Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Baby Essley: The Third Month (+ My Revelation About Parenting)

My Revelation About Parenting // Bubby and Bean

This past Friday marked three months since my little Essley girl made me a mother.  Three incredible months.  Three exhausting months.  Three months of diaper blow-outs and projectile vomit, drool and crying fits.  Three months of simple yet unforgettable memories, made up of first smiles and laughs, coos and delighted screams, dancing legs and flapping arms and countless discoveries both of herself and the world around her.  Three months since I last had a decent night sleep, and despite a brain that consistently works at half capacity now, I think I'm almost cool with that.  Three months of tiny, everyday baby moments that I never could have fathomed would interest me like they do - moments that would likely bore most, but that thrill me to my core and make my heart feel on the edge of explosion multiple times a day.

After these first three months, I can safely say that I'm starting to feel more comfortable with this mothering thing, although I don't claim to know what I'm doing at all (and possibly may never have the answers).  In my one month update, I talked a lot about the challenges of having a newborn, and in my second month update, I mentioned that those challenges hadn't really changed.  Well they still haven't, for the most part, but I'm slowly discovering ways to break them down into smaller pieces and come up with solutions for the bits rather than the big scary wholes. My peace of mind comes from help from family and friends (that whole 'it takes a village' thing is no lie), finding small pieces of 'me time' in between the chaos, the occasional nights where I get adequate sleep, and continuing to be flexible with both my work schedule and life schedule.  My daughter is still (and always will be, I'm fairly certain) #1, and the rest revolves around that.  The bills must also still be paid but if that means answering emails with one hand while I have a baby on the boob or working on a project from 1-4 AM while she's in her soundest sleep, then that's what happens.  And I know now that that is totally okay.

As for my take on parenting after three whole months, here's the truth.  I've given up on plans to read all the books and take all the advice you guys.  There's a lot of greatness to these things and there is also a lot of contradiction, and the biggest lesson I've learned is that you just need to experience it for yourself and find out what works for you along the way.  Every baby is different, every parent is different, and every lifestyle is different, and there just isn't one universal way that works for us all.  Period.  I'll confess that truly accepting this was a massive challenge for me for the first couple of months, because I was absolutely sure that in order to maintain my plan to be the best mom in the whole universe, I would have to devour every guide, article, and documentary on parenting techniques and follow them with all of my might or else Essley would grow up to be a horrible person with a myriad of health problems and mental issues.  But eventually, I decided that I was going to give in and embrace what worked for us and stop freaking trying so hard already.  I do use books, the internet, and friends as guides and reference points in my journey, but I've found that keeping an open mind and staying in tune with Essley as much as I can is the best path for me to follow. 

Our happy place seems to be a laid back approach (so not like me but I'm learning) mixed with an unforced kind of structure.  From research and the grapevine I've learned that there exists three main schools of thought when it comes to taking care of a baby, especially in terms of feeding, sleeping, and eventually, weaning: 'parent-led,' 'baby-led,' and 'combination.'  If I had to choose one of these to define our approach (although I'd rather not be defined by any of them, if we're being honest here) I'd say 'combination' leaning toward 'baby-led.'  Because I work from home, and my husband works on the road, we have a schedule that is both open and unstable, which is, in turn, both good and bad.  It's admittedly much easier for us not to have to adhere to a strict schedule because neither parent starts work at the same time everyday, or is even in the same place everyday.  This allows for us (me all the time, and my husband when he's not on the road) to work with Essley's needs and her natural schedule.  I feed her when she's hungry, I put her down to sleep when she's tired, etc.  On the flip side, our unusual situation makes it difficult to create structure, which is important to a baby's development.  So I throw a little schedule into it all, by doing things like making sure to feed her every two to four hours during waking hours and one to three times during the night (if I'm lucky, just once), paying attention to her napping schedule and waking her up if she's sleeping too long too late in the day, and creating a routine before bed (change into jammies, nurse, and read a book) so she associates it with bedtime.  I've also sort of started 'sleeping training' (for lack of a better term, because I'm not sure I like that one), but very loosely.  I do try to put her up in her co-sleeper in our room around the same time every night and turn the monitor on, but if she eventually wakes up and cries (which almost always happens), I come help her get back to sleep.  This can mean everything from putting a pacifier in her mouth to swaddling to nursing to bringing her back downstairs and putting her in the Pack N' Play or swing if all else fails.  I don't know when she'll start sleeping in her nursery, but I have a feeling that we'll know when it's the right time.  Paying attention to the signs, learning as we go, finding our own way to happily make things work for us as a family, and being aware that things can change at any time - that's our parenting technique.

