Cause and Effect Play

As Archer grows older sometimes we struggle with new games or activities to keep him challenged and learning. My Mommy & Me instructor gave us some suggestions to group types of play and then introduce one type for a few weeks then switch. For example there is Cause and Effect play, there’s reading, there’s stacking, there’s “balls”, there’s hike and seek, etc…

Archer loves anything that makes noise — whether by shaking it or slamming it on the ground. Such a boy! I bought these toys for him as his first set of “cause and effect” toys. He LOVES them! Especially the drum. He has figured out how to use the drum stick but mostly chews on it. It’s so cute though to watch him try to coordinate hitting the drum and when he does, he gets so proud of himself. He also loves to shake the bells and smiles doing it and the maracas, those are his second favorite behind the drum. Not only are they interesting shapes, but they make a nice sound and are fun to clack together (if you buy two).

 

Teething

It’s so cute to see a baby with two little teeth sticking out, but it’s not so fun being the parent dealing with a teething child! Well, some parents are lucky and their kids have virtually no symptoms when their teeth begin to come in. We weren’t so lucky.

Archer got his first two bottom teeth in around 5 months. It started with night waking. He was sleeping through the night and then started waking several times a night. We figured out it was his teeth once we could feel them breaking through the gums. This night waking lasted 3 weeks! Now again around 7 months his two top teeth are coming in and not only have we had night waking (up 3-4 times a night) we also have had low grade fevers. I’ve since done lots of reading on teething symptoms and what you can do to help your baby. Here’s what I learned:

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News: German Ruling Puts Stop to Circumcising Baby Boys

A discussion has been brewing over the last few days about a German court which ruled circumcising baby boys to be unlawful. There are several articles out covering the topic, NY Times and Babble both have their take. While the ruling won’t make circumcising illegal in all of Germany, it made me wonder what you all think about this topic.

I know this is a sensitive subject, so please share your own thoughts and opinions. Here’s my opinion.

Before I had kids or met my husband I always just assumed we’d circumcise our children. It wasn’t even a real decision, it was just the way it was. Then one day I was visiting with a friend who had a few day old baby boy and while changing his diaper I saw what a newly circumcised penis looks like — that right there changed my mind. I would not circumcise my son.

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Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July Mommies! How lucky and blessed we are that we live in a country where we have control over our bodies and can have as many children as we want!

Enjoy teaching your babies how to be patriotic and to be proud to be an American!

Products: Starting Solid Foods

To get started with solid foods for your baby you really don’t need much: high chair, bibs, spoons, sippy cup, lunch box. Here are my favorites, details below:

High chair: It’s recommended that when buying a high chair you take your baby with you and actually try them out in the display models in the store — advice I was given by a friend who runs a baby club/website. Other questions to ask yourself: Is it important that the high chair is easy to store because you have limited space? Do you want the high chair to pull up to the table or have its own tray? Do you care if it matches your kitchen? I had researched a bunch of different high chairs and we ended up with the Peg-Perego Siesta. It was a splurge, but we figure it’ll be used 3+ times a day for years and for several kids so it was worth the $300 price tag. We also loved that it collapses, saves us space by fitting right next to the refrigerator. We also found when Archer was still a bit small for the high chair the Bumbo with tray worked well — a great option for anyone starting solids from 4-6 months.

Waterproof bibs: You’ll ask yourself why you need waterproof bibs, but trust me, you do. Baby food at the start is very watery and certain foods stain cotton. We were recommended Bumkins Waterproof Superbibs and they’re awesome! The pocket at the bottom catches any drips and the nice large size covers the entire front of the baby. They also sell some that have sleeves, which is also great for when your baby starts eating with their hands. Note the bibs with sleeves are bigger and won’t fit most 6-8 month old babies.

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Constipation — Keeping your baby regular

If you’re like my husband and I you will be in awe of the amount of time you’ve spent talking about poop over the last six+ months! Well, here we are again talking about poop, but this time what to do if there’s a lack thereof!

Constipation can happen once you start your baby on solids. If you notice a change in your baby’s bowl movements, no movements, or if they become firm and pellet like, you need to help your baby getting things moving. Here are a few tips that we’ve gotten to help:

  • water: give your baby some water while they’re eating solids
  • flax seed oil: you can put a few drops (very little) in your baby’s food (check with your pediatrician first)
  • foods that start with a “P”: peas, pears, prunes
  • prune juice and water: be careful with this one, if you give too much you can have an explosive situation on your hands. I wouldn’t give this at night, you’ll be up all night if the prunes kick in.
  • belly massage: you can do some belly massage in the share of an I, L and U (I love you!): with two fingers down their left side (inside of ribs on belly), then across top and down left side, then up their right side across top and down the left side of their belly.

Have any other tips!? Please share them here.

Of course, if you have any concerns or if your baby seems to be in pain call your pediatrician!

Starting Solid Foods — The “Rules”

I’ve been procastinating on writing this post because there are so many rules and I’m not really sure how I feel about any of them! I’ll share the “rules” that I learned for starting solid foods and then share what we’ve done. Please note that food is not a replacement for nutrition or breastmilk/formula until after your baby is over 1 year old.

1) Start baby no earlier than 4 months, but many pediatricians (including mine) say to wait until 6 months. There is some research that says allergy development and starting solid foods too early are tied. Another reason to wait is that baby should be able to sit up mostly by themselves and must have good head control. Losing the “extrusion reflex” is also key, which usually happens soon after 4 or 5 months. This allows them to keep solid food in their mouth and then swallow it vs. using his tongue to push food out of his mouth. Some people say your baby is ready when they show interest in food, but to be honest they’ll show interest in anything you’re doing once they can start to reach for things. I think it was great that Archer watched us eat for a few months, when we started him he was so ready and already knew how to bit and chew and drink from a glass just from watching us!

2) Start with rice cereal mixed with breastmilk or formula and make the consistency pretty liquid — once your baby is used to eating you can increase the consistency. Rice is the least allergic food and mixing it with breastmilk or formula will help your baby’s interest and transition. I didn’t like the idea of giving my baby processed rice as his first food, so his first food was actually mashed avocado. We do however give him Oatmeal cereal every morning for breakfast. We use Happy Bellies Organic baby cereal. Other good starter foods: banana, apples and pears.

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The most important purchase you can make for your family

Carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. Many people don’t know they are suffering from CO poisoning until its too late since symptoms of CO poisoning are like the flu, you might not even know you’re in danger at first. That’s why a carbon monoxide alarm is the most important purchase you can make to help protect your family from CO poisoning — it can detect the CO you can’t see, smell or taste in the air.

We bought this plug in version, but you can also buy battery operated if you prefer or nicer digital versions. This model was $18.50 on Amazon, follow link below. We have one in Archer’s room and in other main rooms of the house. I’m not exactly sure how much area each alarm covers, so we probably have more than you need, but better safe than sorry! Also make sure your caregivers have devices for CO detection.

When you travel you should also bring CO detector with you, who knows if the hotel or apartment you’re renting has CO issues. I suggest battery operated when traveling abroad to avoid any risks because of non-compliant electrical outlets.

Don’t wait, get a few in your home today!

Amazon.com: First Alert CO600 Plug In Carbon Monoxide Alarm: Home Improvement.

