Also, I talk a lot about breastfeeding. I feel like it is so important for the health of the baby and that it can really help mom in so many ways, BUT, I'm no breastfeeding Nazi! You can be a great mom no matter how you decide to feed your baby. I think one of the key things to bear in mind however you feed your baby is to remember that in God's design of a woman nursing her child, it requires mom and baby to be together a lot, to firmly establish that mom is the be-all-end-all for a baby. Sometimes, with formula feeding, moms are more free to be gone for hours on end in a child's early life, or even for several days. I personally don't believe that's good. Be the primary caregiver whether or not you nurse. Enough about all that...
Here's what we've done with our children:
Day 1 : Overcome with instant love for our baby, my husband and I soak in the joys of a new life that God used us and our love to create. Attempt to recover from delivery (maybe I'll share birth stories some day). Begin parenting - no joke. Today is the day we do for our children what is best for them even if they don't like it. Teach baby how to breastfeed until he/she gets it. Unless something is really wrong with the baby, he/she will not starve before your milk comes in or until he/she gets the hang of latching on. You may have to disregard comments from nurses or well meaning family. There are lactation consultants and friends out there who can help. Don't give up! I don't say all of that lightly because I had a really difficult time the first time, and with my third, I had to supplement due to a problem the baby had, but I really do feel it is important.
Day 3 (or whenever you go home from the hospital): Even though all of our children have come to the hospital on the second day to meet their younger siblings, we have found it helpful to sort of reintroduce them to the baby as soon as the baby comes home. While the sibling holds the baby, explain to grandma not to poke the baby in the eye (and all the other safety precautions you may think of), and tell the older child to make sure grandma follows those rules. We believe it is helpful to have all of our children in our home with us, not off at someone else's home during the first days of a newborn's life. The immediate stress pays off in the long run as the family is bonded, and children adjust more quickly the sooner they are introduced to the new norm. Praise God, we've always been able to have family support in the first few days or week of a new baby's life, but in some ways, my children all breathe a big sigh of relief as soon as we are back to our immediate family only being in the house. As soon as extended family are gone, I'm nursing in the living room, as opposed to being away for near an hour at a time every time the baby eats. My presence seems to be reassuring to the older children.
Week Three - Week Six: Go back to church as a whole family. With our summer babies, I went back to church at three weeks old, but with our cold and flu season baby, I waited six whole weeks! The risk of a baby catching the flu and having to be put in the hospital is just not worth it!
All along the way: Read books and begin speaking scripture and of the wonders of God's creation to your children. Pray out loud with them for them. Begin early so that it doesn't feel awkward when they're three years old and you wonder where to begin.
Week Three (again): Introduce a bottle. I wait until this week so I minimize the chance of nipple confusion. Praise God, my children have never resisted taking a bottle, but I understand it happens. Don't worry. If your child is hungry while you are away, they are likely going to take the bottle from whoever is taking care of him/her. If not, they'll be a good eater upon your return. Don't stress. This is also the week, I feel I have adjusted to life enough to begin using cloth diapers.
Week Eight: Go on a date with your husband, if you haven't yet.
Week Twenty: This is about the time that my children are introduced to rice cereal. After a couple of weeks of taking it three times a day, I introduce stage 1 yellow and orange vegetables, then green vegetables, finally fruit, waiting two to three days between each new item. Once I know if the baby's digestive system can handle a particular item, I feel free to make my own baby food, though I mainly did this with my second child. The season was right for the food to actually be cheaper this way. Compare prices. It isn't always the most economical decision to make baby food from scratch, but sometimes it is. I also don't usually put my kids straight into a highchair because I keep their hands out of their mouths if I hold them.
Month Eight: To the highchair! We begin disciplining our children at eight months by popping their hands when we tell them "no" and they don't obey. We don't actually hurt them, we simply get their attention. The highchair presents these training opportunities because our babies would want to put their hands in their mouth. No sin there, but not obeying your parents is a sin. A baby rolling over during diaper change is another time for training. A baby learning to crawl begins getting into things he/she shouldn't. A firm "no" and a hand pop, along with speaking Colossians 3:20 "Children obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing in the Lord," are the tools we use to begin training our children at this age. It works, and it is a great blessing the first time your child obeys.
This is the month I introduce finger foods in the form of Cheerios, puffs, and tiny pieces of bread to my kids. If my kids had teeth at this point, I'd be more adventurous with peas, slivers of cooked carrots, green beans, etc. The sippy cup comes out too, usually a Nuby, filled with 50/50 juice and water. I NEVER put juice in a bottle.
Month Eleven: I begin weaning slowly, one feeding at a time.
Month 12: CELEBRATE!
We party in a big way at our house because birthdays are the days we celebrate our human life. Christmas is about Jesus. I get into themes (the teacher in me comes out) and usually make the cake myself because I'm Mom. This is the first day our kids have sugar. Enjoy remembering the day you became a Mom. Praise God for the gift of your child, not just during your own quiet time, but out loud, publicly with friends and family.
We've had three kids who are big into swaddling as babies, but at this point, I stop. We no longer allow pacifiers to be in the mouth at random times, only when the baby truly needs it.
Month Thirteen: We limit the pacifier to bedtime and naptime.
We take the pacifier away at all times. It usually involves a few nights of crying, and even of us caving after about thirty minutes in the middle of the night, but then it. is. gone.
Month Eighteen: We give our kids peanut butter at this age. It was the recommended age with our oldest. Times changed, but we have no history of this allergy in our family, and a couple of our kids could use the protein, so I've stuck with this age.
I'll pick up here at another time. Let me know if there's something I've missed that you'd be interested in knowing.
Again, all families are different. This is just what we've done!