Now that I'm done with all of the deep stuff, here's the rest of the what happened in Essley's third month, in one long, run-on sentence. She went to Arizona with me at eleven weeks and did great on both flights (and she's headed out for her first road trip with me this weekend), she met all of her cousins, she went for her first walks outside and loved them, she started to tolerate tummy time for slightly longer peiods (but still hates it; see final paragraph), she measured average weight but in the 75th percentile for height and is already too long for most of her three month clothes, she laughed for the first time, she discovered an undying love for the 'Elmo's Song' video (don't worry, we're not bombarding our baby with television), she went to work with daddy again (this time for a rock show instead of just a sound check), she turned into a morning person (most unlike her parents) guaranteed to shower you with gummy smiles and high-pitched shrieks for at least a half hour upon waking, she became incredibly alert and interested in everything around her, she discovered how to self-soothe (via sucking on her little fist), she learned to sit up while propped and hold her head high, her eyes turned from blue to hazel, and she became even more awesome, which we certainly didn't think was possible.

So that's that.  The third glorious month has come and gone, and now I have a baby who can officially no longer be classified as a newborn.  Crazy.  Also, I think I am finally ready to sit down and type out our birth story.  When that actually happens, of course, depends on when I can get a few solid hours of time alone with my laptop and a clear, well-rested brain, but I think it will happen sooner than later. 

And finally, after I went on about how every baby/parent/situation is different and that no advice works for everyone, I'm going to ask for some advice - or rather your experiences - on two things.  The first is tummy time.  This kid hates it with a passion, so matter how many funny faces we make or cheerful songs we sing or colorful toys we wave in front of her red, screaming face.  Any suggestions there?  The second is our baby wearing and carrier situation.  I wanted to wear this baby like there was no tomorrow, I really did, but she just isn't into wraps or slings no matter how hard I try, and now that she's too big for the Ergo's infant insert, she doesn't seem comfortable in that, either.  The main thing is that she wants to face out (I know, I know, it's bad for their little hips, and we can't do it), and she acts all sorts of smothered and starts head-butting my chest when I put her in it now.  We're thinking that maybe she's just not quite big enough for it without the insert yet, and that hopefully we can make it work in a few weeks.  But I'm interested in knowing if anyone else's babes disliked facing inward and how they got through it?

If you are still reading this, you are the best.  Seriously.  I didn't intend for this to turn into such a long post, but I'm really glad I wrote it (thank you for this amazing two hour nap you're taking, Essley).  I like that now I'll be able to go back and read about that one time where I learned to surrender to the damn flow and stop fighting a 'just pay attention and go with it' parenting approach.  I also like that down the road, I will be able to come back here and read about my daughter's final month as a newborn.  And by sharing my own experience, I also want to maybe be able to help others who feel initially guilty or disappointed by their lack of following every single method and/or book and/or guide and/or piece of parenting advice.  I really, really believe that each of us who is a new parent (or new aunt/uncle, or new grandparent, or even friend of a new parent) has the ability inside to figure it out and do a great job, as long as you follow your instincts and love that creature with all of your heart.  It's cheesy but it's true.  And now I'm off to nurse and snuggle my little three month old who, for once, decided to wake up at just the right time. I can't wait to see what else she has to teach me today.

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  1. First, she is gorgeous!! Second, I think you've got the right idea on keeping it relaxed. All the parenting advice in the world won't make you a perfect parent; the most important thing is loving her and embracing her unique qualities. Third, my kids are all older teens and I'm still learning how to parent. It's an ongoing discovery. Enjoy your precious little one!

  2. She's just the cutest little peanut. I think it's great that you've decided to just go with the flow. Like you said, yours and Robbie's unusual schedules are both good and bad, and it's not possible to plan everything to a T. And just because a nugget of parenting advice works for one family doesn't make it the universal solution.

