The baby care cycle: One rhythm that could work for you
Hiya. Today we're going to talk about The Baby Care Cycle, or rather - what to do, in which order, with a new baby.
When your new baby gets fussy, you (like I used to do) may start grasping at straws trying to figure out what she wants.
You might first try the boob, then rocking and soothing, then the boob again, maybe try to get her to go to sleep, maybe then change a wet or poopy diaper, maybe offer the potty….taking care of a new baby can feel like one gigantic mess of “guesses.”
If your baby is fussy and you just aren't sure what you should try first, or in which order, this episode may help (at the least, I think it will help you figure out WHERE IN THE WORLD TO PUT POTTYING into the hour by hour baby-raising equation).
Let’s go on a little walkabout today where we’ll find a rhythm for your baby-rearing (so you can stop the guessing game already).
You will learn:
- The baby cycle that I use in my own house
- How to set a healthy care cycle from the beginning
- How to adjust cycles to your child's temperament
- How optimal cycles can change with age
- A few tips from our readers!
Links and other resources mentioned today:
- The Go Diaper Free Book
- Free Observation Log
- Babywise (This book has some good tips. Please note I do not advocate cry-it-out/CIO)
- The Baby Sleep Site
- Easy Catch #1
- Easy Catch #2
- Easy Catch #3
- Easy Catch #4
- Kushies Waterproof Pad
- Biodegradable Diaper Backup
- Podcast Episode 51: How to play with a baby
- The Four Roads to Potty Time
- Podcast Episode 8: Baby Signals
- Podcast Episode 10: Natural Timing
- Podcast Episode 12: Transition Times
- Podcast Episode 14: Parent's Intuition
- Top Hat Potty at TinyUndies.com
- Mini Potty at TinyUndies.com
- Easy Start Guide for EC (Free Download)
Download the Transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
Welcome to the Go Diaper Free Podcast where we're all about helping you stop depending on diapers as early as birth. I'm your host, Andrea Olson, mom of five EC’d babies and author. This is episode 52, The baby care cycle, or what to do in which order with a newborn and up.
You guys, when I first had my first baby, the boob was my go to. I would use it for everything, because I had no idea what order to do which things and with my new baby. Now, I know better. And I had no idea how to get him to go to sleep, and now I know better. I had no idea really what to do when. Now, I know, because I've had five babies.
Today's show, I'm going to share the baby care cycle that I use in my house with my babies. This is one way to find a rhythm with your baby, and to set a healthy care cycle from the beginning, something that you just learn once and you repeat, repeat, repeat and it expands as your baby grows, and it's a really nice way of remembering to cover all your bases with your baby, so that they're not just fussy out of nowhere, and you're like, “Oh my gosh, what's happening?” You actually know which things they need, and in what order is usually beneficial. I am not a doctor, I am not giving you medical advice. I want you to consult with your own professional medical practitioner, instead of using my advice. Clear all this with them if that's what you do.
But, this is what works in my family, and I think it's very helpful. And with all the moms and dads that I shared this with, it's been really helpful in their homes. Now, I have adapted this cycle from Babywise. It is a book that unfortunately talks about cry it out. I want you all to know right now that I'm not an advocate of letting baby cry it out. That is the only thing or the biggest thing in that book that I do not agree with, but Babywise is great. And then, it shows you how to do this baby care cycle. The way they teach it uses diapers instead of the potty, so that's how I've modified it, and in the ways that it expands as baby grows. I've really studied this with my second baby and my third baby to really get a handle on how to get this just going a little bit more smoothly with them. Definitely check out their book if you want to learn more about this.
Here's how I've adapted it. I'm going to keep it short and simple today. Baby wakes up, we potty the baby, we nurse the baby, we play with the baby or have awake time with the baby, we potty the baby once more, we put the baby to sleep. Now, for a newborn, this whole cycle can really take about 30 minutes. The longest part of that being the breastfeeding part. We're going to go through, and break down each of these parts, but basically that cycle is the same kind of cycle that I sort of do in my life, but it's the whole day and I don't take a nap in between. I wake up, I go to the bathroom, I eat, I play or I work, I go to the bathroom, I play or I work, I go to the bathroom, I play or I work, I eat again, and then I play or I watch a movie or something, and then I go to the bathroom, and then I go to sleep. So you guys, see, it's not that much different from an adult cycle, but we are the caregivers in here. We're providing the care to the baby.
