My little girl and I have reached an important milestone these past few weeks. She has been gradually transitioning to just one nap a day. With this milestone comes a somewhat melancholy feeling as she plants her feet firmly in toddler land. Melancholy for me anyway—she is too busy pulling books off the shelf or climbing onto the couch (another new skill!).
As a list-making, schedule-following, must-have-a-plan sort of person, I approached motherhood with a desire to know “how to do it properly”. Those with children will probably chuckle, knowing as I now do that children are infinitely variable.
They change and grow so much that each month, almost, you must rearrange, replan, and reschedule. You might wonder why you even bother having a plan—why not go with the flow and let it all just happen?
I’ve been asked by many of my friends how I’ve managed to have such an easy baby. By easy, I suspect they mean that her naps have been somewhat predictable, I know when she will need to sleep, and I generally expect her to sleep through the night.
As I reflect on our journey to the one nap a day of toddler land, I can see a few things that have helped our household remain well-rested and for me to maintain my mental health.
These ideas simply come from my own (limited) experience, so there’s no need to take them as a hard and fast rulebook. The world of motherhood is fraught with extremes which I’d rather not go into. Instead, let’s pretend we’re just two parents discussing our parenting techniques over a cup of tea.
Don’t spit the dummy
As per the advice of midwives, we didn’t start using a dummy until after breastfeeding was well-established (around two months). Since then, we have used a dummy off and on. At the moment, I give her a dummy when she gets put down for a nap and at night. In other circumstances, like being on a plane or at church, we use it as well.
Guess what? I’ve found the dummy to be a wonderful help in keeping her settled and quiet when it is important. It also helps her go sleep much faster than if I just let her cry it out. Using a dummy is not the end of the world. If you don’t want to use one, that’s fine. But you shouldn’t feel guilty if you do.
I learned about baby sign language from a book and it sounded super cool. Your little bundle of cuteness can communicate in a way that’s not screaming! I diligently started helping her sign “please” before she had a meal. It’s a bit hazy now, but I think this was around 7 months. For a long while, total failure. Somewhere along the line, I gave up.
Then, around 10 months, she spontaneously started signing “please”! I was excited at this unexpected success. Since then, she has learned to sign “thank you”, “water”, “all done”, “more”, “sorry”, and “milk”. You should have seen her eyes light up when she realised that if she signed “milk” I would bring out the milk-makers. She did it non-stop for days!
The benefits of sign language for a pre-verbal toddler are pretty neat. She doesn’t whinge when she wants something. Instead, she signs the word more frantically which is a wonderfully silent way to communicate. Apparently, it can also help in their language development.
Another perk we have noticed is that she is much less frustrated because she can tell us what she wants. Win-win!
As mentioned above, I do like to have myself a plan. Knowing what my day will look like gives me a bit of sanity. It is also helpful for my little girl. If naps are consistent, her sleep hormones kick in right on time—11 a.m and she is out like a light.
Of course, there are many exceptions to this. Teething, illness, or an unexpected disruption to the day can makes things a little tricky. Yet I find having a basic routine helps her get back on track much faster.
Knowing generally what to expect with her naps also makes it way easier to get out and do things as well as leave her with her many willing aunties. A routine is never “set and forget” though. There is a cycle of working out her needs, settling into a routine, re-evaluating if there are issues, and resettling. I have found a comfortable mix of consistency and flexibility that works for us.
If you want to start a fight on any parenting forum, announce that you love letting your child cry it out. Then sit back and watch the storm. Cry-it-out is rather controversial it seems. For me, letting my little sweetie sob uncontrollably in her room in an attempt to get her to sleep was a learning curve!
What I learned was that there are a lot of different ways a baby can cry. If you know your baby (which I think I do), you can discern the different cries pretty well after a few months. What some people might say is “ignoring your baby’s needs” I see as actually listening very carefully to them.
Some cries are “I’m bored in here; bring me back to the fun!” Other cries mean “I’m scared of the dark”. Over time, we learned when to leave her just a little bit longer, knowing she would settle down and when to give it up and cuddle her back to happiness.
What I would say for sure is that letting her cry sometimes has not affected her health and well-being in anyway.
Pass the parcel
This advice came from my mother: let other people hold your baby. As an exhausted new mum recovering from a Caesarian Section, I was only too happy to follow this suggestion. Our little girl was carried around by aunties and grandparents, and passed along to anyone at church who wanted to hold her (which was pretty much all the parents with grown-up children who wanted their own grandchildren!).
I’ve heard the argument that children have to be put into day care to be “socialised” and that being at home all day with their mum will make them clingy. I beg to differ. With me as “home-base” our little girl is happy to interact with other children, family members, and new people that we introduce her to. She is the furthest thing from clingy.
I hope these reflections give you a small insight into what we have done the first year of our little girl’s life. It’s been challenging, I’ve learned a lot, and I certainly don’t think my way is the only way—just the way we’ve done it and it’s worked for us. Now onward to the toddler years where there will be much more to learn.
Lucinda is a housewife and mum to one. She loves reading everything she can about parenting and then applying the bits that work for her.
You can read more of her articles at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/lucinda-glover.html
Lucinda is a mum to two little girls. She loves baking, reading, and sewing.