A Grumpy Mommy Morning

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We have all had them.  Grumpy mornings when we wish we were still under the covers.  Grumpy mornings when everything seems to be going wrong.

I used to have grumpy mornings on a regular basis, when I was rudely awakened way too early with the knowledge that I had a very long day of caring for little people ahead of me.

In recent years, however, I felt more confident, more capable.  With the help of my older children, I was able to face each morning with a level head and even some joy.  I became too confident and let my two most helpful children (Areli and Cadin) volunteer to help with Kidz Kamp at our church.  They were gone early in the morning, my husband was at work, and that left me…alone…with a three month baby, a loud and demanding two year old, a special needs girl who acts like a quirky three year old, three wild and crazy boys, and a teenager asleep in his bed.  This teenager who used to be an early riser and the instigator of most of my grumpy mommy mornings, now seemed to be able to sleep indefinitely.

I tried to take care of the needs of the younger children while enlisting the wild boys to help me prepare breakfast.  The younger children were all uncooperative and whiney, and the wild boys were…wild!  They seemed to ignore all that I said to them.  Instead of helping, they were tearing around the house creating messes and conflicts.

Before I knew it, I was in the midst of a Grumpy Mommy morning unlike I had experienced in years!  I ended up yelling and fuming, ranting and raving.  I didn’t understand why my children didn’t understand…I was doing all of this for them.  The diapering and nursing and dressing and cleaning and cooking!  All of this effort was for them!  Why couldn’t they help me just a little bit?

Later in the day I had the peace and quiet to think.  Why did I have such a horrible morning?  Was it really my children?  Were they really so awful?

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Or was it my attitude?  If I was really doing everything I did to serve them, why was I so angry with them?

I realized that the work I was doing and getting stressed out about was not really for them.  They didn’t really care if their faces were clean or that their clothes matched or that they had a super healthy breakfast.  I was doing all of those things to make myself feel better.  I was doing everything I thought a good mother should do, trying to get it all done so that I could feel accomplished and satisfied with my mothering.  Then I could get on to the things that I really wanted to do.

I was angry because their childish behavior was interfering with MY plans.  They were messing up MY schedule.  I hadn’t thought about the emotions or thoughts of each child that morning.  Maybe one child had woken up with a scary dream.  Maybe another child was so excited about Kidz Kamp that he couldn’t calm down.  Maybe the other child was so nervous about Kidz Kamp that he was trying to forget his worries. Perhaps another child was feeling overlooked and was just trying to get my attention.  I hadn’t even considered what was going on in their hearts.

I stopped to contemplate what each one of them might want most in the morning upon waking.  I concluded that their deepest heart’s desire, even if they couldn’t articulate it, would be to have a mommy who would greet them with joy.  A mommy who would listen and not just give orders.   A mommy who speaks kind words instead of yelling.

How could I possibly be that kind of mommy?  How could I even begin to meet each child’s unexpressed needs each morning?

All I could come up with was the fact that I definitely could not.  Only if I was abiding in Christ and had His love and thoughts towards my children could I be that kind of mommy.

How could abide in Christ when I got woken up before I could have a quiet time?  How could my mind be full of His thoughts when I couldn’t crack my Bible to read a single scripture?  How could I have His love for my children when I hadn’t even stopped to notice His love for me?

This has become the question that I MUST HAVE an answer to.

“LORD, just how do I seek you in the midst of this life that you have given me?”

I am not totally sure how to get time by myself on a daily basis.  I am not sure how to meet with other Christians and get to church meetings more often for encouragement.  But here is what I have come up with so far.

Whenever grumpy thoughts start to invade my mind, I make a huge effort to replace them with a thankful thought and find something to praise God for.

I write scriptures on notecards and post them on my bathroom mirror.   Whenever I see them, I read them and memorize them.  As I read them, I feel hope returning to my soul.   I try to meditate on them throughout the day.

I recite memorized scriptures while I am nursing.  I used to be able to read the Bible or other encouraging books while I nursed but now Annalise nurses too fast and is too active for that.  As I speak the truth out loud, I feel my heart taking courage.

I listen for His voice in the midst of the noise.  Sometimes I hear it in the voice of my six year old.  Sometimes I hear it in my baby’s cries.

Instead of begging Him to help me through this crazy day, I THANK Him for the help He most certainly IS giving me and WILL give me.

I listen to worship music while I am preparing meals and sing along.  I am caught up in His goodness as I chop vegetables.  I smile when my children tell me that I should have been a singer, and I try to be loving when they interrupt me for some silly reason.

