, but still easily settles down when it’s time for bed.

It has been so much fun to see his big personality emerge more and more this month.  I’m excited to see what the next month brings!

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Day in the Life – 6.5 Months

Good morning!  It’s hard for me to believe that another month has gone by, but indeed it has, and lots has changed as James has become so much more mobile and gotten really into eating solid food.  This was our day yesterday.

We’ve been working with James on sleeping “through the night” lately.  I suppose you could call it mild sleep training, but I honestly hate the word “training” in reference to children.

He was going to bed on his own just fine, but had started waking up habitually at 9-10, and sometimes other times, wanting to nurse or be soothed back to sleep.  I knew he wasn’t really hungry because when he sometimes went back to sleep with just a little soothing, he woke up many hours later happy and playing.

Last night, he did pretty well!  He woke up once at around 2:45 and started scooting out of bed.  I admit I love watching him doing this on the monitor – it is both entertaining and kind of amazing to watch.  I went in and moved him back into the middle of his bed and he cried for maybe 2 minutes.  He sucked his thumb and kicked the wall for a while, not fussing, and fell back asleep.  He woke up again at 5:20.  I fed him and he went back to sleep.

I ate breakfast, read blogs, and worked on some bachelorette party planning for my sister (so excited!).  I often workout during this time, but wanted to run on my treadmill today and all of my stuff was in with my sleeping husband, so I decided to wait until nap time.

James woke up right at 7:00, which is great because, according to Dr. Weissbluth (more on that on Friday), children waking up at the same time every day helps their overall sleep.  James seems to naturally wake up around 7 most days, so we’re shooting for that.

He is so happy when I go in.  One thing I love about his floor bed is that I can lay next to him and snuggle in the morning.  I get him up, change his diaper, and get him dressed for the day.

We then go out to the backyard to “greet the world”.  There are lots of interesting bird noises this morning and little snails out from yesterday’s rain.  It’s fun to see him start to notice smaller things like bugs and snails.  He was intent on trying to pet a tiny spider on its web the other day.

We go in to say good morning to his Dad, but James is more in the mood to roll around so we soon give up on morning cuddle time and go play in his room.  He chooses his elephant shaker off of his shelf.  He also bumps his head on his shelf, which he doesn’t seem to care about, but it leaves a red mark that makes me sad.

He starts sounding grumpy so I nurse him, which cheers him up.

I then put him down to play in the living room while I make his breakfast.  I heat up his leftover oatmeal with banana from yesterday and fry a couple of egg yolks in avocado oil.  I cut the egg into strips so he can easily eat it.  He ate a lot more than what’s on his place mat, but I give him a little at a time so it doesn’t all wind up on the floor.

He is playing happily by himself, so I leave him alone while his breakfast cools off.  I quickly change into my running clothes and get the treadmill set up so I can take full advantage of his likely short nap.  He is still happy by himself so I load the dishwasher.  I really try not to interrupt him when he’s busy playing because I want to encourage his concentration and his ability to entertain himself.

Eventually I interrupt him because we’re running out of time for him to eat breakfast before he naps.

He was much more into the oatmeal today than he has been in the past and is getting so good with his spoon.

He’s gotten much more stable in his little chair, so I can sit across from him now and eat with him sometimes, which is really nice.

Mealtime is fun and messy as usual.  I place him on a blanket nearby while I clean up and talk to him about what I’m doing (washing his place mat, putting the extra food away, etc.) so that he at least starts to become aware of the process.

James is yawning by the time I finish cleaning up so I get him ready for a nap, sing him a song, and place him in his bed a few minutes after 9:00 AM.  He falls asleep within five minutes and I book it to the garage for a treadmill run.  I bring the monitor in case he wakes up.

I run three miles at a quick for me pace (8:10 minute miles, though my speed was all over the place).  I was getting tired in the last mile, but my desire to have time for a shower kept me motivated.  I watched Lilo and Stitch on Netflix while I ran because I haven’t seen it and I’m basically a five year old inside.

I rushed through the run and the shower and then realized James was still asleep, woohoo!  Way to go little buddy.  I’m so happy he is taking a real nap, not just 35 minutes, so he will be rested.  I finish booking the place for my sister’s bachelorette.  It is a house / B&B in the Texas wine country and has alpaccas…I’m pretty excited about it.  I then work on this post – a fun and productive morning so far!

James wakes up a little after 10:30, an hour and twenty minute nap, which is great for him lately.

We sing songs and play in the mirror for a bit before I nurse him.  Then we’re off for a walk!  It looked like rain this morning, but the sun came out and it is a beautiful day.

We walk for a little under an hour.  James starts mildly protesting after about 40 minutes so I book it home as fast as I can.

