Blog-o! Notes from latte.ca

Fri, 26 Mar 2010

I went to Starbucks this morning to treat myself to my usual decaf tall non-fat with-whip mocha (personal), and there was a lady behind me in line with a baby and a five-year-old boy. The boy was a handful—at one point he disappeared into the kitchen, and he didn't want to stand still and wait in line. The mom was obviously tired, anxious and overwhelmed. Meanwhile, baby in one hand, Blackberry in the other, she was calling friends cheerily asking what kind of coffee they took. You know when you watch someone make a phone call and their whole mood changes when they're on the call? It was like that: tired grumpy tired HAPPY BRIGHT HAPPY tired grumpy tired

First of all, why would you put on yourself the extra work of getting coffee for all your friends when you have your hands full with your kids? It's okay to drop a few things when you have little kids. Maybe not cleaning the toilet and showering, but bringing coffee is definitely expendable. And second, why be all happy and "Hey, I'm bringing you coffee!" to your friends while only the strangers in Starbucks get to see how anxious and overwhelmed you are. Your friends don't care about coffee, they care about you. (The strangers at Starbucks don't care about you, they care about coffee.) It's okay to tell your friends that you're overwhelmed and you're going to beg off bringing coffee for a while. You can be the coffee and treats bringer again when your little one is old enough to carry a bag of croissants.


I guess I have two points. First, if you're feeling overwhelmed, you're not doing anyone any favours pretending everything's fine. Mostly people will believe you, and you won't get the help you need, which sucks. But just as bad is the overly optimistic impression you're giving other parents of the level of busy-ness and achievement they should be able to manage.

And second, when you have little kids you have to set aside some of your old identity. (Unless your old identity included about ten hours a day of absolute sloth, in which case parenting will fit in just fine. Except you'll have to set aside the "I'm slothful" part of your old identity. No, I'm going to stick with my original claim—when you have kids you have to set something aside.) Maybe it's being a great housekeeper, maybe it's being an employed person, maybe it's being a gym rat, maybe it's being someone who sees all the latest movies, maybe it's being the one who brings the coffee. When you add a baby to your life something has to give.

But it doesn't have to give forever: when you're stuck at home with a four-month-old and you're staring down the abyss of babyhood and toddlerdom and preschoolerness it seems like everything you ever loved about your old life is gone for good, or at least unrecognizably mangled. But if you just wait, you'll get it back. Your kid will be able to walk so you can carry an extra coffee; your kid will go to preschool so you can go to the gym; your kid will start school or daycare so you can work.

When you have a baby it seems like you have to hang on to everything about yourself until your fingernails bleed, that if you don't you'll lose yourself completely in snot and diapers. But all that stuff that made you you is still in there. It will still be there for you in three or four or five years when your hands are free and you have a minute or two to yourself.


Wow, that turned way more profound than I meant it to.

[Posted at 10:00 by Amy Brown] link
Tue, 26 Jan 2010

For the last six years I've been reading parenting books. I've read dozens of them, some good, some useless, but a handful stand out as books I've reached for time and again when I had a question or a problem, or just needed some reassuring company. These are the books I would buy (if I were rich) for every expecting mother I know.

Start At The Very Beginning

Well, not the very beginning—there are lots of books about pregnancy and childbirth out there, but childbirth is such an unpredictable and personal thing that you'd have to read a library's worth of books just to learn the handful of things which will apply to your situation. Your best bet is to find a good midwife and stay off the Internet.

Once the baby comes you'll want to feed it, and the best nursing advice I found (in book form—again, a trustworthy advisor is your best bet but unless you were clever enough to marry a lactation consultant you'll need a source of midnight advice) is Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. The title is an exaggeration, of course—no book can make breastfeeding simple— but their advice is soothing, practical, and research-based.

After a while your baby will be ready for, as we call it, people food, and the best introduction to the subject is Better Baby Food: Your Essential Guide to Nutrition, Feeding and Cooking for All Babies and Toddlers by Daina Kalnins and Joanne Saab. Published by Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, this book introduces you to the nuts (actually no nuts) and bolts of feeding babies and small children, from nutrition advice to guidelines on when to introduce different foods. There are recipes for everything from purees to delicious entrees the whole family will enjoy. We love their hot and sour soup, and the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are divine. There is a good mixture of healthy meals and homemade treats, plain food and sophisticated flavours. All the recipes are clearly written and easy to follow, with common ingredients.

