10 Things I’ve Learned From My Baby’s 1st Year

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It’s so hard to believe, but my sweet baby girl turned 1 this past weekend! As we celebrated her big day, I found myself alternating between intense excitement and bittersweet nostalgia. Older and wiser parents really aren’t joking when they say time flies by with little ones.

I’ve also been reflecting about what I’ve learned during Xaviana’s first year of life, and–wow–I learned a lot! Pre-pregnancy, I knew nothing about babies (and, in fact, found them so intimidating and “breakable” that I was afraid to pick up other people’s kids). Now, however, I feel like an expert on all things baby, and I’m perfectly at home in a roomful of Xaviana’s busy little friends.

Xaviana is all smiles at age 1 :)

Xaviana thinks age 1 is fun 🙂

Having a baby has shown me the miracle of life firsthand. I think any mom will agree–raising a baby is the greatest gift we’ll ever receive, and being an awesome mom is the greatest gift we’ll ever give.

With that in mind, here are 10 things I’ve learned during Xaviana’s first year of life.

  1. Every moment spent with baby is precious – Each day is full of elusive, fleeting moments that last for mere seconds, but create memories that last a lifetime. Capture them in your mind and your heart. Appreciate the privilege of spending time with your baby, even on those inevitable rough days when you’re feeling exhausted or irate… which brings me to the next lesson I learned…
  2. Everything, good and bad, is just a phase and will pass – Teething, fitful sleeps, picky eating, and 5 PM meltdowns are unpleasant for mom and baby alike. We can try our hardest to keep baby happy all the time, but 24/7 Baby-topia is just not possible. Our (rare) rough patches with Xaviana have felt like being trapped in a dark tunnel with no end in sight, but just when I’m about to go crazy, they always seem to end. Growing baby or nature’s way of keeping mama sane? You make the call. 🙂
  3. Getting out of the house is key – Sometimes it feels next to impossible to get moving, especially with very young babies. However, it’s crucial to go out and about. Interacting with people not only stimulates babies, it makes mamas happier. Outings that last 2 hours or less are the most pleasant for Xaviana and me. Stroller rides, short trips to the beach, park, or pool, mommy and me exercise classes, and baby rhyme time at the library are some of our favorite activities. Going out allows baby to explore fun new environments and make new friends, and I’ve also found that Xaviana appreciates her toys and books more when we return home from our adventures. My husband and I have been bringing Xaviana to parties, on dates to restaurants, and to various special events since she was a newborn, and she’s an amazing little companion because she’s used to being out and about.
  4. Flexibility is super important – It’s an inevitable fact: as soon as you think you’ve established an eating/nap time/bedtime/fill in the blank routine, baby will throw you a curveball and totally change his or her habits! Flexibility is so important in parenting. Xaviana is growing and evolving every day, and my routine changes with her. Naturally, this comes with some sacrifices–most notably that her new one-nap-per-day schedule means I’m taking a short hiatus from writing ebooks–but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  5. Meeting other moms and babies is crucial – It can be pretty difficult to meet other moms who have: a.) common interests and b.) babies around the same age as yours. Meetup.com has been the best way for me to expand my mom and baby network. I discovered a Fit Mama group, where I met several awesome moms and babies who love to exercise as much as I do! I’ve also met other moms and babies at Xaviana’s swim class, the park, and the library. The kids love to play together (or, more often than not, trade toys and play alongside each other), and I enjoy chatting with the moms. Win-win.
  6. Raising a child is individualized – There’s no right or wrong way to raise your baby; the most important thing is what works for you and your family. I listen to everyone’s advice about bedtime, feeding, etc, but in the end, my hubby and I make the final decisions based on when we think is best for Xaviana, not necessarily on what is easiest for us or most commonly accepted.
  7. It gets easier – When Xaviana was a newborn, life was delightful…but difficult. There was just so much to learn, from changing diapers to using the car seat and stroller to breastfeeding. Factor in the sleepless nights, and I was one mind-boggled mama. However, taking care of her became much easier with time, and now I can honestly say that it’s second-nature!
  8. Comparisons are odious – It’s tempting to compare your baby with others or against the developmental norm, but I resist the urge and let Xaviana grow at her own rate. Of course I make sure that she’s on track for the major milestones of her age, but I don’t worry if she accomplishes them a little earlier or later than her friends. I just let her be herself, and take things one day at a time.
  9. Books are the best toys – They’re cheap, they take up very little space, and they’re the perfect way to interact with baby while teaching him/her! I love reading, and so does Xaviana. Whether it’s nature or nurture, I’m not sure, but she has learned so much from her books–more than she’s learned from any of her other toys. I read her the same books every day, adding new ones periodically. This repetition has proven to be key in her language development. She’s making new sounds and saying new words as I reinforce the material in the books.
  10. Breastfeeding is amazing – While I was pregnant, I had a pretty laid-back attitude toward breastfeeding. I’d decided to try it out, but if Xaviana or I didn’t like it, I planned to switch to bottles and formula. Although I didn’t have strong opinions on breastfeeding then, I’m a total advocate now. Not only does breastfeeding nourish our little mammals with the nutrients they need, it soothes anything from tummy aches to teething pain. Check out this interesting article about why African babies (who are generally breastfed on demand and held close) don’t cry. And the health benefits to mom and baby are countless. IMHO, the coolest one is the immunity that baby gets from mama. Check out this article with some little-known facts about the subject, and prepare to be mind-blown.