Article: When moms criticize, dads back off of baby care

Do you have a partner who is withdrawn from helping with baby care? If so, you might be to blame. Yes, one more thing to consider when raising your children.

This article on MSNBC states “Moms’ words of criticism or encouragement directly affect how involved their husband or partner becomes in the day-to-day care of their infant, finds a new study published in the June issue of the Journal of Family Psychology. When a mother criticized her partner’s child-care efforts, it often caused him to lose confidence, and even withdraw from caring for the baby. But when a mom praised dad’s efforts, he took a more active parenting role.”

Moms feel pressure when a new baby is born, like the well being of that child is all on them. They are supposed to be the ones to soothe, the only ones to feed and let’s not forget moms have already had 10 months of bonding time with the baby before Dad.

Before our son Archer was born I was given some really great advice: “You will most likely fight like you never have during the first few months of your child’s life. Don’t worry, it’s natural and it’ll go away. Most importantly remember that neither you or your husband really know what will work and what won’t — you are both new at this. So listen to each other and take each other’s opinions seriously.”

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Product: Aden + Anais 100% Cotton Muslin Burpy Bib

When registering I had heard how awesome Aden + Anais products where, specifically the muslin light receiving blankets (perfect to drape over the car seat to block the sun or to keep germs out when out and about). I never heard about this product however, until last week at my Mommy and Me.

The Aden + Anais muslin burpy bib is perfect for drooling and spit up prone babies! From 4-6 months we experienced the most drool and spit up — teething causes excess drool and spitting up becomes most problematic around 5 months. This burp cloth and bib is super absorbant and as you can see from the photo below you can wrap it around your baby’s shoulders, secured in the back with a simple button, and it soaks up everything that drips and splats from your baby’s mouth. You also can turn it easily when one section gets soaked.

Oh how I wish I registered for this instead of the Aden + Anais washcloths (which I think are too big and bulky). Make this a must have item! You’ll save yourself a lot of time changing outfits!

Amazon.com: Aden by aden + anais 100% Cotton Muslin Burpy Bib, Oh Boy: Baby.

Article: How to Raise a Happy Child

Recently I was given an article titled: How to Raise a Happy Child. It occurred to me that I never really thought about this as a goal, raising a happy child, and always just assumed that it was out of my control whether my children ended up being happy. It was their job to make sure they live and participate in activities that make them happy.

It was interesting to learn that as early as 6 months of age you start impacting whether your child is set up to live a happy life. Simple things like smiling a lot at your baby so the act of smiling is imprinted in their brain or acting calmly and loving to an upset baby helps the baby learn that there is calm and soothing world around them.

You can read the article for all the details, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Learn to Read the Signs:
    • Learn their reactions so you can better address them when their emotional intelligence develops.
    • “While the youngest infants don’t really feel happy when they look happy, the good news is they’re not emotionally aware when they’re screaming, either. Eliot explains that the “cortical emotion centers” of your baby’s brain don’t begin to function until he’s 6 to 8 months old, when he starts to feel the emotions that seem so vivid on his face.”
  • Make Room for Fun:
    • “Connect with your baby, play with her. If you’re having fun with your baby, she’s having fun. If you create what I call a ‘connected childhood,’ that is by far the best step to guarantee your child will be happy.”
    • Unstructured play will allow her to discover what she loves to do — build villages with blocks, make “potions” out of kitchen ingredients, paint elaborate watercolors — which can point her toward a career that will seem like a lifetime of play.

What To Do If Your Child Is Choking or Not Breathing

It is important to know what to do if your infant begins to choke, especially once you start feeding them solid foods. I found these videos which gave a great overview on how to respond.

Conscious Baby is Choking:

Unconscious Baby is Choking:

Infant CPR — in this video they don’t state it, but when giving CPR to an infant your mouth should cover their mouth and nose.

Play: 6-9 months

Today in my Mommy & Me class there were a few of us that said we were running out of tricks! Our babies who were 6-8 months old were getting bored of our usual games and their usual toys. We joked that we better buy more toys and our instructor gave us many ideas that are pretty much free! Now that got our attention. Here were some of her ideas for babies that around 6-9 months old:

Hide & Seek is a really great game during this age because it helps babies understand that even if they can’t see you, you’re there which is important to understand when they start getting separation anxiety. Here are a few iterations:

  • Put your baby in their car seat and step out of the room saying “Where’s Mommy, Where’s Mommy [insert your baby’s name]?” Then jump back in “There she is!”
  • Get a cloth napkin and drape it over you head saying “Where’s Mommy?” and revealing “There she is!” Once your baby is getting it then put the napkin over your baby’s head and say “Where’s [insert your baby’s name]?” and them removing it “There she is!”
  • Hide and seek with food! Get 3 dixi cups and place a piece of rice cereal or a piece of fruit under one of them. Ask Baby where it is and reveal it. Later you can move the cups around to see if they can track which one has the food.

Sleep: What Should Baby Wear

I am not sure why, but this topic has been a concern of mine from the beginning! How do you keep baby warm when you can’t place blankets over them when they sleep? I know the optimal room temperature is supposed to be kept at an optimal 70-72 degrees for SIDS prevention, but just a cotton onesie during the dead of winter doesn’t seem like enough. Especially as the room cools throughout the night. If babies are supposed to be dressed in one layer more than you are and I sleep under a down blanket what is the equivalent for them?

We found two types of products that worked well for us, both at different stages of his growth.

As a tiny newborn we’d dress him in a onesie and then swaddle him. The swaddle blanket was thick enough to provide enough warmth. We also had him wear a little hat for the first few weeks when he slept. (he was born in December, so use your own judgement for your child based on the weather/temperature where you live).

Then during the next few months (1-3) we preferred to use a footed fleece sleeper. This you can put over a onesie or just by itself. If it was a colder I’d put over a onesie, if not then just by itself. This was great until Archer was a few weeks shy of 3 months old. You can also swaddle in a fleece sleeper, but I’d use a light swaddle as the sleeper is already warm. (As a reminder, you should only swaddle until 2 months old).

Carter’s Micro Fleece Jungle Animal Footed Sleeper

Once he began to move around more the 0-3 footed sleeper was getting tighter and because it’s micro fleece it doesn’t stretch. He simply outgrew this so we moved to the next item… the sleep sack! We loved the sleep sack. We would dress Archer in a cotton footed onesie and then put the sleep sack of that. It was warm and gave him freedom to move about. At this point he wasn’t being swaddled so he needed movement. Size small fits babies 10-18 lbs. It was also great in that if he diaper leaked, we had two layers of protection before it hit the mattress sheet. The issue with sleep sacks is they should only be used until the baby is 6 months old — according to physical therapists it’s not good to inhibit their leg movement even slightly, which the sleep sack might do. After 6 months it’s best to transition back to a footed fleece sleeper or just use a cotton onesie if it’s warm enough in your home.

Amazon.com: HALO SleepSack Micro-Fleece Wearable Blanket, Baby Blue, Small: Baby.

Now that it’s summer Archer just wears a traditional cotton footed PJ. When it gets cold again, we’ll have to get some bigger footed fleece sleepers… sad to say goodbye to the sleep sack… just one more thing he’s grown out of!

Infant Care

For first time parents it can be nerve racking to think about taking care of a newborn during those first few weeks when you are sure exactly what you’re doing. This is especially true for those of us that are the youngest in our families or who were only children, we were always the babies!

