An Uncomplicated Life Blog

Monday, January 14, 2019

Scheduling vs. "On Demand" With An Infant

As a mom of four, I've done both methods for feedings and naps. The more experienced I get, the more my opinions on the effectiveness of these methods change!

I have parented ALL the different ways. All of them, I swear. Before I had kids, I thought that "on demand" everything was the way to go. It made sense to me - just watch for your baby's cues to lead the way. It was utterly miserable! I swung the pendulum the other way and started to schedule. Low and behold, my first baby started sleeping! When I had a second, he slept through the night by 9 weeks old. I thought, "Yes! This scheduling is the answer! Anyone who doesn't do this is nuts!" But then my second child and I lost our breastfeeding relationship because his feeds were too scheduled. With the birth of my twins, and the utter chaos two infants plus two toddlers brings, I had to navigate the schedule vs on demand debacle fast in order to bring some peace and calm into my family. I've found the answer for us in the great scheduling vs. on demand debate!

Are infants better off on a schedule or on demand, when they dictate how their days go? A mom of four children shares her experience with both methods

First, some more details on the background of my parenting style that has led me to my conclusion. Henry (my first baby) was 100% on demand for the first 9-10 months of his life. That means he didn't have set feeding times, didn't have set nap times, and had no bedtime routine. And like I mentioned, it was miserable! He'd want to nurse every hour and a half, around the clock. That was something I just wasn't prepared for as a first time mom. Some nights he'd go to bed at 10pm after taking a cat nap in our arms on the couch as we watched TV. Nearly every day I cried because he wouldn't nap and I couldn't get anything done around the house or for myself.  It was HARD.

At 9-10 months we moved into our current home and started putting him to bed at a consistent time, both for naps and for nighttime sleep. That led to him sleeping through the night consistently. I quickly learned, hey - consistent sleep makes me a happy person! Even if I had to leave something early to make the nap happen, or schedule my appointments around nap time, it was worth it. To this day, we have super early dinners when we eat out in order to be home for a consistent 7pm bedtime!

I was sold on the schedule. My second son was born, and we got him on a schedule immediately! By 9 weeks, he was sleeping 12 hours at night. "Yes!" I thought. "Schedule schedule schedule. This is amazing. Why don't all people schedule? If you're complaining about being tired, put your kid on a dang schedule!" And while it was great, something not so great happened. Breastfeeding got all kinds of off. The easiest way to schedule Otto's feedings was to pump bottles for him. That way I could regulate how much he was getting and how often. So I'd pump during the day, and try to nurse him at night... But he developed bottle preference. When you're not latching a baby to your breast, to have to pump consistently and often to maintain a supply because a baby is better at extracting the milk than a pump. I became a slave to my breast pump and hated it (pumping moms, my hat is off to you!) So at just over 7 months, I let breastfeeding go, even though I had hoped to make it a year.

When we found out we were having twins, everyone said the same thing: The key to twins is getting them on the same schedule! "Don't worry, I'm already a schedule fan!" I'd reply. I lined up a night nurse who is also a sleep trainer to help us get the boys on track as fast as possible. Again, I knew I'd breastfeed but didn't make a goal for how long. I'd never nursed two babies before! I just wanted to try it, and to get my kids on the same page ASAP.

The night nurse laid out a schedule for us to adhere to. It was roughly the same one she gave us for Otto - the same one we had to tweak a little to fit our family needs. We tweaked hers too, to fit the needs of our day and meet our capabilities. Even so... I found myself constantly stressed out that one baby was perfectly on schedule and the other wasn't. I found myself annoyed that I had to wake them from naps to keep them on the schedule. I was angry at being told when I could and couldn't (or shouldn't) nurse the babies, and to definitely NOT let them comfort nurse. Comfort nursing ruins schedules, I was told. The schedule that I loved so much with Henry and Otto was becoming my biggest source of stress.

After 6 or 7 weeks of trying to get the boys on this schedule, and constantly being frazzled at their lack of ability to get on it (or rather, to get on it at the same time/together) I thought, you know what? This schedule is doing me more harm than good! I'm spending an entire "nap time" trying to get one baby down, and by the time he sleeps it's time to wake them both up again. Then they're crabby from lack of sleep and I'm crabby because I've not gotten anything done. My whole day is consumed by this stupid schedule enforcing that's just not working for the boys, and it's certainly not working for me!

