My general approach towards Sam so far follows one very broad idea: My kid's body and mind is designed to function a certain way; if I pay attention, listen to him, respond to him, and nurture his natural tendencies, that will provide the best support for his own personal growth.
This is awfully vague, I know. And I hope my readers realize this is not a criticism of any other approach, just an alternative, just what worked for us.
Here's some of what I mean... I nurse "on-demand" because I trust that if Sam is indicating the desire to nurse, he is either thirsty, hungry or needs comfort. He communicates that need, I affirm it... he learns effective communication, and his physical and emotional needs are being met in a way that is optimal for him.
Also, we took a "baby-led" approach to introducing solids... a topic I'll discuss further in the near future. This has allowed us to go off of his lead for both the amount of food he ingests and the times he eats. The result is an almost one year old who will happily eat pretty much anything you put in front of him, as long as he is hungry -- eggs, chicken, pork, sweet potato, avocado, fruits, veggies -- he eats whatever we eat. We don't battle over food, we don't risk over- or under-feeding him, we allow his body to indicate what it needs.
We also don't have a specific bedtime for Sam. Generally, he will go down between 8-9, sleep for about 11 hours, nursing periodically throughout the night, then take either one or two naps that total around 4 hours. Aside from a few weeks where he wanted to play in the middle of the night, an issue that seems to have fully resolved itself as his most recent growth spurt has dissipated, Sam has become a very consistent sleeper... But without all the stress... and friction... and worry... without all the battles of trying to force a rigid schedule.
I think it's sometimes easy for us as parents to get so caught up in what we're told our children need us to do for them that we discount the needs our little ones communicate on their own.
We get so focused on controlling everything that we forget that babies are unpredictable... And that being unpredictable is okay.
Needing something different today than yesterday is human nature, so why do we expect babies to be such rigid creatures? Why are we so obsessed with setting nap and feeding schedules that leave no room for flexibility? This is why Daniel and I haven't set a specific schedule for Sam.
We've watched him closely, learned his cues, and helped him fall into a relatively predictable pattern by responding to those cues. This may not work for us forever. But so far what we've ended up with is one content kiddo who communicates when he's sleepy or hungry.