When we get home, James plays and rolls around the living room.  I sit by him and fold laundry.  He decides to come help and laundry turns into peekaboo.  Fine by me.  After a while, James starts getting sleepy eyes and goes down for nap # 2 around 1:00 PM.  He falls asleep quickly and without much protest.

I eat a quick lunch while he naps and start to do some cleaning.  I don’t get much done though because James takes an exceptionally short 30 minute nap.  I’m not too surprised because I noticed he had fallen asleep on his arm in a way that didn’t look too comfortable.

I go to greet him and we go sit in the backyard in the sunshine for a little while.  At times like this I feel so, so thankful that I get to stay home with him.  It’s so nice to just be together outside on a Tuesday afternoon.

Eventually we go in and I nurse him.  We read a few stories from the Bible I got him for Easter and he plays in his room.

After a while, I bring him to his little chair for a late lunch of sweet potatoes, which he loves.  I roasted them in lots of avocado oil and turmeric.  He really loves sweet potatoes and is good at eating them, so I try to load them up with some extra goodness.  Turmeric is the first spice I’ve introduced since it’s so mild and has so many health benefits.  I’ll probably try ginger and garlic next.

He eats seven sweet potato rounds – looks like I’ll need to go back to the grocery store for more sweet potatoes tomorrow!  He can’t get enough.

Cleanup is relatively easy because very little sweet potato made it onto the floor.

I place James on a large blanket in the living room with a couple of toys, but he often seems more interested in exploring the house than toys these days.

Eventually it is time for his last nap of the day.  Some days he only takes two naps, but since his second one was so short, he took three today.

This nap was also short, about twenty minutes I think?  This was strange because James’s short naps are almost always 35 minutes to the minute, so I don’t know what was going on today.

Regardless, he got up, I nursed him and he played some more in his room.  Soon my husband got home and played with him until it was time for dinner.

James had avocado (he ate almost half of a pretty big avocado) and pear slices.  He eats dinner around 5 and we’re not usually ready to eat that early so we sometimes compromise and sit with him and eat a salad so it’s more of a family meal.

After dinner, James played a little more and then took a bath.  He is so cute and curious in the bathtub.  He likes splashing in the water, but also really wants to explore the surrounding area.

After bath time, I nursed him again, gave him a massage, and my husband read him Goodnight Moon.  I sang him a song and put him in his bed.  He didn’t protest at all and fell asleep in about ten minutes.

We had leftover falafel (frozen from Trader Joes – I highly recommend it!) for dinner, so I didn’t need to cook anything.  As I mentioned, the last couple of weeks were a little rough, but so far, this is shaping up to be a great one!

What was the best part of your day yesterday?

 

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Independence Day

A couple of days ago, James made such major moves toward independence that I felt like he was about to head off for college.  I kid, sort if, but I really was amazed!

The first was at story time at the library, which we go to every Thursday afternoon.  For a little background, I first took James to story time when he was four months old.  He sat in my lap the whole time, completely silent and almost completely still.  He seemed stunned.  He is often like this when he is in a new situation – he doesn’t act scared or cry, but is super serious and just takes it all in.

Over the weeks, he’s become increasingly active at story time, bouncing and squealing and reaching out to touch other babies.  This past thursday though, he went off to play by himself for the first time.

After songs and the story, the librarian puts out a bunch of toys and blows bubbles.  I set James down in front of me and after a minute, he rolled off to the middle of the room to check out some scarves and go see the librarian.  I realize this probably seems like a super minor event, but I felt so proud of his independence!  I was happy to see him feeling so comfortable on his own, even when a much older baby came over and started messing with his feet (lol).  I honestly also was a little sad though…I know this was only the first of many steps of him moving away from me.

Later that day, he made another bold move and chose something off of his toy shelf by himself for the first time!

He was playing with a ball on the big rug in his room.  He lost interest in the ball and started to roll around.  He then rolled right over to his toy shelf, surveyed the options, and chose one!  He chose an empty tray, which I suppose makes sense since it was the only thing on the shelf he hadn’t played with before.

Since then, he’s been going to choose his own toys.  He isn’t crawling yet, but has become quite expert at pivoting so he can role in a specific direction to get where he wants to go.  There’s no stopping him now!  He even put a toy he was done with back on the shelf a couple of times, though I know this was likely just coincidence and not an innate sense of tidiness at six months 🙂

James also showed his newfound independence in one less desirable, though hilarious, way.  One night at about 3:30 AM, he got out of his floor bed (he doesn’t roll out, but lies on his back and very slowly and carefully scooches out, pushing with his feet), rolled across the room and started banging on the door.  It was pretty funny…as long as it doesn’t become a regular thing.  We shall see….

Were you independent as a child?

I think I was in some ways, but I’ve also always been pretty shy and tentative in new situations.

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