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!

 

Continue Reading

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 🙂

Continue Reading

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!

Continue Reading

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!

Continue Reading

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?

 

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Montessori Peace Education and Babies

Montessori is not just a method of education, it is a philosophy and a way of being, and peace is at its very core.  Maria Montessori lived during a time of war and turmoil and she viewed children as the hope for the future.  Thus, peace education was and is an extremely important part of Montessori.

When I think about peace, I picture concentric circles with peace radiating outward.  It all begins with inner peace, peace with one’s self.  Then comes peaceful interactions with people you know.  Global peace, or a peaceful outlook toward other countries and cultures and humankind, follows.

This may seem like a lofty topic for babies, but how could it ever be too early to incorporate something so essential?  The early months and years are when a person forms his sense of self, who he is going to be.  What better time could there be to think about peace?

With that in mind, I’ve been trying to incorporate some peace “activities” into our routine.  I really believe that so much of this comes from modeling – children watch how we treat people at the grocery store, they listen to how we talk about people when they’re not there, and they sense how we feel about “others,” or people outside of our own culture.  Still, I think there are some things we can do to intentionally incorporate peace as well.

Cultivate Silence

This may seem impossible with young children, but if you catch them in the right frame of mind, it can be beautiful.  I feel like people often think of children as silly and playful, which they certainly can be, but they also have such deep, beautiful souls if you give them the chance to show you.

In the Montessori classroom, children play the “silence game”.  This is NOT like when an adult challenges a rowdy child to be silent for as long as possible.  The thing about the silence game is you have to catch a child when they can succeed.  If you asked me to be silent when I was in the middle of excitedly telling you something…or right after my second cup of coffee, I would fail too.

But if you notice when a child is already calm and peaceful, you can stretch this and cultivate that sense of peace by sitting in silence.  In the classroom, we would sometimes use a candle or an hourglass timer to mark the game.  We would also sometimes play it while sitting outside and then talk about the sounds we heard.

Obviously this looks different with a baby, but I like to take James outside and sit in silence when he is peaceful.  Often we do this first thing in the morning.  He will eventually start to babble and then we sing songs or talk about what we see outside, but I want him to know that it’s also okay to just be still, to sit without words.

Use Peaceful Language

To encourage peaceful interactions with others at this stage, I just try to use peaceful language.  I know that he’s always watching and listening and I strongly believe that he will pick up more from watching us interact in the world than from us telling him to “play nicely” when he’s older.  I also talk to him about being “gentle” when he reaches out to touch his baby friend (or tries to roll right into her…)  I have no idea how much of this he understands right now, but I figure it’s never to early to start.

Explore Other Cultures

This is a fun one!  I think familiarity with other cultures is a big part of avoiding prejudice.  Some of my favorite memories of attending Montessori preschool as a child are of celebrating holidays from other cultures – exploring their dress, trying their foods, and listening to stories and songs from other countries.

With James, I’m loving the book Global Babies right now.  It shows babies from countries around the world and talks about how they are all beautiful and loved.  He likes looking at the pictures of different types of faces.  I also try to sing peaceful songs with him and look forward to introducing him to foods from different cultures as he continues his journey with solid foods.

For older children, Same, Same but Different is an excellent book.  I also remember loving this book when I was a child and hope to do more things to celebrate different cultural holidays as James gets older and becomes more aware.

These are just a few easy things we try to incorporate into daily life.  Hopefully we can do more as he gets older!

Were you exposed to different cultures as a child?

If you have children, do you have any tips for incorporating peace / any book ideas?

Continue Reading

Weekend Highlight – Adventures with Watermelon

A lot of our weekend was spent at home, which was nice, but you probably don’t want to see photos of us lounging on the couch or playing on the floor 🙂

We did get out on Saturday for something really fun though.  My husband’s company had a “family day” event.  Their offices are in a series of old houses in a great Austin neighborhood, so the event was held in the front yards.  There was a summer camp theme and it was super cute.  They had a rock climbing wall for the older kids, a gourmet hot dog food truck, a smores station where you could roast marshmallows, crafts, etc.  There was also a photographer, so I’m excited to see his pictures of James soon.

We had such a nice time chatting with everyone, introducing little James, and meeting others’ children.  James saw another baby, got the funniest surprised look, and insisted on reaching out to touch her.  She did not seem pleased.  I thought his look of surprise was funny since he sees lots of babies at story time every week, but I suppose it was out of context and he wasn’t expecting it.  I imagine him saying, “Oh look!  One of my people is here.  Thank goodness, I thought I was alone.”

