Mothers Make It Work: We’re Owl in it Together (Part 1)

When I was born, the Aged Ps had been married for a few years, and my dad worked very long hours and was often sent out of the country for weeks at a time. So, when I was very small, my mum’s biggest challenge was to manage the household by herself and care for a small (and loud) child at the same time.

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The Aged P with Debs G (4 months old): Mealtime is playtime

In order to keep the house clean and tidy, mum would make the best of baby morning and afternoon naptimes to mop the floors, wipe down the surfaces and do the laundry. She felt that it was most important to keep the floor and beds clean and tidy, as these were the places that would be most in contact with the baby.

As I grew older and more mobile, she bought a soft rug for me to play on, and trained me to stay on that rug during playtime so that she could complete her daily chores without worrying if I would be up to mischief.

If my dad was travelling, she would make sure that we were home every evening at the same time, as my dad would ring the house at 6pm without fail to talk to us. This was a very important daily ritual for the whole family, and even now, when my dad travels for work or if mum travels to visit my sister, they will FaceTime or Skype with each other at least once a day.

I will always appreciate the lengths that my mum went through to make sure that I acknowledged and remembered my dad, and understood where he was. She would bring out his photograph and point to it. She would point to the map and teach me to say the names of the places where he was working. She would make up songs about how much we loved each other. So, although he wasn’t physically present, I knew how important he was and our relationship was never diluted.

Although mum really loves to cook, going to the market daily with an infant in tow was pretty tiring for her, so she would only purchase enough to make breakfast and dinner every day. Additionally, as a child, I would always be full of beans in the morning, so she wouldn’t really be able to take the time out to prepare her own lunch if she wanted to spend that time meaningfully with me.

So, for lunch, mum first tried a local ‘tingkat’ or food delivery service, but soon tired of the repetitive menu. In the end, she made an agreement with one of our neighbours who had a large family and would set aside a portion of food for her. (Although the neighbour would often reserve the worst parts of whatever she happened to be cooking for my mum to eat – bony pieces like the chicken neck and the ends of vegetables – it at least saved her the trouble of meal planning and cooking!)

Mum often volunteered as the church organist and she sang in the church choir, so she would bring me along with her to attend rehearsals during the week. As an infant, I slept quietly in my moses basket during these times, and as I grew, I learned to sing along with her.

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Breakfast before play school (Debs G at 2 years old)

The year that I turned 2 years old, one of mum’s friends persuaded her to send me to playschool.

Although she felt that I was too tiny for schooling, it was around this time that my elderly maternal grandfather started to require regular medical checkups. As the only daughter who didn’t hold a paying full-time job, it was left to her to accompany my maternal grandfather to his various appointments. Sending me to playschool would allow her a few hours in the morning with which to manage this.

However, one day, the medical appointment ran overly long and she was late in picking me up from playschool. By the time she arrived, she found to her utmost horror that all the teachers and the school principal had gone home, leaving me alone outside the darkened building with nobody but the school caretaker to watch over me.

You can imagine how traumatised we both were from that experience.

From that day onwards, as soon as we drove past the trees leading up the driveway to the playschool, mum said that I would start crying uncontrollably. She arranged to send me to a different school and I seemed perfectly happy with that – but she was much more careful to pick me up on time. This of course meant that she had to do much more shuttling back and forth if the medical appointments ran long, as she would pick me up from school and then drop me off at my maternal grandmother’s house, then return to the hospital to accompany my grandfather.

In Mobile, Alabama (Debs G at 3 years old): Before a ballet recital

Midway through my third year, my dad was posted to the US for further studies. He couldn’t bear to leave his family behind, so we all moved with him to a small town of Mobile in Alabama, which was near the university where my dad was studying sports medicine.

We were the only chinese family there in the Deep South of America.

It could have been dreadfully lonely, but my parents saw this as a great adventure.

The community in that small town was very welcoming, and they were very respectful of my parents, who were not only english-speaking, but polite and well-educated. It took my parents a while to understand the sleepy southern drawl but eventually they got used to it.

Instead of shyly keeping to herself, like most people would in a new environment, Mum made an concerted effort to be actively became involved in the community, bringing me to the local play school and dance studio and taking part in town events. She joined a quilting class and a cake decorating class in the mornings when I was at play school. Some afternoons, if my dad was at class, she would meet with the other housewives in the backyard of the rental complex where we lived. They would sit on the grass and chat whilst the kids played together.