There you have it… 10 things I learned during baby’s first year. Moms out there, what have you learned? Which of my lessons is your favorite? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

5 Tips for Bringing Baby to Special Events

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This August, Antonio and I brought Xaviana to three weddings, an engagement party, a fancy French dinner, and countless smaller parties. As a result, I feel like I’ve become an expert on the topic of bringing baby to special events. 😉

Xaviana is bright-eyed at a recent wedding.

Xaviana is bright-eyed at a recent wedding.

Often, Xaviana is the only baby at these gatherings, and other parents giggle with her and tell me how much they miss their little ones, who are inevitably at home with their babysitters, nannies, or grandparents. While I totally understand the need for couples’ time–and an uninterrupted party once in awhile–I always bring Xaviana to special events. Not only does she benefit from the stimulation and excitement, she is included in all of our important family milestones!

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With that in mind, here are 5 tips for bringing your baby to special events:

  1. Pinpoint a nursing/changing station – As soon as I arrive, I identify a private area where I can breastfeed and/or change Xaviana when the need arises. This gives me peace of mind, since it saves me from wandering around later on with a screaming, hungry and/or soiled baby on my hands. When I can’t find a nursing/changing station, I ask an employee. I’ve never encountered anyone who was not eager to help, and even come up with a creative solution if need be. For example, at a resort in New Mexico, an employee guided me to a quiet unused banquet hall across from the wedding reception. There, I was able to take care of all of Xaviana’s needs–and retreat there for quiet mommy-daughter time when she needed a brief break from the excitement.
  2. Bring reinforcements – Loving grandparents, aunts, and uncles can take over baby duty for short stretches, allowing you and your significant other to enjoy some time celebrating sans baby. Antonio and I were able to dance and party almost to the end of his cousins’s wedding last week because Antonio’s mother sat at the table with Xaviana. The baby slept while grandma admired her and mommy and daddy got crazy. Win-win-win.
  3. Condition baby ahead of time – The secret to a well-behaved child at special events is to avoid springing anything on him/her. We were able to take Xaviana to a nine-course French dinner because she is accustomed to going out to nice dinners with us. We felt comfortable taking her to a peaceful wedding ceremony in a church because she attends church with us every week and is used to mellowing out in the Baby K’Tan during services. And we were able to take her to wedding receptions with pumping music because we throw house parties and have taken her to similar parties and galas. Condition your baby for these kinds of events by doing several similar but smaller scale activities in the months before.
  4. Stay flexible – Sometimes, all of the festivities will be too much for the little one, so watch for his/her cues and give baby a break from the action if needed. For example, Antonio’s good friend’s wedding day was a marathon: a huge luncheon that resembled a Lebanese festival, followed by a ceremony in the mountains, then more festivities at the groom’s house before the reception itself, which lasted until the wee hours of the morning. We took Xaviana to the lunch, but when we followed the party to the mountains, Xaviana fell asleep in the car. I elected to stay in the car with Xaviana while she caught a much-needed nap, and we skipped the trip to the groom’s house, resting at the hotel until the reception instead. As a result, Xaviana was bright-eyed, alert, and happy at the lunch and reception, and we had a great time even though we couldn’t make all the scheduled events.
  5. Expect the unexpected – Kids will be kids, and even the best-behaved ones will do crazy things sometimes. In this case, the two most important things are to be prepared and to keep your cool no matter what. For example, Xaviana was perfectly behaved all through the outdoor ceremony of our friends’ gorgeous wedding in New Mexico, but when everyone applauded after they took their vows, she burst into tears! I felt horrible, but I was able to quickly calm her down with a soft voice and her beloved pacifier, and the show went on.

There you have it: 5 tips for bringing your little one to special events! Which do you find most helpful? Do you have any to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!