My only caveat with Better Baby Food is that it was published before the latest advice moved weaning age up to six months, so their baby food recipes are suggested for four months and up.

Sleep, Gentle Sleep

The best sleep advice around is to be found in Dr. Marc Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Weissbluth is pragmatic, respectful of your child's need to sleep (and yours) and insistent on the importance of a good night's sleep. I wish the book were better edited, as it is sometimes hard to slog through his academic pontificating to get to the actual advice, but once you've found it it's gold. People keep borrowing my copy.

Dear God What Next?

Children change all the time; no sooner do you think you've figured your little one out then they become someone slightly different. I have often thought to myself, sometimes dispairingly, "Is this just a phase, or is this what she's really like?" The Your N-Year-Old series by Louise Bates Ames and Frances Lillian Ilg can help answer that question. Each book comes with a subtitle which is a teaser for what you can expect in that year of your child's life; your three-year-old is "Friend or Enemy", your four-year-old is, alarmingly, "Wild and Wonderful, but then you're rewarded with a "Sunny and Serene" five-year-old.

These books have given me perspective on what my children are going through developmentally and what I can expect from them, both good and bad. Now, when Cordelia throws a giant fit because I cut her toast the wrong way, I can just wait it out with a shrug—"She's four"—rather than dispairing that I've borne a drama queen and she'll always be like this. These books make it possible to untangle the influences of developmental stage from my children's real personalities.

Discipline

No less than four books (plus two) on this topic. They all cover about the same territory but in slightly different ways, so I suppose you could pick your favourite and just read that, but I find it's helpful to reinforce this stuff periodically, and this way you don't have to do it by rereading the same book over and over.

Kids Are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso, Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen, Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn, and Breaking The Good Mom Myth by Alyson Schäfer are all books about positive parenting, or unconditional parenting, or democratic parenting, or Adlerian parenting, which are variations on a philosophy of parenting which regards children as full and equal members of the family with equal rights to respect and dignity. It's the style of parenting I have chosen because it seems most right and effective to me, and the books listed are all excellent guides to parenting in that style.

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish is a light but effective guide to talking to your kids (rather than at them). This book is thick with specific ideas and techniques to help you communicate with your kids. The same authors wrote Siblings Without Rivalry, which teaches how to manage siblings, with plenty of examples, cartoons and summaries.

Reading

In between feeding, disciplining and putting your children to sleep you might want to spend some time with them, and a great way to do that is in the company of books. Babies Need Books: Sharing the Joy of Books with Children from Birth to Six by Dorothy Butler is an impassioned appeal to parents to read early and often. Butler tells us not only why and how we should read, but what, with long lists of great books for every stage from birth to six.

Perspective

In the thick of all this advice you'll want some perspective. Having a second child is a great way to get perspective, as well as a good dose of humility (if you thought your child's awesomeness was to your credit) or absolution (if you thought your child's horribleness was your fault). If you're not ready for another child, though, these books will put your parenting—and all the advice you're getting—into its proper context.

The amply sub-titled The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz is a collection of case studies of children who have gone though horrible trauma—abuse, cults, neglect—and what they can teach us about childhood development and resiliency. This book will help you because no matter what you're doing "wrong" you can't do as much harm to your child as has been done to these children, and because despite such miserable childhoods many of these kids go on to be normal, functioning adults.

Perfect Parents: Baby-care Advice Past and Present by Christina Hardyment is an overview of the crazy, yet earnest, advice given to parents (usually mothers) over the last hundred and fifty years. Parents have been admonished on topics from hugging (bad) to breastfeeding (bad) to warm baths (bad), and some of the advice will leave you open-mouthed. Following the advice is almost always presented as vital to the fabric of society, and yet somehow, civilization has soldiered on despite the failings of mothers everywhere.

How Not To Be The Perfect Mother by Libby Purves is a memoir written by Purves while she was, as she puts it, at the "coalface of practical early motherhood". Funny and pragmatic, Purves offers advice and reassurance without judgement. "A good hungry dog mooching around the high chair helps."