I listen to the Bible on CD while I am driving.  It transforms the time I spend running errands into an encounter with truth and love.  I have noticed things about Jesus and the Bible I have never noticed before.  I have cried and repented and praised Him for His mercy while running to the grocery store.

When I get the chance, usually on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I write down what He has been speaking to me throughout the week.  Then I read my journal over and over again while I eat breakfast the next week. I am reminded of the earth-shaking revelations that have so easily slipped my mind.

I fall asleep recounting all the good things God did for me throughout the day.  I surrender all that I am, and all that I am not.  I rest in the arms of Jesus until some little person needs me.

Being a good mom is not made up of things that I do or the schedule that I keep, but who I am.  Only an active, growing relationship with Jesus will make me like Him and banish the Grumpy Mommy Mornings.  So let us all seek Him, no matter what.

 

How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

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Sometimes I am confident that I know a few things about babies, and sometimes I feel that I know nothing at all!  But each one of my nine precious and exasperating little bundles has taught me something!  Looking back I can see clearly what has worked and what hasn’t.  Helping your baby sleep through the night is mostly about what you do during the day.

Sleeping through the night is really, truly wonderful!  It helps me to be a good mom.  It helps my baby to be a content baby.  Sleep allows me and my baby to recharge, dream, rest, heal, and grow.  It is essential for a happy and healthy life!  New babies have to eat every 2-3 hours around the clock and I am happy to oblige.  But once I know that my baby can sleep through the night (around 8-13 weeks), I am all for it!  I want to shift from survival mode to real life as soon as possible.

There are some major schools of thought that drive what a mother does with her baby day in and day out.

Demand feeding is when the baby is in charge.  Scheduled feeding is when the clock is in charge.  Parent directed feeding as when the parent is in charge.  You would think that the parent would be more able to direct the feeding schedule than the baby or the clock, wouldn’t you?  Yet the parent doesn’t always know what to do.  Take me for example.

When I first became a mother, I didn’t know what I was doing.  God gave me the easiest baby in the history of babies.  Areli was sweet, adorable, and LOVED TO SLEEP!

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I practiced a sort of demand feeding.  Areli was sleeping through the night at 6 weeks.  At two months she would sleep from 8pm to 8am without waking up.  She was happy and content all day long.  Yet she stopped gaining weight for two long months. I was so worried, and the doctor wanted to do all sorts of blood work on her.   Finally I realized that the wisdom of “you never wake a sleeping baby” was absolutely false!  Once I started waking her up at 10pm to give her an extra feeding, she started gaining weight again.  Phew!

My second baby was completely different!  Cole was my first boy; loud, grumpy, and not a good sleeper.  I would feed him whenever he seemed grumpy, which would usually be every hour and a half.  I ended up nursing him before and after each nap, yet he often wasn’t content.  I realized later that nursing my baby so often caused him to get into a bad habit of “snacking.”  He would drink the foremilk but not get the richer hind milk that would have satisfied him for hours at a time.  This little boy didn’t sleep through the night until he was over a year.  We were not well rested or happy a lot of the time.

My struggles with Cole led me to read On Becoming Babywise.  I love this book!  It gave me the knowledge to leave demand feeding behind and embark on the adventure of “parent directed feeding.”  I will take it one step further than the book and suggest “Holy Spirit parent directed feeding.”  No book or parent has all the answers, yet there is someone who ALWAYS does, and He gives wisdom to all who ask Him. I ask Him EVERY DAY for that wisdom.

The seven babies that came next were all put on a “Babywise” type schedule, and they have all slept through the night between 8 and 13 weeks.  Two have been girls, 5 have been boys, all have had unique personalities.  Yet each of them have done very well with a predictable daytime schedule.

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The first few weeks of a baby’s life outside the womb is all about bonding and holding and getting one full feeding at a time.  Don’t look at the clock.  Don’t worry about sleep. (I know, easier said than done!)  Just make sure every feeding is long enough (half an hour to an hour) to establish a good milk supply and create a good habit of drinking both the foremilk and the hind milk.  The challenge here is keeping the little guy awake long enough to keep nursing!

