She Says… Lessons from Mommy Group: Part 4

This week in Mommy Group we talked about fine motor skills and childcare options. The same small group of us met for lunch before class. As always, it was lovely to be out in the world with Owen and not stressing about naptimes. As I talk to the other moms, I am realizing just how strict I am in terms of sticking to our “schedule” and napping in the crib. Sometimes it feels like we never leave the house because I’m so worried about Owen getting overtired or not having the right naps, or (gasp!) sleeping on-the-go. The other ladies are going out to dinners while their babies sleep in the carseat under the table, meeting friends for afternoon coffees and taking their little ones shopping. While part of me feels like I should lighten up and enjoy his portability at this stage, part of me feels validated in that he is such a happy baby and such an awesome sleeper at night. He is on a better “schedule” than many of the other babies, and I do wonder if it’s at least in part because I am so vigilant about his sleep. That said, everyone else seems to be getting out a lot more and seeing friends. I’m, well… not.

When I struggle with daytime naps in the crib (like right now, it just took me 35 minutes of rocking Owen for a few minutes, putting him in his crib, leaving the room, having him cry, going back up there, lather, rinse, repeat, and finally I was so fed up that I threw him in his swing), it makes me think that I should just throw caution to the wind and go shopping or something, toting Owen along in his stroller. However, then there are times like yesterday, when he went down in his crib like a little angel for the morning nap and slept for 2 solid hours. Clearly he needed a good nap in the quiet comfort of home. He never would have slept two hours out and about. The jury’s still out on that one. My current theory is that if I stay at home and give him a good morning nap, then we could go out in the afternoon and nap here and there, and he should be fine.

That theory doesn’t always hold, though.

Fine Motor Skils

  • The teacher gave each of the babies little plastic rings (you know, those cheap, colorful linking rings that you can attach baby toys to the stroller with). We laid the babies on their backs and put the rings in their hands. Instinctively they grasp them and flail them around. Apparently this tactile experience helps them to learn to bring their hands to their mouths and to understand that they have control over their bodies.
  • Owen loved this game. He happily smiled away while waving his rings in the air, legs pumping and mouth and eyes opening and closing.
  • Unfortunately he loved it so much that he totally and completely wore himself out. We had been out to lunch prior to this playtime, so already he was on the verge of tired. But hey, he had such a long morning nap that I thought, “He’s fine! I’m going to relax like everyone else!”. Once he played for awhile, it was time to feed him again, so I calmed him down and tried to nurse. He would have NONE of it. Crying, screaming, kicking… you’d think I was trying to torture the poor child. Finally I realized he was wildly overtired and overstimulated, so I wrapped him up in a blanket and bounced on an exercise ball to help him chill out and take a little snooze. Since he was so overtired, he took forever to calm down, and everyone in class had to listen to him wail. Finally he fell asleep in my arms and I didn’t dare put him down. He got about a 20 minute nap, and then I tried to feed him again. Still fussy, but he ate a little. He cried the whole way home in the car, and then was absolutely impossible to put to sleep once we got home. Grrr! See what happens when I leave the house?

Childcare

  • After exhausting Owen with fine motor skills activities, we talked a lot about childcare options. I have a center-based daycare lined up for January when I return to work, so I didn’t contribute a lot to the childcare discussion.
  • However, I was very interested to hear the teacher ask how many of the moms had gone out for a date night with their husbands and/or left their babies with someone else for awhile so they could get out of the house. The verdict? Everyone in the room had except for me!
  • Ummm, really? I’ll be honest, I haven’t even left Owen with Benjamin except for when I got my hair cut last weekend. And everyone else has left their babies for date nights? With strangers?
  • Yet again, I’m learning the lesson that maybe I need to loosen the reins. Several of the moms are getting sitters to come on a regular, weekly basis so that they can have some time to themselves. While I don’t think I need that kind of help, it would probably be good for me to go out to dinner. Or go to the gym by myself. Or get my nails done. You know, exist without a baby clinging to my shirt. Obviously after 9 weeks of being with Owen nonstop, this is a tough concept to grasp.

When did you first go out without your baby? What did you do? Was the time away worth it, or did it stress you out more to be gone?

