Well, we did it. We survived the first year with a baby! And we definitely are celebrating. It certainly wasn't easy, and we certainly didn't do everything right, but we're all still alive and well, so we'll call it a success. We may even do it again some day!
Looking back at the past year, I can pinpoint a few things we did right, and also a few we did wrong. Some things we knew were wrong immediately (like forgetting to buckle her into her car seat on a 20-minute car ride...) and some things we didn't realize were mistakes (or successes) until much later on.
Please note that there is rarely a right and wrong that spans all families. Some of the things we did right for our family wouldn't be right for yours, and that's totally fine!
Things We Did Right:
- Waking Roo up to feed her during the day while I was on maternity leave. Sleep deprivation was one of the worst things for us with a newborn. I knew it was important for us to stabilize Roo's metabolism and encourage her to eat during the day. For us, it was easier to discourage night eating when we knew she had eaten enough during the day. Don't get me wrong -- it was zero fun waking a sleeping baby. But, I really think it worked! Rooney was sleeping two consecutive six-hour sessions (with one feeding in between) at 6 weeks, and sleeping through the night (9 hours) at 7 weeks.
- Not rocking her to sleep. I love my daughter, but rocking her to sleep was not something my husband and I enjoyed doing. I remember trying to do it once, and it didn't even work. Maybe that's just her temperament. She never liked being snuggled. If she was tired, she wanted to be left alone. As a result, Rooney learned at a very early age to put herself to sleep (which is a totally great skill!).
- Used a pacifier and taught Rooney how to keep it in her mouth. I remember the moment we decided to use a pacifier. I set Rooney down in her papasan chair and she started crying. It was sort of the "Are we going to use a pacifier?" moment for Eric and me. It was time to make a decision. My mom was there, so I looked to her for advice, and she told me she recommended it. So we did, and I have been thankful so many times that Rooney enjoys her pacifier. I also highly recommend watching The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD for tips on how to teach a baby to keep a pacifier in their mouth (you try to knock it out so they tighten their grip, rather than hold it in their mouth with your finger!). (Please note: we haven't had to wean her of the pacifier yet. So maybe I will retract this statement then.)
- Switched from physical therapy to chiropractic for her neck issues. Rooney was diagnosed with torticollis (a tilted head due to uneven neck muscles) at her 2-month well-child checkup. We were referred to a physical therapist, and we gave it a try with weekly visits. We followed their instructions and stretched her neck at each diaper change, but after a few weeks we didn't see much improvement. After researching it on my own, we decided to switch to a chiropractor, and only then did she get better. We went with our gut, and it proved to be the right decision.
Things We Did Wrong:
- Let the doctors and nurses freak us out about Rooney not getting enough breast milk from me and losing 10% of her weight before we left the hospital. I'm not saying they weren't right, but it gave us high anxiety, and that was one of the factors in our decision to stop breastfeeding very early (4 weeks).
- Used an elevated sleep device. She slept great in the rock 'n play sleeper, but we later learned that it probably contributed to her torticollis. Next time we will get a flat bassinet instead.
- Fed her at 5:00 am when she cried. Around 4-6 months, Roo started waking up at 5:00 am. Because she was sleeping such long stretches (12 hours at night), we would get up to feed her. Well, eventually she was used to getting calories at 5:00 a.m., and it became her normal waketime. Which was way too early for us! Even though Eric gets up at that time during the week, we'd much rather her wake up at 6:00 or 7:00. Luckily, it really only took one day of making her wait until 7:00 a.m. to get her first bottle to break that habit. Still, it was a rough couple months til we got the courage to make her wait.
- Gave her the hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital. Rooney has reacted to vaccinations by sleeping a lot. We obviously didn't know she would react like that, but I've read recently that babies who are given the optional additional hepatitis B vaccination in the hospital are more likely to sleep when they should be learning how to breastfeed. Plus, let's be real, hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease, so I don't think my newborn baby needs it on her first day of life.
There are also things we'll probably never know if we made the right decision or not. Rooney was born tongue-tied, so on her sixth day of life we had her tongue clipped. We've come to peace with our decision, but I suppose we'll never really know what things would have been like if we didn't do it. I've also researched vaccinations multiple times and although we've decided to do them, I'll probably never feel 100% comfortable with it.
Making mistakes isn't fun, but there is definitely value in learning from our failures. As hard as we try to not make mistakes, we simply can't prevent them all. This seems to be a normal part of being a parent. Luckily, I have my faith to fall back on when I get anxious of the responsibility of parenting.