Within the first year of a child’s life, parents have a wide-open-window to develop some great habits for a happy baby. A window that closes over time. Truly, the first five years of a child’s life play a major role in the peace and happiness that is or is not in your home for years to come.
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Good habits help us in our daily life, where as bad habits can be obstacles that prove difficult to overcome for years if ever.
Extreme and effective.
I know a guy that is up early every day; runs, bicycles, swims, (possibly all of those) spends time studying the Bible, works his 9-5, makes healthy nutrition choices, carves out time to connect with friends and other believers he is discipling, spends time communicating with his daughter… and I’m sure there are many more “how does he do it” sort of things he fits into his day.
How DOES he do it? He would tell you it’s through forming good habits. He took time (a lot of time) to purposefully work on developing those good habits. While this man is a stellar and slightly extreme example of what we all wish we could be, we can certainly do our part to give our children a big push in the right direction to develop good habits.
Lets take a look at just two behaviors that should be a focus for parents during the first year of a child’s life.
What DOES make a happy baby?
Sleep. I have 4 children, all of them have a bed time and a wake up time. I worked hard and intentionally to sleep train them. And ya know what?… Each of them was a very happy baby. While there are varying personality types among my children, inclining some to like being up at night and some to burst up in the morning like toast from a toaster, we are discussing creating habits, not child preferences.
Regardless of if your child seems to have a propensity for “night-owl” behavior, they will inevitably have to get up in the morning, most mornings for the rest of their lives. So, we need to aid those nights owls in learning the importance of getting to bed at a reasonable time and starting fresh in the morning.
I was ALWAYS up late! Always. Waking up for school was difficult. Waking up for work was difficult. And still now, getting up before my children to be fresh and prepared for the day is difficult. It takes much practice and discipline to go to bed at a good time and get up in the morning for me. How much a set bedtime in childhood would have benefited me!
Set a bed time.
Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. There will be room for flexibility in you and your child’s social life as great habits are well established later in their lives. This is an area where it’s totally OK to be rigid!
Set a wake up time.
If you have a hard time getting up in the morning, set an alarm for yourself early enough to be up, and do what you need to do in order to greet your child with a smile. If you practice this long enough, you eventually won’t need the alarm. I am no fan of alarms.
Establish start and end time for naps as well.
Even if your child doesn’t sleep, insist they have designated rest times that require them to be in their beds. How long and how often these naps are will vary depending on your baby’s age. Sound machines like this one, can make sleeping easier for babies. get my favorite, affordable sound machine here
“This mama who desperately needed sleep is beyond grateful for Shelley! My baby would get up every 2 hours since birth and with her help, my baby is now only getting up once a night and is on track to sleeping all night! Thank you again Shelley!”
~Holly, TN (mom of two boys ages 3 and 6 months)
They are what they eat.
Strongly consider breastfeeding your baby. If possible, do it.
A brand new baby is such a clean slate.
Fresh and unblemished. A well-fed baby is a happy baby.
What better time to introduce only beneficial nutrition choices to them!
I once watched a young, first time mom offer her 6 month old a spoon full of pureed veggies, as baby’s first introduction to solid food.
When the baby gagged, she instantly went to a spoon full of applesauce. She thought the baby didn’t like the veggies. Of course, that was a natural assumption, because as adults we have been exposed to all sorts of sweet things and apples taste better than green beans pretty much all the time.
What that mom didn’t consider was that the baby didn’t have much exposure to sweet things to measure the veggie against. And indeed had little concept of yummy vs yucky.
I hinted to the idea that it was more of a texture issue than taste. Explained that taste buds were being awakened. Suggested that the baby would take his cues from mommy (make a yummy sound and smile instead of a grimace) and recommended that she try foods several times before giving up on them. Then I changed the discussion. Seasoned moms should always offer grace and encouragement when speaking to new moms. Don’t spew advice like a water fountain. Especially if it wasn’t asked for.
Start with the end goal in mind.
ONLY offer veggies and healthy fats one at a time, several times, until they eat it regularly and willingly. Avocado is a perfect first food for baby. If the baby just does not take to a food after more than 2 weeks of trying, move on to another non-sweet food. Click here to make meal time fun with these.
Once baby has well-established good eating habits, begin to introduce fruits, etc. When it’s time for yogurt, stick to plain, high fat, whole milk yogurt. Keep milk white… you get the picture.
Juice isn’t really necessary.
Juice offers very little nutritional value and a lot of sugar. Whatever vitamin C has been added to it, can certainly be gained by eating a pureed fruit (or avocado) instead. Water is best.
LOTS OF SLEEP and the right food make for a happy baby.
The first five years of life are “prime time” for developing habits in a child’s life. Indeed, habits become harder to create the older they get.
One last thought… time really does go fast. That baby will be a preteen before you know it. If you want to keep that tiny baby protected from internet perversion, go here to get internet filtering or here for a guide on how to protect your kids. Safe guard your own heart as well as your baby’s. You’ll be glad you did…
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