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30 responses to “She Says… Lessons from Mommy Group: Part 4

  1. My only contribution to this post is this:

    My cousins made sure their daughter took good naps in her crib every day. Now they MUST go home for her name (she is 2) because she won’t fall asleep anywhere else. It is a big issue and they are stuck hanging around in the area of their home at all times!

    Best of luck figuring it all out!

  2. Yes, get out while Owen is portable. If he gets one nap at home, then a nap in the car seat or stroller is fine. Doing errands when he is toddling will be much harder.

  3. I think this is really hard to figure out. Clearly I have no advice yet, but maybe you can just try being adventurous and start small? Maybe once a week try going out to an early dinner with Benjamin and see what happens if you bring the baby, or incorporate some more daily outings? Obviously the worst that can happen is Owen will cry and be overtired, but he also could get used to falling asleep while out and about.

  4. I would go stir crazy if I didn’t get out! My first had good naps at home for the most part, but was a horrible sleeper at night until she started daycare and was stimulated by all the hub-bub during the day. By the time I had the third we’re out and about nearly everyday with shopping and things to do with my girls–and he was good about sleeping at night, although he was up often to nurse, he seemed to be born knowing that night was for sleep.

    I’ve never been big on leaving my kids with sitters. The first went to daycare at 11 weeks, other than that she had been alone with my husband a couple of times and my mom kept her once when I went to a doctor’s appointment. My second, never even stayed in the church nursery until she was 9 months old and her first night without me was when I was in the hospital, having the third! The 3rd was at least 6 months old before I left him anywhere. It’s nice to get out, but I love my kids and we’re on a pretty tight budget, so we put them to bed and have date night in sometimes. So you might be alone in you class, but far from alone in the world!

  5. We have no family in the area (or within 1000 miles, for that matter) so getting out alone is pretty tough. We still haven’t been out on a “date,” and our son is 6.5 months old! Hoping to change that soon though, and take the husband out for his birthday in October. Need to find a good sitter!

    Ben was 6 weeks old before I got out of the house without him. My next door neighbor took him for an hour and a half so I could walk down the street and get a pedicure. It was heaven. I think it was another 2 weeks after that before my husband even stayed home alone with him! (just because of his busy work schedule). It gets easier every time you do it, and it is SO nice to have a little “me time.”

  6. our kids are 7 and 5 and we just left them with a stranger for the first time but we have gone out lots and lots of times with family watching him.

    you really should try and go out….you will be happy you did and he will be ok.

  7. I didn’t leave my babies alone much as infants. There was a few hours when they were about 3 weeks old, so we could make a brief appearance at a friend’s wedding, but it was hardly relaxing. Otherwise, with no local family and no resource to find a casual babysitter, it didn’t happen. I finally got a college student twice a week when they were about 6 months old, and it was nice to have a few hours a week to myself (I’m a SAHM, though, so that was it).

    As for the sleep thing, it’s hard to know which way to go. I was, and am, a bit of a sleep nut and an absolute Weissbluth devotee. HOWEVER. As you have already figured out, every parenting book comes with at least a few grains of salt. And while I’m all about Weissbluth’s approach of getting babies to sleep in their cribs and have a regular nap schedule and all of that, I personally think there’s a big asterisk for the first few months.

    I think, for the first 3-4 months, the more important part is that they DO sleep, not exactly the how or where (i.e. if he needs the swing, don’t fight it). I appreciate the value of a well-rested baby, FOR SURE. But I think we do overstate the importance of “good” sleep habits in the first couple of months. The flipside, that I only realize now in hindsight, and as a second-time-mom-to-be, is that very young babies are immensely portable. And it’s a benefit that goes away by 3-4 months. So while I’m all about good sleep habits, I also think you should take a little time to enjoy the relative flexibility and portability while you have it. It’ll go away soon, and you get it back pretty gradually over the next year or two (or three).

    Again, that’s the kind of thing you mostly see in hindsight. Newborns are hard, exhausting, tricky little people. And when it’s all you’ve experienced so far, it doesn’t feel especially flexible or portable at all.