My children are six and four, and I expect I have at least ten years of parenting books ahead of me, so I suppose this list will change, but I've been through two babyhoods and two toddlerhoods and am now firmly in the realm of parenting children. Books have been a terrific help and comfort to me through this journey, and I hope this list can help other parents find their path.

[Posted at 10:56 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 30 Oct 2008

Our school website contains a list of handy Hallowe'en safety tips, among them the old chestnut about inspecting kids' candy before they eat it. I suppose that wouldn't hurt, but it might be interesting to know that there has never been a case of random poisoned Hallowe'en candy. There have been a few reports of candy with pins, and apples with razors, but the vast majority of those were hoaxes or pranks.

Here are a couple of links from the valuable Snopes website:

Perhaps it seems harmless to continue repeating these needless warnings, but I think it breeds cynicism and fear, which we have far too much of. (Don't even get me started on "Stranger Danger".)

(I'm going to have to think further about the appropriateness of cynicism and/or fear with respect to Chinese candy.)

[Posted at 13:19 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 09 May 2007

There will come a day, probably when your baby is around five or six months, that she will no longer be amused by brightly coloured or pastel coloured, hard or squishy baby toys. No matter how novel they are, your baby will somehow be able to detect that they are intended for her, and as such she will turn her little baby nose up at them, especially when you particularly want her to be quietly absorbed in something, like when you're at a restaurant or on a plane.

It is at those times that you will have to resort to baby toys that aren't. Fortunately there are plenty of them, and anyone who has had a baby for a while has a few tricks up their sleeve.

In Your Bag

Keys, of course, are classic. They jingle, there are lots of different and interesting textures, they are cold and hard on itchy teething gums, and it doesn't matter if you slobber all over them. Provided you clean them off before you give them to the baby.

Credit cards (or perhaps more sensibly, loyalty cards or something else you can easily replace) are nice too. They're a good size and weight to hold on to, and they have those interesting embossed letters on them.

Water bottles -- for some reason babies love water bottles. Both Cordelia and Delphine played with them for hours! Well, minutes, which are like hours in baby years.

In Your Kitchen

The kitchen is packed with interesting things to chew on. Wooden spoons are great -- you hardly ever see baby toys made of wood, so it's probably a new and exciting texture for your baby. Teaspoons are nice, too -- smooth and hard and shiny. Delphine really liked a silicone spatula, and Cordelia amused herself for half-an-hour the other day with a bright red silicone basting brush. It must have felt so interesting in her mouth, all those little soft silicone bristles.

Measuring cups and small bowls are fun too, especially when you drop them on the floor and they make a spectacular rang-tang-tanging noise. (Unless you have a baby who startles easily, in which case she will probably scare herself and cry and cry.)

I had a surprise hit the other day with one of those mesh bags you wash your bras in -- Cordelia sucked it, she chewed it, she stuffed it in her mouth and pulled it out again (it was like a magic trick), she found the label and chewed on that. No end of amusement!

In Your Living Room

Okay, there's not much in here -- you don't want your kid playing with your CDs or chewing your books. But there is one thing that every baby covets: the remote control. And don't try and buy one of those brightly coloured fake-o toy remotes, either, your kid is too smart for that. She wants the real thing! The only hope is to find an old remote that doesn't work any more, take out the batteries and make sure none of the bits are going to come off, and let her have it.

In Your Bedroom

Hairbrushes and combs keep Cordelia amused while I change her diaper, and sometimes when I'm desperate I give her a lotion bottle for a few moments (after checking that the lid is secure.)

Fabric is fun for babies; I have had success with a lovely pair of brightly printed silk boxer shorts (sorry Blake). Silk is especially good for a baby who is just beginning to grip, because it is incredibly light and easy to get a grip on. Cordelia seems to enjoy the texture of a wet or dry facecloth.


The bottom line is, don't feel that you have to limit your baby to baby toys. You can give her any old thing provided it's reasonably clean, and that it's not going to break up into chokeable or sharp pieces. Use your common sense, and you and your baby will be quietly amused for, well, minutes.