Summary for Baby’s first year of nursing

Week 1-8: Stabilization

Start with 8 or more feedings a day.  During the day you should feed your baby when she wakes up.  Then try to get some awake time.  As she gets older, wake time will become longer. Once you know your baby is tired, put her down for a nap.  Her naps should usually last and hour to an hour and a half.  The end of the nap is the time for the next feeding and the beginning of a new cycle.  Every cycle should be similar (2  ½ -3 hours long): eat, wake, sleep.  During the night you simply feed your baby and put her back to bed.  She will slowly extend her night time sleep until that glorious day when she drops the middle of the night feeding and sleeps until morning (usually around 8-13 weeks). The important part of this schedule is to feed your baby when she wakes from nighttime or naptime (or perhaps you will have to wake her to maintain every 3 hours during the day and every 4-5 hours a night at first).  After the feeding, attempt to keep your baby awake for a little while.  Newborns are so sleepy and this may not always work, but try.  Soon she will be able to be awake for ½ hour to an hour at a time.  When it is nap time, lay your baby in her bed while she is still awake.  Usually she will fuss a little and then go to sleep.  Some babies, like most of my boys, may cry very loudly!  This is where the Holy Spirit comes in.  Ask Him for wisdom.  Sometimes it is appropriate to allow you baby to cry for a few minutes before nap time.   The payoff is that in a few weeks, he will learn that nap time is for sleeping, and he will snuggle in and sleep as soon as you lay him down.  Other times the crying indicates that he needs something extra: more awake time, a diaper change, or a snuggle.

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Weeks 9-15: Extended Night

A baby can gradually extend his nighttime sleep to 9-10 hours.  By the end of the 13th week, your baby can average 5-7 feedings a day but never less than four.  Between weeks 12-15, most babies gradually extend their cycles to 3 to 4 hours.

Weeks 16-24: Extended Day

Your baby can sleep for 10-11 hours at night during this phase.  Babywise states that during these weeks you will be able to drop the late night feeding and begin to introduce baby food during the day.  There are many ideas about the best time to begin with food and which foods to introduce first.  This is another time that I pay attention to my baby and ask the Holy Spirit.  I prefer to look to traditional societies as a guide to introducing food to babies rather than to modern advice.  Click here for more information on how to feed babies.

I usually wait until 6-11 months to introduce solid foods.  I also like to keep the late night feeding (around 10-11pm).  My milk is the perfect food and it is always ready, so I am not in a hurry to start other foods with my babies.  Plus I love nursing so much!

I will include the Babywise recommendations for those who are introducing foods early than I do. During this time period your baby will maintain 4-6 liquid feedings in a 24 hour period, three of which will be supplemented with baby food(or not).  Nurse first and then offer food.

Weeks 25-52: Extended Routine

A baby can transition to three meals a day with the rest of the family by a year.  Of course there are always snacks for young children, usually two a day (maybe afternoon and bedtime). Babies at this age will only take two naps a day, 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours in length.  They can still be nursing 4-5 times a day.   I always try and nurse my babies as long as possible(12-18 months), but some of them had weaned themselves by this time. Others I slowly weaned because I was pregnant again.

Sleep props

Sleep props are anything that your baby needs in order to fall asleep.  The way you get your baby to fall asleep MOST of the time, will become your baby’s preferred routine.  Don’t start a habit that you are not willing to continue indefinitely.  Sleep props include nursing to sleep, rocking, music, pacifiers, sleeping in mom and dad’s bed, etc.  If you start (after the first few weeks) to lay your baby down for a nap with no sleep props at all, he will learn to fall asleep on his own very quickly.  I have found this to be invaluable!  Imagine a busy day with a house full of children.  When it is nap time, I simply carry my baby up to her bed, lay her belly down in her crib, speak some words of love, and walk out of the room.  She immediately snuggles in, starts sucking on her fist and falls asleep!  Sometimes there is an air conditioner or fan running, and sometimes there is not.  The most important part is to lay her down when she is still awake MOST of the time.  This will not happen all of the time, since newborns are so sleepy!  If your newborn falls asleep in your arms or on your chest occasionally, don’t worry.  Just enjoy the fleeting moment!  Love and hold the little precious one, for they won’t be so little for very long!

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Babies that need extra help

Some babies are fussier than others.  Some are so colicky that it may seem like they never stop crying.  This can be so emotionally and physically draining for parents.

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I just found a resource at the library that may help calm the difficult baby.  There is a book and DVD called “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”  It explains how to trigger the calming reflex in your newborn (up to three months) which can calm him in minutes!  I wish I knew about this long ago!  I haven’t gotten to try it out because my baby is now three and a half months old and is so happy.

Some babies may have suffered some trauma while in the womb or during birth or after birth.  This trauma can be greatly reduced or eliminated with chiropractic care, craniosacral fascial therapy(CFT), and prayer.  To learn more about CFT click here.  I took a class in CFT and it was wonderful.  They are the happy baby people, and they say that every baby can be happy, peaceful, relaxed, and healthy.

