Scheduling, Feeding, and Weaning- Oh My! The Life of a Toddler Mom

Motherhood means different things to different women. For some, its chaotic and spontaneous and others it’s scheduled and predictable. We can all agree that motherhood is the most incredible, emotional, exhausting, and rewarding journey we’ve all been on. You can literally experience seven different emotions in the span of two minutes when your child gouges your eyeball then throws up on their freshly changed outfit only to stumble toward you arms stretched, lay their head on your shoulder, and say “mama” like they actually know who you are. Ahh yes, motherhood is beautiful.

My chunky little elephant.. I mean daughter, less than 24 hours old. Can I go back and live in this moment forever?
My chunky little elephant.. I mean daughter, less than 24 hours old. Can I go back and live in this moment forever?

Taking the plunge into motherhood means that you adopt a plethora of mandatory chores, to include keeping your child fed, entertained, well-rested, and the list goes on. You’ll get advice from experts and non-experts alike on the “right way” to raise your child. You’ll stress over the little things and cry occasionally. I’ve learned to remind myself that everything is a phase so even the tough times I know won’t last long. Although I’m no child-rearing expert, I’ll go ahead and give you my two-cents on how I went about raising Laurel over the past 15 months. I’ll throw some nutrition information in here, seeing as how that’s my forte.

Before I get started I want to mention, there are many correct ways to raise a child. People have been debating this for years and will continue to for years to come. My point is that you have to do what feels right to you and your family. I’ll share some things that worked for me but they might not work for you. Why? Because every baby/family/mom/day is different… and that’s okay.

"cleaning and scrubbing can wait for tomorrow
for babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow
so quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep 
because I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep"

What the Experts Say

Recommendations* for feeding infants 0-12 months old:

0-4 months: 8-12 feedings, 2-6 ounces per feeding (18-32 ounces daily)

4-6 months: 4-6 feedings, 4-6 ounces per feeding (27-45 ounces daily)

6-12 months: 3-5 feedings, 6-8 ounces per feeding (24-32 ounces daily)

Recommendations* for feeding toddlers 12-23 months old:

Whole milk or milk products: 2 cups/day (or 16 ounces daily). This includes whole cows milk, lactose-free whole cows milk, full-fat yogurt, full-fat cheese, and other full-fat dairy.

If your child has a milk protein allergy or is being raised vegan, you can find suitable substitutes for dairy, with a focus to include foods with adequate fat, protein, Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

*These recommendations may vary depending on source. Speak to your pediatrician or dietitian for specific individualized recommendations. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. At 6 months old, it is recommended to begin introducing food into your baby’s diet, while still continuing to provide breastmilk (or formula) as their main source of nutrition. Click here to read my post all about nutrition for breastfeeding.

Starting a Schedule at 6 Months Old

My plan was to start Laurel on a nap and solids schedule around 6 months old, at the advice of my older sister. We agreed that 6 months is a good time to start a schedule since food is introduced at this age, letting “meal times” aid the schedule in flowing smoothly. At this time, I was still breastfeeding Laurel on demand, about 5-8 times per day. Click here to read my article on feeding your infant, including when to start, as well as how to make your own baby food. Before 6 months, I didn’t necessarily feel a need to alter my day around Laurel’s feedings or naps. She was great about sleeping in the stroller or car seat while I was out running errands. I wasn’t shy about feeding her in my car in the Target parking lot either.

Breastfeeding in the back seat of the car because #momlife.
Breastfeeding 13-week-old Laurel in the back seat of the car because #momlife.

Bedtime

Early on (around 12 weeks), however, Ryan and I made it a point to start a “bedtime routine” which consisted of a bath, night light and noise machine on, breastfeed, and putting Laurel into her crib. Then, of course, obsessively watch her on the monitor, am I right? We tried to have her in her crib by 8pm (with many exceptions made), even if she was only sleeping for a short period of time in the beginning. The idea was to get her in the routine of winding down at bedtime. Laurel was pretty consistent about waking up in the morning around 8am. If she woke up earlier than that, I was able to feed her and lay her back down for more sleep, hooray!

Laurel, 10 weeks old, taking a brief nap in her crib.
Laurel, 10 weeks old, taking a short test nap in her crib. She wasn’t transitioned to sleeping in her crib until around 12 weeks old.

Naps

Although I still breastfed Laurel on demand, throughout the day I would pay attention to her tired and hunger cues and make a mental note of the time. I then started to notice patterns develop, like around 11am she would start yawning, rubbing her eyes, and get a tad fussy if she wasn’t able to sleep peacefully. I decided to start a “nap time” around 11am. On a side note: the moms workout group that I’m involved in met until 11am, so I kept Laurel awake for our walk home to have her in bed by 11:30am. Call me selfish, but my workout time is not only good for my body but it’s good for my soul aka sanity as well. Once I had the first nap established at 11:30am, I added the next nap at around 4pm, when I noticed she was naturally getting tired again.