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link
Tue, 11 Jul 2006
Here's a chart I made up for myself, based mainly on information from the book Better Baby Food. I stuck it up on my bulletin board in the kitchen and I have been using it as a checklist to figure out what Cordelia has tried so far, and what she's ready for next.
6 months rice
barley
oats
carrots
sweet potato
peaches
squash
potato
apples
bananas
pears
beets
plums
avocadoes
peas
broccoli
7 months wheat
chicken
pork
tuna
salmon
beef
beans
egg yolk
tofu
yogurt
cottage cheese
pasta
lentils
chickpeas
toast
crackers
9 months milk
1 year berries
tomatoes
egg white
honey
[Posted at 22:04 by Amy Brown] link

Once upon a time, a long time ago, when Delphine was still a baby, some friends wondered how a person who can barely manage to feed themselves without a takeout menu can manage to feed a child. I used to think I would be able to answer that question, but the fact is I have become very domestic in the last few years; I have a kitchen that is almost always clean enough to cook in, I have multiple pans and knives, I have a working dishwasher, I have enough staples on hand to cook a dinner or bake a cake. I even have a chest freezer.

One day this could be you (well, maybe not the chest freezer). The journey from urban restaurant forager to urban chef has been one of many steps, and one of them was having a child who needed good food, not just leftover pizza (although they still get that sometimes). So it may be that having to feed your child properly is exactly the kick in the pants you need to learn how to feed yourself properly too.

But that is neither here nor there -- what you need to know right now, with your hungry six month old on your knee, mouth agape, is how and what do I feed her now?

Your first and best friend in this task is the boxed baby cereal. The one I always get is Heinz -- look for one with as few extraneous ingredients as possible, especially without milk or added formula. Lots of baby cereals have milk in them; those cereals are for formula-fed babies who have already been exposed to the hard-to-digest foreign proteins in cow's milk -- if your baby is exclusively breastfed there is no need to expose her to those proteins until she is ready for them, in a couple of months. So look for cereal that just has grain, and probably a couple of vitamins, in the ingredient list. Get used to reading ingredient lists -- you will be doing it a lot.

Start with rice cereal -- rice is the easiest grain to digest. If you're a champion pumper you can mix it with breastmilk, otherwise use water. You're supposed to use boiled, cooled water -- I just used whatever's in the bottom of the kettle from my last cup of tea, which was never very long ago. If you trust your municipal water supply, after a while you will just use tap water if you're lazy like me.

A little bit of cereal a couple of times a day is fine to start off with. Remember, real food is just recreational for now -- your baby gets all her nutrition from breastmilk (or formula) at this stage, and will until she is a year old.

Do rice for a week, then try barley and oatmeal -- these are also very easy to digest. If you are brave enough to try them, you will find that the tastiest of the cereals is barley, despite being the unappetizing grey colour of papier mache.

You're supposed to wait four days or so between introducing new foods -- Cordelia is almost eight months old as I write this, and I am introducing new foods at a manic pace of one a day or so. You might be more conservative if you have any concerns about allergies or if your baby is sensitive to new tastes and takes a while to get used to them, or if you're just nervous. Whatever works for you.

After you have your baby nicely warmed up on cereal, you can introduce fruits and veg. My doctor suggested doing orange, then yellow, then green, but I think this whole process is complicated enough without bringing the rainbow into it. Just introduce whatever you think would be fun. (See the chart I posted for ideas.)

Jarred Food or Homemade?

Both. Jarred food is convenient, and you can get good stuff. You can even get organic if it's important to you. Just, again, read the labels and don't buy anything with added sugar or starch. If the jar says "Sweet Potato" the ingredient list should say "sweet potato" and nothing else. Use your good sense.

Two things to avoid: jarred banana tastes weird because it's cooked, so it actually has that fake banana taste, and also, how hard is it to mash up a banana with a fork? Buying jarred banana is just embarrassing. And jarred green beans are sour and horrible -- homemade green beans aren't nice either; they just don't puree well. Green beans can wait until your baby has learned how to chew.

But homemade baby food is nice, too -- there are lots of fruits and vegetables that you can't get jarred -- okra? asparagus? mango? And there's a warm, fuzzy feeling to feeding your baby something you have made with your own hands.