Knox punching Theodore in the face... Just like I wanted to punch our schedule in the face

Right then I decided to try something different. Instead of being on a strict schedule, I decided to go more with the flow. If one baby slept and the other was awake, the awake one would be out in the living room with me. I stopped waking sleeping babies up and let them sleep until they woke naturally. If one baby was fussy, he'd get an extra nursing session in, even if it wasn't the full three hours between feedings (three hours minimum, as dictated by the schedule!) I breathed a big sigh of relief since I no longer had to spend all my time frantically getting two individual babies on the exact same schedule.

You know what happened? I kid you not, my babies got on a better schedule! Not the one given to us by the night nurse/sleep trainer, but their own schedule. Heck, I don't even like that word anymore - they got on their own daily flow, their own consistent rhythm. One that includes both morning and afternoon naps, and works with preschool pick up and drop off.

Things aren't perfect yet. "Unscheduling" didn't magically fix all the ways that they're still young babies. They're still hard to put down for bedtime. Sometimes we can spend hours upon hours rocking them to sleep, trying to get them to calm down for bed. But, we've gotten in a groove with them during the day, and that's half the battle! Some days one baby gets several more nursing sessions than the other, too. I don't know - I've stopped paying attention to numbers, ounces, minutes spent on the breast and just picked up whoever was fussing to nurse. It's much easier this way!

So what's my take on the best way to raise babies/toddlers after having four children? I think a STRUCTURED day is essential, but a strict schedule is nonsense. The only thing we're strict about is a 7pm bedtime (that, if you read the above paragraph, is still a work in progress with the twins). Other than that, we follow a certain structure, with lots of room for deviations from the structure.

In my experience, I've found that if you've got one child, a schedule is easy to implement. If you're bottle feeding (breast milk or formula) a schedule is much easier to implement. But the more kids you have and the longer you want to breast feed them, the less a strict schedule makes sense. With twins, a hardcore schedule is just laughable because you've got two separate humans you're attempting to get on the same page, usually at a very young age. The schedule itself can become more stressful than dealing with the infants!

Don't be like me and let scheduling your infant(s) stress you out. Don't let it be the dictator of your day. Lighten up a little bit and allow room for deviations. Kicking our strict schedule to the curb was one of the best things I've done as a parent to twins so far. One of my babies is easier and the other more needy. I let the needy one be needy! He's just an infant. Adapting a more flexible mindset and letting my twins develop their own personalities has really helped in transitioning to life with four kids.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Currently; New Year Edition

What I'm thinking currently, now that it's a new year

Whoohoo, we've bounced right into 2019! I fully expect this year to be a doozy. I spent the bulk of 2018 pregnant with twins and then caring for newborns, but my husband took the fourth quarter of the year off from traveling for work, so I was never a "single married mom", as we with constant traveling husbands call ourselves. That glory couldn't last forever, and he's back to normal now that it's the new year. Which means I'm going to have to figure out how to navigate getting 4 kids out of the house and to school on time (the twins don't go yet, but they can't stay home by themselves, ya know?), learn how to get 4 kids to bed on time solo, and how to make dinner for the older ones and breastfeed the little ones. At the same time. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there figure out how to shower and feed myself too. So! 2019: The Doozy Year begins. Hopefully I'm setting my expectations so low that it can only be better than I imagined. Hopefully. Anyway, let's catch up about what's been going on over here since I've been on a holiday break for two weeks, yes? Great, here's what's going on currently in the New Year:

Enjoying outside playtime over Christmas break

The holidays weren't what I expected
I'm a big holidays person. From September through New Year's Eve, I'm all about it. All of it! Our house is decorated for every holiday, inside and out. But this last year was different... I thought it was going to be magical, seeing as we had newborn twins. I'd no longer be pregnant. I thought I'd just hunker down at home and enjoy the season. Not so! I spent most of the time in a sleep deprived haze. Everything felt rushed because it was all crammed in between nursing sessions of the twins. Like, "QUICK! Let's decorate the tree! I've got 45 minutes until those babies are screaming!" So this year was kind of a bust. Next year, the twins will be 14 months, which is the start of my favorite age, and I'm already hopeful (there's that dang word again) it will be more fun and that I'll be able to be more present and less of a sleep deprived ghost. Here's to hoping without too many expectations, right?

I was thrilled to take down all my Christmas decorations
For as much as I love Christmas, it's always such a relief to take everything down. It's amazing how much clutter all my Christmas stuff adds to our living spaces. I absolutely HATE clutter around my home! While I'm an early decorator, I'm also an early de-decorator. Last year we took the tree down the day after Christmas; this year they went down on Dec. 29. It's like after New Year's, all I want to do is prepare for all things spring. Getting all the holiday crap out of my living room is like a breath of fresh air for the new year and new seasons to come! Thank God I live in Texas and spring is just a few weeks away. Time to start planning my summer veggie garden and the matching outfits my boys will wear for Easter :)

Bye bye Christmas tree and decorations!

