Training in Infancy
You may or may not have babies in the home right at this moment. However, chances are good that you will someday either be a parent or a grandparent or know somebody who is. If the following information doesn’t directly apply to you at this point in your life, we invite you to continue reading. Maybe something you read can help somebody else who is struggling in the childrearing process.
As always, we invite you to chew the meat and spit out the bones. Take what you like and gloss over the rest. We share what has worked well for us, and for many friends and couples we have interacted with and counseled. Our ultimate goal as Christian parents should be to raise children who love, serve and glorify our Heavenly Father. We know our readers may have family traditions and methods that have worked well. We are thrilled about that. The more tools we have in our Parent Toolbelt the better!
Establishing a Schedule
Anyone who has had a baby knows that it is all sunshine and kisses…until about day three, at which point sheer exhaustion kicks in. After almost two weeks of sunshine, kisses, and sheer exhaustion with our firstborn, Alex, I phoned my friend Ingrid in desperation. I was totally exhausted from trying to keep the house clean, make meals, love my husband, care for the baby and run my contracting business. I complained to her, “Isn’t there SOME way to make this easier? I am SOOOO tired!”
Fortunately, Ingrid is a Wise Mom with an arsenal of tricks up her sleeve and five children of her own. She recommended a series of books called BabyWisewritten by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. Within twenty-four hours we had bought and read the first book, which highlights the importance of putting your baby (and family) on a schedule. Delighted that there was a potential solution to our frustration, we immediately started working on a schedule.
As with any baby-raising program, parents need to be discerning about what they can handle. Be realistic about what will work for your family, and what you are likely to be able to follow with consistency.
The Eat-Play-Sleep Cycle
Our schedule ended up looking roughly like this:
Beginning when our children were about two weeks old (after my milk supply had been firmly established), we maintained a flexible two-and-a-half to a four-hour schedule. During this time the baby would wake, eat, and play, and then fall into a deep, sound sleep.
The baby would sleep for the remainder of the allotted time. The baby would generally wake up hungry, since we hadn’t fed him right before he went to sleep. Then we did everything possible to keep him from falling asleep in the most comfortable of all places on earth – suckling at the breast or cradled in his parent’s arms suckling at a bottle.
The point of this schedule is to ensure that the child has a full meal instead of merely a snack. Getting him the nourishment he needed was often very challenging, but over time our efforts paid off.
Playtime For Your Baby
In our hypothetical schedule, once baby has eaten a solid meal, feeding time is done. There is no snacking at the bottle or breast. Now it is time for stimulation, or ‘play time’. This can be accomplished in a myriad of ways.
Soft mirrors or colorful toys can be placed in front of the infant. You might take him for a walk outside or talk to and play with him. Try anything that will keep him stimulated for the remainder of his ‘awake’ time.
If the feeding takes half an hour, for example, you would keep him awake for another half hour. Then put him to sleep for one and a half to three hours. The exception to this is at night-time. Between about 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. you would just feed the baby and put him back to sleep. The idea is to try not to make these feedings too much fun. They should just include the basics — food and sleep.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
It’s worth taking a moment here to briefly explain the benefits of breast milk. It’s important to make an effort to ensure the infant empties the breast as much as possible.
There are different nutrients in different stages of breast milk. If a baby snacks at the breast throughout the day, he’s only getting the more watery milk that is at the front of the breast. However, if he is truly hungry and suckles until the breast is nearly or completely empty, he is consuming nutrients that his body desperately needs in order to grow.
Types and Stages of Breast Milk
The following information was taken from the American Pregnancy Association. We believe it will help you to understand the amazingly creative and functional design of our bodies, especially as concerns breast milk.
- Breast milk provides basic nutrition for your baby during the first several months of life. Breast milk has three different and distinct stages: colostrum, transitional milk, and mature milk.
- Colostrum is the first stage of breast milk. It occurs during pregnancy and lasts for several days after birth. It is creamy in color, and much thicker than the milk that is produced later in breastfeeding. Colostrum is high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that pass from the mother to the baby, providing passive immunity for the baby. This protects him or her from a wide variety of bacterial and viral illnesses. Two to four days after birth, colostrum is replaced by transitional milk.
- Transitional milk occurs after colostrum and lasts for approximately two weeks. The content of transitional milk includes high levels of fat, lactose, and water-soluble vitamins. It contains more calories than colostrum.
- Mature milk is the final milk that is produced. Water composes 90% of mature milk, and is necessary to keep the infant hydrated. The other 10% is carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which are necessary for both growth and energy.
- There are two types of mature milk:
- Foremilk (found during the beginning of the feeding and containing water, vitamins, and protein) and
- Hind-milk (occurring after the initial release of milk and containing higher levels of fat, which is necessary for weight gain.) Both foremilk and hind-milk are necessary to ensure the baby is receiving adequate nutrition for proper growth and developmen
- There are two types of mature milk:
How to Know if Your Baby is Eating Enough
We need to mention something very important here. If your baby is clearly hungry, you should feed him or her. The clock is not there to rule you and your baby’s life. If your baby has a growth spurt and needs to eat more often, you can and should shorten the Eat-Play-Sleep cycle during that time. You can go back to the longer cycles when your baby is ready.