She was always smiling and gracious to everyone. She would exchange recipes with her neighbours and very often, people would come round to our house carrying an empty bowl to enjoy some authentic chinese cooking or bring some delicious meals to share. At the first neighbourhood potluck party, all of our neighbours had never seen or eaten chinese food before, and the whole dish of stir-fried vegetables and fried beehoon noodles disappeared in a blink of an eye. Our neighbour was so impressed with the delicate pieces of thinly sliced meat amongst the crunchy julienned vegetables that he remarked that my mum “can take one piece of meat and feed an army”!

Until now, Mum still keeps in touch with her friends from Alabama – in fact our neighbour’s grandson has recently come to Singapore to work!

Of course, it was the constant travelling and their commitment to their elderly parents that probably made the Aged Ps decide put off having a second child until I was five years old and much more independent…but that’s a story for another post.

P.S. Happy Birthday Mummy!

This post is part of the ‘Mothers Make It Work!’ Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other inspiring stories please click on the picture below.

Mothers Make It Work Button

If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting birth stories, you can start with this very thoughtfully written one here, penned by Angie over at Life’s Tiny Miracles.

18261241_120300003540885353_2103005318_o-768x512 Angie is the Mommy behind the Life’s Tiny Miracles blog. The journey to Motherhood has been a bittersweet experience for her. As a mom of 5 kids (3 in Heaven), Angie embraces every bit of this season: the tears, the insanity, the sacrifices and the joy that comes from knowing she’s loved as a wife, a friend, a daughter and a Mom. In her post, she talks about the importance of a strong and supportive community in a mother’s journey.

18518925_10155077378855202_1525611593_oAt next week’s stop we will be visiting Michelle over at Mummy Wee.

Michelle is a mum to 6 kids and now that she has packed her last child off to school, she has time to channel her energies to her 7th baby, an enrichment centre she feels passionately about. I for one am very excited to read about how she manages all her kids – from her preschooler to her teenaged daughters – whilst working full-time at The Little Executive!

Choo choo! All aboard the blog train!

Hello Owls Well readers!

18296990_10155043212889845_121891817_oThe Mothers Make It Work blog train is starting up today, starting with a thoughtfully written post by Hai Fang from MalMal Our Inspiration!

Hai Fang is a stay-at-home mom to 2 boys aged 7 and 13. She believes in eating healthy but has a weakness for simple sugar. Cycling and running is her way of keeping sane and writing forces her to think coherently.

This is a wonderful post full of useful advice on how to retain your own sanity amidst the current pressures of high-intensity parenting, whilst teaching kids to remain centred and true to themselves.

Hop on over and check her out!

For more inspiring stories, click on the picture below:

Mothers Make It Work Button

Mothers Make It Work! – A Blog Train hosted by Owls Well

Mothers Make It Work Button

Being a mother is very challenging, not just in raising children, but in meeting all the expectations that society has for us.

We are expected to raise angelic children, be loving and supportive wives, nurse our aging parents, hold on to successful careers, keep the house spic and span, cook instagram worthy meals and we have to look good whilst doing it. This can result in women feeling guilty or depressed that they don’t have it altogether perfect like everyone else.

Well, I say that nobody has it altogether perfect.

We’ve all worked hard and made sacrifices to get where we are, and we have also had to make compromises so that we can make it work. Sometimes, we try to balance things perfectly and somehow it backfires. Other times, it means arranging flexible working hours, or hiring a cleaner, or buying a car, or finding a childcare/parentcare arrangement that works. It could also mean re-organising our priorities or giving up on a long-cherished dream.

But in the end, one thing remains true – we are always trying to find the best way to make it work for us and our families.

In this blog train series, we’ll be visiting some of my favourite bloggers each week who will be sharing their mothering struggles and successes with us! I hope you will enjoy the journey with me!

