Category: baby

Current favorite children’s books

Steven (who just turned three!) seems to have inherited his mother’s love of reading. We go to the library at least once a week and come home with 20+ picture books – some that I’ve perused and decided would be fun to read with him, others that he picks out himself, whether they are fun to read or not.

Here are some of our favorites:

Board books

  • Any Sandra Boynton book – Moo, Baa, La La La, Pajama Time, Barnyard Dance, Perfect Piggies, etc.
  • Any “Gossie and Friends” book by Olivier Dunried
  • Any “Sing Along Stories” book by Mary Ann Hoberman (we have enjoyed Yankee Doodle, The Lady with the Alligator Purse, The Itsy Bitsy Spider)

Picture Books

Cock-a-Doodle Quack! Quack! by Ivor Baddiel and Sophie Jubb

Baby Rooster doesn’t know how to wake up the animals on the farm! He tries asking the other animals what they say, but finally the wise barn owl gives him a hint. I never got tired of reading this book, maybe because Baby Rooster is such a perky and tenacious little guy.

Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot

I loved this book! The hardback version uses a shiny overlay gloss varnish on black ink to make the Darkness character subtly come off the page. In a nice little twist, Daisy is not at all afraid of the dark even though he comes up and tries to eat up all the light.

“I’m Not Cute!” by Jonathan Allen

We just recently discovered this book and Steven thinks it’s really “wunny” (funny). Baby Owl keeps getting hugs from other animals who say how cute he is, even though he really wants to be acknowledged as a huge, mean, stealthy hunting machine. Or does he?

(I am sure I will think of 5 other picture books that I love after posting this, so I reserve the right to add updates!)

Steven’s most-used iPhone apps

Steven is currently 2 and a half years old and has been using the iPhone since before he was two. Here are the ones that have amused him the most over the past almost-year or so.

  • Peekaboo Barn – Tap the barn to open the door and see what animal is making the noise. A voice-over tells you the animal and a word is also displayed, although you can change the settings for no voice (or to hear it in Spanish!). Steven learned to say “moo” from this app and still enjoys it now. There is a free version with a few animals, but after just a few days of hearing “moo,” “baa,” and “cockledoodledoo” over and over and over again, we sprang for the paid version.
  • FirstWords: Deluxe – Drag mixed-up letter tiles into the right spots. When the word is completed, the picture animates, a fun sound effect is played, and a voice reads the word. The Deluxe version combines FirstWords: Animals, Vehicles, At Home, etc., etc. for about the cost of a venti Starbucks drink. Even before Steven started recognizing letters, he knew to drag the tiles around until they “hit” the right spot; now he’s starting to pay more attention to the letters that “match,” even if he still can’t recognize them on his own. This is probably one of his favorites. There is a free version of FirstWords: Animals, I think, but I would just get the Deluxe version right away.
  • Shape Builder – Drag puzzle pieces into a silhouette of a shape. When the puzzle is complete, the object fades in, a voice reads the name of the object, and a sound effect is played. It took about two days of us holding Steven’s hand to guide the puzzle pieces into place for him to figure out how to play it on his own. This is also one of his favorites. There is a lite version but the paid one is well worth it.
  • Preschool Connect-the-Dots – Tap the dots labeled with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, or numbers, in order to form an outline of a shape that fills in with a spoken word and sound effect. You can change the settings so that it’s easier (the next dot is immediately highlighted), so that the letter/numbers are spoken as you tap them, etc., etc. Steven needs it on the “easy” setting for now, but we noticed him starting to say the names of the letters as he played it more and more.
  • Old MacDonald – an interactive sing-out-loud “book” with lots of animations and Easter egg-type things that happen when you touch the pictures.
  • Balloonimals – Blow into the mic to inflate a balloon, then shake the phone a few times to “twist” the balloon into a cool balloon animal. There is a free version with two animals, but we got the paid version, too. Steven ends up spitting all over the phone when he tries to blow it, and sometimes he gets frustrated when he can’t blow it up all the way and it deflates.
  • weeGiggle – Steven liked this “exploratory app” more when he was younger. Drag around the scene and touch the animals to hear funny sounds, laughs, and watch them change shape. He’s a little bored with it now, but initially it was a sure-fire way to keep his attention for a long time.
  • Stunt Wagon – I think we got this game for free during a promotion (it’s now $0.99). It’s more for older kids/adults as it’s a video-game-type app, where you have to steer your character down a hill, avoiding obstacles. Even though Steven can’t play it for real, he likes the music and the funny sounds that the characters make when they crash into obstacles, so we often hear it coming from the back seat. I probably wouldn’t have bought it, though.
  • Built-in iPhone Photos – Steven loves to browse through the photos and videos on my iPhone.

Big changes ahead!

I’ve been dreadfully neglecting this blog and it’s way past time for some kind of update and post! So how about some big, life-changing news?

For those of you who don’t follow my personal blog, twitter, or facebook, this may be news to you: Steve and I are expecting a second baby boy in mid/late August! This time around, I didn’t have impaired glucose tolerance – yippee! – but unfortunately it means my diet hasn’t been as good, either, as I haven’t exactly been skimping on carbs and desserts. The baby is healthy and active, though, and we are excited to welcome him into the world.

And this is news to pretty much everyone else: I’ve just accepted a full-time position with Synteractive, a company based out of Washington D.C., starting officially on July 1st. I’m joining on as “Lead Designer” and will be doing what I enjoy doing best – design and coding – but will be applying those skills to SharePoint branding (e.g., taking a Microsoft SharePoint site and hacking at it to make it look nice). They offered me a generous package – enough so that Steve will be staying home as full-time dad once the baby arrives (gives him a chance to work out the busy construction season over the summer). I’ll be one of two remote workers, so I’ll continue to work at home; after the first year with nursing baby, I will most likely have to travel a few times a year. Although this is a huge change, I think that ultimately it will be really good for our family, and I’m excited to begin new working relationships and challenging projects! (Unfortunately you probably won’t hear much about those projects since pretty much everything I’ll be working on will be covered with an NDA… but I’ll share when I can!)