Some people will also switch up the potty and the nurse thing. It depends on who you are and your baby, and all of your temperaments. We might change this to say wake, then nurse, then potty, then awake time or playtime, then potty, and then sleep. Sometimes that baby won't potty again before they go to sleep so this is all optional, but it's a general idea of a cycle, right? Let's go through it.
The first thing is baby wakes up. Some people will wait until they know for sure, for sure that the baby's waking up. If my baby's been asleep as long as I think is normal, which I find all of those charts on the Baby Sleep Site to be invaluable on what is the normal amount of sleep per age. So when they wake up, I usually get my babies, especially when they're newborns, when they're first starting to shift. Because that's when the antidiuretic hormone wears off, ADH. And that's when the bladder fills. And that's when they need to go potty. I like to catch that wakeup pee as one of the four easy catches.
Waking up can mean a variety of things, and when you actually get your baby out of their sleep space will determine whether or not the next part of the cycle works or not, the potty. So wake, then potty, then nurse is the way that I like to do it. With some of my babies I've done wake, then nurse, then potty. Let's talk about these next two things. The potty thing is a pottytunity, it's an offering. It's not a guaranteed catch. It's not something that you should be like, "Okay, when they wake up, I'm definitely going to catch a pee." It's not guaranteed, but it's something that we want to offer consistently, especially for doing part-time EC. When they wake up, we set them on the potty or hold them over it, and that will vary by the age. Now, my book Go Diaper Free definitely gives you a lot of options based on the age for that, so when they wake up we offer the potty.
Now, what that does is allows them to empty their bladder and go number two, if they need to, so that they can settle in comfortably for a longer breastfeeding session. Let's talk about that. When I say nursing and breastfeeding, you can also alternate bottle feeding or feeding a meal of solids and water with that. Whatever you're feeding is, we do wake, then potty, then feed. I am just using nursing, because that's my experience that I've been blessed to be able to breastfeed all of my babies, so that might not be your reality so just modify that obviously. After they have relieved themselves and cleared their bowels, then we can nurse, and usually get a full nurse.
Now, if you have a brand new baby, you might experience that they need to go potty during nursing, or that they want to nurse first. So when they wake up and you nurse them, you would do this nursing over a waterproofed pad or in a backup, a diaper backup, where you would cue along with them as they go. Or you would have your top hat potty nearby, which you can grab one at my other shop at tinyundies.com. Top hat potty is a great newborn potty.
When they pop off the breast during nursing or bottle feeding, that is a signal that they need to go to the bathroom. You can hold them over the receptacle or the pad and cue “mm, mm” for poop or “pssss” for pee or both, or whatever you blow on the top of their head. Everybody has different signals or different cues. Then, get them back on the breast or the bottle for more feeding, because that popping off the breast doesn't necessarily mean they're done nursing or feeding. It might just mean that they need to go to the bathroom. I know that I can't really eat and go to the bathroom at the same time. It's kind of hard, so why would we expect that of a baby?
We've got wake, then potty, then nurse. Or wake, then nurse, then potty. Or wake, and nurse, and there's all sorts of potty happening during the nursing. You know if that's you. All right, so after we're done taking care of those basic needs, the ins and the outs, the feeding and the pottying, then we have awake time, and that play time, what turns into play time as the baby gets older and is able to play. And if you don't know how to play with your baby, just go back to episode 51. That's my last episode before this one, and it'll give you all sorts of ideas. But this time of play or awake time is going to expand as your baby gets older. And that's the cool thing about what the big light bulb moment when I read Babywise for the first time was. "Oh, okay, so they wake up, they say change the diaper and then feed them, or feed them and then change the diaper." Okay, we got all that stuff done, and then what do we do next?
Well, we have all this time before they go to sleep again. And at first, it's only 15 minutes, and then it's 30 minutes, and then it's 45 minutes. And before you know it, we've got two or three hours in between naps. And before you know it, we've got five hours and there's only an afternoon nap. They have great nap schedules in there as like, just so you can wrap your head around when it might happen at different ages, not so you have a strict routine if you're not into that. And then, the Baby Sleep Site also has a really great sort of model schedules of what it could look like at different ages based on how much sleep they actually need. Anyway, this part here, this play part and awake time is the part that expands and repeats over time. And then we potty, and then we go back to sleep.