How can you tell if your baby is eating enough? Keep track of his diaper output and his level of contentment. It’s also extremely important to monitor your child’s growth, especially in the first weeks and months. If you are concerned, check in with your pediatrician and follow his or her advice.
Everyone Benefits from the Schedule
Our babies benefited enormously from this scheduling system. When it was time to go to sleep, they were typically very tired and needed a good rest. Since they hadn’t been snacking at the breast or bottle after feeding time, they wake up from their nap ready to consume the next full meal.
God is the Master Designer, and He certainly didn’t slack while designing the breast. Each breast works on a rough twenty-four-hour cycle. Your body actually remembers the amount and type of feeding, and produces the same amount of milk the next day!
The two-and-a-half to four-hour Eat-Play-Sleep cycle not only helps the baby know what is going to happen. It also helps mom and dad to know what their day will look like. Need to make dinner? Want to get a load of laundry done? Want to take a nap? NO PROBLEM!! You know when you can get these things done…during the baby’s naps!
Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Since the baby is getting good nutrition, and plenty of stimulation and rest throughout the day, at around six to ten weeks of age a normal, healthy infant should be able to begin sleeping through the night. There are several ways to accomplish this.
One way is to simply not attend to the child when he or she wakes up crying. If the crying continues for more than about 15 minutes, you can give the child some water in a bottle. Otherwise, you can try to wait it out another fifteen minutes or so.
This requires Parent Strength, but we assure you that it is WORTH IT! Typically the child will realize his crying is fruitless. He will soon wear himself out and go back to sleep on his own. When this happens, you jump out of bed and do the Victory Dance. You have just passed a crucial milestone that will bring your family peace and help you to be Happy Parents!
You may be thinking, “Wait a minute! Isn’t it ‘more loving’ to attend to the child’s every need at the child’s demand, day and night? Won’t that build up their sense of security, so that they know we are there and love them enough to meet their every need?”
My answer is that a happy, well-slept parent is going to have lots of energy and love for their child during the day. A parent whose children are still not sleeping through the night at two or three years of age (and we know several) are often quite stressed. That stress inadvertently passes on to their children.
Putting Your Child to Sleep
There are few things in this world more beautiful than a sweetly sleeping baby. It is SOOOO tempting to rock little Junior to sleep. Then we put him in his crib and creep silently out of the room, holding our breath and hoping he doesn’t wake up. The moment he does, we are back in the room, singing and rocking him to sleep again.
‘Sleep props’ are anything a caregiver does to induce a child to sleep. Some common tools are holding, singing and/or rocking a child to sleep. Other props include taking him for a ride in the car or putting his car seat on the clothes dryer so the vibrations lull him to sleep.
Rocking your child to sleep may satisfy some deep maternal or paternal desire within us, but it is NOT in the best interest of your child. Experience has shown that putting a child into his crib drowsy but AWAKE teaches him to go to sleep on his own.
Little Junior may cry for a few minutes…that’s totally normal. Don’t run in there and comfort him repeatedly. Let him learn to solve his own problem. If his diaper is clean, his tummy doesn’t hurt, and he has received lots of love from you during the day, he will be fine. He’ll be able to get himself to sleep in a few minutes without the use of a ‘sleep prop.’
A special way to get young babies to sleep is to swaddle them. Since they like to be held tightly, swaddling them gives them the security they feel when someone’s holding them. The blanket gives them a warm hug, and the pressure gives them a cozy feeling that mimics being in the womb.
A newborn that is swaddled is more likely to sleep for longer stretches of time for naps and during the night. In addition, your baby feels loved, hugged and secure, and you don’t have to be there every minute to give him that feeling.
Creating a Good Sleep Environment
A good sleep environment will also help the baby to sleep well. Try to keep the temperature between sixty-five to seventy degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the room dark at night and in the early morning hours. We used white noise machines when other family members were making noise and we didn’t want the baby to wake up.
We recommend establishing an early bedtime for your child if possible. It’s a well-known fact that children of all ages benefit from consistency. A pre-sleep routine that is soothing, consistent, and enjoyable will be a blessing for both you and the baby. You might dim the lights, sing a song, read a book, snuggle, and enjoy this special time together.
Keep in mind that within the first few weeks of life, newborns are often only awake long enough to eat and have their diaper changed. Then it’s time to go back to sleep. If you try to keep a newborn awake too long, getting him to sleep may be quite difficult. Try to find that optimal wake-time for the first few weeks, and then you can move to a longer Eat-Play-Sleep cycle.
Older children will also benefit from a consistent bedtime routine. We recommend avoiding watching TV or roughhousing at least thirty minutes before bed. This will usually help them calm down enough to be able to get to sleep quickly and easily.