I will be severely curtailing my freelance business for obvious reasons, although I’m intending on keeping my core group of faithful long-time clients (most of whom just take a couple hours every few months for web updates, anyway) for as long as I can.

So – that’s that in terms of updates! Hope those of you who still have my dusty blog in your RSS readers are doing well. 🙂

Baby related thoughts: One year later

This is the eigth of a series of posts on pregnancy, labor, birth, and being a new parent. See intro and full list.

Okay, technically it’s been over a year since Steven was born and only nine months since my last post in the Baby Related Thoughts series, but it sort of averages out to a year! I thought now was a good time to revisit a few of the topics I’ve previously posted on and add some updates and comments.

On baby gear

After a year (and a few months), I’m surprised by how many things we still use on my original baby gear list. The things that we don’t currently use are:

  • cradle – which we didn’t use by the time I wrote the previous post anyway
  • swaddling blankets, sleep sacks – since Steven is no longer swaddled. However, we now use many of the blankets that we received as gifts. They were also useful for protecting the floor when Steven was starting to be mobile and was still spitting up quite a bit.
  • baby monitor – this would be helpful if ours worked when going to other places, but we’ve gotten along fine without it.
  • bottles and sterilizer, breast pump – we never did consistently bottle-feed Steven.
  • Brest Friend feeding pillow – didn’t use this after the first month or two
  • food mill – Steven doesn’t need mashed food anymore
  • some baby carriers – Steven has outgrown the Baby Bjorn, and the other carriers have been abandoned in favor of the free Sutemi carrier that I got from my sister. It’s similar to the Ergo Baby carrier. I think I’d like an Ergo better, but the Sutemi was free!

My current top “for sure” items:

  • Jogging stroller
  • Bike trailer – in our town, you can bike anywhere (and it’s nice and flat). Going on errands on the bike is a nice outing for both me and the baby!
  • BumGenius diapers
  • Feeding seat/high chair
  • Sippy cup – I got a small Klean Kanteen with the Avent sipper top and keep it filled with water. Steven will pick it up off the floor and drink from it himself when he’s thirsty.

Update 8/4 – One thing I just thought of that we use really frequently was the noisemaker from the “Sleep Sheep” that we got as a gift. It makes various types of white noise (45 min max time limit) and has been invaluable with helping Steven sleep in other places, since we use white noise at home, too.

On cloth diapering

Over a year later, we are still using cloth diapers with very few exceptions. I used Seventh Generation disposable diapers when we went camping and provided them for babysitters on our first weekend away from the baby.

We are still fans of the BumGenius diapers that we got — although I’m a bit sad that they came out with organic diapers and more color selection after we got ours. They have held up well through the multiple changes and launderings, although the velcro tabs started to curl after six or eight months and the laundry tabs – the small strip of cloth next to the tabs that allow you to stick them down for laundering — stopped being “sticky” after nine to ten months. (A friend mentioned that using a “sweater shaver” would get them fuzzy again, but I haven’t gotten around to trying that tip yet). I would still take the easy velcro tabs over other types of pocket diapers, however.

That’s all for now, but I have some ideas on future posts on sleep and solid food, so stay tuned!

Baby related thoughts: On cloth diapering

This is the seventh of a series of posts on pregnancy, labor, birth, and being a new parent. See intro and full list.

Early on in my pregnancy, I did some online research to try to figure out the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solution for diapering.

First, I examined my options.

  • Disposable diapers – Very common and convenient. Purchase different sizes as necessary and toss into the garbage when you’re done. The main problem is that they last forever (or at least, a very, very long time) in a landfill.
  • Cloth “prefold” diapers – Your typical cloth diaper (we have tons of these, used as burp cloths), usually involves purchasing a diaper cover for convenience. Diaper covers are usually made out of water-resistant material and come in many different brands and varieties; Bummis and Bumkins are two popular brands. Usually, you have to purchase different sizes of the covers as your baby grows larger; you may also need to purchase larger-sized prefold diapers if you started with “infant” sizes. The cloth diaper needs to be laundered after each use; diaper covers can usually be reused unless obviously soiled.
    • Diaper service – For apartment-dwellers who don’t have a washer/dryer in their unit but still want to use cloth diapers, you can consider using a diaper service. They cart away the dirty cloth diapers (you will most likely have to purchase the covers and launder those yourself) and drop off a new, clean load for a fee.
  • Pocket diapers – These diapers usually involve a diaper “shell” with a water-resistant outside and fleece or microfiber inside (which helps to prevent diaper rash because it wicks away the wetness), with an opening that allows you to stuff the shell with absorbent material – usually a thick microfiber-esque pad. When you launder them, you pull out the insert and then wash both the shell and the insert. Popular brands include Fuzzibunz, Kissaluvs, and bumGenius. Most pocket diapers come in different sizes so you have to buy larger ones as your baby grows, but bumGenius has a “one-size” pocket diaper.
  • All-in-one diapers – These are often made by the same companies as pocket diapers, but have the absorbent material sewn inside so that you wash the whole diaper instead of taking it apart, which means you save some time. You have to buy different sizes as your baby grows.
  • gDiapersgDiapers are a different animal, involving a outer cotton shell or wrapper and a flushable, compostable liner (“wet” liners can be composted, but “dirty” liners should be flushed or thrown away). You have to buy the liners, obviously, and will also have to buy larger shells as your baby outgrows them. If your sewer system doesn’t like flushable liners, you can feel okay about tossing the liners because they biodegrade very quickly.

The environmental cost of disposables is obvious. Diaper services most likely use a lot of bleach in the cleaning process, plus factor in the fuel cost for transporting the diapers, so they aren’t doing much for the environment, either, unless you can find a service that uses natural cleaning products. For home-laundered cloth diapering, the environmental cost comes mainly in the use of water and energy. gDiapers are probably the most environmentally friendly of the bunch in terms of day-to-day use, because the refills biodegrade nicely and the wrap doesn’t need to be washed very often. Most of the cloth diaper brands above are made in the US; I couldn’t figure out where some of the main brands of disposables were made (anyone want to find that out?).

