Sunday, December 21, 2008

EVERYTHING I THINK I KNOW ABOUT NEWBORNS

I've been following a few newly pregnant mommas-to-be on message boards and blogs and thought a list of all the wisdom I've managed to accumulate so far might be helpful.(Or therapeutic, either way!)

1. The two most important DVDs you can watch before the baby are 'The Happiest Baby on the Block' and 'Unconditional Parenting'. THBOTB teaches you how to make baby sleep and UP gets you and your partner talking about parenting philosophies (very important to get this discussion underway before you start screaming at each other at 3 am re: pacifier use).

2.The first 8 weeks are the roughest (and also the most precious as you finally get to see whose been hiding in your stomach). You will want the most help then. Freezer meals or heavy patronage of takeout establishments will be essential to survival.

3. After the first 8 weeks, the next hardest phase is around 6 months. By 6 months the sleep deprivation really starts to hurt and, at the same time, baby is pretty restless at night and going through all sorts of developmentally triggered sleep disruptions. This would be a good time to have Grandma come back for a week or two to relieve you of 24/7 baby duty.  If Grandma has time to cook up another round of freezer meals, all the better.

4.Just keep breastfeeding.  It's natural to want to stop. It's normal for it to be harder than you thought and normal for it to be more painful than you thought.  It's also normal to have to nurse all. the. time. the first 8 weeks. Gel wound pads (sometimes sold under the brand name of 'soothies') are very helpful. That and going to the lactation support meetings sponsored by the hospital--those are great for getting advice and getting you out of the house in those early newborn months. I also recommend a stash of Fenugreek on the off chance you need something to boost supply. Fenugreek is safe and cheap on Amazon.com.

5.Breastfeeding is not free. It can actually be quite expensive. Lansinoh, the lanolin cream reccommeneded for nipple care, is around $8 a tube. Pumps are about $300 and the pump accessories will run you about $10 a component  or $40 worth of equipment per pumping session. I spent close to $1000 on breastfeeding supplies. (FYI the first baby is the most expensive because you don't know what to buy and what you will use and what will last, so you end up spending a lot more money than you will on subsequent children.)

Personally, if I had to do it over, I would rent a hospital grade pump as the consumer retail pumps are manufactured with planned obsolescence in mind. Meaning they are not meant to last more than a year, which sucks if you want more kids.

Further, you will need a pump even if you plan to be a stay-at-home mom. Why? Let me count the ways you will find a hospital grade pump useful:

--to build a stash for outings sans baby or make a bottle so Dad or someone else can do the middle-of-the-night feeding and let you sleep
--to relieve engorgement or substitute for missed nursings (when baby is sick and won't eat)
--to increase milk supply
--to give sore, cracked, bleeding nipples a break as the pump is gentler than baby

6.I'm sorry, but the boppy sucks. Get a My Brestfriend pillow, it's ergonomic, adjustable, and provides better support for mom and baby. Boppy has better marketing, but My Brestfriend is the better product--particularly for taller mommas.

7. Motherhood is not ergonomic. It's actually quite physically demanding and strains the neck, back, shoulders, wrists, and hands. Watch your posture and avoid contorting yourself while nursing. Don't slump. Get massages. Take some Tyelonol. Lift weights before baby arrives. And if you plan to baby wear, do it from day one and don't stop so that your body's strength increases along with the baby's weight.

8. For winter babies, all you need are footie sleepers. Summer babies only need footie sleepers as well, although you could get some onesies and some pants for the really hot days. That's it. Skip the cute outfits, they are never diaper accessible or convenient at 2 am (and I know no one is going to listen to me on this one, but don't say I didn't warn you). Babies grow about 1-2" a month in length for the first several months and 2" is usually a size. Once the baby is born and you know baby's height, you can project the size increments they will go through.

    Also, If you and your spouse are tall, the baby will likely be tall. As an example, the babeola was in 12 month size by 5 months. Likewise, if you and your spouse are more petitie, your baby will be as well. Short babies are cheaper than tall babies. Tall babies go through a lot more clothes. The babeola is currently 14 months and wearing 3T, meaning we've bought and used all the clothing sizes that come before in just a year. Usually 3T is for 2-3 year old toddlers.

