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.

A Breastfeeder’s Guide to Nutrition

The #1 question I hear from postpartum women is: How do I lose my baby weight while still maintaining my milk supply? Oftentimes, when women try to lose weight by restricting their calorie intake, it impacts their milk supply. Exhausted and frustrated, this is about the time they come to see me. So what’s a mama to do?

Ultimately, the reason we choose to breastfeed is to provide our babies with the best nutrition this planet has to offer, right? Although you might feel pressure to get your “body back” right away, remember that the main goal during this time is optimizing your nutrition. Why? You want to have energy, feel emotionally stable, provide all of the nutrients your baby needs, and of course bond with your baby in the process. Are you ready to have your mind blown? A woman needs more calories when she’s breastfeeding than when she was pregnant! A breastfeeding mom needs approximately 450-500 extra calories per day. Yes, you need more calories to produce milk than you did when you were growing a human being. Your newborn is growing at an exponential rate, so it only makes sense that your body will be working overtime to facilitate this growth.

Women are often torn because they want to lose the baby weight so badly, but they don’t realize the impact that excess calorie restriction can have on milk production. Think about it this way, the average ounce of breast milk is about 20 calories. A new baby could drink up to 32 ounces of milk in a day. That means that in one day your body can produce over 600 calories worth of liquid gold! Goosebumps.

I’ll break it down and share some of the most important nutritional tips I tell breastfeeding women. These tips are not only important for maintaining a healthy supply of milk to nourish your little one, but also to facilitate healing your own body.

  1. Drink water. Lots of water. Remember those 32 ounces of breast milk you’re producing in a day? If you’re dehydrated your body would have a really hard time doing that. I recommend you add 32 ounces of water to the typically recommended 64 ounces daily. This means you want to drink about 96 ounces (or about 12 glasses) of water every. single. day while breastfeeding. An easy way I keep track of my water intake is by filling my 32oz EcoVessel at least three times a day. I actually received it as a gift and now I swear that it’s the absolute best thing anyone can give a postpartum woman.. along with food, banana bread muffins, peanut butter-filled anything.. okay I’m getting off topic. Bottom line: keep a water bottle or cup of water at each place you might rest your body during the day and night, such as the couch, next to your bed, the bathroom, everywhere.
  2. Have 2-3 snacks daily. Although you might feel like you’re always eating (which can’t be too bad right?) keep snack items at home and in your diaper bag for between meals. Snacks are optional but provide a nice energy boost and help to prevent you from going into your next meal ravenous. The key to a snack is that it has carbohydrates and protein. You can even add veggies for a bonus dose of fiber. *Snacks are crucial if you find yourself losing weight too quickly after having your baby.
  3. Try to eat two 6 oz servings of omega-3 fatty acid rich fish per week, such as salmon, anchovies, or chunk light tuna. The omega-3 DHA is passed through your breast milk so your baby can reap the benefits of optimal brain and eye development. If fish isn’t typically part of your diet, I would suggest a fish oil supplement that provides at least 200mg DHA. Looking for a vegetarian option? Incorporate nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flaxseeds, along with DHA-fortified eggs into your diet, or consider taking a vegetarian DHA supplement, usually made from algae. Continue taking your prenatal vitamin throughout breastfeeding and beyond, as those vitamins and minerals are beneficial for healing and overall health.salmonbowl
  4. Eat three meals daily. Since life with a baby can seem like a blur and you’re not sure if it’s 6am or 6pm or what planet you’re on for that matter, the main idea is to eat a meal every 3-5 hours. This keeps your blood sugar stable and keeps a steady influx of calories your body can use to produce lots of milk. Every time you eat, you want to be taking in quality calories so your body can function as best it can, even on top of sleep deprivation and lack of personal hygiene. Ditch the empty calorie foods like chips and sodas that leave you still hungry and even more exhausted.
  5. Try to eat from all of the major food groups every day (is peanut butter a food group?) so you get a variety of beneficial macro and micronutrients. These include:
  • Fruits & Vegetables: Try to consume a ton of fruits and vegetables throughout the day so you can benefit from the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber (ahem… help with going #2) they provide. Stock up on frozen varieties so you have plenty of options to pair with a sandwich for a quick lunch, (microwave steamer bags are your friend). When your neighbor asks if she can bring anything when she comes to meet the baby, ask for a veggie tray or a homemade salad. That’s an easy task for her but a huge help for you since making a salad is the last thing on your to-do list right now. Other quick ways to get in more fruits and veggies:
    • Keep celery and carrot sticks in the fridge to dip in hummus for an easy late-night snack.
    • Fill little baggies with nuts and unsweetened dried fruit, such as raisins or apricots, to munch on during your afternoon feedings.
    • No time to cook eggs in the morning? Slap some peanut butter on a slice of whole grain bread and top with a 1/2 banana for a quick breakfast.
    • Enlist your significant other, mom, or friend to cut up a bunch of fresh fruit to keep in a bowl that you can just grab as you walk by.
    • Roast a ton of vegetables to keep in a container in the fridge, since they taste even better the longer they’ve been sitting in garlicy goodness. Spread chopped onion, bell pepper, zucchini, squash, broccoli, and/or cauliflower on a sheet tray and coat with olive oil, minced garlic, and salt & pepper. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until you see a slight char on the veggies.

roastedveg

  • Grains/Carbs: You want each meal you eat to contain starchy vegetables or whole grains, such as potatoes with the skin, corn, wild rice, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, or beans. Repeat after me: carbohydrates are my friend. The key is selecting high fiber carbs like the ones mentioned above, while limiting refined carbs like white pasta. Tip: Buy convenience items, such as the microwave pouches of brown or wild rice, just make sure nothing besides oil and salt are added. Also look for frozen varieties of chopped squash, potatoes, peas, and corn.