(Links on this page will be updated as each post goes live)

4 May

Hai Fang from MalMal Our Inspiration: Motherhood

11 May

Angie.S from Life’s Tiny MiraclesMothers Make It Work

18 May

Debs G from Owls Well: We’re Owl in it Together (Part 1)

25 May

Michelle from Mummy Wee: 5 Survival Tips of a Mum Boss

1 June

June Yong from Mama Wear Papa Shirt

8 June  

Candice from MissusTay

15 June

A Becky C from Owls Well

22 June

Dot from A Pancake Princess

29 June

6 July

Lyn Lee from Lil Blue Bottle

13 July

Elisa from Love Our Children Now 

20 July

Karen from Mum’s Calling

27 July

V from Life Is In The Small Things

3 Aug

Pamela from Tan Family Chronicles

Maternity and Nursingwear – Top tips for choosing a new wardrobe

When I was expecting J, my first child, I ruined quite a few of my clothes, stretching them out beyond belief in my refusal to buy maternity wear.

Reasons why I did not want to buy maternity wear:

  1. Maternity wear is expensive
  2. Maternity wear is ugly
  3. I’d only be wearing them for 9 months so why bother

I had resorted to sneaking teeshirts from the Barn Owl’s drawers when he decided that Enough Was Enough and insisted that I get some new clothes.

Unfortunately, I was also suffering from terrible all-day-long sickness, and even walking around the house was making me dizzy. I could not bear to bring myself to go down to the high street to buy circus tents to wear.

Which is when I discovered the big bad world of online shopping!

I also discovered that maternity and nursing wear has changed drastically in the last decade or so, and most things are comfortable, chic and reasonably priced. I have since changed my attitude towards buying clothes during pregnancy and I highly recommend that expectant ladies invest in good quality maternity wear.

Now, this is not to say that you have to necessarily go to a specialist shop to purchase purpose-built maternity wear. You just have to know what to look out for when choosing clothes for this stage of your life. I didn’t figure this one out until I was well into my second pregnancy and had a better idea of what sort of clothes would work well in the transition from pregnancy to the postpartum state.

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At the beginning of my third trimester expecting Thumper

Reasons why I recommend expectant ladies to purchase maternity and nursing wear:

  1. Pre-pregnancy clothes will stay nice and not turn into shapeless bags
  2. Husband will stop complaining about missing shirts (and shorts)
  3. The clothes will actually be worn for much, MUCH longer than 9 months, especially if one is breastfeeding and takes a longer time to regain pre-pregnancy shape
  4. The clothes are usually super comfortable and flattering to the figure which makes a big difference to your outlook on life when you’re approaching the size of a whale, hurting all over and feeling miserable about stretch marks
  5. Most maternity clothes also double up as nursing wear which makes life very easy if you decide to breastfeed or use a breast pump.

So here are my top tips to keep in mind when looking for maternity or nursing wear (as well as some hacks for making regular clothes work for you)!

Owls Well Guide to choosing Maternity and Nursingwear

1. For bottoms, look for styles with a fully elasticated panel that extends over the top of your bump. This panel can then be worn over the top of your bump, folded down midway or even scrunched up under the bump, and will stretch and shrink to accommodate the changes in size during and after your pregnancy.

I have found this style to be the most comfortable as it doesn’t slip down when you walk (or run) around or lose elasticity, so it lasts the longest. Additionally, I think looks great for after pregnancy because the elasticated panel smooths over all your wobbly bits!

Regular clothes hack #1: Yoga pants with a high waistband and soft, stretchy and breathable material would work well too – size up if you’re worried about it getting too tight and uncomfortable towards the end of your pregnancy! Look for maxi or midi-length skirts with elasticated waists, plenty of pleats and gathers for loads of room and to make sure that hemlines stay decent in the front as your belly burgeons.

2. For tops and tees, try to find styles that will last you through those nursing days. This can either be combination maternity-to-nursingwear tops or have any of the following features:

  • Buttons that go all the way up the front (at at least mid way)
  • Wrap tops
  • Loose fitting or flowing tops, or oversized, boxed-shaped tees
  • Trapeze or swing tops that are narrow on top and loose at the hips
  • Styles with pleats, ruching, gathers, shirring and smocking (basically anything that has extra hidden fabric with a little ‘give’) are your friends

Regular clothes hack #2: Look for longer length tops or tunics – these won’t turn into crop tops and will cover your bump neatly well into the last trimester. Long cardigans,  cute serapes or ponchos, as well as loosely draped wrapped tops are great cool weather gear and can also double-up as great nursing covers!