9. Go out to eat. Go to movies. Newborns do not care and are very portable. Even long car rides are no big deal so long as you stop for boob time on a regular basis (and are past the initial 8 week boob-a-thon). So go live it up with baby tucked against you in a sling. Just don't get involved in anything that expects you do more than just show up (as in expecting you to bring food, bake, or otherwise look alive, presentable, or sane). This is not the time to be a bridesmaid. Go to the wedding, sure, but do anything other than pull on some clean sweatpants and sit in the back pew? No.

10. The cognitive dissonance of new motherhood is enormous. Feeling overwhelmed is normal. Whatever you thought being a parent would be like is not usually how things end up happening. Sleep deprivation magnifies all emotions. Normal. Normal. Normal. If you feel better after getting some sleep, it's probably not post-partum depression. The best advice I've heard is don't take anything personally the first year. You and your spouse will be at your limits and may say/do some unfortunate things. Just chalk it up to the first year of parenthood and let it go.

11. Get a rocker that swivels. Swiveling rocking chairs are wonderful. It means you can set up a nursing station with a PC for surfing the net and when you change sides while nursing, you just spin around to switch hands and keep surfing (or reading or eating or anything else you want to do). Also, when guests come, you can swivel around to latch baby on without flashing everyone and then swivel back once you're good. Nursing tends to trap you in a chair, so make sure the chair gives you as much freedom and comfort as possible.

12. Do what works. Screw the books and the experts. Do what works and don't get hung up on what is supposed to be.

13. Nap when baby sleeps is such crap advice. Very few newborns have predictable patterns. For a long time you won't know if baby is taking a five minute catnap or a three hour monster nap. It's actually pretty annoying. If you're desperate for sleep, take a snooze with baby on your chest, this will keep them quiet (and they'll probably sleep) and give you a break.

14. Toys and Accessories.

Start reading books and poetry as early as you want. Around 6ish weeks, baby will look at the book with you. Babies will fondly remember the books you read to them now. The babeola about died with joy when I dug out the Olivia board book we read together all the time when she was just 6 weeks old.

Music is great as well, I highly recommend the Wee Sing Finger Play CD for kids. You can sing and do the hand motions which will entertain baby endlessly. If I were rich, I would buy one of these CDs for every new mom, that's how much I like it.

Mobiles with strong graphics also provide entertainment.

Going out for a walk or to a store or a mall to roam around is quite stimulating for them as well. Many malls now have family lounges and nursing nooks for nursing moms, which makes it very easy to get out of the house.

Bouncy seats are nice (and actually essential).

Oh and a swing (buy one that will hold up to 30lbs so you get the most use out of it). Once baby is past the shiny new newborn phase they will happily bounce in a bouncy seat or swing in a swing while you take a shower, eat, pee, or simply take a break.

Also, if you have pets, a playpen is useful for keeping baby and their toys safe from their fursiblings.

(I know there's an anti 'baby holder' sentiment in our parenting culture right now, but the reality is, unless you have hands-on help, you are going to need someplace safe and entertaining to put baby so you can tend to things that won't wait until baby is eighteen.)

15. Sleep. The first 8 weeks, anything goes. You just have to roll with the flow. The only thing you can do that helps is swaddling. At 8 weeks introduce a nap schedule and start putting baby to sleep drowsy but awake so they begin to learn how to go to sleep. 2 hours after baby wakes for the day, put baby down for a nap following a routine you've created (i.e. music, song, white noise). They may or may not sleep. You don't have to do cry-it-out (and shouldn't) but introduce a routine and schedule, slowly and gently. Next nap is 2-3 hours after the first. Just keep trying. Napping is a learned skill, it does not come naturally.

Putting baby down drowsy but awake is really important at this stage, so, at the very least, do this much. Again, no crying-it-out, at this age, if baby cries, they need you period.