How to make homemade baby food? This is the easiest way:

  1. open a bag of frozen peas
  2. dump some in the beaker that came with your hand blender (You do have a hand blender, don't you? How do you make milkshakes?)
  3. Pour in just enough water to cover the peas
  4. put a saucer over the top of the beaker
  5. stick it in the microwave for a few minutes, until the water boils and the peas get a little bit soft
  6. drain off the water
  7. blend the peas into mush

Put some in a bowl, wait until it cools, serve. Put the rest into those little one-cup or half-cup Gladware containers and freeze. (Everyone says to use ice cube trays, but they are a pain in the ass, and my kid easily eats a quarter-cup at a sitting, which is way more than one ice cube.)

You can do the same with other frozen vegetables, or frozen or canned fruit (you don't have to microwave the fruit, obviously). If the resulting puree is too runny, add some of the dry baby cereal to thicken it.

If you have a clean knife and cutting board kicking around, you can do much the same thing with any fresh vegetable or fruit (with the exception of berries and tomatoes, which can be allergenic). If you prefer, cook it in a pan on the stove, if you have a clean pan and your stove works.

Get someone else to clean up, you have done enough.

[Posted at 22:04 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 23 Mar 2006

It's not a bad idea to go to the CSPC website and sign up for their email notifications of product recalls. Right now I am obsessively staring at the page about bracelets that came free with Reebok sneakers. They have high lead content and a four-year-old girl died from swallowing part of one. I mean, can you fucking imagine?

Incidentally there are lots of recalls for cheap dollar-store and vending machine jewellery containing lead. I think we will have a "no cheap tacky-ass jewellery" rule in this house.


If you are, perchance, looking for a hydrocortisone preparation, perhaps for a rash which has mysteriously appeared on your oldest daughter's hand, and you should happen to notice that of the three preparations available, "cream", "ointment" and "lotion", the lotion seems to be the best deal, you should know that said lotion is in fact largely composed of isopropyl alcohol. Whoever thought it was a good idea to sell ALCOHOL to put on RASHES deserves some kind of Stupid award, which they can share with me for buying it without reading the ingredients list. I am going to see if I can return it for a refund tomorrow.

[Posted at 21:26 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 22 Mar 2006

First I want to say that the idea of this unsolicited advice is to publish things that I have learned through my own experience that I did not read about elsewhere, in books or in magazines, or that I read so many conflicting recommendations about that I might as well have not read any. I'm trying to avoid all the really obvious stuff, or the stuff which is widely published. But what I've learned is that all babies are different, and what worked for me might not work for you, so take this for what it is; advice born from the experience of one (well-read, intelligent) mother of two (really easy) children.

Diaper cream is one of those things which everyone has a different recommendation for, which leads me to believe that different things work for different babies. All I have to say here is that diaper creams which contain fish oil will make your baby smell like a salmon cannery, and if you use cloth diapers they will continue to smell fishy even after laundering. Read labels carefully, and try all the other kinds of diaper cream first.

Okay, one more thing. Johnsons 3-in-1 Diaper Cream and Aveeno Diaper Cream have exactly the same ingedients and are made by the same company, so buy the one that's on sale.


Bathing babies is something that I have never quite figured out. They're too big for the kitchen sink (assuming your kitchen sink is clean enough anyway) and too small for the tub, and I can't stomach spending money on one of those in-bath baby holders (which Health Canada advises against anyway). They're slippery as hell, they hate being bathed, and how dirty does a baby get anyway? I resolved the problem by just not bathing my babies very often, until they're old enough to sit up and manage the whole process more-or-less by themselves, as Delphine is. And she still only gets a bath twice a week. Who has time for more?


This is probably too late for the unindentified target for this advice, but perhaps not for you: get yourself a BabyTrekker. They are so much better than the other comparable products I don't even want to go into it. They are way more comfortable, distribute the weight of the baby much more sensibly over your body, and they carry up to 40 lbs, which is considerably more than Delphine weighs at almost three years of age. (I don't let her go in the Trekker any more because I think it looks silly. I am so mean.) Plus you can use them as a front or backpack. I love my Trekker. I just wish they had come out with the Tasteful Taupe model when we bought ours; we have Fugly Forest Green.