When we were sitting down to eat, we noticed someone with watermelon and looked at each other.  I hadn’t thought of watermelon when brainstorming first foods for James, but it’s easy to hold, easy to eat (this one was seedless), so why not?!

I think it’s safe to say that this was James’s favorite food so far (although he seems to really like broccoli too).  Usually he’ll explore the food for a little while and eat some, but then be decidedly done and ready to move on.  With the watermelon, he clutched it tightly, protecting it, and ate almost the whole big slice!  I was amazed.  One of the guys at the party mentioned that cold watermelon is great once they start teething, so I’m going to keep that in mind as well.

We are still very early in the process, but so far, are loving baby led weaning!  It’s so fun to be able to make James healthy meals at home, but also see him enjoying impromptu treats when we’re out and about, just part of the family enjoying a party on a Saturday afternoon.

 

Continue Reading

Baby Led Weaning – The Beginning

Last Saturday, we began the journey of solid foods for James.  This was something I had been looking forward to all month and it was just as fun / entertaining as I thought it would be!  After reading a lot about it, we decided to try “baby led weaning” (BLW) where you basically skip spoon feeding baby purees and go straight to finger foods, allowing them to feed themselves.

When I was researching and trying to decide whether to try BLW, I loved reading specific examples of how different families did it.  I found a lot of the information out there to be theoretical and vague, and this type A mama wanted specifics.  So I wanted to share our BLW journey as we go along, in case it’s helpful to anyone else.

As a disclaimer, if BLW doesn’t work for us, I’ll definitely try something different.  I’m open to everything at this point!

The Chair

Are you familiar with weaning tables / cube chairs?  They are baby sized chairs and tables, low to the ground, that can be used instead of high chairs.  They allow baby to sit close to the ground and use furniture that is just his size (a big thing in Montessori).

Also, when baby is a little older, he can get in and out of the chair independently.  I think this is great practice for staying seated during a meal.  Using a table low to the ground can also be a lot less messy because if baby drops (or throws…) food off of the table, it doesn’t go as far as if it were dropped from a great height.  Physics, my friends.

For all of these reasons, I really wanted a cube chair.  I almost ordered this one off of Etsy.  But we decided we also wanted a high chair, because I think family dinners are important and I want James to be able to join us at the table for dinner.  I plan to use the cube chair for breakfast and lunch and the high chair for dinner.  Since we were getting both, I was hesitant to spend too much on a cube chair.

After a lot of indecision (story of my life), we made it to this past weekend with neither a cube chair or a high chair.  Whoops.  We had been planning to go to Ikea Saturday morning to get a high chair ($15 and I’ve read good reviews!), but I thankfully checked their website before we went and saw that it was out of stock at our store.  I’m glad I checked because Ikea is quite far from us.  I ordered the high chair, but it won’t arrive until April 4.

After looking forward to this all month, I really didn’t want to wait an extra week, so what to do?  Enter my husband, saving the day once again 🙂  He is an excellent creative problem solver and can always seem to make what we need from what we have.

He quickly made James a little table and chair like it was no big deal.  We had an old Ikea table and he sawed the legs off to make it 11 inches tall.  He then followed this tutorial to build James a little cube chair.  I love it all the more knowing he made it for little James.  I read that you can use beeswax and coconut oil as a natural wood finish, so I just need to find some beeswax to coat it with and we’re good to go!  At this point, James is just as interested in licking the chair as he is in tasting the food, so we definitely need a safe, natural finish.

The Set-up

As my friend Natalie writes about beautifully here, grace and courtesy is a huge part of Montessori.  One small part of this is mealtimes.  In Montessori, meal time is a lovely ritual where set-up, clean-up, and conversation are all just as important as the food.  I’m trying to keep this in mind from the beginning.

One part of Montessori mealtime is using real dishes, even for babies.  I do plan to do this with James, but wanted to introduce the food first so he’s not too distracted by the plate, etc.  We’re using this place mat.  I like that it’s white because the food really stands out.  It’s also large and stays in place well.  I have also used a ramekin when I gave him mashed sweet potatoes and it worked well.  We’re using a little shot glass for water, which may sound funny, but they’re the perfect size and are thick, so less likely to break if dropped.  Using real dishes (e.g., small glasses instead of sippy cups) helps the child learn control of movement – they know that if they drop it, the water will spill, which is hard to learn from spill-proof cups.