So what are all the dos and don’ts? We took an infant class at our local hospital and here are the not so obvious things we learned:

  • Do not use baby wipes for the first month, use soft cloth or paper towel and warm water only as wipes can irritate the babies skin. Wait until they’re at least 1 month old to use baby wipes. We still use Sensitive Baby Wipes and have never had an issue.
  • Do not use baby powder. The powder gets in the air when used and if inhaled is bad for the baby’s lungs. I don’t know why they even sell the stuff anymore!
  • Diaper rash is from the production of ammonia which comes from pee and poo mixing. This is why it’s so important to change the baby’s diaper often and really make sure to get everything wiped clean.

Guest Blogger Marylouise: Becoming a Grandmother

As new moms we know how exited our mothers got when they knew we were expecting, but have we checked in since our babies have been born to ask them what’s it’s like?  I asked my mom and here’s what she had to say about becoming a Grandmother:
 
“Everyone always says it is the greatest thing in the world–becoming a grandmother, but it’s one of those things that you hear but don’t understand until it happens to you.  It is still hard to describe but there’s an understanding among other grandparents about how you feel and what you are going through.
 
I am in the early stages of being a grandmother; grandsons are 9 months and 5 months old, but I already think my grandsons are the cutest and smartest children ever born!  I see the way other grandparents look and feel about their grandchildren and they feel and think the same way.  How can we each have the smartest and most beautiful babies?
 
Something I enjoy already is the acceptance (by one grandson) that I am fine and interesting the way I am.  He is old enough to be observant and curious and he loves finding the brown spots on my skin, feeling out the wrinkles, and he doesn’t care that I have rolls or flabbiness around my mid section.  For him, grandma is a place to explore, climb on, and relax on.
 
Finally, the best thing for me is to see a child grow and develop, almost like a plant growing or a flower blooming.  As a grandmother I can afford to sit back and relax and observe.  I am not caught up in the daily worries of getting to work, making sure there is food and clean clothes for everyone, and I don’t have to always wonder whether I am doing the right thing in raising my child.  As a grandmother I realize that each child is born with a set of dispositions and tendencies and it is a marvel to see how these unfold.  The challenge is always how to cope with certain personalities and how to enhance or encourage the child to develop into a happy, well rounded, secure child.
 
I am so excited about this adventure!”
 
With Mother’s Day coming up, it might be fun to ask your mom what it feels like to be a grandparent. Great Mother’s Day brunch conversation topic!
 
 
Marylouise with her grandchildren, Archer 3 weeks old and Christopher 5 months old.

Working Moms: Pumping at Work

When you head back to work on your first day, you’ll likely have one extra bag with you — a bag with your breastpump! You arrive thinking all you need is your equipment, ice pack and storage bags or bottles. Think again! Here is a list of what to pack in your breast pump bag from someone who more than once was caught without something I needed:

  1. Breastpump and accessories: this seems obvious but make sure to double check that you have everything before you leave for work
  2. Paper towels: there will be all sorts of drips and drops that you’ll want to catch so they don’t mess up your clothes
  3. Cleaning wipes: medela sells some breastpump “quick clean” wipes for your equipment. A must if you don’t have a sink where you pump
  4. A sharpie! Important if you are pumping into bags or containers that you will store, make sure to date each one.
  5. Frozen ice pack: don’t forget to put in the freezer the night before! No one wants to put their breastmilk in the work refrigerator.
  6. Nursing cover or shall: on a normal day you won’t need this, but those few times you have to pump on the go (yes, I have pumped while driving in the car on the way to a meeting) you’ll wish you had it
  7. Extra breast milk storage bags: just incase you have to stay longer than you thought, you want extra storage containers on hand
  8. Hands free nursing bra: you’ll be upset if you forget this! The nursing bra is essential for a productive or at least entertaining pumping session (you can use your hands to check email, read, make calls, etc…)

Here are other tips in terms of making time for pumping at work:

  1. Schedule time on your calendar to pump. That way no one will book meetings back to back and not allow you a 30 minute break to pump.
  2. In a long meeting, don’t be shy to speak up and say you need a 15 minute break. People who know you ‘re pumping will respect it and for those who don’t, everyone appreciates a break in a several hour meeting.
  3. Plan ahead. This is the single biggest bit of advice. Look at your calendar to know when you will pump based on your schedule. Sometimes you’ll need to pump 45 minutes earlier than you would have because of meetings.

I am quite busy at work and usually have several meetings a day, sometimes all day meetings. I have always found time to pump you just have to plan ahead and make it a priority. One more thing to manage I know, but totally worth it.

Happy pumping!

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Working Moms: Traveling With Breastmilk

For many working moms, our jobs include travel. That can be quite difficult when you’re nursing and need to pump every 4 hours. That plane flight cross country that’s 5 and half hours long, plus 30 minutes to pre board and 30 minutes to deplane, that’s almost 7 hours. When to pump? Where to pump? Where to store the milk?

These are all questions I had to figure out on my first business trip to Denver when Archer was just 4 months old. I was nursing and was going to be gone for 2 days and 1 night. The good news is the flight is only 2.5 hours long so I didn’t have to get too crazy with pumping on the plane… or so I thought. (stay tuned)

The way there was quite simple. I pumped right before I left and had my breast pump with me as a carry on. Included in my breast pump bag was the frozen ice pack that came with my Medela pump. Security was fine with it because it was frozen solid. Once I landed I headed to the airport bathroom, washed my hands, found a stall and pumped for 10-15 minutes. The ice pack was still pretty cold so I easily stored the milk in my little portable cooler. Pumping in an airport bathroom is less than glamorous — they actually had shut of my side of the restroom for cleaning while I was in it and all you could hear was the cleaning person mopping and my pump going “urr urr urrr urr”. Hilarious. Oh well, assume she figured out what I was doing in a stall for that long with that humming sound.

Once I arrived at my hotel I asked for a freezer/refridge. They had one available for $10 a day and had it delivered to my room. Most hotels have fridges or freezers you can have brought to your room. I was able to store all my milk in it over the next few days.

While at the conference there were no private rooms, so during lunch and the afternoon break I would head to the ladies restroom, pick a stall and pump! More bathroom pumping, not idea, but you got to do what you got to do. Stored it in my portable cooler until I could get to the hotel.

Next morning was full of the same, but then when it was time to leave I had to pack up all 30oz I had packed, keep it cool during the last few hours of the conference AND have it cool and safe through airport security.

This is where things got funny. I had brought 2 ziplock freezer bags with me. I filled them with the bags of breast milk, then went to the ice machine to fill up each bag with ice. The breatmillk was surrounded in ice so I figured I could at least keep it cool until I went through security at the airport.

Almost made it… security pulled me over for a few reasons:

  1. My ice pack had partially defrosted . Since it wasn’t frozen solid they weren’t going to let me take it through.
  2. My breastmilk had to be inspected, but both machines to check the breastmilk were broken.
  3. The ice I had around the breastmilk had partially melted so there was liquid in the bags.

Long story short, they poured out any water from the melting ice and they made me open every single breatsmilk bag so they could test it with a vapor strip (two breastmilk bags had burst and were now wasted) —  all of this was in front of the entire security line! It was quite embarassing, but I made it home with 20-25oz of breastmilk so it was worth it.