3. Although in general I prefer separates for maternity and nursing wear, it is probably a good idea to get one or two really nice dresses for special occasions. You never know you might have to go to a party, a wedding, or just dress up for date night (I suggest a movie and a fancy restaurant). Take your time and choose something really nice that you might even deign to wear after your pregnancy – you can always cinch in the waist with a belt!

Regular clothes hack #3: Maxi dresses are your friend – especially high waisted or empire line styles!

4. Many nursing tops and dresses now have very cleverly hidden openings for easy access to the milk bar. However, do avoid nursing access openings that have a zip or velcro closure. Who wants little zip teethmarks all along the side of your boob? Or start a breastfeeding session with a loud ripping sound that will frighten the birds? Nobody, that’s who.

Regular clothes hack #4: Look for tops and dresses that have a hidden bra shelf and stretchy open neckline – quick and easy pull-down access!

5. For lingerie, stick with your usual bikini style panties (boy shorts if you want more coverage at the back) and wear them under your belly, just be prepared to buy new pants as these will surely be stretched all out of shape. Stick with breathable cotton and seamless styles as keeping cool and comfortable is key to preventing nasty infections.

6. As for bras, your breasts are likely to get tender during pregnancy and will definitely change in shape and size. Ditch all your underwire bras, and find some good quality maternity and nursing bras that are not only soft, breathable, stretchy and easily adjustable to accommodate fluctuations in size (which can be +/- a whole cup or two every few hours), but provide good support so that you don’t get backache. Most nursing bras will come with drop-down cups, so find ones that you can clip and unclip easily with one hand.

Regular clothes hack #5: If you don’t fluctuate in size much, a good sports bra or sports tank, crop top or camisole with an inbuilt bra shelf are a good option. They’ll be comfortable, give good support and wick sweat away from the body to boot. Layer them under your other clothes to use them as nursing bras.

Check out my Top 6 Favourite Online Maternity and Nursingwear Retailers here

Motherhood Hacks: The 3rd month

It’s the 3rd month and by this time, you are starting to want to get up and about more – maybe you just want to get back to some semblance of what your life without a baby was like, or maybe you are gearing up to go back to work at the end of the 4 months maternity leave.

The little one is very alert now, starting to move around a little bit more and is definitely finding their voice both literally and figuratively. Many babies will be going through growth spurts or wonder weeks, maybe even teething, so there will be plenty of fussy days and nights when baby needs more cuddling and more feeding.

Hang in there, RAWKmums! Here are some Motherhood Hacks that have helped me maintain my sanity in the 3rd month!

Motherhood Hack #1: Time to play

Babies in their 3rd month are definitely much more responsive. They smile. They coo. They can recognise familiar objects and faces with more certainty. They turn their heads towards sounds. They start looking up and around when they are on their tummies.

Talking and singing to them, playing with their hands and feet, showing them rattles and colourful dangly toys, even reading little books with them is so much fun because they interact with you so much more for really very little input on your end! They’ll even be happy just sitting next to you and watching you read a book!

Best of all, they still get tired pretty fast, so their total wake time is still between 1 – 1.5hours whilst their sleep time is slowly increasing in length. So, all you have to do is put in a little bit more effort during their wake time with a few rounds of ‘peekaboo’ to get them all nice and tired out, and they’ll sleep like logs.

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Three month old Thumper says: ‘I’m so much more fun now!’

Motherhood Hack #2: It’s time to start practising Mummytime

Right now, your baby will be amused by pretty much anything and can even play by happily for a few minutes at a time. If your baby is completely happy in a cot with the mobile or on his tummy in the playpen with a few soft toys, take this opportunity to say ‘bye-bye baby’ and then leave the room quietly for 3 minutes for some Mummytime.

This is actually much harder for you then it will be for baby, because you’ll probably find yourself hovering just out of sight for the first few days worrying that they’ll freak out or choke themselves to death on something. But trust me, before long you’ll be SO happy that you started doing this!

Here’s what you do:

  • Set the alarm clock in the room to beep after 3 minutes, then smile and wave bye-bye to your baby and leave the area to a place where they can’t see you.
  • Return if you hear your baby start to fuss or when the alarm clock goes off, whichever comes first.
  • When you return, make an ultimate fuss of your baby for playing by himself with plenty of cuddles!
  • You’ll find that if you slowly increase the time that your baby plays alone by just 3-5 minutes each week (depending on your baby’s tolerance – ideally you want the alarm clock to go off BEFORE he or she starts to fuss), very soon you’ll have a baby that can play 15-20 minutes on his own!