In the end, I chose to go the home-laundered cloth diapering route because we had convenient access to energy-efficient laundry machines and because I didn’t like the idea of contributing unnecessarily to landfills. I don’t know what we would have done if we still lived in an apartment, however.

Diaperdecisions.com has handy charts that break down the actual total cost (and the cost-per-change) over your baby’s diapering lifetime. According to their numbers, which include estimates not only for the actual diapers but for energy and water costs, you’ll spend around $2500 on disposable diapers, about $1500 on the fancier pocket or all-in-one diapers, and only $381 on prefold cloth diapers and covers. Their chart doesn’t include costs for gDiapers or bumGenius “one-size” diapers, though. I did a cost breakdown on bumGenius one-size diapers using their numbers and came up with this:

12 pack bumGenius one-size diaper $203.40 x 3 (36 diapers) = $610.20
Energy costs: $36.00 – $122.40 depending on water heater
Total cost: $732.60 (using higher energy number)
Average changes (potty trained 2.5 years): 7,398
Cost per change (including washing): $0.10

As you can see, the bumGenius one-size diaper isn’t as cheap as cloth prefolds and covers, but it’s significantly cheaper than the all-in-ones or other pocket diaper brands by $900 or so.

In the end, we chose to go with bumGenius diapers instead of cloth prefolds, despite the higher cost. Here are the reasons we chose bumGenius diapers over all the other solutions.

  • bumGenius diapers have three rows of snaps on the front part of the diaper, allowing you to effectively shorten the size of the diaper. You only have to change the size as the baby grows, and you can use the diapers for babies up to 35 lbs. The all-in-one diapers, other pocket diaper brands, and cloth prefold/diaper covers require you to purchase different sizes. Since we don’t have much storage space, we liked the idea of just having one diaper shell to deal with for our baby’s diapering life instead of dealing with and storing different sizes.
  • bumGenius diapers come with two thicknesses of insert pads – the Cottonbabies brand “thick” pad, which includes snaps for resizing them to fit the bumGenius diaper, and a thinner “newborn” pad. Unless your baby is a very heavy wetter, there’s no need to purchase more inserts.
  • There are some other all-in-one diapers on the market, but they seem to involve rows of snaps. bumGenius diapers have snaps that you only touch twice in the baby’s lifetime to increase the size of the diaper, but the day-to-day closure method involves handy velcro tabs which make them as easy to put on or take off as disposables.
  • Cloth prefolds and disposables supposedly result in diaper rash more often than the microfiber or fleece inner liner of pocket and all-in-one diapers.
  • bumGenius diapers are made in the USA.

At the time that I purchased the diapers, bumGenius had just come out with their 2.0 version. (As of this writing, they’re on 3.0, which has some modest improvements, and they also have new organic diapers!) If I were to do anything differently, I would have scoured parenting forums to try to purchase gently-used diapers and save more money, but at the time I just wanted to order them and have them in-hand. Diaperswappers.com is one such community where people sell or swap diapers, although you’ll have to get used to their use of acronyms (BGAIO = bumGenius All-In-Ones, BG2.0 = bumGenius 2.0 diapers, etc.).

We used disposable diapers for the first month, which gave us enough time to get used to having a baby around, then started using bumGenius diapers. So far, I’ve been very happy with them. I purchased 24 diapers, which gives me enough to do laundry every other day or every third day. The diapers have been holding up well, although I expect that at some point in the distant future, the velcro tabs will need to be refurbished by a handy sewing friend. Diaper leaks have been very rare (most of them happened in the transition from using the newborn to large insert), and diaper rash has been non-existent.

Before embarking on the cloth diapering journey, I had no idea what was involved with laundering them. (Cotton Babies has a reader-friendly guide to cloth diaper basics, including how to wash cloth diapers.)

With exclusively breast-fed babies, it’s really easy initially because you can toss the diaper into the laundry even if it’s poopy, because it all washes out. Once you start solid foods, or if your baby is formula fed, you need to first scrape or rinse the poop off into the toilet. While it seems gross at first, “diaper dunking” is one way that many parents clean off the diaper – swishing the diaper in the toilet. For the more squeamish, sprayer hoses can be installed and attached to the toilet to squirt off the mess. For the even more squeamish, you can buy “diaper liners,” which are a sheet of thin, flushable material that goes inside the diaper. The poop stays on the liner and can easily be flushed down the toilet, and it helps keep the diaper a little cleaner, too. (This is not factored into the cost above, though! It costs about $0.06 or $0.07 more per change if you use diaper liners.)

Read the manufacturer instructions to find out if you should keep dirty diapers in a “dry” or “wet” pail before washing them. A “dry pail” is basically any container that you want to use to keep the diapers in until you have enough to do a load of laundry, while a “wet” pail is something that you can use to soak diapers in. bumGenius diapers should be stored in a dry pail. For us, this was initially a laundry basket. When things got stinky, we switched to a zip-up waterproof bag. I ordered custom fabric-outer-lining ones from happytushies.com, along with smaller travel-sized bags, but it looks like they only offer them through retailers, now.

So far, I’ve been able to wash the diapers with the baby’s other laundry without a problem. Bringing everything to the washing machine, I quickly pull out the inserts (albeit a bit gingerly, with two fingers) and toss them into the washer. bumGenius diapers allow you to fold down the velcro tabs so they don’t stick to other things, so I make sure those are in place before tossing the shell into the washer. Then, I wash the diapers twice – once on cold, once on warm/hot, with an extra rinse. The extra rinse is to get all the detergent out of the diapers, because detergent residue = odor. Check the manufacturer’s information to find out if there’s a specific detergent that’s recommended. On the recommendation of my friend Kristine, we’ve been using Allens Naturally Detergent. With high-efficiency washers, you have to be careful to use less detergent than with normal washers.