16. The rule-of-thumb is, for the first year, if baby cries, they need you. However, we did find, for the babeola, that at 9 months she began to express wants instead of needs. In an ideal world, we would honor all her wants, but some of them involved refusing to sleep or wanting to be in bed with us, not to sleep, but to pull our hair and kick Daddy in the nuts, which, as you can imagine, that kind of environment was untenable. So we did begin to draw back from the 'rushing to the rescue' approach we had been using and it turned out that we'd been micromanaging her sleep to where she couldn't relax and sleep. Even though she fussed for a bit, she actually needed us to back off and let her do it on her own.

In one night, she was sleeping through the night without a problem. Up until that point, when she cried, she needed us and we responded asap. It was exhausting, but I've noticed the babeola has almost zero separation anxiety and adjusts to new people and new situations very easily. She's very secure and we like to believe this comes from the trust we built by always responding to her needs.

17. Friends and family who have not been around small children in a long time know nothing. Review safety, routines, and basic baby care with anyone who will watch baby. A relative once watched the babeola so we could go to a movie and put her down for a nap without her lovey or pacifier or her lullaby music. My relative couldn't figure out why the babeola wouldn't go to sleep! And she has kids!

Do not assume people remember or know, they rarely do. Also, think about giving an updated parenting guide to grandparents (I think there are some out there specifically for grandparents now) to help head off conflicts in parenting philosophies.

18. You know your baby better than any doctor or any book. What you say baby needs, baby needs. If you think there is a problem, there is a problem. People will poo-poo you (including doctors) but don't worry, your inner momma bear will come roaring out and put them in their place.  Just be sure you are listening to your inner momma bear. Trust yourself, you knew your baby from their first heart beat, from their first kick. To this day, I instinctively know when the babeola is about to wake up from a nap without seeing or hearing her.

19. Nursing and early infancy tend to leave daddy out. Give daddy things to do. My husband was in charge of bath time from day one and was on diaper duty any time he was home. He ended up really enjoying diaper duty and relishing the one-on-one time, even if it involved poop. When we introduced solids, Daddy was in charge. Go ahead and get out of the house for a few hours and let Daddy take over. I often handed the babeola off to Daddy once he was home from work and ran for the hills for an hour or so.

Because you know your baby so well it can be hard to watch Daddy (and others) fumble trying to figure it out. Walk away. Bite your cheek and give Daddy some time to get it right. If baby goes into hysterics, then step in, but hold back until then.

20. I think I've pretty much covered everything I think I know about newborns, but in the interests of a round number...here's a small tip: In hot weather, use a barrier cream like A&D or Aquaphor to prevent heat rash. Change diapers more frequently if you're outside in hot weather. Heat rash can turn into major diaper rash, something we have learned the hard way. If you think you have a diaper rash brewing, run out and get some Monistat asap. It's safe and the earlier you intervene the better. The only other thing you can do for diaper rash is to let baby go without a diaper and pee all over your house. Open air tends to kill the yeast. You can battle diaper rash for months (and Monistat ain't cheap) so prevention and early intervention is key.

And that's it. Did I miss anything?

I think I'm going to try and do a post on what I think I know about older babies too.

5 comments:

Shannon said...

That was really excellent advice! I wish I had read it before I had DD. You are so right about sleep when the baby sleeps. In theory that is great, but I remember so many times lying down only to have Pookie wake up 15 mins later.

The one thing that really helped me was to be 110% committed to breastfeeding no matter what. There were no other options. I had a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE start and I am so glad I never gave up. I got some help and really did my research, so I knew if I stuck with it eventually it would all work out.

constantine said...

up and changed your profile. had to work my poor memory to bring back 'the weak' and google helped with the rest Thanks to you and thanks to all mothers everywhere. Even with the shared experience of being my niece's nanny from six months thru 5 years, I can only begin to relate. I am curious if you have seen 'What Babies Want'. Thanks for writing.

Jenners said...

Wow! What a great service you provided! I agree with pretty much everything you posted about. Wish I had that when I had the Little One. I will be sending this post to all new moms I know.

Got anything on 4-year-olds? HAHA!

Shosh said...

Wow I wish I had read that before I had my oldest. I was clueless!

joshua said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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