IMAGINE WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH TWENTY WHOLE MINUTES TO YOURSELF! WOOHOO! PARTYTIME!!!

Motherhood Hack #3: Rock your baby, get in shape

Okay, your 3 month old is getting heavy, but what with all the teething and growth spurts and wonder weeks, settling her down to sleep can be a little bit challenging. Your baby still loves to be rocked or bounced into a stupor but she probably is getting too big and wiggly for the yaolan and your back and shoulders are starting to feel the strain.

You can use this time of baby-rocking to get yourself back in shape using simple exercises, whilst reducing the strain on your back and putting your baby to sleep! Three for the price of one!

So here’s what you do – carry your baby so that you are standing with your back straight and shoulders down (but not hunched). Try to make your spine straight by sucking in your tummy and tilting your pelvis forward so that your bum is tucked in. Keep your feet a little more than shoulder width apart so that you are standing tall with feet firmly planted on the ground.

Make sure your baby’s weight is as evenly distributed across your body as possible by the doing one of the following:

  • If she prefers to be carried upright, put her head on your chest, then cross both arms with one arm under her bum and the other arm across her back. You can always switch arms after a few minutes.
  • If she prefers to be carried laying down, put her head in the crook of one elbow and put your other elbow between her legs, then cross your arms under her back.

Next, try these motions:

  • Instead of rocking your baby using your arms and back, do side lunges instead. Keep your arms still and make small side lunges with your legs instead. Keep your feet in place and your back straight, then bend your knees one at a time, sliding your body from side to side. Your knee should go just directly above the toe so that your weight rests mostly on one foot. This works best when you are trying to keep the motion as even as possible.
  • Instead of bouncing your baby using your arms and shoulders, do demi-pliés (feet turned slight out) or squats (feet in parallel) instead. Bend both your knees, making sure that your knees do not go beyond your toes and your feet are firmly planted on the floor. If you want to be fancy, you can tiptoe (relevé) as well at the end of each demi-plié. If you want to work different muscles, put your feet and knees together to do sitting squats.
  • Instead of walking your baby, march in place, lifting your knees up higher than normal.

Motherhood Hacks: The 2nd month

Okay, it’s been more than a month since you’ve had a full night’s sleep, and maybe you were getting a little bit of cabin fever after the month long confinement so heading into the 2nd month can be tricky. This is also when people are starting to expect you to have things under control when everything still feels very new. Additionally, the baby is becoming more alert, so not only will baby be slightly more demanding during wake time, but settling him or her to sleep will also be more challenging.

However, here are a few Motherhood Hacks that have helped me to maintain my sanity in the 2nd month!

Motherhood Hack #1: The Look of Love

Babies in their second month are starting to develop their sight and hearing a little bit more, and they can quite easily recognise your voice and your face. After they have been fed, burped and changed, cradle your baby close to you and just…talk.

“Hello Baby, how are you? Are you happy?”

Quite likely, your baby will gaze into your face intently. This focus is so intense that often he or she will stop wiggling around and lie absolutely still for a few moments. Look into your baby’s eyes and see watch the expression on his face change as he listens with rapt wonder at the sound of your voice. Very soon, very, very soon, your baby will start to look for you and smile, just hearing the sound your voice.

Know without question that you are your baby’s entire world. There is not a single human being on the planet that your baby loves more than you.

Memorise this look and remember it during the times when your baby seems to do nothing except cling to you and cry. It will help you maintain perspective.

Thumper meeting his Grandpa for the first time.

Two month old Thumper says: ‘You had me at hello.’

Motherhood Hack #2: The Needs are Not Many

At this stage, most babies have progressed beyond feed-me-seymour cries, their needs are still very basic and their cries usually signify either hunger, tiredness or discomfort (usually a soggy nappy). In other words, nothing that a full tummy, dry nappy and a cuddle can’t resolve.

Rule of thumb for crying – If they’ve just woken up, feed them. If they’ve been up for an hour, cuddle put them to bed. If they smell bad, change their nappy.

