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Every so often, we hear the story of a baby (genius?) who’s potty-trained at 9 months or knows more sign language than any adult we know. The truth is, with a little bit -- or sometimes a lot -- of work, most babies can learn to do some pretty spectacular things at a young age. Here's 5 few ways to get your baby on the fast track, if you're feeling up to the task.

1. ELIMINATION COMMUNICATION

What it is: Say no to diapers with this potty practice that involves teaching baby to communicate about her elimination needs. Parents get in tune with baby’s bathroom patterns, and quickly respond by holding her over a toilet or sink to get the job done. Advocates point out that elimination communication is not potty training, but rather, a method of better understanding your baby’s needs.

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Benefits for you and/or baby: You’ll save tons on diapers (and save the planet a little too). Plus when all of your friends are potty training in two years, you’ll be sitting back and relaxing, dry floor and all.

Get ready for these challenges: Expect accidents - there will inevitably be missed cues or slow response times. For city dwellers, there may be some awkward public exposure since bathrooms are not always at the ready.

Difficulty rating (on a scale of 1 to 10): 8

More info: diaperfreebaby.org

2. BABY LED WEANING

What it is: We know: sometimes baby food looks as appetizing as cat food. So why not hand over whatever you’re eating? Baby Led Weaning means letting your child move from breast milk or formula right into big people food, at around 6 months.

Benefits for you and/or baby: Skip the annoying -- and often unhealthy -- purees, and jump right into wholesome family food.

Get ready for these challenges: Many mamas that try Baby Led Weaning say gagging is a natural reflex...but it can still be terrifying. If you’ve got a caregiver, you may be out of luck -- try telling your nanny that baby can nosh on a big broccoli stalk and let us know what she says.

Difficulty rating (on a scale of 1 to 10): 2 for the actual skillset of handing your baby food as is; 10 for getting through the fear factor.

More info: babyledweaning.com

3. SIGN LANGUAGE

What it is: Before we had babies, we hoped we’d have a “Look Who’s Talking” type -- you know, the one who could speak full sentences by 4 months. But in case you don’t get one (we didn’t), you can still find ways to get your little one to communicate, like sign language. As early as 6 months, you can teach baby hand gestures to tell you he’s hungry, wants more, is all done, or wants to watch another episode of Girls. Just kidding on that last one.

Benefits for you and/or baby: You and babe will both be less frustrated when there’s more to say than just goo-goo ga-ga. Many believe there’s also cognitive benefits like earlier speech.

Get ready for these challenges: Well first, assuming you don’t already know it, you have to learn some sign language. Also, consistency is helpful; if you’re a working mom, you’ll need to get your caregiver on board.

Difficulty rating (on a scale of 1 to 10): 7

More info: babysignlanguage.com

4. BABY DJ-ING

What it is: If you haven’t already heard, you can get your baby on the nightlife circuit early with Baby DJ school. Seriously, we were pretty skeptical too, but at the crux of it, the class is all about exposing your little one to new interesting sounds, textures and movements -- like any other music class.

Benefits for you and/or baby: Not only does it help develop motor skills, but the class is an early intro to technology, which -- like it or not -- is the way of their life. Also, the music is way more fun to listen to than the usual kiddie fare.

Get ready for these challenges: People are going to totally roll their eyes when you tell them you signed up.

Difficulty rating (on a scale of 1 to 10): 5. Unless you're also a DJ, this is not something you can teach at home. Thankfully, there's now several Baby DJ locations around the city.

More info: www.babydjschool.com

5. BABY REIKI

What it is: If you’ve ever been in labor, you know the term “positive energy” is no joke. So we take it pretty seriously when someone says that Reiki can help us to balance and uplift baby, while addressing discomforts like teething and gas.

Benefits for you and/or baby: Reiki is not only safe for babies, pregnant women and according to our friends at Purple Reiki, even plants (!). It is even used in some hospitals around the country to complement traditional Western therapies. Reiki can help restore energy and calm nerves for mama, while easing and relaxing baby.

Get ready for these challenges: "You must be open and willing to receive it."

Difficulty rating (on a scale of 1 to 10): 3. You can't do it at home, and it's not free.

More info: Shanti Baby Yoga

Image source.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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