Stepping back from social media has me feelin' all the feels
I was getting really drained from the constant hustle of Instagram and Facebook. Liking, commenting, hashtag research, more liking liking liking, sharing others' content. You get my drift, right? So I stopped doing all that. Just posted photos when I felt like it, just published my own links to my Facebook page. Aaaaaaand all my engagement tanked! I mean, tanked. I'd love to tell you I'm the chick who doesn't care, who doesn't feel defined by my like count, but I'm not. I care. And now I'm trying to figure out how to proceed. I never took a maternity leave from social media after having the twins and it wore me out. Social media became one big mental drain! When your job drains you instead of fulfills you, you know you need a break. So I'm over here, feelin' feels and trying to decide how to move forward. I want to work with brands, but I don't want to play the game to get the engagement. You know, I just want my cake and I wanna eat it too! And not get fat from it. Like why can't all that be possible?!

Blogging, on the other hand, is still a total joy. That's why I started all the social media channels to begin with - to share what I write and create. So I'll still be here once a week (for a while longer yet, until I can get my act together with all these kids to go back to two posts per week) sharing what I'm doing, creating, crafting, decorating, planting and of course - my strong opinions on everyday subjects.

Knox's reaction when I showed him my engagement rate on Instagram. JK, just his first time in the Sit Me Up chair! Both babies indeed like the chairs btw

I'm registering my twins for preschool and its blowing my mind
Yes, they're currently 3 months old. Welcome to the Dallas preschool scene! I swear it rivals NYC. You don't register early in this city, you ain't getting in! Schools fill up hours after registration opens. It's madness. Anyway, they start nursery "school" just a few days a week this coming fall (basically, just enough to get them into the routine and used to the teachers there), and I'm so excited to get the house back to myself for 13 glorious hours a week. Oh, it's going to be so good! My 2019 Doozy Year will end as soon as school picks up in the fall, I swear!

Speaking of those twins, we're out of the 4th trimester
Ughhh, newborns. I'm not a fan of the newborn phase. At all. Sure, they're little and cute and cuddly. But they're SO much work. And I had two of them! Life with newborn twins is intense, y'all. But the twins are now over three months old and we're slowly, ever so slowly, climbing out of the dark ages with newborns. They're smiling and coo'ing while looking into my eyes and recognizing me. Finally! They still take forever to get down for bed (I'm talking 3-5 HOURS of fussing and intermittent crying, 90% of which comes from the baby pictured above) but I'm hoping that starts to work itself out soon. Please, please work out soon, bedtime routine!

I'm throwing in the towel on my car and upgrading
I picked my car out in March of 2017, knowing we'd be adding to the family. But the plan was ONE more baby, and we got two. I'm currently in an Infiniti QX60,which is a three row SUV. I had planned it perfectly! Henry could be in the third row, which has a top tether for a car seat, and Otto and the baby would be in the second row, which has a sliding feature that works even with a car seat in it so Henry could get back to the third row. Perfect, right? Except I got a curve ball with twins. Four kids all in car seats makes this a clown car situation - everyone's limbs are everywhere, it's a zoo getting them in and out with the sliding seats in the second row and the front row has to be so far forward because of rear facing car seats, my knees touch the dash. The second row has to be forward so that there's enough room for my older boys' long legs in the third row. It's a domino effect, really! A bad collapse of a good plan, crushed further by all of us being tall. Enter the new plan: a Yukon Denali XL. Yup, we aint even playing around with just a plain Yukon, I'm going for the gold with the XL. I've got a massive double stroller that has to reside back there after all! I'm so excited to get this bus of a vehicle. Captains chairs in the second row so my older boys can easily get to their row? Enough leg room for all? Storage in the trunk for more than 4 bags of groceries? OMG y'all, this is going to be heaven! And best yet, hubs is taking over my car lease so we'll have two cars that fit us all. He has a sedan right now (that I love driving but he hates) and we'll sell that to get the Yukon. Holy car payments, but that's how it goes with four kids.

Eating out with these two has gotten really fun
My older boys are finally at an age where eating out is FUN again! Sure, I still have to cut up their food for them, but they're well behaved and perhaps most importantly, actually eat the food. Moms, I know you get me on that. One of our favorite places to eat is Mariano's Hacienda in Dallas. They make their tortillas in-house, there are about 10 house margs to choose from made from scratch and they have fun horse rides in the front the kids love. Grab a coupon here if you're in the Dallas area and take yo fam - it's a super fun place with yummy food!