I put all of my bumGenius diapers in the dryer, although I’m hoping one of our weekend projects will be to install a laundry line solution outside. When I fold the laundry, I stuff the liners into the diapers so that they’re ready to go. At night, we’ll grab one of the newborn inserts and put them in for a double-stuffed diaper so that the diaper doesn’t leak.

You can also buy or make your own cloth wipes so that you’re not using disposable wipes. I’m using Seventh Generation disposable wipes for now, but am considering switching over to cloth.

I’m glad that we are able to cloth-diaper. I might make a very different choice if we didn’t have a washer and dryer in our house, or if I was working full-time away from home.

Anyone else have anything to add to the topic? If you cloth diaper, what brands do you use and what do you like (or don’t like) about them?

Baby related thoughts: On breastfeeding

This is the sixth of a series of posts on pregnancy, labor, birth, and being a new parent. See intro and full list.

After the initial few days of figuring out how my milk plumbing worked, breastfeeding was a breeze for me. But for many women, it’s not. I think our culture has lost some of the normality of breastfeeding; it’s no longer common knowledge as to how it works and how it’s done. Women of my generation learn from books, pay for lactation consultants, or go out of their way to join groups like the La Leche League to find the support they need. Unlike many other places in the world, it’s not okay to whip out a breast and start feeding in public (even in my town, which supposedly has a higher percentage of women who breastfeed); breastfeeding is something that happens behind closed doors or under colorful Hooter Hiders, so girls and young women never actually get to observe what a “good latch” looks like. Consequently, women find out that breastfeeding is not a natural but a learned behavior. In an informal observational “survey”* of the young moms that I know, 7/10 had more difficulty than not getting breastfeeding “going.”

Even without facing a tenth of the challenges that some of my friends did, I can’t say that breastfeeding was “easy” when starting out. Like almost every other aspect of parenting, I was uncertain, worried of doing things wrong, and had no prior reference or personal experience to draw on. The “good latch” photographs in books such as The Nursing Mother’s Companion and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding gave me some idea of how the baby should be positioned, but I wished that I had x-ray vision to see if the baby’s tongue was properly positioned below the nipple and areola and if the nipple was drawn back into the back part of the baby’s mouth. I had to trust the nurses and lactation consultants at the hospital, who reassured me that I had “perfect breasts for nursing” and that the belly-to-belly, nose-pointing-at-me position of the baby was fine. Nonetheless, I still developed a painful pressure blister on one of my nipples by the second day. (It eventually scabbed over and got better.) A few weeks later, I worried that I had a plugged duct and spent hours (well, at least a good half-hour) in a hot shower trying to get the painfully hard, engorged spot on my breast to loosen up and unplug. I flipped through the breastfeeding books I was borrowing from the library, trying to figure out if it was really a plugged duct or not or if something else was going on. (I think it was a plugged duct.) Also, as is typical for newborns, Steven was a very sleepy eater – three sucks in and he’d be dozing off. Despite these initial stresses, I’m very grateful that I had a relatively easy experience. Steven naturally caught on to breastfeeding well (despite being slightly tongue-tied, which can add on to the challenge of feeding) and my milk production was good.

While I can’t speak too much from my own experience, I think I can put together at least a few thoughts and tips, mostly based on the experiences of other friends.

  • “Breastfeeding may lead to some discomfort initially, but it shouldn’t be terribly painful. If it is, there may be something wrong with the baby’s latch.” This is general advice found in most books about breastfeeding, but it’s terribly unhelpful to new moms. How are you supposed to know the line between discomfort and pain when you’ve never breastfed before? My experience was that the nipple that developed a blister felt like it was getting pinched with each suck, and the painful spot was getting pink. In contrast, the other side never felt like it was getting pinched.
  • Especially when first starting out, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Ask for help, even if you feel embarrassed about making a big deal out of a “little pinch.” One of the best pieces of advice I got from a friend (even though I ended up not having to use it) was to budget extra money in the case that we needed to talk to a lactation consultant multiple times. In the first days of breastfeeding, your body is establishing its level of milk production, so it’s better to get help sooner than later.
  • If breastfeeding is a big priority, be prepared to expend a lot of effort to get it going properly (and then be thankful if it ends up being easy). Some friends found it necessary to pump between feedings to get their bodies thinking that demand was increasing in order to get the supply up. There are also herbal remedies for increasing milk production, I think. I spent the first few weeks confined to my room so that I could be topless while feeding and allow the skin-to-skin contact to increase the milk-producing hormones in my body. Other friends spent hundreds of dollars visiting different lactation consultants. It’s very possible that you may need to put a halt on visitors in order to focus on giving the baby an optimal environment for getting a good feeding, or that your husband or partner has to take over all other household tasks so that you can focus on staying relaxed and rested, both of which influence milk let-down.
  • One of the things I took away from our “intro to breastfeeding” class was how milk production is rooted in hormone activity. Specifically, oxytocin, known as the “cuddle hormone” because it’s produced in response to touch (cuddling, sexual intercourse, and breastfeeding being three examples), also plays a role in milk let-down (and possibly production, if I recall the class correctly). So, skin-to-skin contact was highly encouraged. Things that inhibit milk production and let down include adrenaline/stress and distractions. So, especially when starting out (and possibly continuing for a while), you want to provide a calm environment for both you and your baby.
  • Milk production is also based in supply and demand. However, this doesn’t mean that you should nurse your baby for hours on end. While I don’t know the specifics as to how much rest is best in between feedings, I’ve at least heard vague statements by mothers (quoting their lactation consultants) that the body needs some time to recover.
  • Starting out, nursing Steven was always at least a half-hour to 45-minute process to eat on both sides. This was because he was soooo sleepy as soon as he started eating (because oxytocin is produced in the baby, too, it makes them verrrryyyy relaxed). The literature and experts are split on whether or not you should try to keep the baby awake or not. Some say that you should let them sleep because when they are really hungry, they’ll stay awake. Others say that you should encourage them to stay awake so that they get a good feeding, which will help them to establish a more regular pattern and routine, even if that means tickling their feet, putting a cold washcloth on their skin, or stroking the side of their cheek. Child of Mine, the go-to resource for feeding children from infancy and up, is somewhere in the middle, advocating that you encourage the child to stay awake but shying away from tickling the baby, jiggling them, or otherwise messing with them. Instead, the book describes animatedly taking with them. (We and chose to go the keep-them-awake method, but resorted to tickling/cold washcloth because talking didn’t do a thing.) Now, however, Steven eats for 10 or 15 minutes and is done! Now that he is older, he stays awake and eats very efficiently.