*Anecdotally speaking, women I’ve counseled seem to notice the biggest drop in their milk supply when they limit carbs. Although this tends to be the go-to diet practice when trying to lose weight, it seems to be the most detrimental when trying to maintain a plentiful milk supply.

  • Protein: Lastly, don’t forget the protein. You have increased protein needs when you’re healing and breastfeeding which is why it’s important to incorporate protein into meals and snacks. Chicken, turkey, lean beef, and seafood are all wonderful options to cook up with your meals. Meats, poultry, and seafood can be purchased in bulk, separated into single serving bags, and frozen. Remember that you also get protein from yogurt, milk, eggs, nuts and seeds, nut butters, beans, peas, cheese, and tofu. Hard-boil a dozen eggs and keep them in the fridge for a quick, protein-rich snack. Canned beans are a versatile pantry staple, as you can add them to everything from chili to salads. When purchasing canned goods, always look for “no salt added” or “low sodium” varieties.

Meal Ideas:

Breakfast:

Option 1: 1 slice of whole grain toast smeared with avocado, topped with 2 eggs and a side of strawberries

Option 2: 2-3 egg omelette with spinach, minced onion, and bell pepper with a whole grain English muffin or

Option 3: Slow Cooker Oatmeal (Before bed, put 1 cup steel cut oats in your slow cooker, along with 4 cups milk or water. Turn on low and cook all night. Keep extra in fridge, reheat by adding a splash of liquid and microwave until hot. Suggested toppings include: walnuts, slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon or nutmeg, a scoop of peanut butter, diced apple or banana, chia seeds, or hemp seeds). Pair with 1-2 boiled eggs.

Lunch:

Tuna sandwich (tuna mixed with avocado, diced onion, and celery on whole grain bread), a salad (with a variety of vegetables, topped with sunflower and pumpkin seeds), and a pear. *Substitute diced hard-boiled eggs for tuna for another sandwich option.

Dinner:

Baked chicken breast (marinated in olive oil & garlic pepper seasoning) with a medium sweet potato (skin on; drizzled with olive oil), roasted asparagus (coated in olive oil and minced garlic), and a salad (with balsamic vinaigrette dressing). *BONUS: this entire meal can be cooked in the oven!

Snack Ideas:

yogurt (preferably plain; Greek or regular) with berries added

6 whole grain crackers with 1-2 scoops natural peanut butter

a small handful of nuts & unsweetened dried fruit

a rice cake topped with 1-2 scoops of almond butter and cinnamon

a piece of fruit with a cheese stick

1 cup of edamame pods (often sold in the freezer section in microwave steamer bags)

A granola bar (look for ones with lots of nuts, such as KIND bars) or protein shake

*Consider meals/snacks that can be made in bulk, separated into containers, and frozen such as chili, lasagna, and soups.

The recommendations above are what I personally think should be your focus if you are trying to eat healthy while breastfeeding. If you’re overwhelmed in any way, remember that the important thing is keeping your sanity and providing your baby with what he or she needs. Sometimes this means that you might supplement with formula or transition your baby to formula altogether. From one mom to another, that is okay. You are still a rockstar.

I truly understand breastfeeding is not easy and that all of this can be overwhelming. #thestruggleisreal. I’m going on eleven months of breastfeeding my baby girl, the first six were exclusive breastfeeding, and I too have experienced its trials and tribulations. Although Laurel latched within minutes of being born, my first five days of breastfeeding were absolute torture. I felt like her mouth was full of razor blades and every time she would latch, my face would turn beet red and tears would flow, ugh. After seeing a Lactation Consultant I learned how to get Laurel to latch deeper and our problem was solved (Thank you baby Jesus!). It took the next four weeks for my nipples to heal, since they were so scabbed and tender from that first week. Just as things were starting to get easier, and actually enjoyable, I was hit with mastitis. Uncontrollable shaking, a fever of 106, and a trip to the ER.. if you’ve ever had mastitis you know it’s not fun.

When I was pregnant I was told that the first six weeks of breastfeeding are the most difficult and that if you can get past that time it gets easier. In many ways I agree with this statement and I think it’s good advice. As things like breastfeeding and learning your role as a new mom gets “easier” with time, new challenges enter the scene constantly. I guess that’s what motherhood is, new challenges to conquer all while trying to keep your heart from growing out of your chest.

breastfeedingL2