  3. we wore owen facing out in a Baby Bjorn - there's less bulk to it than the Ergo (which I'm carrying sophie around in all the time now), and our doctor never worried about owen's hips. yes, it's buying another carrier, and i wouldn't necessarily wear her like that all day every day, but it was a savior for us when Owen wanted nothing but to be carried facing out.

    1. Thanks Robyn! We actually have a Bjorn that was handed down to us. We tried her in it and she loved it, but everything I've read (because, you know, internet message boards are always accurate) has said they can be bad for their hips. I'll talk to our doctor about it at her next appointment. And congrats on your new little one!

  4. I started using the ergo with my now 9-month old when she was around 3 months and ran into some resistance at first too. She loves it now though and I'm even going to be using it in the airport tomorrow! I prefer it to the bjorn because I have some back issues and the ergo seems more supportive. Two things that helped us: 1) Get another mom to "demo" with their baby on how to get in and out of it and then practice with a stuffed animal. 2) Plan going on walks when the baby is likely to get sleepy and gear up in the ergo around that time and then head out for the walk! The motion helps lull them to sleep (and carrying that extra weight on walks again has helped with the baby weight!).

  5. Essley sure is a cute bundle of joy! I think you've been doing a fabulous job as a parent - the relaxed attitude certainly helps - and so glad both flights went well for Essley! Thanks for sharing the pictures. She's so adorable :)

  6. Bjorn facing out with both girls. Both LOVED it. Their hips are perfect :)

  7. love reading your journey! you are such a good mama, and man is that little girl a cutie!!!! love you!

  8. The whole time I was pregnant the best advice my mum ever gave me, and I love her all the more for it, was to not pay attention to everything I read or heard. There are thousands upon thousands of different opinions out there, so I would go crazy if I tried to do everything people told me I should do. She said I would soon learn to figure out what worked for us as a family, and when that happened, I had to learn to let the other stuff go. Best words ever, as I know many very opinionated people and would have tortured myself if I listened to everything.
    Congrats, you are doing great and Essley is a total doll!!!

  9. I loved your post. Walter loved the pics. "Baby!" "Baby!" "Look Mama, baby!"

  10. My 2 1/2 month old is too big for the Ergo infant insert too. To make it more comfortable for her, I roll up a blanket (I use an Aden & Anais swaddle blanket) and have her sit on it in the Ergo. It raises her just enough so that her legs aren't awkwardly spread and her head isn't smashed down against my chest. Worth a try!

  11. She is just adorable Melissa! Your making me baby crazy! I still have 8 weeks to go before we meet our new little man :)

  12. I'm not a parent yet but your technique sounds spot on to me. All those books and guides are big business. Following your instinct definitely seems like the best approach with my friends with kids. She's so cute too!

  13. She is such a cutie! Congratulations on your exciting journey. It sounds like you're doing a fabulous job.

  14. Such a sweet, sweet post, Melissa! I love it.
    And you figuring out that you have to "go with the flow" with your parenting style is a great thing. I think when we become a mother for the first time, we're so wanting to be the best that we can be. But being the best we can be doesn't mean we have to do the same thing. Just as each woman is different and will have a different pregnancy and birthing experience, each parent will have what works best for him/her too. And just because it's different doesn't mean that it's ever the wrong way. I think you're lucky to have made your realization after just the first three months, because I think some don't let go of that yearning for perfection until much later. And it can be tiring, because the perfect parent just doesn't exist.

    As for the carrier, she might be in that in-between stage. I used a receiving blanket to help give support, so that her head was up just enough to be able to see more. In just a couple more weeks she'll probably fit better in her carrier.

    Oh, and for tummy time...My girl did NOT like it either! At all. Ever. She even rolled over a bit later than usual because of it. If you have one of those Boppy pillows, you can try to prop her up on that. That's what I did to kind of ease her (trick her) into getting used to being on her tummy! I think she may have liked the view better at that angle. And after a few times of propping her up on the pillow, I tried it on the floor again, and it wasn't as bad (she eventually got used to it). And when she does get on her tummy without the crying and red face, snap a photo so you can show her when she gets older! =0) *giggle*

  15. Ah, you are doing wonderfully, Melissa!

    You got it. Whatever works for YOUR family. Pay no heed to anything else.

