Wednesday, August 18, 2010

4 months old!

Well, folks.  My little girl is growing up.  She is 4 months old and...............drum roll, please... experts agree that Clara is now SPOILABLE!

Until now, all the expert advice said we were "safe" from spoiling her.  Practically speaking, that meant we could give Clara whatever she wanted whenever she wanted it.  It reinforced for her that she is safe, she can trust us, and she can know that her needs will be met.  It was an incredible experience in getting to know my daughter and learning her signals.  It is empowering to know that this little being trusts me and that, in responding to her at the slightest cue, I have taught her how to communicate what she needs before ever needing to cry out - for the most part.  Of course, she is pretty naturally content and I can't take credit for that!  She gets that from her Daddy!

Things have rapidly been changing over the past month.   

"Spoilable" means she is now old enough to develop bad habits, as she is capable of: (1) learning to self-soothe, and (2) becoming dependent on "crutches."  As parents, we have to be careful not to get in the way of her learning how to calm herself  (ie. giving her a pacifier when she doesn't really want or need it, rocking/swinging her to sleep when it actually makes it harder for her to fall asleep). It's the first introduction to "knowing what's best" for your child.  For example, Clara thinks she needs to nurse as she gets tired.  Sucking is soothing for all babies.  BUT! now that she is so aware of her environment, having the smell of Mommy, the feeling of my breast or shirt under her hand, the sensation of my nipple in her mouth KEEPS her awake.  She starts to nod off and then realizes I am there, and she begins sucking again.  That was when I realized I was going to have to listen to my child cry for the first time and knowingly deprive her of what she wants in order to help her get to sleep.

She has actually begun to cry MORE - which I believe is due to her getting closer and closer to early speech development. She's telling us when she is frustrated, angry, helpless, excited, bored, tired, etc. all through different grunt patterns, cries, and coos. Her newborn grunts while sleeping have been traded for grunts prior to passing gas or belching.  I hope this means it will be easier to potty train down the road!  I am just waiting for her to begin babbling soon. Every once in a while, she will make a front-of-the-mouth sound in the middle of a crying spell or when she is having a cooing/grunting "conversation" with her Daddy or I.

Routine is all the more important for her.  Babies thrive on routine because it gives them cues as to what comes next and gives them a certain sense of power in their uncertain world as they learn to anticipate what it coming next.  When Clara first started showing signs of excitement or patience as I would prepare to feed her, we realized she was capable of learning routine at a basic level.  So, we began introducing little bits of routine: a bath before bedtime, a song before laying her down, etc. We are constantly adapting to her needs as her needs or cues change, and as she is becoming more and more aware and interested in her environment, I have begun putting more and more structure into our daily routine.  For example, my goal for each day:
  • 8:00-9:30 Wakes up for the day, she nurses, diaper change and mini conversation/laughter on her changing table
  • I walk her around the house, say good morning to Daddy, and let her slowly wake up until she begins to show signs of wanting to grab at things and put them in her mouth and being ready to begin the day! She plays on her Gymini while I make coffee and breakfast.  By the time Alan and I have eaten and sipped until we've drained the coffee pot (~60-90 minutes), she is ready for:
  • Nap #1 (~45 minutes)
  • I nurse her and then wear her in her Baby Bjorn while we dance and sing to music and/or I straighten up the house and get a load of laundry done.  I tell her what I'm doing as I'm doing it so she learns names for the things around her and can hear the structure of language. (~60-75 minutes)
  • Nap #2 (~45 minutes)
  • I nurse her and get her dressed for the day (the temp is usually too cool for the first half of the day to bother taking her out of her footed pjs) and strap her into her carseat/stroller and we head to a small park next to the closest library - about a 20 minute walk. She typically naps on the way to and on the way back from the park. (~1 1/2-2 hours)
  • The late afternoon and evening is a bit uncertain still but when Daddy gets home about an hour later, he will wear her in the Bjorn and walk around with her outside or talk with her on the couch until it is time to make dinner.
  • She sits in her swing while we eat.
  • 6:30-6:45 we give her her bath, put baby oil all over her sweet body, dress her in her pjs, nurse.
  • 6:45-7:00 she gets a couple of songs and is put in bed with her pacifier and gentle pats on her thigh until she is calm and eyes closed.  I say, "Mommy loves you, sweet girl.  It's time to go 'night-night'."  How we REALLY get her to SLEEP is a-whole-nother post.

It's a heck of a schedule and it is a daily effort to make sure that the schedule is still working for her.  But she is taking so VERY well to it.  It is all built on what she needs and the routine she kind of settled into on her own as far as timing of naps and feedings. It seems to be really great for her as she is now falling asleep faster and for longer.  It just took me paying attention to her patterns and then reinforcing them and guiding her into a consistent pattern.  Plus, it sure helps Mommy and Daddy know when we can and can't fit in a shower or pay some bills - you know, the fun stuff!

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