I also place a little sponge in the top left corner for spills and a wash cloth to wash his hands before he eats….and his entire body after he’s done.  I want to involve him in the clean up as much as possible from the start to show him it is part of the process.  Right now, that looks like keeping him at the table while I wipe it and say “when we’re done eating, we wipe the table”.

I was tempted to add fresh flowers to the table, but decided it would just be a distraction at this point.  Let’s face it, he would probably want to eat them.  I definitely plan to do this once he’s in the groove with eating though.

I want to sit across from him to make it more like a normal meal time and to help demonstrate how to hold and eat the food, but at this point, James needs some support as he gets used to his chair so I’m sitting next to him.  He sometimes gets tired of sitting in the chair and winds up in my lap.  He’s already looking more comfortable in there after a few days of practice though.

As soon as he can stay in his chair safely and comfortably, I’ll sit across from him and set a place for myself to eat with him.  I really think practicing the mealtime ritual is just as important as the food, especially in our rushed culture where “lunch” is often a granola bar in the car for many adults. (Not judging…this is definitely me some days).

The Food

After scouring the internet and talking to our pediatrician, it seems like you can start with almost any food, assuming your child has no medical conditions and allergies don’t run in your family (most previous restrictions have been lifted, apart from salt, honey, and cow’s milk).  With BLW, you just want to begin with something that will be relatively easy for baby to hold, and something that will be gentle on their digestive system.

We decided to start with avocado.  I liked that I wouldn’t need to cook the avocado, so didn’t have to worry about getting it the right consistency before giving it him.  While I’ve read that choking is no more common with BLW than with purees, I’m still a little paranoid and avocado seemed very low risk due to it’s squishiness.  That’s a technical term.

So far, he’s tried avocado, roasted sweet potato, and pear.  I plan to offer steamed broccoli next.

For the avocado, we simply sliced it and put it on his place mat.  For the sweet potato, I’ve given him roasted strips (french fry sized), and also mashed sweet potato.

For the mashed, we tried “loaded spoons”.  This is where you put a little on the spoon and put the spoon on the table for baby to use if he wants.  I also put a ramekin with a little mashed sweet potato on the table.  He used the spoon and also ate some with his hands.  I was pleasantly surprised with how successful he was with the spoon!  I plan to use loaded spoons for foods that adults would eat with a spoon – so yes to oatmeal, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, no to pureed chicken.  That’s just my personal preference and could certainly change depending on how things go!  I like the idea of him getting used to using utensils though, where appropriate.

For the pear, I gave him about 1/4 of a very ripe pear, with the peel on.  This may have been his favorite so far.

It was a little slippery, but he tried different strategies for getting it into his mouth, including holding it on the table and bending down to suck on it.

I was surprised by how much of the pear was gone when he was through!

The Experience

James had the funniest strategy for eating the first time we gave him avocado, it took me by surprise.  Obviously avocado slices are slippery and hard to pick up.  I thought he would just squish them and lick them off of his hands, which he did some.

He also though bent his head down to the table and sucked up the avocado like a little vacuum cleaner…it was quite entertaining and surprisingly successful!

He tried this same strategy with the sweet potato strips though with less success.  He could pick up the sweet potato strips, but had some difficulty getting them in his mouth.  I may have cut them too thin due to my fear of him choking.  I also got a crinkle cutter to make the pieces easier to hold and totally forgot to use it.  Next time.

He wound up holding one while he sucked his thumb several times.  He honestly didn’t seem too pleased with the experience when he did get one in his mouth, but I have a feeling that will change with a little more practice.

I look forward to his meal times each day and I must say, it’s actually been less messy than I was expecting.  Of course, he gets covered with food, but it’s easy to wipe him off with a wash cloth.  Some gets on the floor, but we pick it up as we go and its no big deal.

Resources

I found Brittany’s post and others on her site to be one of the most helpful resources.  She goes into the practical details that I found were missing on many sites, like what shapes to cut the food in and how big.

I also purchased this BLW recipe book.  From the reviews, this cookbook sounded way more useful than their introductory book which it sounds like is mainly theory / the benefits of BLW.  We’re starting with one food at a time, so I haven’t used any of the recipes yet, but they look great!  There is a lot of variety and recipes from different cultures, which I love.

I also found this post comparing the Montessori approach to eating with baby led weaning.  I read this after we already started, but it looks like we’re doing sort of a hybrid.