You're going to need to get yourself a 5 ml medication syringe. Lots of medications for babies come with 1 mL rubber bulb syringes, which not only make it hard to get the right dosage into the syringe (and then into the baby), but are often too small to contain the whole dose at once. For example, I needed to give Cordelia some Tempra, which comes with a 1 mL bulb dispenser, but I needed to give her 1.25 mL. That means I have to go through the measuring part twice, AND the horribly traumatic squeezing it into the unwilling child's mouth part twice. She's no slouch, and once she's learned that the syringe means foul pink unction, the next part of the dose is going to end up in her ear.

The good news is that some medications come with the good kind of syringe (I think Tylenol is one of them) so don't throw that out after the medication is done, keep it in your first aid kit.


Something more metaphysical to end (because Cordelia's awake now). I had trouble, with Delphine, understanding that she is just a baby for a little while. Intellectually, of course, I understand that she's going to grow up, but in some more primitive part of my brain it seemed that every day of not enough sleep, too many diapers and no time to do housework, let alone read, was just the first day of thousands more of the same. I guess, having never watched a baby grow up before, I didn't really believe it would happen. And it makes sense; any changes in my life until now I have effected through my own labour: I took a course, or looked for a new job, or bought a new condo, or whatever. I'm not used to standing by and watching my life change outside of my own volition.

It's much easier with Cordelia. When I have a horrible day when all she wants is to be held all day, and I have laundry and vacuuming and cooking to do and nothing is getting done, I know that this is just temporary, that eventually she will be able to walk and talk and play by herself, and she won't need me every single minute. That makes it much easier.

Incidentally, it seems this is a hard lesson to learn; I still have moments which I think the Delphine is going to be a whiny, needy, contrary toddler forever, even though I know, logically, that one day she will be a pleasant and helpful three-year-old. I just can't see how it will happen, because I haven't seen it happen before.

[Posted at 11:16 by Amy Brown] link
Fri, 24 Feb 2006

First I need to add a couple of things about the high chair. You probably already have a thousand thin flannel receiving blankets -- if you don't now is a good time to go get some, or better, find a friend (or an aunt with a friend) who has a serger, and get them to make you a bunch of two foot by two foot squares of flannel.

Once you have your pile of blankets, fold one up so that it lines the high chair under the baby. Then when the inevitable explosive poo happens you will only have to wash the blanket, not the entire high chair cover. Repeat as necessary for bouncy chair, car seat, stroller, etc.

You'll also need a rolled up hand towel to prop next to the baby in the high chair, so she doesn't topple over sideways. Like this.

Diapers

I haven't come across a brand of diapers which isn't perfectly adequate. They all seem to do the trick, store-brand or name-brand alike. Huggies are a little nicer in that they are softer and stretchier, but they don't objectively function any better. Pampers are just weird because they are scented: why? If you get on Huggies' mailing list they will send you big fat coupons on a regular basis, so you can feel a bit better about spending huge piles of money on diapers, but I'm not sure how I got on the list. Maybe just email them and ask?

Wipes, on the other hand, are not all created equal. The cheap brands all seem to be smooth and thin and useless at sponging up poop. We stick with Huggies-brand wipes when we're out, and wet washcloths when we're home, which you probably won't want to do unless you launder your own cloth diapers. Huggies are more expensive, but since you probably use twice as many of the cheap kind maybe it works out in the end. There might be other good brands out there, but I'm warning you, buy a small package to start off with because you don't want to be stuck with 200 lousy wipes.

I don't think you're using cloth diapers because you're not INSANE, but if you do and you wash them yourself, let me tell you the big secret: use Tide. There is all sorts of advice out there to have two diaper pails, or to soak overnight, or to rinse with vinegar, blah dee blah dee blah. I just stick the diapers in a pail all by their smelly selves, and then dump them in the washer on a heavy-duty hot cycle with Tide. Voila, fresh, stain-free diapers.

Incidentally, in other laundry news, most stains ever encountered by man or baby can be removed with an overnight soak in a wash basin with hot water and some Oxy-Clean. I just used it to get some thirty-year-old stains out of a hand-me-down blanket from when Blake was a baby. It's freaky-good.