  8. I think if your instincts are telling you to loosen up about where Owen sleeps, than you should. There’s nothing wrong with sleeping in a place other than a crib. What will you do if you’re in a place without his particular crib? Traveling? Vacationing? You’ll want him to be able to sleep with regular noises happening, in all sorts of different places and situations. If you sequester him in his room all the time, he’ll learn to require absolute silence and a particular set of bedding and a particular crib and a particular level of light. Not so good.

    As for going out, I have plenty of friends who don’t leave their children with strangers. Many of them nurse exclusively and don’t own pumps. Others are willing to leave their children with family only. For two of our friends, our wedding was the first time they left their children–for just a couple of hours–with strangers, at 7 months and 9 months. But these are also moms who don’t leave their children with strangers at daycare, either.

  9. Harry is 14.5 weeks old. He has been in daycare for a few weeks already and I started to leave him with my parents and my in-laws when he was just a few weeks old to help me get used to being away from him.

    When he was almost 3 weeks old I left him with my mom for 30-ish minutes a few times so that I could run to the bank or the grocery store or take the dog on a walk by myself. Harry is EBF so I always carried my cell so I could be home in 5-10 minutes.

    We had a close friend’s wedding when he was 4 weeks old. The venue was about 2 miles away from our home so I felt ok going. It was tough–I called my mom (our sitter) about 4 times over the course of 4 hours. I had started pumping before that evening so I could leave a couple bottles. We had another wedding when he was 7 weeks old and for some reason I felt MUCH better about leaving him at home. I think I was just used to the idea of it! My in-laws came over and I only called once! We were out for about 5 hours.

    My husband hasn’t had a lot of solo time but watched him alone for a few hours for two baby showers I attended at weeks 5 and 7.
    Over Labor Day weekend (11 weeks old), we went to a music festival without him to celebrate the end of summer and my return to work (boo on both counts!). We were gone for 8 hours and even went out for dinner! It was amazing. I missed him but was ok. I brought a handpump in my purse but didn’t use it–I just pumped RIGHT before we left at 2 and RIGHT when we got home at 10. Since it was the only time I’d gone 8 hours without feeding, it didn’t damage my supply at all.

    Good luck–you should do what you feel comfortable with. I do think that it took some getting used to though so I would recommend that you start spending a little bit of time away from your baby. I still really miss him when he’s at daycare and I’m stuck at work! That part just stinks and I love his daycare providers!

  10. I have never been away from Nico! I contemplated running a quick errand one time and leaving him home with daddy but I couldn’t do it. My thoughts were: “What if I get stuck in traffic and he gets hungry and I’m not there to feed him?” I don’t pump and so I am the only source of food for him. Because of that, I take him with me wherever I go.

    How do you handle Owen crying in his car seat? The first few times Nico did that, I cried too. I still have such a hard time hearing him do that. I try to time outings so that we leave the house RIGHT after I feed him, so he won’t be hungry again for a few hours. He usually only cries in his car seat when he’s hungry… though lately he’s been crying when tired too.

  11. I holed myself up in my house for two weeks trying to get my daughter to take better naps but she wouldn’t. I felt so trapped. Now I take her out and sure, sometimes she doesn’t get the best sleep when she’s out and about but she’s okay. I’m very good about making sure she’s home for her bedtime routine and that is what I stick to. It’s been hard sometimes and I’ve had to say no to some dinner dates but that is what I’m sticking to now, and I’m letting the day time stuff go a bit.
    As for date night, we are very lucky to have our parents here and we’ve been out on quite a few dates. IT’S DEFINITELY WORTH IT! I would highly recommend it. I’m sure it’s much harder when you have to find someone, but I bet you could ask the mom’s in the class who they use and get some good recommendations.
    You’ll figure all this stuff out and learn what is right for you. If you feel okay staying at home more then do that, but if you want to get out, trust that Owen can handle it well enough. Also, if you really want a date night, make it happen, but if you feel too stressed right now, just enjoy each other at home!
    Good luck!

  12. Kate, you are a great Mom and you know what your instincts are telling you and you know Owen best. I would say that his fussiness was 90% attributed to being over stimulated vs not sleeping in his crib for his nap. You could experiment a little with taking him out to the mall or something in his stroller during a nap time without the extra stimulation from the play group to set him off. Then you can see how he tolerates the new nap situation.