Lessons from this experience:

  1. make sure your ice pack is frozen solid when you go through security and pour out any liquid from melted ice. Ice though is ok.
  2. make sure to tightly seal any milk bags so they don’t leak, seems obvious, but check each one to be sure.
  3. make sure to head to the airport early! I was held up in security so long that I didn’t have time to pump before my flight, so I ended up having to pump on the plane. Just imagine standing in a small, windowless plane bathroom for 15 minutes while everyone outside wonders what you’re doing in there for so long. I was so over it all by that time I just didn’t care.
  4. bring a few large size ziplock bags. You’ll need this to hold any ice for the trip back

What we mother’s do to protect the liquid gold we produce. Of course now I have no future plans to travel without a baby, but if you have to travel it can be done.

Happy Travels!

Toys: Bright Starts Rattle

We were gifted this rattle and just gave it to Archer to play with a few weeks ago (around 4 months old) and he just loves it! It definitely is his favorite rattle at this age. He loves to shake it and chew on it.  At only $4.99 it’s a cheap and entertaining toy!

Amazon.com: Bright Starts Start Your Senses Rattle A Round: Baby.

Products: Medela Calma Breastmilk Feeding Nipple

Another mom in my mommy & me class recommended this new feeding nipple from Medela. Her son wouldn’t take a bottle and she only had 2 days before she had to return to work — in desperation she tried this nipple and it worked upon first try! I haven’t personally tried this nipple yet, but it sure looks more like a real breast shape and her rave review would make me try it if Archer ever has issues taking a bottle.

 

Amazon.com: Medela Calma Breastmilk Feeding Nipple: Baby.

Gear: Cloud B Sleep Sheep

We use our Cloud B sleep sheep every night! It’s been a lifesaver when putting Archer to sleep. We attached it to his bassinet and now have it attached to the crib. When we put him down we turn it on to one of the four nature sounds, we usually choose the ocean waves, and it helps him sleep. I think this was more important during the first few months when he still was used to being in the womb and therefore needed white noise, but now it’s a habit and he seems to like it. We actually bought the travel version, the Cloud B Giraffe, for his carseat.

Amazon.com: Cloud b Sleep Sheep Four Soothing Sounds From Nature: Baby.

When Two Become Three: Marriage After Baby

I know every relationship is different and all couples react differently to changes in their life, but one thing that seems to be common for new parents is arrival of new arguments and disagreements with the arrival of a baby.

Donavan and I never argued more than the first 2 months of Archer’s life. We were both so protective of him and both thought we were right, even though I did all the research, Donavan had his own ideas of how things should be done. We also were both operating on little sleep and since we both were home all day we were around each other 24 hours a day, 6 days a week, couped up in our condo. That is enough to drive any couple nuts. On top of that there is little to no intimacy during the first 6 weeks, doctors orders, so connecting as a couple sexually is also not an option to help regain that spark.

After weeks of almost daily arguing, we just looked at each other and said this has got to stop. We must start working together and being supportive. We both wanted what was right for little Archer and neither of us really knew if we were right. I am not sure how we turned it around in a matter of one conversation, but I think we both just realized arguing wasn’t going to help anything and we were just tired of it. We missed our lovey dovey snugglefest relationship.

We just communicated how we felt. I felt like he was questioning my mothering. Did he think I was a good mom? And he felt like I was over reacting and not listening to him. After discussing we both realized that we were overly sensitive — he thought I was an amazing mother and I thought he was right more than he was wrong (not easy for me to admit).

Later once Archer got a bit older, the disagreements were a lot fewer but they were different. More about one of us feeling like we were doing more than the other. Like washing bottles vs. washing cloths vs. picking up toys etc… Our solution was to delegate tasks so each of us had things we were responsible for — this method has worked well for us. I also happen to have a super helpful and supportive husband so I didn’t have to deal with feeling like I do everything and he does nothing. Many of the moms in my mommy and me group discussed how their husbands wouldn’t do anything unless they asked, they didn’t want to have to ask, they just wanted their husbands to see what needed to be done and do it. The solution was to devise a chore list so each person has their chores every day and that way things get taken care of without one person always directing the other. Seems like an easy solution if you have a partner willing to do half the work.

In general, don’t worry if you argue a ton in the first few months. You will get passed it and all will return to normal once you figure out your rhythm with this new person as part of your life. Make sure to find time as a couple, say thank you and flirt with each other. We still send silly flirtatious text message, pinch each other’s butts and tell each other how much we appreciate the family we have created. [getting your sex life back also helps :)]

Here is a great article with more structured and differentiated advice: The Marriage Factor

Maternity Leave: What It’s Really Like

For most of us, maternity leave is the first time in a long time where we wouldn’t be working for an extended period of time. For me there wasn’t a time I didn’t work — since college I had a job and I never took more than 1 week between jobs. Vacations here and there sure, but not 3 months of no work. Of course I had all sorts of plans for maternity leave… finish scrap books from vacations past, clean out my closet, try those brunch spots I never seem to make it to. Ya right. As you know or will soon find out, if you have any time you’re bathing, eating or getting some much needed rest. And then If you have a few extra minutes outside of taking care of your basic needs, you are so freaking tired and worn out that all you want to do is lay on the couch and veg out.

You will live in PJs. You will not wear makeup. You will live in flip flops and tennis shoes. You will look in the mirror and think, “Wow I look 10 years younger than I feel”.

Then as your baby grows and starts sleeping longer and longer stretches (maybe 4 hours) giving you some well deserved reprieve you finally find some energy to start the baby book, or write thank you cards or maybe even get your nails/toes done and put something on other than sweats. You start really enjoying your new life hanging out with your baby, going to the grocery store mid-day during the week when no one else is there and never sitting in traffic because you can make your own schedule. You become very busy taking care of the little one while doing whatever side or house projects you have lined up.
This is the time to get out and start exercising, taking mini trips with your baby to meet family or just to getaway. Trust me, once work starts up again there will be no time to work out (without sacrificing time with your baby or sacrificing sleep) and weekend travel you want to spend with your baby not in a car or plane.
If you have high hopes for a productive maternity leave don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get anything done but take care of your baby, that is all you need to do. Cherish every moment because before you know it you’ll only be seeing your baby mornings and evenings during the week and you’ll wish you had days full of staring at each other just watching them grow.

Transition from Breast to Bottle

For those of us who plan to return to work and who are breastfeeding, we will need to make sure our babies can feed heartily from a bottle before we return back to work. That means getting our little bundles of joy to not only accept a silicone nipple over our luscious nipples, but we also have to get them to accept being fed by someone other than us. This isn’t always easy, depends on the baby really. Some have no problem while others protest. Archer was somewhere in the middle.

Experts say that breastfed babies shouldn’t be introduced to a bottle before 4 or 6 weeks or until baby has established a proper latch. Once you introduce the bottle to the baby, you should give the baby a bottle (of breastmilk) once every few days to help baby practice and learn. I delayed giving a bottle until around 8 weeks. Mainly because I was too lazy to start the whole process and I also was emotionally adjusting to the first man-made object being put in my babies mouth. Dramatic maybe, but you just wait and see how you feel.