I plan to post updates on BLW and how it works for us.  I’m curious to see what foods James will like and to experiment with new recipes.  So far, we’re having a ton of fun with this new adventure!

Did you / would you try baby led weaning?

Were you a picky eater as a child or more adventurous?

Continue Reading

James at 6 Months

I have all sorts of thoughts and feelings about the six month mark.  I can be overly sentimental and six months sounds SO old to me right now.  Halfway to a year.  Is one year the end of babyhood?  I’m not sure, but it sounds dangerously close….

I must say though, it has been a wonderful month.  We’ve gone on lots of little adventures and also had many quiet days at home and in the backyard.  Now that it’s so much easier to get out of the house, I really enjoy the days we spend at home too.

Before we had kids, I told my husband I thought six months was the cutest age for babies, and I must say, it’s pretty darn adorable.

Enough sappiness though.  What has James been up to?

Stats:

Weight: 17 lb 10 oz (53rd percentile)

Height: 27 1/2 inches (85th percentile)

Head circumference: 44.6 cm (85th percentile)

It always makes me laugh when the doctor says he’s a “long and lean” baby…his thighs!  This is actually the highest his weight percentile has ever been though, so that made me happy.

EATING!

More on this soon, but we gave James his first solid food last weekend.

We went with avocado for his first food and it was…messy.  So much fun though.  My sister was in town for the occasion, which made it extra special.

He’s been grabbing for my food the last few weeks and he really seemed to enjoy having some of his own.

Gross Motor

How I found him in the morning….

James is still all about learning to move.  He can quickly roll across the room now and also spends lots of time on his tummy “air swimming” and getting frustrated that it’s not getting him anywhere.

He’s been a proficient roller for quite a while, but I feel like he just realized that he could use rolling to move around the room and get where he wants to go.  There is no stopping him now!

On that note, does anyone have a natural floor cleaner they love?

I’ve seen the most change this month in his ability to bear weight on his legs while we hold him.  This kid is ALL about bouncing.  Bouncing while we hold him up is his number one hobby (in conjunction with spitting…).  It is his happy place.  He gets the biggest grin and sometimes sticks his tongue out while he bounces up and down.  It’s pretty great.

He is not, however, very interested in sitting up.  When I sit him up to practice, he’ll often rock back and forth, trying to scoot, as if to say, “this surely must get me somewhere, or why would mom insist that I try it?”  Sometimes he’ll just bend down and suck on his toes lol.

Lately though, he often lunges back or to the side as soon as I sit him up, clearly making his opinion on sitting known.

The exception to this is when we’re at story time, where he easily sits by himself.  He once sat up for like twenty minutes there, I was shocked.  I think it’s because he was busy watching and listening, and so was not jerking around trying to move.  I try to mimic this by sitting him in front of the mirror so he has something interesting to look at, which sometimes works briefly, but he’s really not that into it.  I suspect that as soon as he’s interested, he’ll be able to sit unassisted no problem.

Fine Motor

James now passes objects back and forth between his hands.  He’s also able to pick something up and rearrange the way he’s holding it to get the desired part in his mouth.  It amazes me to watch his little hands at work when it seems so recent that all he could do was ball them up in little fists.

Personality

James is so happy and funny!  He cracks me up every day.  He is a little scientist, so eager to explore his world.

He takes solid naps more often than not, but hangs in there really well if we’re occasionally off schedule when we’re traveling or have a busy day.

He loves being sung to, playing with scarves, looking in the mirror, and playing games like peekaboo or making silly faces together.  He also tolerates long walks on the beach..er around the neighborhood, which has been great since I love to walk and to be outside.  I worry that it’s already getting hot for long walks though; he’s so warm when I take him out of the stroller!

He has a little baby friend from the library and they are so cute together.  They don’t interact too much, but he definitely seems to recognize her and they reach out to touch each other and smile at each other.  It makes me happy to see him with a little buddy.

He is super chatty when we arrive home after going somewhere new.  He’s often silent when we’re out, just taking it all in, but then he tells me all about it when we get home.

Things I Want to Remember

How he gives me the biggest smile when I go in to greet him in the morning.

How he goes about life with his tongue sticking out, hoping to taste something interesting.

How he sleeps in the strangest position with his little butt in the air.

How he grabs my nose while he’s nursing or while I’m singing to him before a nap (LOL).

How soft his skin is.

How he grabs his belly rolls in the bathtub.

How he looks in the smallest little swimsuit I’ve ever seen.

Continue Reading