Finally, I do have friends who weren’t able to get breastfeeding to work exclusively for them and supplemented with formula or went to exclusively formula. The guilt and frustration they experienced is a whole other topic. As a friend, I struggled with encouraging them without communicating to them that they weren’t trying hard enough. Next time, I think I would mention that Child of Mine has a chapter for formula-fed babies next to the chapter on breast-fed babies and stays away from making judgment calls on breastfeeding or not, which other breastfeeding books tend to do (they make mothers who don’t breastfeed feel like second-class citizens). Also, in Bright From the Start, a book about encouraging development and learning in your baby, the author suggests that some of the causes of higher IQ in breastfed babies are because the babies switch sides and because the mothers talk more to them. Babies tend to play and touch things as they nurse, and switching sides forces them to use both hands (the one that’s free) to explore. This exercises both parts of their brain. So with a bottle-fed baby, it might be worth it to try turning them around halfway through feeding to allow that type of development. The parents might also find it helpful to observe how different nursing mothers interact with their babies (research supposedly shows that they talk more to their babies) and then replicate that while bottle feeding. Finally, another person gave me some great advice that it doesn’t matter what sleep theory you adhere to, what matters is loving and consistent parenting for the child’s whole life. I think that applies to whether or not the child is breastfed or formula fed, too!

Okay – other moms out there, what ideas or thoughts do you have about breastfeeding?

* I didn’t actually survey people, so this information is mainly based on conversational snippets that I’ve had with my friends, including secondhand snippets.

My breastfeeding bibliography from other posts:

Baby related thoughts: On the first two weeks

This is the fifth of a series of posts on pregnancy, labor, birth, and being a new parent. See intro and full list.

I had imagined some nice bonding time with the baby after birth. We’d read and heard about skin-to-skin contact being the Very Best Thing for the baby, even, incredibly, about how newborn babies can “crawl” to the breast to nurse when they’re placed on the mother’s tummy/chest.

In another incident of broken expectations, however, Steven was immediately whisked away to the warming table (Steve didn’t get to cut the umbilical cord, either, because they were in a rush) so that the respiratory therapist could look at him. Because he had pooped in utero, they were concerned that the meconium (the tarry sticky “first poop” that babies have for the first few times) might have gotten into his lungs and nasal passages. They suctioned him off, bundled him up tightly, and let me snuggle with him just briefly, but then whisked him immediately off to the nursery to observe his breathing, which they thought was a little bit weak.

Thankfully, Steven was there for just an hour or two (we went to visit him after I got stitched up) and was brought back, limp and sleeping. In the meantime, Steve went out to call family. His parents, who live half an hour away, immediately drove over. I guess they had a tearful moment in the parking lot as Steve broke down after 75 hours of dealing with a laboring wife and an intense birth moment!

All of us, including the baby, were exhausted. We had a four hour block of sleep the first night. Little did I know that this would be the longest block of sleep that I’d have for a long time!

We stayed in the hospital an extra night because the doctor was concerned that Steven hadn’t seemingly peed yet. (In all likelihood, he peed when he had his first meconium poop – a big tarry sticky black mess – but there was no way we could tell!) At one point, we had to walk him over to the special ultrasound room so that they could make sure his kidneys were okay. Finally, they inserted a catheter, although Steven just started peeing all around it as they were trying to insert it.

My milk hadn’t come in yet, either, so Steven was surviving on colostrum and a few half-ounces of formula for the next few days. The pediatrician was concerned about dehydration because Steven’s urine was very concentrated, so they rigged up a supplementary feeding system with a tiny tube, taped next to the nipple, connected with a syringe that contained a few ounces of formula. As Steven ate, I was supposed to gently suppress the syringe so that formula would get into him. This way he could get extra nutrition without having to be bottle-fed and run the risk of messing up breastfeeding. Great concept in theory… in reality, the syringe didn’t have the finest control, so either no formula would come out or I would practically choke Steven with too much formula. Thankfully my milk finally came in the day after we got home, and we were able to scrap all plastic tubing and formula.

Refreshing my memory by looking back at journal entries, the first week was a mass of uncertainty. Was I breastfeeding right? Was I breastfeeding enough, or not enough? Was I breastfeeding for too long? Or not long enough? Was the baby crying because he was hungry or tired? Should we try to sleep or get other important stuff done? Was it warm enough for the baby? Were we swaddling the baby correctly? Should we try to keep the baby awake while feeding? Should we wake up the baby to feed him or let him sleep? Should we have people bring us food or try to get back to eating homemade organic stuff? Should we let my mom swab the baby’s umbilical cord with alcohol or tell her that the pediatrician told us it was unnecessary? Should we try to borrow a co-sleeper from someone? Was it bad that we were letting the baby sleep in our bed? Was it bad that we took pictures of the baby with the cat?

I felt very thankful that Steve was able to essentially take two weeks off of work – the first week, including three days of labor, and the following week. My mom also came out for a few days, staying at our old place with our old housemates and driving over during the day. She essentially cooked until our fridge was full of food, then left. She helped give the baby baths, but generally focused on cooking. I found it a bit stressful initially because this was the first time she’d been to our new house, and she spent the first 24 hours telling us all the ways that we could improve our lives, including going through each light bulb in our house and asking us if they were CFLs or incandescents. I finally had to kindly confront her and ask her to keep from spouting out her advice, and suggested that she write them down instead so that we could process them after figuring out how to be new parents. (She didn’t write anything down, but the flow of advice did slow down to a trickle.) I love my mom, but she’s one of the few people who can stress me out, so I was thankful that she wasn’t staying in our 990 sq. ft. home with us (not that we had room for an extra bed!) but was able to stay at our old place so that we could get some alone time at night. It was wonderful, however, to have deliciously prepared foods for us at every meal and long after she’d left.