Motherhood Hack #3: Get your hood on

Babies at these stage are amused by very, very little. I mean, they will stare at their little hands for long moments, frowning as if to ask, ‘What are these two lumps doing in front of my face?’

This also means that the stream of visual stimuli provided by just being in the world will make babies mentally fatigued after a while, so if you need to calm them down or settle them for a nap, put them in a dark room. Failing that, literally pulling the wool over their eyes will do the trick. I always carry a large muslin cloth with me when I go out and if Thumper gets tired, I just drape it over his head and he goes out like a light. Works for birds of prey, works for two month old babies.

Motherhood Hack #4: Make like a kangaroo and hop on out

Two month olds are not mobile at all, they have no coordination to speak of, and they still sleep most of the day. This means that this is actually one of the best times to get out and about because your baby will be happy to sit quietly in a sling and doze off against your chest whilst you get a well deserved reflexology massage or a pedicure. So go on and pamper yourself!

Motherhood Hack #5: Take five

Sometimes you might feel like you can’t leave your baby’s side, not even for a minute. But at two months old, your baby physically cannot go anywhere. So if you need to take a few minutes to go to the bathroom, make a cup of tea, have a shower or just sit in a different room until your ears stop ringing, then put your baby down in a safe place (like in their cot), then go ahead and take five minutes to yourself. Your baby cannot get into much trouble whilst you are away, and those few minutes away from him or her will refresh your mind and energy stores!

 

 

Motherhood Hacks! : The first month

The first few weeks of motherhood can be really tough, even if it’s your second, third or sixth child. This is because everybody in your family is adjusting to this new little addition and the new little addition is adjusting to everybody. Needless to say, everything feels just a little bit topsy-turvy!

Thumper say "Relaaaaax"

Thumper say “Relaaaaax”

Here are some Motherhood Hacks that have help me maintain my sanity and stay positive in the first month of motherhood.

Motherhood Hack #1: Enjoy the feeling of Not Being Pregnant

Stretch luxuriously. Take a deep breath. You are no longer pregnant

Bring your knees to your chest. Touch your toes. You are no longer pregnant.

Sleep prone like a starfish or curl up into a ball like a hedgehog. You are no longer pregnant.

Huzzah!!!

Motherhood Hack #2: The Need For a Feed (ie. When in doubt, feed your baby)

Whether you intend to feed on demand or practice parent-led scheduling, it will still take a few weeks for your milk flow to be fully established, and the baby will not have figured out how to feed efficiently yet. This means, that when the baby cries in the first month, you don’t have to freak out and wonder about what it all means – the most likely reason is that baby is hungry!

(By the way, check out my Breastfeeding Motherhood Hacks here)

Motherhood Hack #3: Channel the Red Hot Chili Peppers

By this I mean that you give it away give it away give it away now and then rehydrate yourself thusly:

What you got you’ve got to give it to your daughter
You do a little dance and then you drink a little water

By the way, the whole song takes on a whole new meaning if you think about it in terms of breastfeeding. Heh heh heh.

Motherhood Hack #4: All Hail the Milk Coma

Babies in their first month are hardly ever awake. They spend most of their short one hour waketime feeding, and at the end of it they are just one big, happy, sleepy bag of milk, exhausted from the effort of feeding, and they go right back to sleep again.

If you think that your baby at this stage is super boring, you are SO wrong. The best part of the Milk Coma in the first month is that hardly anything phases them at this stage, as baby photographers like Anne Geddes know. You can dress them up, pose them in all sorts of positions for your own amusement.

Of course, you could also take advantage of the milk coma to catch up on sleep yourself, but where’s the fun in that?

Motherhood Hack #5: Let the brainwashing begin

This is the time where babies are very susceptible to some brainwashing! Whenever my baby is feeding or sleeping during the daytime, I make sure the room where they are is light and bright and there’s always some noise or music playing. At night time, the room should be kept dark and there should be as little movement as possible – I don’t even talk or hum to the baby at night. This is to reinforce the diurnal rhythms of the day and night. Day = Everyone is awake and playing, Night = Everything is quiet and sleeping.

Pro tip: Play music during their sleep and during feedtime. Choose a specific album of music that you enjoy listening to repeatedly. This album of music will eventually serve as a portable baby whisperer during your infant’s fussiest moments when they are older!