James' First Year in Review: Part 2

Today I'm continuing with my Top 12 thoughts and lessons I learned during James' first year.  If you missed Part 1 (and my disclaimer that these thoughts are my personal opinions and not absolute truth when it comes to parenting) you can check it out here.

James' (and his Mom's) First Year: Our Top 12

5. Be patient and cherish each phase, because they change so quickly.  Also take lots of pictures! Sounds so cliche, right?  I know you've heard it and read it a thousand ba-jillion times, but it is so true!  The first year it is incredible how much they change and grow.  I found it easy at times to always be looking ahead to the next thing.  I couldn't wait until he could smile and laugh or eat solid food or crawl or SLEEP (for goodness sakes!), but while I realized it's great to be excited for the things that are coming it's so important to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now.  It really does last for only a short while, and it's crazy to think that James will never be a little tiny baby ever again!  How I loved every single stage, the good, bad, and ugly.

6. Sometimes letting your child do hard things is good for them.  (We found this to be especially true in sleep training.)  It's the eternal dilemma of parenthood: how much do I let my child experience hardships and difficult things in life and how much do I try to protect and shelter them?  Of course there's no right or wrong answer or formula because it's all dependent on each individual child, stage and philosophy of parenting.  We found that in the area of sleep training, it was necessary and a very good thing in the end to let James go through the hardship of learning to sleep on his own.  I know that opinions on this are all across the board and it can be a polarizing topic.  I floundered myself a number of times in my own opinion of how good for my baby it was to let him "cry it out" as he learned to sleep.  (Just ask Justin, he loves to make fun of me for it!)  In the end, it definitely was.  (Separate post coming soon with all the details of our sleep training experience for those who are interested.)

7. Relax with the food already!  As soon as James turned 4 months old I was pretty excited to start him on solid foods, so when I got the go-ahead from his pediatrician I jumped in with spoon feeding him organic rice cereal, and pureed avocados and bananas.  I continued spoon feeding homemade pureed/mashed fruits and veggies until he was 9-10 months old, when I essentially switched to a baby led weaning approach since at that point he pretty much totally rejected spoon feeding and only wanted to feed himself by hand.  For our next baby, I would like to find a happy medium between strict baby led weaning (for those unfamiliar, the idea is that baby feeds himself soft solids as he is ready/interested) and what I did with James (traditional spoon feeding of purees first). For James, spoon feeding during months 4-6 especially turned out to be frustrating and annoying and I realize now he just wasn't ready!  I've since learned most research suggests there's no need to start introducing solids before 6 months old (the American Academy of Pediatrics' official stance is that babies should be exclusively breastfed until 6 months old) and that seems to ring true based on my experience with James.  For baby #2 my plan is to chill out and wait to introduce solids until he's 6 months old, and then lean heavily toward encouraging him to feed himself rather than spoon feeding him.

8. Nursing had its ups and downs. (But mostly ups for us!)  Overall, I would say I had an easy experience nursing James.  The first two weeks or so were definitely rough: very painful as my own body adjusted, but after that things went relatively smoothly.  James had a good latch, but at first took soooo long to nurse (about an hour each session every two and half to three hours, so that means I only had a 1.5-2 hour break in between each feeding) so I definitely felt like many new moms who breastfeed, that I was a constant milk machine around the clock, 24 hours a day.  Other moms also told me it only got easier and easier, and it definitely did for us, so I'm glad we stuck with it.  James got faster and more efficient, and I got more comfortable too, so pretty soon it was just a natural part of our schedule.

The one thing I really struggled with was pumping!  It was always a frustrating experience for me.  I struggled to find time in the day that I felt up to pumping in between all the normal nursing sessions.  I also didn't ever settle into a consistent daily pumping session (I typically only pumped on an "as-needed" basis) so I had a really hard time getting more than 1-2 oz out each time. (3 or 4 oz was a rare and amazing occurrence!)  This created a lot of unnecessary stress whenever I needed to have a bottle ready for a date night or anytime we left James with a babysitter because it typically required me to plan multiple pumping sessions days in advance just to make one bottle.  I hardly ever had a freezer stash since it was such a struggle producing extra milk, and I definitely want to try a different and more consistent pumping approach from the get-go this next time around to give us a lot more flexibility.

When James turned one year, I started replacing daytime feedings with cow's milk bottles and then sippy cups of cow's milk with meals, but continued the morning and bedtime nursing sessions for a few more months.  Around 14-15 months we were down to only the morning feed and I could tell my supply was dwindling and he was losing interest.  I was pregnant with #2 by that point (almost through the first trimester) and it just seemed like we were both ready to be done, so one morning I decided it would be our last nursing session.  It was a surreal and emotional experience in some ways, to acknowledge that we were leaving such a huge part the infant stage behind.  But it also just felt right- we were both ready to move on.

Part 3 coming soon...

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