Some babies may have an allergy or sensitivity to something in mom’s milk, usually wheat or dairy.  Eliminating those two things helps in many cases. All nursing moms (and everyone else for that matter) should eliminate all caffeine and stay away from sugar, processed foods and medication. For a diet for pregnant and nursing moms, click here.

What if I didn’t start a Baby wise schedule when my baby was born but I want her to sleep through the night now?  How do I start?

Start by getting your baby on a good schedule during the day.  Begin the eat, wake, sleep cycles and putting your baby to nap while she is still awake.  It will take some time, maybe weeks, for your family to adjust to this.  Don’t give up!  Don’t worry about the nighttime just yet.  Get the daytime straightened out first, and the nighttime usually follows.  It is much more difficult to allow your baby to cry at night for fear of waking the rest of the family.  Some crying before naptime during the day is much better.  Think of it as practice for good nighttime sleeping.

What if my Baby’s daytime routine has been great for weeks but he is still waking up at night?

Move your baby into his own room or into a part of the house that is away from the other bedrooms.  Sometimes that alone did the trick for me, because I wasn’t reacting to every little whimper I heard in the crib right next to me.  Many times babies, just like the rest of us, will wake up at the end of a sleep cycle and get a little noisy or active until they fall asleep again.   We don’t have to nurse them every time they stir.

If you just can’t wait any longer for your baby to sleep through the night on his own, you know that he doesn’t need a feeding at night, and he is older than 13 weeks; then you can prepare yourself for a few nights of training.  Pick a weekend when the family can sleep in the next few mornings in case you don’t get much sleep.  Warn everyone beforehand that there may be some crying, and it is ok.  If your baby wakes up, first wait to see if he will fall asleep in 5 minutes or so.  If he doesn’t calm, then check on him, love him, whisper assuring words, but don’t nurse him.  It would be awesome if Dad did this part!  Hopefully after a few nights, baby will get the idea that nighttime is for sleeping and not for eating.

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My life right now

Annalise is three and a half months old.  She is a very easy baby, easier than most of my boys.  Here is what my schedule looks like right now.

6:30am  Annalise wakes up or I wake her up to nurse

7:00 I talk to her, change her diaper, and then lay her in a pack-n-play so I can eat breakfast.

8:00 Naptime

10:00 I get Annalise up from nap and nurse

10:30 One of the other children holds her and talks to her. Then a diaper change and some belly time.

11:30 Naptime

1:00pm Nurse and then playtime and diaper change

2:30 Naptime

4:30 Nurse and then play with Dad and diaper change

6:00 Naptime

7:30 Nurse, lay on the floor on a blanket, then get ready for bed

8:45 Bedtime

10:30 Nurse and put right back to bed

Annalise sleeps so much that I usually have to wake her from nap.  I like that because it gives me the flexibility to wake her a bit earlier or a bit later if I have to be somewhere at specific time during the day.

All of my babies have had seasons when they started waking up at night after they had been sleeping the entire night through for some time.  It could have been a growth spurt that required more milk, a bothersome stuffy nose, belly aches, or teething.  Sometimes I would nurse them and sometimes I wouldn’t. Sometimes I would sit up with them and hold them, sometimes I wouldn’t.  I would always ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom on how to comfort them and nourish them without starting a bad habit.  Usually they would start sleeping through the night again soon on their own.

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I have spent nights trying in vain to comfort a fussy baby and have been utterly convinced that I wasn’t a very good mother.  I have also had many happy days fueled by many peaceful nights.  When my sweet, content baby giggles at me, I feel like a brilliant mother!  I am neither a genius nor a failure in the mothering department.   I am simply a normal mom who has a really great God!  A God who loves my babies more than I do!  If I can get my baby to sleep through the night, then you can too!

Adjusting to Life with a Newborn…Again

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in three months.  I know that it is going to be any night now, yet every early morning I am awakened by her sweet snuffles and cries for milk.  I feel like I am on the brink of total exhaustion and my brain is mush.  I haven’t written much lately because I am not sure whether I can put coherent thoughts together.

I have done this before, eight times!  You would think that I would have it down.  Yet somehow it is all new, with this new little, bitty, pretty one.

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I don’t know much for sure, except that there is nothing like motherhood to reveal your weaknesses.  Motherhood is able to bring even the most confident woman to the realization that she knows almost nothing at all.  But what a gift that revelation is!