Here are tips that I read about and what ended up working for us:

  • Don’t try to introduce the bottle when your baby is really hungry. This might be contrary to what you might think, but hungry babies has less patience to figure out a new way to get their food. Try to introduce the bottle at the tail end of a feeding session or an hour earlier than the baby would normally eat. We did this and found a lot of success by offering the bottle after I breastfed Archer on one breast, giving the bottle for the second half of his feeding.
  • The books say have someone other than you needs to give the baby the bottle. Father, grandmother, caregiver, etc… We tried that several times, but Archer wouldn’t take the bottle from Donavan. So I ended up feeding him his first bottle after breastfeeding him a bit and he took it from me. After just a few minutes of him taking the bottle from me, I had Donavan come over and take over the rest of the feeding. It worked! Archer from then on took a bottle from Donavan.
  • The position baby is held in matters. Some must be in same position and place in the house where you breastfeed, others need opposite. Archer always is placed in his boppy lounger to eat.
  • Use nipples that resemble the real thing. choose a nipple that has a wide base and have low flow (small hole). We used Dr. Browns wide neck bottles and loved them. Some people find that they leak, but we didn’t have that issue.
  • To get baby to latch on to rubber nipple use the same techniques of rubbing their lips and letting a few drops of milk drip onto their mouth. Your baby should open wide and try to latch just like on the breast.
  • Make sure milk in the bottle is room temperature or warm and warm nipple under faucet. This really helped us at first with Archer, much easier to get him to feed when the milk wasn’t cold and the nipple warm.

Once Archer started taking the bottle from Donavan we were set and I was relieved. For every caregiver that now needs to give Archer a bottle, we always make sure Donavan or I are there to help with the transition. Once Archer takes a bottle from someone one time he has no issue doing it again, just at first it might be a little difficult.

Hope you found this helpful! Share your stories on what worked for you or what challenges you had.

 

Working Moms: Going Back to Work

Going back to work after maternity leave is a transition. Some moms look forward to getting back in the swing of things and getting a break from ‘baby world’ and others — like myself — there isn’t any longing to return to work. I knew it was inevitable that I’d have to face the transition back to the daily grind, but for good reason I managed to keep these thoughts out of my head during maternity leave.

Then… all too soon… it’s the call or email from your boss. “We look forward to seeing you on Monday!” You spend the next few days mentally preparing for taking back work responsibilities and trying on all your clothes to see what actually fits (not too much).

Sunday night comes and you’re in tears. Monday morning comes and you’re in tears. You arrive at work, everyone is so happy to see you, but you’re just fighting back tears every time they ask you about the baby.

It’s a big transition. Expect tears, expect fear and anxiety, and of course expect a little guilt. Maybe you’ll be lucky and will not have any of this — I wish that for you! — but the majority of moms I’ve spoken to do. I had all these feelings and really wondered if we should make a drastic life change (i.e. move somewhere cheaper) so I could stop working and be home with Archer. We are very lucky that Donavan’s job allows him to work from home and take care of Archer. I know not every family is able to have a stay at home parent, but no matter your daycare situation you still will miss your baby, wondering if what you’re doing is right and wish you had more time at home.

I was so desperate to spend more time with Archer after the first few weeks of going back to work that I came up with some ways to spend more time with him, even if it was just 15 more minutes in the morning, it was worth it. Here’s what we did to help with my transition back:

  1. Frequent picture text messages
  2. Calls mid day to check in
  3. Shortened hours for the first few weeks (left a little later for work and promptly headed home at 5:15 or 5:30 to get another hour and a half with him before bed).
  4. Lunch visits once or twice a week (Donavan would bring Archer to the office for a lunch date)
  5. Videos saved on my phone to view when I needed a pick me up
  6. On my way home from work, mentally transition off of business Lizzie to mommy, by singing his favorite song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Sounds weird to sing this in the car by myself, but I needed something to get me out of my traditional work role. It’s a mental shift that takes some practice.

If you have an at home Nanny all of this is doable. If you have daycare, you should still be able to get a phone call check in and at least one picture text message during the day. If you work close by, you should be able to go in for lunch once a week. (my sister does this with her son) Tell them you need it for the first few weeks to help you with the transition. If they refuse… maybe that’s a sign of needed a new daycare!

Now I’ve been back at work for 2 months and I am over any anxiety, fear or major guilt. Now I do have a different type of guilt, guild that I enjoy work and don’t miss being home. But I remind myself that I am doing what’s best for my family and I work hard to spend as much time I can with him. While I’m not there all day, I am there when he wakes up and to put him down for the night.

I’ve spoken to other Moms who have quit their jobs to stay home and almost all say “The grass is always greener.” You have to make the best decision for you, but I will tell you wait a few weeks before making any big changes. Try these tips and it will get easier. You’ll be surprised how quickly you fall back into a pattern. I don’t know if that is good or not, but if you have to work then know it gets easier with each week that goes by. It’s important that your boss and caregiver are flexible and supportive. The number one reason women quit promising careers is because their bosses are inflexible — don’t be one of those bosses — and I hope you don’t have one of those bosses. I had a conversation with my a week in and asked him to be patient with me as I transition back to full time work. He was supportive and even suggested bringing him in the office for lunches. You may be surprised what they offer if they know you are struggling a bit.

At the end of all this I asked myself, If I could stay home would I? I am not sure I would, I might prefer to work 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5 but in the end, I am proud to be a working Mom and to teach my son that his Mom is a hard working and successful woman — women can be mommies, wives and executives. That has to count for something!

Here I am getting ready in the morning with Archer. I spend as much time with him as I can, even if that means doing my makeup with one hand!

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Play: 4-6 months

By this time your baby is getting a lot more fun and responsive! They should be smiling back at your, trying to talk and able to grasp toys — albeit clumsy they’re working on their hand to mouth sills. The games below are all things we’ve been playing to help Archer develop his muscles, coordination and start to better understand language and interaction. During this time they are also start to roll over, first from tummy to back then back to tummy, so their movement needs to be encouraged.

  • Toy wagon wheel: this is just how it sounds. On the floor we lay a blanket down and place his toys all around him in a circle, all slightly out of reach. This encourages him to look around and try to move (roll) to reach something. You can place your hands behind his feet to give him something to push off on so he understands he can push himself forward. We do this every day with Archer, however it wasn’t until the last week or so (he’s almost 5 months) where he became interested in reaching for his toys on the ground. Before that he was only interested in people. Timing on this depends on your baby.
  • Pull ups: you may have already started to do this or notice your little one flexing his stomach to try and sit up. You can help them along by holding out your fingers and saying “up” then wait until they pull with their arms and flex their neck until you slowly pull them up to a seated position. Then lower them down and do over again. Eventually they’ll learn to pull their legs up too which helps them sit. (sitting up on their own doesn’t happen until 6-8 months) Archer loves doing this, he gets so proud of himself when he’s sitting!
  • Scanning: when babies are on their tummies they scan the room. When they’re on their back and you’re dangling toys, it’s important to dangle the toys across their body, from side to side, passing their midline. Not only does this help with coordination, but it helps their brain develop properly so they understand full cross body range of motion. We just learned this important tip so will make more effort in this area.
  • Peek-a-boo: we all know this game. This is a great game to help them learn their name. Take a thin slightly see-through scarf and hold it up between you and your baby. Call their name. When they look at you drop the scarf and say peek-a-boo!
  • Patty cake: Archer loves this game! It’ll turn him from crying to smiling in 10 seconds flat. Basically start by holding up your hands in patty cake stance, fingers wide and exaggerated, then start tapping their hands and singing Patty Cake. Eventually your baby will mimic you and open their hands, hold them up and sing along.
  • Tickling: around 4 months you may have gotten your little one to laugh. Some do it on their own others need to be prompted. Usually you can start tickling them under their arms or on their sides and get all sorts of giggles and laughs. It shows playful human interaction and “cause and effect”.
  • Reading: you may wonder what your newborn is gathering from books at this point, but it’s important to start showing them pictures and getting them acquainted with books. Sit them up in your lap, hold the book in-front of you and show them the book while singing or reading in an animated fashion. I will do a separate post on reading books to your newborn, we just learned about this in class today.
  • Of course all teh games in 0-3 months also can be played during this phase as well.