    The situation you described with him crying/fussing and not sleeping was my life from weeks 3-5. He just wouldn’t sleep for long during the day causing him to be overtired = raised cortisol levels = all hell breaking loose. I’m jealous that you are even able to just put Owen down for his naps awake! I would pay $million fir that some days 😉

    Follow your instincts, experiment a bit and respond to his needs as you see fit. If there’s one thing that has punctuated with me the last 6-7 weeks as a new Mom is temperment. Each baby is truly hard wired just a bit differently and we just have to respect that first and foremost before incorporating “our” lives, know what I mean?

  13. I totally understand what you’re saying on protecting his sleep. I did that with my first son and he is such a great sleeper until this day. I’m trying to do that now with our second but it’s more difficult since I know my older son needs to get out and socialize so sometimes he sleeps in the car seat and sometimes he sleeps at home. My son is just two months old and we really just left him for the first time Monday night and it was wonderful. Having a few hours out with my husband and just having fun made me feel rejuvenated. My parents kept both of our kids but we often use Sitter City to find a babysitter just to get out for a date at least once a month.

  14. Hilary Barhorst

    My son is 3 months old and I’m pretty flexable about his naps. I feed on demand and let him sleep on demand. I don’t really schedule anything! He sleeps pretty well at night, he just wakes to eat usually 3 times a night. Actually, his best sleep EVER was when we were visiting my mom and dad, 12 hours from home. He slept 6 hour stretches every night for a week. He hasn’t done it since. I know it’s hard to try something new, especially when what you are doing now is working well. Maybe just try one day taking him on errands and see what happens. Even if he has a bad reaction and won’t nap, it’s just one day!

    And I’ve never left Charlie with a stranger. I don’t pump so I have to stay close. My mother-in-law has watched him a few times, plus my sister-in-law and husband of course. Usually I was just running to the store or going for a pedicure so I wasn’t gone more than an hour and a half, but it was FANTASTIC! You might worry a little while you are gone, but it is so wonderful to be able to run in and out of the store without totting the little one with you. Get out a little if you have someone you trust close by!

  15. When my son was a newborn the whole H1N1 thing was going around, so, we didn’t take him out much. However, we would take him to family and close friends whenever we wanted. We took him out to eat when he was 3 months and since then we take him where ever we need to go. If he sleeps, then, well, I let him. He’s always been a great sleeper and will sleep where ever (crib, car seat, on someone). He’s 8 months now and still the same way, except now he’s teething, so, we’re up and down all night.

    We struggle a bit for daytime naps, but he’s great at night. We started sleep training at 4 months. We may even stay out late (way past our ‘scheduled’ time to put him to bed) and as long as we play the same lullaby music, he is good to go.

    My thoughts? I think he’s so young now that you’re not going to establish much of a set routine with him. I read that 4 months is when you should start worrying about sleep training. Enjoy as much freedom as you have now, because it becomes even more scarce when he starts crawling!!

    You know your baby best, so, do what ever you feel is working best for you.

  16. Wow, did I read that question wrong! Disregard my last post!

    My son was two weeks old when Evan and I left without him. I was a nervous wreck! My mother lives down the street (literally, walking distance) to a Chinese buffet and it was valentine’s day, so, we went out to eat.

    It took me 20 min to actually leave him. I kept going over everything he may need, when to call me, what to do when to do it, yadda yadda yadda. And, the whole time I was eating I was glancing at the phone making sure I didn’t miss a call.

    Even now I go over ‘the list’ of all the things he will need, I always have the phone close and when he’s gone all day I call to check in (and miss him like crazy).

    I barely slept the first time he spent the night at my mom’s. He was about 4 months old at the time.

  17. My husband watched our daughter the 1st time I had to be away from her….to get my haircut. She was about 4 weeks. I was very nervous, but she did great and so did daddy. Since then I have left her with daddy, and both grandmas several times. The longest was about 6 hours with grandma. It’s hard, but so worth it for my own personal sanity to get out and about. She’s 8 weeks now and we go out shopping and visiting people almost every day. I would go CRAZY if I didn’t get out of the house. I have to admit that I did stay home for the 1st month tho – mostly because I was not comfortable nursing in public. Now I could care less where we are or who we are with….we both are very comfortable. It is true she does not nap as well or as long on the road, but I feel that as long as she is getting some sleep and is happy we are okay.