We had a several visitors in the hospital, but then we shut down for a few days when we got home so that we could nap as needed. In retrospect, we probably should have napped more in the hospital, too, and tried to consolidate “visiting hours.”

The nights were most difficult in the first few weeks. Perhaps because the baby had day-night confusion, he was fussier during the night than during the day, so he cried more in the middle of the night, inconsolably. We’d try swaddling him, try holding him, try rocking him, try shushing him. Looking back, I don’t know if there’s anything that we were doing “wrong;” Steven was probably just trying to figure out this big new world just as much as we were trying to figure him out. We just had to all hang in there and do the best we could. At the time, though, I remember wondering what we were doing wrong and trying to change different variables to see what worked: adding white noise, turning up the heat a little bit, having him sleep in our bed. I remember consulting The Happiest Baby on the Block and trying the “5 S’s” (swaddling, side, shushing, swinging, suckling) which surprisingly worked most of the time. But there were times that it didn’t work, and I wouldn’t know how to soothe Steven other than to try to nurse him – which also only worked part of the time. I can remember giving up on the 5 S’s after what seemed like hours of crying, putting Steven to the breast, and dripping tears onto the back of his head because I felt so sad for him and frustrated with my inability to soothe him.

It took just about two weeks, and then Steven fell into his own 2.5 – 3 hour “routine” (which means that he woke up every 2.5 or 3 hours to be fed, ate for half an hour or more while I tried to keep him awake, then went back to sleep). We also went through many “sleep training” discussions, books, and plans. Right around two weeks is also when we transitioned Steven from sleeping in our bed to sleeping in his crib. It’s also when Steven went back to work and I was on my own during the days. Although Steven was what many people would call an “easy baby,” falling into his own routine, there were still many “routine exceptions” some days or some nights so that we never quite felt like we “got it.” (And we still don’t.) Interestingly (to me), after about two weeks, Steven’s night sleep got very consistent and regular, while his day sleep was unpredictable and sometimes not routine.

I feel pretty fortunate that I had an “easy” baby, that breastfeeding went well (more on that later), and that I didn’t suffer from postpartum depression (although I definitely had emotional ups-and-downs). A lot of my friends had very tough starts as mothers – but we’ve all survived.

Some practical-type thoughts about the first two weeks:

  • Read The Happiest Baby on the Block. The 5 S’s have worked pretty well for most of the people that we know who’ve tried it. (And for the ones who haven’t been as lucky, Your Fussy Baby by Marc Weissbluth of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child fame comes highly recommended.)
  • Our baby slept much better when swaddled. This is sort-of empirical fact, as we tried it both ways. (But maybe your baby won’t care.)
  • Skin-to-skin contact comes highly recommended by recent research, not only for bonding (Steve did some skin-to-skin cuddling with Steven, too) but also for breastfeeding. The contact helps to stimulate hormones that increase milk production, and for some babies, makes nursing go a lot more easily. I had a relatively easy time getting breastfeeding going, compared to other friends who have had a lot more challenges. I don’t know how much of the “easiness” was attributed to skin-to-skin contact, but I don’t think it hurt. I’d do it again, despite the unsupportive question someone asked me at one point of when I was going to start breastfeeding “normally.”
  • A lifesaver for me was figuring out “side-lying nursing,” or nursing the baby while lying down. The mother and baby are facing each other, tummy to tummy, and the baby nurses while the mother snoozes. I found it easiest with my bottom arm extended out or curled under my pillow and my other arm cuddling the baby close. I also needed a pillow between my legs and another pillow behind my back for support. On those days when I was really, really tired, it was really nice to be able to nurse and sleep at the same time. Usually the baby would fall asleep while nursing, too, and we’d just have a nice nap together.
  • Everyone says it so it seems old, but I’ll repeat it: Sleep as much as you need to… and even more than you think you need to. Have a friend arrange meals to be brought. Be environmentally unfriendly and use disposable plates if you need to, or have friends come and help you do dishes and clean up. Do everything you can to maximize your naps: Turning off phones, putting a sign on your front door that tells people you’re sleeping, having a trusted friend come over to take the baby for a walk so you can sleep, having a messy house, not putting on makeup. The more sleep you get, your milk may come in sooner, and you’ll have the emotional and mental energy to deal with a crying baby.
  • I found the family and friends who were willing to do “little stuff” such as cleaning our house and running out to get us food, without needing us to entertain them to be the most helpful.

Anyone else want to chime in?

Baby related thoughts: On baby gear

This is the fourth of a series of posts on pregnancy, labor, birth, and being a new parent. See intro and full list.

When I first put together our baby registry, we were under the assumption that we were still going to be living with our friends, Rich and Liz, who were themselves expecting a baby a couple months after us. We were essentially limited to our one bedroom, space-wise, and were planning to keep the baby in there with us until we moved out in August. Little did we know that we’d purchase a house and that the baby would have his own room from the start!

Steve and I try to be minimalists and non-materialistic anyway (the key word being “try”), so we ended up borrowing things and getting lots of things secondhand. We’re lucky to be in a community of generous parents who were more than happy to send gently used baby clothes and gear over to us. But even with trying to be minimalistic, we still ended up with a lot of stuff!

Here’s our registry list which shows all the stuff we got, the stuff we didn’t get, and relevant comments.