Have fun playing with your little babycakes. They won’t always be willing or able to sit and play with you so enjoy it while you can. They’re little sponges and you’ll see them learn and develop so fast!

Here’s Archer and I playing patty cake. He didn’t always hold up his hands this way but learned quickly!

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Here I am playing peek-a-boo with Archer:

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Wagon wheel set up where Archer plays:

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Hair Loss, Your Baby and You

When it comes to hair, there are a lot of questions — Will my baby be born with hair? What color will it be? Will it fall out? Will my (mom) hair fall out? When the babies hair comes back in will it be the same?  — and there really are no answers. You won’t know for months how everything will pan out.

Some babies lose their hair around 3 or 4 months, but can happen up to 6 months of age. The drop in hormones in a babies system usually is the cause of the hair shedding and within a few weeks you’ll notice peach fuzz coming in of the  hair they’ll keep.

Mom also loses hair around month 4 after giving birth. Again, this is caused by a drop of hormones. Eventually I’m told hair thickness returns. I have very thin hair to start with and additionally during my pregnancy suffered from hair loss. My OB said that some women experience hair loss during pregnancy, but most experience thicker than average hair while expecting. I was not so lucky. Tben around 4 months postpartum my hair started to really fall out. Now it’s thinner than ever and I just hope it’ll grow back when my  hormones level off. We’ll see. Unlike baby hair loss, almost all moms will experience a shedding of hair around 3-4 months.

Archer lost his hair around 3 months. I remember picking him up from his bassinet one morning and it looked like a cat had slept in his bed! It was that much hair all over the sheet. There’s nothing you can do about it and usually there’s nothing wrong. If you see red patches, bumps, bald spots vs. overall hair shedding talk to your pediatrician. Now at four and a half months his hair is really coming back in. He was born with wheat colored hair and now it’s coming quite blonde!

Again it’s those darn hormones that cause this, but rest assured both you and baby should have your manes back in no time!

Reusable Diapers

When I read an article that babies in reusable diapers potty train up to a year earlier than those in disposable diapers I was ready to embark on the reusable diaper path. Then after further reading, I learned there really isn’t any hard research that proves cloth diapers help you potty train your baby sooner. That said, it makes sense to me that a baby in a reusable diaper can feel wetness more than in a disposable diaper, so therefore they’ll know when they’ve gone potty and doesn’t that help with potty training? I am not sure, but I was still convinced that cloth diapers were something I wanted to try and now almost 5 months in I am so glad we did!

Benefits:

  • environmentally beneficial
  • cost savings (over long run)
  • non-toxic
  • less diaper rash
  • possible earlier potty training
Once we decided we were going to give cloth diapers a try we needed to find the right kind. There are many different types, pocket diapers, AOI (all in one) diapers, fitted diapers, one size diapers, prefold diapers… it can be very confusing. Then of course there are many different brands of reusable diapers, BumGenius and Fuzzibunz seem to be the most popular.
With some help from a friend and neighbor who is an expert in reusable diapers, I narrowed down to two types I wanted to try. All in One Bum Genius and gDiaper reusable insert diapers. After a few days of testing we found th gDiaper worked best for us. What I liked is I could just replace the insert if the cover of the diaper didn’t get wet, I could use reusable or disposable inserts (if it was a big poop day I’d use disposable inserts) and best of all they were fitted (xs, s, m, l, xl) so they weren’t super bulky like the AOI Bum Genius diaper under Archer’s clothes. They also didn’t leak. I found the Bum Genius to leak through the leg opening — if your baby has really chunky legs this might not be an issue for you.  I also really liked the hemp inserts lined with micro fleece that come with gDiapers, they are soft and very absorbent. I love the idea of natural fibers against him vs. synthetic material.
My advice is to give it a try if you’re at all curious. Just buy 3 covers and one 6 pack of inserts and give it a try ($100 investment if you buy new, but you can often find used almost new reusables online). If you don’t have a washing machine or hate doing laundry this might not be for you. You will do laundry every day or every other day at least to clean the soiled inserts and diaper covers.
We used 5 diapers when Archer was a newborn and did the wash 2 times a day. Spend more money and buy 10 diapers or so and you can do the wash every other day! Here’s your shopping list to get started:
Diaper Cover ($17-$19 each)

Amazon.com: gDiapers Little gPant Diaper Covers Gooseberry Purple, Medium: Health & Personal Care.

Diaper Inserts

There are two sizes, small and m-xl, make sure to get the right size! Can buy on Amazon.

As I mentioned earlier, Archer had skinny legs and isn’t a chunky baby so these worked best for us. The BumGenius get rave reviews from people, they just didn’t work for us. Grovia is another brand that my neighbor uses and loves. You can always buy one of several different brands and give them all a try to see what works best for you! Share here what you find so we can get some other findings.

DVD: The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD

This is a must watch in my opinion for any new parent. It equips you with 5 soothing techniques that help calm the fussiest of newborns. They’re called the 5 S’s:

  1. Swaddle (see my post on swaddling)
  2. Shush (mimic the white noise in the womb)
  3. Side (baby on their side)
  4. Shake (no really shake, more wobble so their head wobbles a bit)
  5. Suck (every babies sooth all, either on boob, finger or paci)

There is also a book you can buy, but what I love about the DVD is you can watch all the soothing techniques which leads to better understanding and I also had my husband watch with me — better than trying to get him to read a book about baby soothing!

Amazon.com: The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD: Dr. Harvey Karp: Movies & TV.

More Posts Are Coming!

I am still updating the 4-6 month section, more posts will be coming. I am writing this blog as Archer grows and we’re in month 5 now!

Finding a Pediatrician

We interviewed 4 pediatricians in our area. Most take interviews some make you pay for them. We wanted a homeopathic pediatrician. It’s important to know what kind of pediatrician you want and how you feel about vaccinations, treatments, etc… Here are some questions to ask yourself or your doctor when interiewing:

  • What are the office hours?
  • Are they flexible in accommodating your schedule?
  • Is the office staff friendly, courteous, helpful?
  • Were you kept waiting on the phone or at the office?
  • Is the office environment clean and comfortable?
  • Is the waiting area child friendly?
  • Is there convenient parking available? Is it free?
  • How are routine appointments scheduled?
  • Is it hard to get an appointment?
  • What are the procedures if your baby is sick? Can you be seen same day?
  • What is the after hours policy? Can you talk to your doctor or do you need to talk to a doctor on call?
  • Will the pediatrician come to the hospital when your baby is born?
  • Who will cover if your pediatrician isn’t available?
  • What is the vaccination schedule?
  • Is the pediatrician flexible or do they stick to their way of doing things?
  • Did you fell rushed during the interview?
  • Do they have kids of their own? Do you care?