With a newborn, you're going to wake, potty, nurse, have awake time, potty them again maybe before they go to sleep. When you’ve got a toddler, they're going to wake up, they're going to go to the bathroom, they're going to eat or feed or whatever. They're going to have a long time of playtime. During that play time, guess what's going to happen more often? Potty time. If you don't know your baby's natural timing you can definitely listen to...I think it's podcast episode 10 on that, and get my book, and you can learn how to figure out how often your baby goes, but this is when that comes into play.
After they've taken care of their basic stuff, after waking up, feeding, and going to the bathroom, then we're going to have this awake time. And during that time, based on your belief system, and again, this is your personal preference... Usually, babies don't need to nurse more during this time, because if they're newborns, this time is going to be only 15 minutes, and they're going to go to sleep, and then they're going to wake up, and they're going to feed again. And that's where you get that sort of "we're nursing every two hours" because we have a newborn thing. Babywise does a better job of explaining it.
I'm just giving you my experience here, but what I've experienced is that the first fuss after that nursing and feeding session after they wake up... So they wake up, you potty them, you nurse them, then they're in play time, or they're awake in your arms, or they're just awake, their eyes are open, they fuss. That first fuss after feeding is 9 times out of 10, I would say 99 times out of 100, it's a signal that means they need to go to the bathroom. You would then potty them. And if they're a newborn, you would then be able to put them to sleep. And with a newborn, you probably would nurse them to sleep.
Now, I want to address this. Sometimes, obviously newborns would need a nurse to sleep. If they're having a growth spurt, if you're doing cluster feedings, there are a whole bunch of other experts that cover nursing very well better than me. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but typically, after a few months old, and Babywise recommends this, and my experience echoes this...after a few months old, we don't really want to make daytime nursing to sleep for a nap a habit. There are alternatives to putting your baby to sleep without having to nurse them to sleep during the day, that are found in the Babywise book that I highly recommend, besides cry it out obviously.
Nighttime sleep, if you're not nursing to sleep at every nap during the daytime, if you nurse to sleep at night, my experience has been, and that book also says, but I've definitely experienced this, that our babies sleep longer, longer and longer at night. And our babies who we've done this with have slept through the night at earlier ages, age appropriate ages, obviously not newborns here, because they didn't develop this habit of always needing the boob to go to sleep during the day. We vary it up, we'd have daddy do it, we'd have our babysitter do it, we'd have a pacifier, we would have a swing, we would rock the baby instead of nursing, and sometimes we would nurse to sleep during the day. Hopefully, that makes sense.
Before I put my babies to sleep, I do always offer a pottytunity, even the three year old, the five year old, that everybody goes to the potty and tries, at least tries, before they go to sleep. Because that's going to allow a better, deeper, more comfortable sleep, so that's why that's inserted right before going back to sleep. If you need advice on sleep, please look up the Baby Sleep Site, or Babywise without the cried out part. Okay, during this time, so we've got the wake up, we've got the potty and nurse, or the nurse and the potty, then we've got this awake time where we're playing and we're pottying or we're being awake. We want to potty after the first fuss or during the first fuss after feeding.
Then, we want to use the four roads to potty time and the four easy catches. These are all mentioned in my podcast at different places, the four roads to potty time, episodes 8, 10, 12, and 14. It's basically signals and timing and all this fun stuff. It’s ways to know that your baby needs to go to the bathroom. Definitely study those up. Those are on my book. It's is really, really clearly laid out there. When do I potty my baby during awake time? My answer would be look in my book, or look at those podcasts.
Then we've got the four easy catches. You know, if you're just doing part-time EC, great, most people do. During this awake time period, you're going to be doing the poops, or getting whatever, the poop catches, and the diaper change catches, stuff like that. Before you put them in the car seat, when you take them out, stuff like that. So those are in episodes 28, 29, 30, and 32. I've linked to all of these in the show notes at godiaperfree.com/52.