To meet this new person that I have felt wiggling inside of me is pure magic!

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Her skin is soft as silk.

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Her eyes are big blueberries.

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Her lashes are so long and curly, just like a little girl’s lashes should be.

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She sleeps a bit more than the boys did, and her cry is softer.  She begins to smile and I see that she has dimples around her mouth like I do, and a big dimple in her cheek like Daddy does.

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She seems very peaceful, thank you Jesus!  But the next week she is awake for hours at a time and doesn’t seem to want to sleep, oh no!  By the next week she has settled into a predictable three hour feeding pattern.  But the next week after that is totally different!  Finally I think I have her figured out; she will sleep until 5am and pretty soon be sleeping the entire night!  Yes!! I can get my life back!  I can regain my energy, plan my day, exercise, and fit back into my normal clothes again.

But then I find myself sitting in the chair again at 3am, nursing the little bundle in the dark.  I am so tired.  My eyelids are heavy.  So…hard…to…stay…awake.  My head sinks to my chest.  WAIT!  My head snaps back up.  My eyes are open.  I must…stay…awake!  I have fallen asleep in this chair night after night and now my neck has a kink in it and my back is sore.  I must feed her quickly and get back into bed!  I must be strong!

Little Bitty One is totally unaware of my concern.  She nurses lazily and takes almost an hour.  I hear the very first bird song at 3:45am.  Why are those crazy birds awake so early?  The sun won’t be up for hours.  How I wish I didn’t know when the first bird starts singing.  How I wish I was sound asleep, blissfully unaware of the secret life of birds!

I guess I could be enjoying this quiet time when no one else is awake.  I suppose I could spend this time praying.  Alright God, here goes.  God, please help me to not fall asleep in this chair.  Please, please, please let Annalise sleep through the night tomorrow night!  I feel like I can’t do this one more night!  Please, please, please let her get into a predictable schedule.  Then I can start getting up before the rest of the children.  I can start to have a quiet time each morning. Then I can start to pursue you more, God.

Suddenly it hits me.  God’s grace is for me RIGHT NOW!  Not at some point in the future, but right now.  It is always RIGHT NOW.

Joseph Garlington shared this definition of grace – “God’s enabling presence that empowers us to accomplish our created purpose.”  God’s presence is with me right now, in the middle of the night.  His voice is whispering words of love and truth right now to my sleepy brain.  He is wooing my worried heart.  If I spend every moment thanking Him instead of wishing for something else, I can bring His presence closer.  I can cultivate my awareness of Him and accept His power to do what He wants me to do…RIGHT NOW.

And what could possibly be a better time?  His power is perfected in weakness, and I am so weak.  He says that His grace is sufficient for me in times like these.  Not just enough to survive.  No, this is an overflowing, abundant grace that is more than enough for me…RIGHT NOW!

Nursing this baby 6 to 8 times a day for an hour each time means I can’t accomplish very much.  Trying to figure out how to do my normal grocery shopping and errands and therapy appointments each week in the two hours between each feeding makes my brain hurt.  Thinking about having to give up my afternoon nap just to get important things done sends me into a panic!  No, I don’t have much time to check off items on my to-do list.  But I do have plenty of time to sit and nurse, admire my Pretty One and snuggle.

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Time to pray and read and think.

As I think back over my life, I can see some things very clearly.  I see that most things I have attempted to accomplish I have done because I felt like I SHOULD.   Because I would feel guilty if I didn’t.  Because I wouldn’t be as good of a mother as someone else.  I did those things out of my own strength, my own ability, my own effort.  And I failed at most of them.

I think about Solomon’s words in Ecc 3:14, “Everything God does will endure forever.  Nothing can be added to it and nothing taken away from it.”

I think about Jesus’ words in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  Nothing of eternal significance that will endure that is.  I have done a lot of things!  I have spent a lot of energy and time and have gotten grumpy and stressed out to do a lot of things.  But those things WILL NOT ENDURE.

Now that I am in a position where I feel like I can’t get anything done, it dawns on me.  That is the point!  That is what God is trying to teach me…RIGHT NOW!  His grace is sufficient and when I rest in Him, He is accomplishing things through me that are significant beyond my imagination.  Like growing this little girl, one feeding at a time.

Someday my life might get easier.  Someday I might have it down and be able to coast effortlessly through the day.  Maybe.  So I must make the most of this season…this wonderful and difficult season.  Because this season of weakness is how God is showing me His amazing grace.

RIGHT NOW!