I am sure there are many more questions to ask, but these were the main ones we asked. In the end we chose the doctor that had the same beliefs we did on health and medicine. It also doesn’t hurt to read reviews of each doctor before you meet with them online (e.g. via Yelp.com).

It may take a few weeks to get an interview lined up with a pediatrician so make sure to start your search early, around 7 months pregnant.

Tummy Time

Tummy time will be a topic of many of your first doctor’s visits. I always found our doctor asking if we’re doing tummy time, how much of it, etc… Friends of mine also got this question every time they went in for a check up in the first few months. The reason doctors ask is because most babies hate it and therefore parents don’t want to do it. It’s important to do so that your baby develops muscles to help support their head and back. They also want to prevent flat head syndrome which is more common now that babies now sleep on their backs.

We did tummy time every day and several times a day. In the beginning Archer would only last 5 minutes at most on his tummy. We’d keep trying throughout the day and slowly he became more comfortable. Still, at almost 5 months, he doesn’t like being on his belly, but we still do it.

The play gym was where he did most of his tummy time. Get down on the floor with them so they can see your face and so they know they’re not alone. Encourage them and pick them up when you think they’ve reached their limit. When your baby can see better you can dangle some toys or put a mirror below them for entertainment — it might help them stay longer on their bellies. You can also place a small rolled up towel under their armpits across their chest to help prop them up until they become stronger.

According to my Mommy and Me instructor it’s very important that your infant gets plenty of time on the floor. Whether on their belly or not! I don’t think we did this enough and it something I would change next time around. So get used to sitting on the floor with them and encouraging them to move — it’ll help them develop strong muscles and research shows that they’ll be more athletic and active when they grow up.

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Sex Postpartum

This was the one thing no one told me — sex will hurt for months after you give birth. What?! I thought a regular vaginal birth wasn’t crippling. Guess again.

I am sure people’s experiences are different and whether you tore or not during delivery will have a lot to do with it — I did a bit so maybe that’s why sex was so painful at first — but the standard 6 weeks the doctor says you need to heal and therefore can’t have sex doesn’t come close to how much time it takes to really heal.

I’ve surveyed 3 other friends and they all say it took them months, some up to 6 months postpartum, for sex to become pleasurable again. For me it took just over 3 months for sex not to be painful and about 4 months for it to be pleasurable. I was so worried that it’d never feel good again, thank goodness the pain has stopped and it has become pleasurable. I will say it still isn’t the same as before. I also hear from a few friends that it really isn’t the same ever again, but I’m sure that is a case by case… or at least I hope so.

Since I had a natural birth I didn’t associate that area of my body with pleasure, it felt like a big wound, so it took some time before I was even in the right mindset. If your husband is like mine then he’ll be ready for you on the first day past 6 weeks. Tread lightly! Use lubrication! Go slow! And it’s ok to stop the whole thing if it’s just too painful, don’t feel bad, you just had a baby! Maybe it is nature’s way to make sure you don’t get pregnant again too fast. Ha.

Play: 0-3 Months

I found myself wondering how I could play with my newborn — there is so little they can do! When they start focusing on your face, for Archer that was around 5 weeks, I felt I could finally start to play with him. Here were the different things I came up with that were part of our everyday:

  • Music time: we’d choose a few upbeat songs and then sing and dance for him. Sometimes leaning over him while he laid on the bed. He loved it and would kick and wiggle his legs. He also loved head banging.. great if you have longer hair.
  • Singing anything; literally make up any song and sing it. I have a terrible voice and it kept him quite entertained, especially in the car or when I couldn’t run to him right away if he was getting fussy.
  • Mimic: stick out your tongue and make a funny noise. If you don’t get a smile you’ll start to notice in the days following your newborn trying to stick out their tongue.
  • Tarachi: this was made up by my father-in-law, it’s a fun game where you twist your hand back and forth and sing this song “Tarachi, tarachi, Archer can make a tarachi” (pronounced ta-raaaa-chi)
  • Open hands: put your hands in a fist front of your baby and slowly open them and say “open”. I’d do this over and over and slowly he started to mimic me.
  • Dangle toys: Archer didn’t become interested in toys until after 2 months old, but we’d dangle his toy Moose in front of him and he’d begin to swat at it. Same type of activity he’d have in his play gym, but more portable if you’re not home or want to change the scenery.
  • Tracking toys: take a toy and move it side to side up and down and watch your baby track it with their eyes. It’s good for them to practice following objects and fun for you to see them being able to track the toy’s movement. We used the Lamaze butterfly toy and had it ‘fly’ around, the sound of the crinkle wings flapping also helped him start noticing sounds and turning toward them.
  • Massage: this was one of my favorite things to do. I’d get Archer just in his diaper and then I’d do some baby massage while singing a song about all this parts. I never took an actual baby massage class, but I did read up on it and wanted more of the human touch, skin to skin, so I did baby massage every day. Here was my song “We rub your chest, we rub your chest, then we rub your tummy, we rub your tummy, then we rub your sides, we rub your sides, then we rub your thighs, we rub your thighs, then we rub your knees, we rub your knees, then we rub your calves, we rub your calves, then we rub your feet and we rub your feet, then we kiss ’em we kiss ’em we kiss ’em and we kiss ’em.” I of course would smooch his feet. I did the same type song for his upper body too. This usually got lots of smiles and squirms.

Those were our main activities in the first few months. If you have any more ideas or fun games you played share them here!

Donavan having music time with Archer.

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Talk to Your Newborn

I watched a documentary a few years back about an autistic girl who never spoke, but then once she was given a computer was able to type and begin to communicate. Her parents couldn’t believe after all these years of no talking how much she had to say and how well she articulated her thoughts. They also realized how much they shouldn’t of said around her, they didn’t think she understood or heard them. I remembered this story and now try to talk to Archer all day, tell him what I’m doing, what we are about to do, how wonderfuly handsome, smart and important he is. He may not understand every word, but I guarantee that he will be better off because he’s been spoken to.

At just two and a half months he was a chatter box! I’d talk, then he’d jabber, then I’d talk and he’d jabber back. A friend of mine said that she noticed a big difference in her child’s communication when she changed nannies – the first nanny didn’t speak to the infant much while the second one spoke to her all day. The result was a more talkative baby! I am not an expert, but I’d think that would be good for their mouth muscles for speech later on if they try to talk when they’re infants.

When you speak to your baby, pause and give them a chance to speak back. You can also choose one phrase to repeat over and over, they likely will try to say it too. My phrase was I Love You Archer!  After weeks of saying this 10+ times a day my husband and I were amazed when Archer made sounds with the same intonation. We couldn’t believe it! More proof that they’re listening so watch what you say and say a lot!

Skin to Skin

If you’ve taken a labor and delivery class then I’m sure you’ve been told about the importance of skin to skin time between Mom, Dad and Baby. If not, well I’m really glad you’re reading this because it’s very important! Skin to skin is exactly what you think, it’s your skin directly on baby’s skin – no blanket or clothes in between.