    Ya, I eventually gave up on tummy time. My daughter especially had the same reaction yours did. And she was my second child, so I was just too busy keeping up with our eldest to enforce it. Guess what? She learned to crawl anyway! And walk! OMG!

    Carriers: I'd say give it up for a week, maybe two weeks. Then try again with the ergo. She may forget she hates it?! Do you have a stroller? That might have to be ok until she forgets she hates the carrier!

  16. She's absolutely lovely and you have a great attitude about parenting in general.

    As far as carriers go... my son simply never enjoyed being in a carrier. As for our little girl - I find she doesn't mind the Ergo too much, especially since I try to wear her for a bit each day. She'll start getting cranky after a while because she doesn't want to face in, but I'm hoping that eventually she'll just get used to it. If not... well, they do have the new Ergo 360s which make it safe to wear her facing forward so we might consider one of those. Otherwise when she's a little bigger and stronger I might see if she likes doing the back carry with the Ergo.

  17. Elizabeth FloerschApril 02, 2014 1:56 PM

    My son struggled through tummy time & never really made it to the 5 minute mark each attempt, but I just kept on trying... & I'm glad I did. At four & a half months now, he's still not rocking the tummy time for long periods, but if I gently roll him over from back to tummy & make it goofy, he ends up giggling & wiggling for a bit. He's really getting so strong, & I'm glad that I didn't give up. I just listened to his needs on that - he certainly has a way of letting me know when he's just not into it.

    As for the baby wearing - I am in a bit of the same situation you are in: working from home, trying to type & take phone calls with one hand & pray that he doesn't start screaming in my arms while I have a client on the other end of the phone. It was especially tough since the weather has been so awful & we were stuck inside with little chance to escape. I almost accidentally discovered that he just LOVES being pushed around the house in his light-weight collapsible stroller. We've been doing that for weeks now. More often than not, if I give him a little stroller-ride around naptime, he'll pass out in the stroller & I am left to grab a bite to eat or answer some uninterrupted emails, etc.

    I had every intention of wearing Eliot as much as possible, & just like Essley it honestly doesn't work for Eliot. He's not a fan. He does ok if I wear him in his Baby Bjorn (we got a hand-me-down one, too!) but he absolutely must ride facing-out. I figured it was ok for just around the house & if I am conscious of my movements, but I was also concerning about his little hip-joints, so I asked his pediatrician. His doc said that as long as he is not spending countless hours a day in the Baby Bjorn or as long as I'm not running errands around town with him in it, he should be fine. So, once in a while works for us - especially when he's just being too fussy to be held, & he doesn't want to chill in his swing by himself.

    I must admit that I LOVE reading your Essley updates - I can honestly say that I have mirrored many of your experiences & feel as if I'm "right there with ya, sister!" Keep up the great work, & keep looking ahead to 70 degree days! :)

  18. Sweet photos! Glad you can just relax and enjoy this time with her. A lot of new parents are hyper-focused on reaching every milestone at the right time and moving things along, but babies have their own ways of telling you what they need and like and don't like. I've heard that with tummy time, some babies hate it and you just do it anyway for as long as they will stand it, even if that's just 30 seconds, and they will start to learn to work through their frustration, but it can be a slow process.

  19. She is so cute. The first three months are long, but it just keeps getting more and more fun from here. It's not always easier, but really fun.
    Have you tried using a mirror during tummy time? Sylvie loved having a mirror in front of her. Mostly, just be patient. Do it for little bits at a time, and stop when she gets frustrated. In time, she won't mind it as much.
    Beco makes a carrier that can be used facing out that is supposed to be ergonomically better than the Bjorn, but of course that would mean getting another carrier.

  20. Regarding tummy time-- neither of my kids did it and now they are both fully capable of holding their heads up :) If she hates it, dont force it.