  18. We have yet to “go out on a date” or anything like that but I’ve definitely left the baby with hubby / grandpa and gone places with my Mom (concert, football game, etc). I strive for one “crib nap” per day and let him sleep in his carseat for other naps / swing / what-not. That way I can get out of the house and go for a run / walk while he sleeps. He is 10 weeks old and sleeps fine at night only waking up for 2 feedings.

  19. Honey. Get yourself out on a date night!!! We went out when L was a few weeks old, leaving her with grandparents. It was not stressful at all, but rather a bit liberating. It was nice for my husband and I to get time together, but moreso nice for me to reconnect to parts of my life that I had worried would vanish when I had a child. (Babies are not so much welcomed at wine bars and swanky sushi places!) It also was a lot of fun for my parents-in-law. They loved having her all to themselves! They live out of town, so chances were rare, but we took (and still take) them every chance we got/get!

    L napped anywhere/everywhere until four months when we did sleep training. When she went down to only two naps a day plus nighttime sleep, we made sure they were at home if possible, but even then we would sometimes cheat and do stroller naps. She napped while I was jogging with her in the stroller, in the carrier while shopping or eating out, on my chest, in the crib, in her bouncy papasan… that worked for us. Whatever works for you now works for you now, and don’t worry about messing Owen up for life… it will be okay!

  20. I hear you! It’s so confusing and you want to establish good sleep habits. But I will echo what others say – go out while you can and he’s portable! Most babies sleep great in the stroller, so go out shopping, for coffee/lunch, food shopping, etc. Since day one I’ve made sure Hannah (now 4 months) had one good nap in her crib (bassinet at first) and then the rest could be in the stroller. She is a great sleeper. Right now she has one long nap in her crib in the morning and then we’re flexible for the rest of the day. It works for us!

    We went on date nights starting when she was 1 week old!!! My parents have watched her several times and we’ve gotten a few babysitters. It feels great to get dressed, do your hair, put on makeup and heels 🙂 This weekend we are going out both Friday & Saturday night! Crazy.

    Good luck figuring it all out…well I don’t think there’s any right and wrong. But go with your gut!

  21. Wow, you got some great answers. I just wanted to add: Owen is breastfed, right? What about the babies at the group? I’m betting mostly bottlefed, from the start. My post-natal exercise group was the same. It made me a little mad that they kept saying ohhh go out on a date, etc. Because obviously it’s easier if baby has been FF from the start, to get someone else to take care of them: easier feeding & generally a more predictable schedule.

  22. Oh and haha, I do go out with her, letting her nap in the mei-tai carrier or at someone else’s house. But we haven’t been out on a date night yet, coz she doesn’t take a bottle at all!

  23. I used to take my baby out and about daily when she was a few weeks old. It was easier then because she would sleep anywhere. I still take her out, as long as she gets one good nap in, we’re ok. I hate leaving her alone and I HATE messing with her bedtime.

    Like all parenting, just do what you feel is right and don’t feel pressured by comparison with other parents!

  24. I think you need to do what you feel is best for you and Owen. Your personal “right” is just that, what is right for your family. And it’s okay to change your “right” from time to time, or all the time! You’ll know what feels right, trust your mommy gut! Owen is lucky to have you, remember that!

  25. Oh, wow Kate! I can’t believe you are as calm/composed as you are if you haven’t had any time away from Owen in over 2 months! I would go crazy! With the help of parents and in-laws, my husband and I started taking some time to ourselves since the baby was one week old! Of course, in the beginning it was for short walks only but later we started going out for several hours. And yes, I EBF so I pump or just leave right after a nursing session.

    As for taking the baby out , we did this pretty much right from the beginning. By the time she was 2-3 weeks old, we were taking her everywhere we went (except public transportation, really crowded places etc.). Our baby is only 7 weeks right now and she has stayed overnight in hotel rooms, gone on hikes with us, spent entire days in the car, spent entire days with relatives holding her. I realize that this is not going to help us build her schedule but honestly I don’t think such a thing exists when they are so young. Some days it seems like there is a schedule and then she switches it on us for no reason.