My point is, during this awake time, you're going to offer pottytunities based on whichever way you're doing EC. And then, when it's time to go to bed, we do a final peepee, and then. we go to sleep. And then, with sleep, again, sometimes we nurse to sleep. Sometimes at certain months of age, you don't want to make it a habit to nurse to sleep. I still nurse to sleep at night. And in the middle of the night, I potty my baby, and then I nurse her back to sleep. Your mileage may vary. My point, you guys, is that you have full permission to create a rhythm around sleep, and feeding, and pottying, and that it doesn't need to be exhausting or complicated. It can be as simple as understanding your baby sleep requirements and feeding requirements at this age, understanding EC through my book or my other resources. All of this is learning.
I love this cycle for its simplicity. They wake up, we take care of their basic needs of pottying and nursing in whichever order, and then we have awake time, we potty them when they get fussy to keep them comfortable and to help them feel heard during that time. That time and space expands as they get older, so that they nap less often as they get older, and then we potty them, and we put them to sleep for that nap, or ultimately before bedtime when they're no longer napping at several years old. Okay, so hopefully this makes sense. I'm going to try to make a little drawing of this baby care cycle, and put it over there on the show notes so you can see what I'm talking about visually, because I know it's hard to wrap your head around it sometimes.
Let's hear a couple of tips from our readers and that's it for today's show. Laurel, in New Hampshire, has a two-week-old and has been exploring EC with her. She says, her tip is, "I'd say the most helpful thing is to remember to follow my instincts and not get caught up in looking for any possible cue or doing more than feels good. Getting a routine around diaper changing and pottying has been the most successful. I will either observe that I think she needs to go and then take the diaper off, find it's dry and offer the potty, or even if I find it wet I will still usually offer. I love having this knowledge in my consciousness for learning to decipher my baby’s communication." That is wonderful Laurel, and you are talking about one of our easy catches, which is at every diaper change, which can be integrated into this baby care cycle very, very easily. When they wake up and we change the diaper, we offer them the potty.
Sabine from Sweden, her tip is “To start out small! Make smaller goals. It's not supposed to be all potty and super stressful. Chances are that you will quit and baby will refuse going potty [if you make it all potty]. Begin with the easy catches (waking up and diaper changes) and what fits into your schedule. It is really all about not changing poopy diapers, and then just start with catching the poos." So if you want… What she's saying in the last part there is, if you just don't want to change the poopy diapers then just start with catching the poops. Just keep it simple, you guys. EC is not that complicated. It's just something we've got to try out and learn, and then integrate it into some kind of rhythm and routine in our day that we consciously choose to implement or not. You can just also go through your day and just ride the rhythms, and some people just do that and go with whatever comes.
If you're like me and it's a little overwhelming to make sure the baby, the brand new first time mom baby, has everything it needs, then you know, adhering to a cycle that creates a rhythm that's predictable could be really good for you. Take or leave whatever you found from this to be helpful, and I want you write a comment in today's show notes at godiaperfree.com/52. At the bottom of that blog post will be a place for you to add your comment. What did you learn today? What part of this are you going to implement? And, do you have any ideas or thoughts that I didn't mention that might help somebody else? Because we are a community here, and we help each other out.
All right, so that's it for today. I'm Andrea Olson with the Go Diaper Free Podcast at godiaperfree.com and I'll see you next week.
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About Andrea Olson
I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 6 children (all under 10 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)
Love the podcast and diagram! the diagram is super useful to share with my husband who doesn’t get as much time with our baby while he is at work. It helps him understand what stage in the cycle we are up to without always having to ask me what to do with our baby!
I’m so glad to hear it is helping Rachel! xx Andrea
great post! Gave me a feel for what to expect with a newborn. also the first time I heard someone reference Babywise without the CIO part, so that was good for me to have open-mindededly heard. thanks for sharing your wisdom!
You are welcome Ali! xx Andrea
Woo amazing work! Learnt about ex just before our baby was born about 2 weeks ago and finally finding a moment to dive deeper into this knowledge. Our little girl is 10 days old and while watching this video I paused just after you mentioned that coming off the boob could be a sign of needing to go potty. I had to go help my partner with our upset bubba as she wasn’t feeding and getting a bit frustrated. Brought in our baby bath for a quick test and did the per signal and straight away she peed into the bath.
Ahhh mum and I were so surprised and happy and suuuper proud of our little champion communicator.
Thanks so much for sharing all this knowledge freely. I hope to get your book to support you in your sharing journey.
It’s amazing how aware and communicative our Bubba’s are.
Yay! Congratulations on your first catch and applying what you learned. 🎉
Keep up the good work. 👍