    When Miles was an infant, a friend with a baby just a bit older told me "As soon as you figure something out, they change things on you! And, it never gets easier to be a parent, you just get better at it." As you have discovered, baby books will contradict each other and drive you crazy. Bascially the key is like you said, to surrender to the flow, accepting the fact that it now may take you 30 minutes just to walk out the door or get a simple task done, and mostly, just trust yourself in knowing what is best for your own child no matter what anyone tells you! xoxox

  21. About the carries...Have you tried a high back carry in a woven? She'll be able to see everything over your shoulder but still be ergonomically correct for her little developing hips :) I have the opposite experience with my son; he hates being on my back and loves to snuggle close to my chest when carried. But it's always worth a shot! 's message boards have some really great resources about back carries, getting a good seat so they're secure, etc. Just make sure you never ever put her on your back in a stretchy, it's really dangerous!

  22. Both my guys were not into slings all that much.....and I had them all! Do you have a maya wrap? The kangaroo carry in a maya is good for that long as they have good neck control. You can also do a similar carry with a pouch sling (like a hotsling). I think I got the most use out of my pouch sling especially in the next stage where they can just have their butt in there on your hip.
    I honestly didn't even put any effort into tummy time.....just little bits here and there. Babies who are held and nursed and moved around a lot don't need prescribed tummy my humble opinion :-) They are going to be stretching and strengthening naturally.

  23. Loved your post. She is such a cutie!! As for facing out, I'd say go with it. I think you have a very inquisitive little girl who wants to discover the whole big world out there--so she wants to SEE it -- and be able to kick those cute little legs. You must know something I don't about hip damage--- but it's not like she'd be in it for hours on end.

  24. A friend sent me your blog tonight and I am so happy to have found it! I had my daughter on December 24th and she sounds like a clone of your little one in a lot of ways. I could have written this post myself! I have tiny amounts of advice on both of your questions. First, tummy time (or, as I call it, tummy torture): just keep trying, and don't discount the times when you carry her face down, or let her lay on your chest after you feed her when you're burping her. Also, consider trying different surfaces. I found that Clara prefers to be on firmer surfaces (a mat on the floor) rather than squishier ones like the bed or couch. I make a goal of getting her on her tummy twice a day, but I don't make her stay there if she doesn't like it. She tends to roll over immediately, which is cute, but defiant.

    As for wearing - Clara also looooves facing out. We have the original Ergo, but I'm going to take it to Buy Buy Baby and exchange it for the Ergo 360 (just came out and allows forward facing). Clara is also long and lean, so the infant insert is sort of awkward for her. I had to wear her at the airport so I've been working on it for a couple of weeks, and I've found that she hates it until I really hit my stride, at which point she tolerates it and eventually falls asleep. I like to wrap the top part of the insert around her to give her extra neck support but then I have removed the pillow from the bottom and I don't even attempt to fold her long legs into it - I just let them hang out like they're supposed to without the insert.

    Hopefully that great to see another new Chicago mama trying to navigate this crazy journey!

  25. Oh, and you (and I) win an award for having babies in this winter. The day it was -16 degrees, we couldn't get our condo warmer than 60 degrees. Awwwesome. So even if tummy time is a challenge or baby wearing isn't so easy, at least you know you can successfully survive a Polar Vortex with a newborn.

  26. I'm loving reading your updates on her! She's totally cute! I have a baby girl who is 4 months and it feels like I'm reading about our lives last month. :)

    My girl hates tummy time, too two things that really worked for us were

    A) trying it on the bed- while I watched like a hawk, of course. This helped because when she gets her arm smushed under her trunk (or whatever strange position she finds herself in) she isn't on the hard floor. Basically she's more comfortable and will go at it longer.
    B) we do tummy time on mama! What I mean is, I will lie down facing up and put her on my chest or belly. She gets to work on head control, squirming and trunk lifting. She will stay on me for long periods of time and actually had such good head control with this method at 2 months that the doc okayed stomach sleeping!

    I hope you find what works for you all. You will figure it out. Thanks for reminding me that my little girl and I will continue to find our way, too.