That's what's going on around here! Basically, I'm happy the holidays are over and I'm not sure if it's because I'm actually happy they're over or because the twins are finally getting out of the newborn stage. Getting out of the newborn stage means a) more sleep for everyone and b) the babies are more fun to be around when they're awake. Good news all around! I'm also pumped for an easier life with a larger SUV. I'm going to have to learn how to parallel park this thing (love me a good challenge!) and we have to completely rearrange our garage to even get it to fit in there, but it will make running errands with four kids and preschool pick up/drop off so much easier than the sh*tshow it is now, I'm straight UP FOR THAT CHALLENGE! Happy New Year y'all. I have some really great posts in my queue for you.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

What Does Eating Organically Mean?

Confused about what the food label "organic" means? This post breaks it down for you!

This post is sponsored by Happy Family Organics but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

I remember when the term "organic" became popular. Food marketers recognized it as a trend and started putting it on anything remotely "natural" to help sell the product. Back when it first gained public recognition, the term wasn't regulated. Fast forward to today, and there are strict standards a food must meet in order to get the USDA's "organic" label. But what does that label mean? What's different about organic food, anyway?! Why is it important for our health, especially for the health of our babies, toddlers and children? If you've ever wondered about any of that, you've come to the right spot because I'm breaking down the big question: what does eating organically mean?

I'm a fan of history, so I'll give you the brief overview of how regulating organic foods began, and how we got to where we are today. In 1990, a law was passed by congress that stated the USDA needed to begin regulating this term (as well as food terms and contents of processed foods). It wasn't until 2000, ten whole years later, that a board made recommendations on what should constitute an organic product. And it wasn't until 8 years after that, in 2008, that the National Organic program started to actually hire staff to enforce these recommendations. Beyond that, the department didn't get fully formed and staffed until 2011. As you can see, it took the government a good long while to develop standards for the term organic! Today, a food can only get the USDA organic stamp if 95% of its ingredients are certified organic.

I remember very well having friends in the sciences snort their nose at "eating organically." Their most common complaint? "That term doesn't mean anything!" And it's true - it USED to not mean much. It's taken a long time for there to be standards and regulations on the term, and of the quality of the food that gets the stamp of organic approval! But in modern day, the term organic has a strict standard of quality that carries huge health implications for you and your family, and for the health of the environment, too.

So what does it mean when you see the organic stamp on, say - a yogurt bite snack you're about to feed your toddlers? First, organic means there are NO GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. Food has changed. The corn we eat now is not the same as the corn your grandparents ate. Conventional corn has been genetically modified for mass production. To withstand climates it wouldn't naturally grow in. To last longer once harvested. All of this sounds great, but the genetic changes has effected the quality and nutrition of the corn. And it's not just corn. It's wheat, soybeans, fruit, and vegetables. Conventional farming has modified the very genetics of the food you're eating everyday. But organic food, when labeled with the USDAs organic label, contains none of the genetically modified foods.

In addition to always being non-GMO, organic foods mean that toxic pesticides haven't been used on the food you're feeding your family. Toxic pesticides can reach you and your children via processed foods like crackers, or in the meat you consume (as the animal was fed feed used with the toxic chemicals). But buy and eat organic food, and you're avoiding some of the most harmful chemicals used in farming. Speaking of farming, organic foods use sustainable farming practices. These practices ensure preservation of the land and natural resources so our world will remain clean, green and enjoyable for the generations that come after us.

I've personally committed to buying organic foods for my family, because I believe in the health benefits of eating non-GMO foods, avoiding toxins where ever I can, and in promoting sustainable farming. If I have a choice of organic or conventional, I reach for the organic product every single time! And I sure don't want to put some of the junk chemicals of conventional foods into my children's little digestive system.

One of their favorite snacks is Happy Family Organics. I've bought just about everything they make, and there has not been one thing my kids don't like. As you can see, they still gobble these yogurt bites up (even though they're safe for babies just learning to self feed). In fact, I was scrolling my own Instagram feed during one of my late night nursing sessions of the twins, and saw these products in photos of the boys from years ago! Totally un-sponsored; we just love the brand and have been feeding it to our kids for that long. It's not an everyday occurrence, but I love it when I get to work with brands I actually keep in my cupboard regularly to help spread messages I deeply believe in and practice everyday! This is one of them. Eating organically is important to me and my family, and Happy Family Organics is a snack food staple here.