    I remember when she was 2-3 weeks old and I kept trying so hard to do the bedtime routine thing with her. I would sit in the nursery for an hour, rocking her, in dim lights and was going crazy. Now, my husband and I just sit on the couch and watch TV as she drifts off to sleep and then put her in her crib. Since she was 5-6 weeks old she has slept anywhere from 5-7 hours straight at night. We’ve even got some 9 hour stretches!

    I realize that not every baby is the same and that in a few weeks to months we really are going to have to start doing the bedtime routine thing. But for now, I’m happy to just help her get the sleep she needs-wherever that may be- while I keep my sanity by getting out of the house everyday. Also, it has made me super comfortable dealing with her anywhere and everywhere! We’ve done diaper changes on the sidewalk, right in the middle of Newbury st!

    So Kate, why not just try to switch things on Owen a bit and see how he reacts? You really might be surprised with how unchanged his nightly sleeping habits will remain.

  26. First I want to say I have really really enjoyed reading your blog and learning from your experience!
    My daughter is 6 weeks old and stayed with a “sitter” when she was 2 weeks old. My husband was home on leave (he is deployed) and it was our anniversary. I felt fine with leaving her because some good friends watched her and we went to a restaurant right beside their house.

    She USED to just go everywhere with me because my husband is now back oversease and it’s just me. We would go run errands, visit friends, take trips to Target and she slept wherever she was or wanted (crib/swing at home, car seat or my arms if we were out.) THEN I discovered books like The Baby Whisperer and Babywise. I think the scheduling is genius and I can see how it will easily lead into her sleeping all night. However, now it’s been 2 weeks that I’ve been afraid to leave the house lest she not stay on her 3 hour eating/sleeping schedule. Also, I get so frustrated I find myself in tears because she hates her crib and it’s always a fight to get her to sleep there (A third of the time I give up and put her in the swing.)

    My sister (a Babywise fan) reminded me that the whole reason we do all this is to give them security but also have a flexible schedule so that we can live normal lives and not let the baby run everything. I’m going to wait until this week is over (the growth spurt/fussy sixth week) and then slowly try to resume my normal life. I’ll go crazy holed up in this house and I know she will benefit from being out and meeting new people.

    Best of luck! Thanks for always being so honest and frank in your posts. I love to read what other moms are experiencing and many times it’s a comfort that I’m going through the same things:-)

  27. btw, do you know about Mandy’s blog? If you don’t, I think you’d love it…

    http://www.theomgmom.com/

  28. I agree with Laurie above; get youself a date night! It’s so great to get away, and I would think doing it little by little will make going back to work easier. We have not left Liam with any strangers, but he’s been with the grandparents and his god parents quite a bit. They all love to watch him and it gives us a much-needed break!

  29. My boy is not even three weeks but I don’t know if I want to be separated from him. I enjoy exercising with him, eating out, shopping, or going to events…..I’m sure that will change but right now I’m happy!

    I’m definitely not tied down to a schedule like you are though. If we’re out and he’s tired I just sooth him to sleep or feed him out wherever we are.

  30. I have an 8 week old. She is my 2nd child. With my first i stayed home for the first 8 weeks or so but then started getting out with her and going even during naptimes. Because I did not stick to a rigid schedule she learned to be flexible. She would sleep anywhere and for hours at a time. With my now 8 week old, I am trying to do the same so that she will be a flexible baby.

    Sometimes when a baby is hard to get down for a nap, they simply need a change is scenery, smells, some fresh air, different sights and sounds. I have noticed that if I take her out when she is super fussy or hard to get down then she does so much better.

    She too gets overstimulated and overtired and I have the same issue with her that you had with Owen at Mommy group. But I found something that helps calm her down and you might try this with Owen too. I wrap her in a blanket like you did but then I take a light weight blanket and drape it over my arm and her so that she cannot see anything except for what is under the blanket. This keeps her from continuing to get overstimulated by what she sees. I have done this several times this past week and she calms down and goes to sleep in a matter of minutes.

    I would encourage you to follow your instincts. Don’t keep doing something just because the books say to or a friend thinks this is the best…..follow your mommy instincts on what is best for you, your baby and your family.

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