  27. What a beautiful post, I am due in 1 weeks and now beginning to worry about the 'what sort of parent will I be' lots fo great advice here, thank you xx

  28. I'm loving the mothering updates and please keep the pics of sweet Essley coming! MWAH!

  29. This might have something to do with the fact that both of my babies hated tummy time, but I believe, based on recent studies and my own experience, that it's overrated. See: and

    Also, the Ergo is MY favorite carrier and my first LOVED it, but my second isn't as into it because she likes to be able to see everything and wave her arms around like a little manic conductor :) She much prefers our Maya Wrap ring sling, which we use primarily in the hip carry position, but for a younger baby like Essley you can pretty easily use a more front-facing hold.

  30. yeah, i've found that you get the hang of a few aspects of the mothering gig and things change. i worked my ASS off trying to keep loukas' sleep patterns consistent, keeping his long term development in mind while shooshing him to sleep in a wrap standing in the bathroom with the fart fan on for white noise every two hours and man! I exhausted myself. we were isolated by a lot of my attempts at keeping things 'ideal.' really the stress of trying to keep everything controlled is more toxic than the effects of not being super duper consistent. you are wise to reach this conclusion early on- that to surrender to what is before you is all you can do. everyday will be different. before you know it, all this will be a distant memory- just like the pain of labor! we were never enforcers of tummy time and both kids are fine. at this point in my life, i really wonder what the rush is with all the getting to the next stage is? what's that about? (not saying that's what you're doing) now that we have had the two kids over the past few years, here's what i think: you always know what is going to work for YOU. and that's what matters. no need to fit into any box. and it seems you are doing an exceptional job of just that.

    I never liked that ergo insert to begin with. we took one of the swaddles or blankets and kind of stuffed them in under baby's feet to keep them sturdy and just ditched the insert. the moby can be worn face-out... it's best to attempt the initial baby-wearing (post new-born worm baby stage) when all needs have already been met. after a feeding, dry diaper, rested- once they get used to it and you are used to strapping everyone in, you can then use it better to nurse, lull to sleep, nurse to sleep, etc. make sense?

    you are doing great and she is a dream!

  31. WOW! Thank you for all of these fantastic comments you guys! I will do my best to respond to each of them personally over the next few days (depending on baby's schedule of course). I really appreciate them. xo, m

  32. it's so beautiful watching you come into motherhood. she is so perfect, and I know you're going to be the most amazing parents to her as she grows. she's so lucky! also you better make sure she has the hippest kiddo blog when she gets talkin fashion, lifestyle...snack choices...the works

  33. Just found your blog, your daughter is so sweet! My son is 5 1/2 months old and here are my experiences with tummy time and baby carriers.

    Tummy Time-My son also hated it until he learned to roll over on to his tummy by himself (around 4 months for him). I think maybe he felt trapped or unable to control himself like he was used to, just guesses as no one really knows what goes on in a baby's head. Anyways, now he can roll onto his tummy and back over so I just let him be on his tummy when he wants to.

    Baby Carriers-We have both an Ergo and a sling. My husband has no problem carrying our son in either, but neither one worked for me in the beginning for two reasons. First, I am short and also short wasted so my son just can't seem to get comfy on my small torso versus my husband's longer one. Second, if he is near my chest he goes straight for the boob, even if he just ate. He will keep trying to root at my chest until he works himself into a fit. Now that he can hold himself up, I have started to use the sling to help bear the weight when I carry him on my hip and he is ok with that.

  34. I truly love reading your recaps of mommy hood and I find myself nodding along with ALL of it. I too tossed the idea of reading all the baby books and finally learned to trust myself and my baby to let me know what was right. It really doesn't help when all of the books say something different!! Every month brings a new challenge and settles a few others and just when you have something figured out, they go and change on you. My little one is almost 5 months old and is FINALLY able to hang out in tummy time for an appropriate length of time (per the doctor). We went from 10 seconds to 30 seconds to minutes. As with everything else, pay attention to their cues. One day E will stay a little longer and then the next day will be a little longer....and then finally she will be laughing on her tummy :) If she likes being on your tummy because she can see you when you are lying down stick with that for now.

    I have the Ergo and I wanted to be one of those moms that carried my son around everywhere. Well now he gets really bored and fussy when facing me (unless he is sleepy) and wants to see the world. I have tabled the carrier for now and will revisit it in a few weeks.

    Hope this helps!


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