  • Cradle – Our friend gave us a beautiful handmade wooden swinging cradle that she had used for her son. She said that he used it up to 5 months. (We ended up using it only briefly because I found it easier to have Steven in bed with us for the first two weeks; then we transitioned him to his crib – see below.)
  • Crib – We didn’t originally register for a crib because we thought we wouldn’t have room and were planning on just using the cradle (see above) initially. When we found out we were going to be in a house, we planned to just find one secondhand after we moved. Our generous friends surprised us with a gorgeous used crib at my baby shower!
  • Crib mattress – We wanted an expensive organic wool and cotton crib mattress, and while it was listed on our registry, we didn’t expect to get it from anyone because of the hefty price tag. We ended up purchasing this ourselves as one of our big-ticket baby items.
  • Bedding – We registered for organic sheets (didn’t receive), organic mattress pad (received 2), and organic blankets (we received the two we registered for, plus about 10 other blankets!). We did not register for matching bedding/decor (sheets, blankets, crib bumper, diaper dispenser) as having a matching nursery was not a priority for us. We got one set of sheets but haven’t used them yet; up to this point, we just have the mattress pad and a waterproof wool pad over that as it’s easier to pull off and wash when it gets soiled. Now that Steven is starting to roll around in his crib, though, the pad isn’t enough coverage so we’ll have to start using sheets. I’ll probably pick up another set of sheets soon.
  • Receiving blankets/swaddling blankets – We used extra-large flannel receiving blankets and “swaddling” blankets the first few months until Steven outgrew them; Steven slept much better when he was swaddled. Steve never felt like he mastered the swaddling technique, so he really liked the Kiddopotamus “SwaddleMe” blanket, which has handy velcro tabs that wrap around and secure the baby tightly. We got the “large” SwaddleMe blanket when Steven outgrew his “small” one.
  • Sleep sacks – These “wearable sleeping bags” come with sleeves or without and zip up so that the baby stays warm without the risk of suffocation. We didn’t use them until Steven was 4 months old, and it took a day of letting him cry while going to sleep as he was used to being tightly swaddled. He still sleeps better when he’s swaddled, so we usually use the SwaddleMe at night and sleep sacks during the day. We got all of our sleep sacks from family and friends, although I bought an organic lightweight sleep sack because the ones we had were all fleece.
  • Bookshelf/changing table – We got an Ikea “Expedit” bookcase for the baby room, intending to use the top surface as a changing table. We got a few bins which have been useful for stashing baby stuff.
  • Changing pad – We registered for one of those contoured changing pads that go on the top of changing tables, but didn’t receive one. As it turned out, we just used a folded towel on top of the bookcase for padding and that has worked fine.
  • Baby monitor – We got a baby monitor but didn’t follow the instructions for charging it, so I think we broke the battery for the mobile receiver. It still works if you plug it in, but what’s the use of that? As it turns out, we haven’t really needed it, because I hear the baby fine from our room next door.
  • Baby health care kit – Includes a digital thermometer, aspirator, nail clippers, medicine dropper. The digital thermometer was very cheap, taking about 10 minutes to read one’s temperature, so we ended up buying another [better] digital thermometer later. The nail clippers were the most useful thing but we’ve since misplaced them – baby nail clippers are tiny and easy to misplace!
  • BumGenius diapers – We intended to cloth-diaper, and after some research, these were the ones I picked. We bought 30 of them. More details coming in another post.
  • Custom-made diaper pail liner and wet bags – On the recommendation of a friend, we bought two diaper pail liners and three wet bags from happytushies.com. I’ll save cloth diapering remarks for another post.
  • Diaper wipes warmer – Despite getting a reputation as one of the most useless pieces of baby gear, I enjoy using our wipe warmer because of the easy-dispensing and because cold wipes seem slimy and clammy to me. So it’s more for me than for the baby.
  • Seventh Generation Baby Wipes – I get these in bulk through Amazon; we’re on our second shipment.
  • Allen’s Naturally Liquid Detergent – Also recommended by a friend, this concentrated detergent is all-natural, so I use it for washing all the baby clothes and diapers.
  • Bath stuff – We started out using Johnson’s Head to Toe Body Wash, but then received an assortment of Kiehl’s baby products and found the foaming body wash very fun to use. It’s almost gone so we’ll be going back to Johnson’s. We got a few hooded towels and about thirty washcloths, some which are still unwrapped (but I’m sure we’ll use them at some point!), including ten or so thin, tiny newborn-type washcloths. If we were the non-disposable wipe type, those would probably work nicely as reusable wipes; I’ve been finding them handy more lately for wiping up Steven’s mouth after I give him some infant Tylenol. The hospital had a little flexible plastic brush, which we brought home and found useful for washing the baby’s hair. My mom got us a big bottle of baby oil, which is good for cradle cap, and I got a jar of Cetaphil, recommended by the pediatrician, for Steven’s dry skin.
  • Clothing – We got plenty of clothing, used and new. I didn’t realize initially that “newborn” size is very different from “0-3 months,” or that “0-3 months” would be different from “3 months.” Sizes are not very consistent across brands, either, so that gets confusing, too! Steven outgrew his “newborn” clothes in about two weeks, outgrew 0-3 months by month 2, and has stayed in the 3-6 and 6 month range ever since (he’s now 5 months old). I don’t think you can really prepare that well for clothing and seasons and ages; you just won’t know if your baby will be in the 95th percentile for height (like Steven) or if they’ll be tiny for a long time. The larger clothes are boxed up in labeled boxes and stored in the closet.
  • Avent bottles – We got a set of Avent bottles which are yet unopened. I’m holding onto them in case we adopt a baby who can’t be breastfed.
  • Avent microwave steam sterilizer – Used for sterilizing bottles and breast pump components. The one we got came with bottles (which is why we haven’t opened our other pack of bottles). I pump/bottle-feed so infrequently, we’ve only ever used two of the four bottles that it came with.
  • Medela Pump-In-Style – A friend shipped us her breast pump, saving us the trouble of having to buy one.
  • Breast Friend feeding pillow – Recommended over the “Boppy,” this feeding pillow straps around your waist and supposedly positions the baby better for breastfeeding. I used this for the first month or so, but went with no-pillow breast feeding after that. Luckily a friend gave us hers, as they aren’t cheap, but now it’s just collecting dust.
  • Baby food stuff – We got a used food mill, lots of used and new bibs (which have been handy for the car seat, as Steven seems to spit up a lot when he’s in the car), Super Baby Food and Feeding Baby Naturally, and various used spoons, bowls, and sippy cups. (I haven’t yet started solid foods, so we’ll see how it goes!)
  • Feeding seat – Instead of a high chair (which wouldn’t fit in our home), we got the kind of seat that straps to an existing chair.
  • Baby carriers – We found a Baby Bjorn for only $8 at a thrift store which we’ve used the most frequently. We got a couple different kinds of baby slings, none of which I was able to figure out how to use successfully with Steven. I also bought an expensive Moby Wrap, basically a very long piece of fabric, which is more comfortable than the Bjorn for longer periods of time but more of a pain to get on. My sister gave us a Kelty backpack which we can’t use for a few more months. (I’ve heard from other moms that the Ergo Carrier is the best one out there – easy to put on and good back support.)
  • Car seat – Our friend is letting us borrow their once-used Graco infant car seat. I’ve ordered a Britax Boulevard car seat, as the same friend is having another baby soon and Steven is outgrowing the infant seat anyway.
  • Bike trailerWe’re holding off on getting one since they can’t be used until the baby is a year old.
  • Car mirror – My sister also sent us a car mirror that attaches to the back seat so you can see your baby… unfortunately it doesn’t work with our car!
  • Bouncy seat – A friend gave us a bouncy seat (the kind with a detachable lights-and-noise toy piece that goes across the front). So far this has been one of the most-used pieces of gear, although now that Steven is starting to be able to roll over, he doesn’t last as long in his chair anymore.
  • Pack and Play – We got a cheap one from a used kids gear store, and much to our regret, it’s impossible to close without two people wrestling with it. Next time… open it up and close it up to make sure it works easily! (We may try to ditch this one and get a better one, as we’re starting to use it more and more often.)
  • Jogging stroller – This was our other major purchase; we got a fancy Phil & Ted’s Sport stroller, which can be converted to hold two children (infant + toddler or toddler + toddler). Although one of the selling points of this one was that it reclined to hold an infant, Steven did not like riding in the stroller until he could sit up in it, so we’ve only started using it frequently. We also sprung for the shade cover.
  • Books – Lots of books, both used and new. Steven was very interested in Baby, Baby, which pairs photographs of babies with similarly posed animals, from about 3 months old. At 4 months, when he was able to sit up a little bit better, he started to enjoy having us read him other books, too.
  • Toys – Not many toys. A few rattles which Steven is mildly interested in (if hanging above him), several stuffed animals which he has no interest in yet, and some organic cotton “teething veggies” which he can’t hold to chew yet.