6 Month Schedule

8am: wake up & breastfeed

9am: breakfast <- added at 6 months

11:30: breastfeed and nap #1

2pm: breastfeed

4pm: breastfeed and nap #2

7pm: start bedtime routine

8pm: breastfeed and bed

Evolving Schedule from 6-12 Months

8am: wake up & breastfeed

9am: breakfast *<- added at 6 months

11:30: breastfeed and nap #1

1pm: lunch *<- added at 8 months

2pm: breastfeed <- eliminated at 9 months

4pm: breastfeed and nap #2

6pm: dinner *<- added at 9 months

7pm: start bedtime routine

8pm: breastfeed and bed

*I would breastfeed Laurel right before lunch and dinner as well, just to make sure breastmilk was remaining her main source of nutrition and food was remaining a compliment to it.

Why a Schedule?

I’m not an expert in this area, but Ryan and I feel strongly that infants, toddlers, and kids (and adults for that matter) benefit from routine and schedules. I’m sure there’s a ton of research out there supporting both sides, but I just feel that in the chaos of daily life, it could bring some security and predictability to a child, whether subconscious or not, in knowing they will have their most basic needs met. That being said, do I feel that every minute of a child’s life should be planned out? No. While still maintaining a degree of spontaneity, I do believe that kids flourish in a more structured environment. Furthermore, I have met people that are on no schedule whatsoever and their kids are intelligent, imaginative, and engaging – so I don’t think that schedules are for everyone. Do what works best for you and your family.

Weaning From Breastfeeding

Before she was born, I made the personal choice to breastfeed Laurel for at least 12 months. I was lucky enough to meet this goal, thanks to a combination of determination, optimal nutrition, a supportive husband, and a hungry baby.

As her first birthday was quickly approaching, I devised a plan to wean Laurel from breastfeeding, starting at 12 months. At this time, I was breastfeeding her four times per day, with the occasional middle-of-the-night feeding as needed. My plan was to eliminate one feeding per week until she was completely weaned. I started with her nap #2 feeding first, which coincidentally happened to be the time she was ready to eliminate this nap altogether. That was easy! For a week, we transitioned to one nap and three breastfeeding sessions per day. I ended up pushing her nap later, to around 1pm, since it was (and still is) her only nap of the day.

The weeks went on and I eliminated her other pre-nap breastfeeding session, then her bedtime session, then finally the morning session. I can say this now since I won’t jinx it but it was a smooth transition. My breasts never got engorged, my milk supply just slowly dwindled down over the weeks. I know I’m lucky. I had been researching ways to decrease milk supply and was ready to buy cabbage leaves if needed! In the weeks following her very last feeding when she was 13 months + 1 day old, she only cried and tried to pull at my shirt once or twice. Since then she’s seemed to have forgotten all about my boobs.

I must admit that the weaning process was bittersweet for me. I cried (a lot) the night I eliminated her bedtime feeding. Ryan gave her a bottle that night and I was just sad, but I could now enjoy a glass of wine with dinner without feeling guilty- bittersweet. She transitioned and tolerated cows milk from the beginning, which I was so thankful for. I think it helped that I introduced 1-2 ounces at a time over the first few days after she turned one. I must also admit that I made the mistake decision to give her cows milk in a bottle. I know typical recommendations are to drop the bottle at one year and switch to a sippy cup, but… well, I have no excuse. The bottle was more soothing to Laurel and I didn’t mind it. I actually went out and bought a bigger bottle because I only had 4 ounce bottles. So for now she drinks her whole cows milk out of a bottle, 8 ounces in the morning, 4 ounces before her nap, and 4 ounces before bed.

Our society has painted an unrealistic picture of how moms are supposed to look and act. We’re basically supposed to be perfect and that, in itself, gives us anxiety. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, we feel all this outside pressure to do better. The reality is this: Love your family and care for them the best way you know how. You’re only human. Some days you might feel like supermom while others you can’t remember your child’s birthday at the pediatricians office. That’s okay. I believe that our duty as a mother is to set our children up to be healthy and productive adults. We guide them by teaching them values and behaviors that are going to benefit them as they grow older; compassion, determination, imagination, bravery, empathy. Our children are the future, our future. I want my child and future children to respect me and actually want to hang out with me when they’re older. How do we do that? Well I don’t have the exact answer to that, only time will tell, but I think it involves being genuine. Take a deep breath and just be. Be thankful. Be happy. Be you!

Do you have your child(ren) on a schedule? When did you start? Comment below!

Within this post are links to products I actually use and recommend. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Hi, I'm Megan! I'm a registered dietitian, Army wife, and new mom. Welcome to my blog where I share about my life and love for all things health and wellness.

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