Sleeping

If you're nursing, the best advice I can give you is to sleep with your baby. I've slept with both of mine and I had to nod politely through all those conversations with other mothers about being so sleep-deprived, because I'm just not. Baby wakes up, you offer the boob, baby nurses while you drift back to sleep. And sleeping with your baby is just nice. It's lovely to be able to smell her soft round head in the middle of the night.

I don't know if I would try it if I were bottle-feeding, though, because breast-feeding mothers actually sleep more lightly than normal people, so you're less likely to squish your baby in the night. Also don't sleep with your baby if you smoke (!), or if you've been drinking or taken medication which makes you sleepy like Neo-Citran. Also the baby should sleep next to you, not between you and your husband, again because of the rolling-onto issue. We have a bed rail on my side of the bed but it's just a technicality, because your baby will glom onto you like a remora. It's astonishing how quickly a supposedly non-mobile baby will make her way across a bed to the nearest warm body.

(Having said that, I still think the bed rail is a good idea. And don't put the baby on the bed between you and a wall, there's just too much scope for disaster there.)

You'll also want another one of those receiving blankets under your baby and your boobs, to catch poop and spit-up and spilled milk. It's a lot easier to change a small blanket than your entire bottom sheet.

Crying

Blake's advice for dealing with a crying baby is, do everything you can think of. Then do it again. Eventually something will work. My advice is, do all the sensible things (feed, change, burp, rock, etc) and if nothing works, take off all her clothes. Ostensibly you're looking for rashes or irritating tags on her clothes or whatever, but I find babies just like being naked.

Remember crying peaks at six weeks, so this won't actually go on forever. And if you have done everything you can think of and she's still crying (and you don't think she's sick), remember to keep cuddling her. Even if you can't make her stop crying at least you can give her comfort. (Unless you think you might throw her out the window; in that case, put the baby down (somewhere safe) and back away (maybe into the shower or something) -- give yourself a time-out.)

Another thing you might do, although I don't remember doing this with Delphine, is go out for a walk. Fresh air usually settles babies down and if she's tired the stroller will help her sleep. Our midwife told us about a 24-hour drugstore where there are often groggy parents doing midnight laps with their babies in strollers.

One thing that helped me when I felt like a lousy parent because I couldn't stop Delphine from crying was to think about people with sick babies. Blake was really sickly when he was a kid and he must have spent HOURS of his life crying, and it doesn't seem to have done him any harm. I have a friend whose baby had open-heart surgery at six months -- he must have cried so much, and there was nothing his parents could do, but he is a perfectly normal and happy kid now. So don't put too much stock in the crying -- it's upsetting to you, the parent, because it's meant to be, but it doesn't always mean something is horribly wrong that you can fix.

[Posted at 16:49 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 20 Feb 2006

I have this friend who just had a baby, and I am about busting with advice that she does not want. But! There is so much I have learned about babies! I want to share!

So I will non-agressively put what I have learned here so she can take my advice or not without giving offence, and also so it's available for anyone else who wants it.

Of course I don't suggest that all of this advice will work for everyone, but some of it will work for someone, and I think the more we all talk about how we handle this parenting thing the better off we will be. (To that end you should go read Mimi Smartypants and Dooce.)

Your baby is going sleep most of the time, but after she's a couple of weeks old she'll be awake sometimes too. Most of the time you'll be feeding her and changing her diaper, but sometimes you're going to want to put her down. Get a high chair. One that reclines a lot so you can put a newborn in it. We have an Evenflo Simplicity Easy-fold which I am very happy with. Cordelia sits in it and hangs out while I'm cooking or typing or whatever. Also it has wheels on it so I can wheel her around the condo with me. (You're not supposed to wheel it around with the baby in it, but whatever.) And I tip it all the way back and put a blanket on her and a soother in her mouth, and bang, she's asleep. (I think the way the chair surrounds her is more comforting than lying flat on her back in the crib -- she's only four months out of the womb, after all.) It's her one-stop captain's chair.

Interestingly I haven't heard this advice anywhere else -- where do other people put their babies when they're awake? Alone in their crib? In a bouncy chair so all they can see is knees? Flat on their back in a playpen to look at the ceiling? I don't know.

Okay, that's all for now because Cordelia is howling (in her high chair -- it doesn't work miracles!).

[Posted at 16:51 by Amy Brown] link