In retrospect, these would be my top “for sure” items (besides the necessities, like a car seat and clothing) for at least the first five months:

  • BumGenius diapers
  • Jogging stroller
  • Bouncy seat (I probably would have only tried to borrow this if someone hadn’t given it to me for free, though)
  • Breast pump (again, would have tried to borrow this – or rent it as necessary – if we hadn’t received it for free)
  • SwaddleMe blankets (the velcro had nearly worn out on our one SwaddleMe blanket, so I don’t know if it’s as likely that we’d have been successfully trying to borrow this from someone else)
  • Infant Tylenol and good working thermometer

And my “probably could do without” items:

  • Excess of baby bottles. If I were to do it again, I’d just get one or two and then run out and buy more if we needed to. But if breastfeeding hadn’t gone as well as it did, I’d probably be thankful to have lots of bottles on hand.
  • Moby wrap: The few times that I’ve used this have been great for me, but so far the Bjorn is just a lot more convenient. The Bjorn is about to get grown-out-of, though, and the Moby wrap works with older babies and toddlers, so I may change my mind in a few months!
  • Breast Friend feeding pillow. I only really used this for a few weeks, and I don’t know if it was really that necessary… but since a friend gave this to us for free, I’m not complaining!
  • Cradle: I can see how a co-sleeper (one that comes right up next to the bed) would have been convenient in the first couple weeks of bed-side nursing, but a laundry basket (padded with a towel) would have worked just as well as the cradle we received! We transitioned Steven to the crib fairly quickly, though, and I know other mothers have used a co-sleeper for much longer, so it probably depends more on what your plans are for co-sleeping or not.
  • Infant caps: We got about eleven different infant caps of which we only ever used one – the one that we received from the hospital that we used on a few chilly evenings! (Steven was a spring baby and the weather was just starting to get warmer.)
  • Baby oil: We probably did not need such a BIG bottle of baby oil for cradle cap. A couple of little sample-sized ones would have worked!
  • Baby monitor: We aren’t using it since I broke it… and our house isn’t big enough to use it!

Things that are on lots of “must-have baby gear lists” (which you might find in Parenting magazine and the like) that we haven’t missed (but which many other parents find useful, I’m sure):

  • Contoured changing pad: The folded towel works fine… and is easy to replace and wash.
  • Baby bathtub: Not needed because one of us gets in the bath with the baby. It’s a team effort to give the baby a bath, but it works for us right now. Moms or dads who would be giving the baby a bath by themselves would want some kind of baby bathtub, most likely, as they get pretty slippery when wet!
  • Car seat stroller frame: This is a frame with wheels that fits an infant car seat. Since we already had a jogging stroller and were only borrowing the car seat, we didn’t bother getting one.
  • Swing: One mom was shocked that we didn’t have an infant swing, asking me, “How are you going to get your baby to sleep?” I can see how a swing would be very useful for napping a fussy baby, but Steven has been quite easy and we haven’t noticed the lack of a swing. We don’t have the room for one, anyway.
  • Diaper cream: With the kind of cloth diapers I used (BumGenius), the microfiber/fleecy interior lining wicks away moisture so Steven never has diaper rash. We aren’t supposed to use diaper cream on the diapers, anyway.

Anyone else with opinions? What did you find most or least useful? In retrospect, would you do anything differently with baby gear acquisition?