Right after you give birth they will be placing the baby on your chest, skin to skin. It’s the first step of bonding between you and your baby. My Doula (labor coach) said that during the first 3 months of your babies life you should do skin to skin every day. You can do it when you’re breast feeding or when your baby takes a nap on our chest, just do it! What else are you supposed to do while on maternity leave besides love and snuggle with your newborn?

There are also other benefits like warming your baby, regulating their breathing and rousing them to eat if they’re lethargic. Make sure Daddy gets his skin to skin as well in the hours after birth — it’s important that baby bonds with both of you!

 

Hormones, they will mess you up.

We all know the stories about pregnant women being weepy and emotional, but few people talk about the emotional state women are in postpartum. Hormones are a powerful thing and after you give birth you will be feeling all sorts of emotions for the weeks and months following.

I for example was high as a kite, talking non-stop, for the two days after I gave birth to Archer. I had a natural no-pain medication delivery so I think my endorphins kicked in and had me amped up! On the 2nd morning we were escorted to our car to leave and I began to cry. Archer in my arms, my husband getting the car seat ready, I just cried. And I continued to cry all the way home. I just couldn’t believe he was ours, we just got to take him home. I kept thinking about all the people out there who don’t have the means or care we do taking home little babies. It just overwhelmed me and I worried for every baby that left the hospital with a less than fit parent. I don’t have any clue why I felt this way. Maybe because I saw how vulnerable Archer was and how easily we just left with him, but the more I’ve learned the nore I realize it was most likely my hormones that were causing the extreme emotional worry. For the two weeks after delivery I was definitely more sensitive and cried on a whim here and there. I didn’t feel depressed, but over random things I’d just cry — happy or sad things would make me emotional.

For up to a year after you have a baby your hormones are in swing. When your menstrual cycle comes back there are more hormonal changes that kick in. So don’t be surprised if you’re a bit weepy for the weeks following your delivery. Postpartum blues are normal. What’s not normal are thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby or extreme anxiety or depression. If you have any inkling that you might be suffering from Postpartum Depression call your doctor. It occurs in 10-20% of women and can kick in after a few months.

Learn more and get help: http://www.postpartum.net/

Breast Feeding: Choosing a Breast Pump

If you’re a working mom committed to breast feeding when you go back to work, I recommend investing in the top of the line breast pump. I don’t know of anyone who has a breast pump that isn’t Medela branded. They seem to be the leader in this category.

They have several options, but the two most common are the Pump in Style and the Freestyle. The main difference between the two is the Pump in Style must be plugged in while you pump and it comes in a large bag which you can’t remove it from while the Freestyle is cordless, you charge it over night, so you can take it anywhere with you and can pump anywhere — no outlet needed. Of course the Freestyle ($350) is about $100 more expensive than the Pump in Style ($250), but in my opinion it’s worth every penny if you’re a working mom who will be using it up to 4 times a day, 15 minutes at a time.

Several friends of mine bought the cheaper Pump in Style and wished they bought the Freestyle. I took their advice and so should you! You can also keep using it for all your kids so you can think of it as an investment.

Freestyle® Breastpump | Medela.

Breast Feeding: Building a Back-Up Supply

It’s always a good idea to have some milk stored up in your freezer for any time you have to be away, whether for pleasure or work, or if you’re very sick and aren’t strong enough to breast feed. But if you’re a mom who has to go back to work and wants a supply of milk for your caregiver to use while you’re away then I recommend getting started early to get your reserves built up.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to build up a freezer supply while still breast feeding every meal, but then once Archer started sleeping in 5-6 hour stretches at night it gave me an opportunity to pump and save the feeding he would have gotten 2-3 hours after his last feeding. For us this started when Archer was around 2 months old.

The longer your baby can sleep at night the more chances you have to store the feedings he would have gotten. It’s also a great way to keep your milk supply up. Also, I always pumped before I went to bed, it was an extra way to store more milk and to make sure I didn’t wake up in pain from full breasts a few hours later. Once your baby starts sleeping 8-10 hours at night you can also get up and pump then freeze that feeding. Some people would rather sleep than get another 5-10 oz stored and others (like me) had no choice because my breasts hurt when they were so full.

Here is a picture of just the top half of our freezer, there are two more shelves full of milk not pictured. When I am at work I pump and replace what was used that day, this way when I stop breast feeding Archer will still be able to have breast milk for a few weeks after I stop. This liquid gold is worth all the effort!

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Breast Feeding: Breastmilk Storage

Once milk is thawed you must use in 24 hrs do not refreeze. If milk is warmed you must use, you can’t refrigerate and reuse. If a bottle isn’t finished and there’s still milk in the bottle, you’re supposed to toss it. I usually just refrigerate and reuse the same day, otherwise I toss.

If you are unsure if milk is spoiled or not you can smell it, it will spell like spoiled milk (sour smell) or you can taste it. If it’s not sweet, but tangy and foul tasting it’s bad. Still unsure, offer it to your baby. If it’s bad they won’t eat it — mother nature is pretty smart that way!  Twice when my husband tried to feed Archer a bottle he rejected them, we didn’t understand why and only when we tasted the milk realized it had gone bad. We’re not sure how it went bad… but it did and Archer knew better than us.

Cradle Cap

Most infants at some point in their first three months get cradle cap. Cradle cap looks like flakey rough patches on the scalp. It’s basically from a build up of oil on the scalp.

Archer got cradle cap and after reading all these different ways to get rid of it, we just simply began washing his hair every 2 days with a mild soap making sure to rinse it thoroughly. Then after applied a little bit of baby oil to the scalp to soften the scales. Then brushed his hair with a soft bristle brush every day, morning and night, to help the flakes come off. Just a few days later it was gone and hasn’t returned yet. To help keep it at bay, we make sure to brush his hair 2 times a day to get the oil off the scalp and on the days we don’t bathe him we wipe down his scalp with a damp wash cloth.

 

Weaning Off the Swaddle

The first two months of your baby’s life you’ll be in love with the swaddle. It’ll tell them it’s time to sleep and most likely it’ll help you get your newborn to happily drift off to sleep quickly and stay asleep longer. The issue is that after 2 months when their Moro reflex subsides, they really shouldn’t be swaddled any more. All the movement babies make moving their arms and legs makes them stronger and helps their brain develop.

Here’s how we weaned Archer off the swaddle. One night right after he turned 2 months we had Archer sleep in the bassinet portion of a pack n play (at Grandma’s house). Because it’s a bit curved it snugged his body so that he wasn’t rolling around and therefore was a good transition from a flat surface with swaddle snuggling him to a curved surface half snuggling him without swaddle. He began that night to sleep unswaddled. After a few nights sleeping there we moved him to his bassinet. At first he’d wake himself up and move a bit, but I’d just lean over, rock his bassinet and usually he’d calm down and drift off to sleep. If not, I’d pick him up and rock him to sleep again, holding him tight in my arms and holding his hand so that his limbs couldn’t flail around. He sometimes would fuss a bit but with calm rocking and walking, he’d calm down and start to drift to sleep. This only took a few nights of extra soothing before he was sleeping soundly without a swaddle.

Just remember, it’ll get easier for them to be unswaddled once their Moro reflex subsides, again usually this is at 2 months. You’ll notice when you put them down on the changing table that they stop getting a bit scared or suddenly raising their arms.

 

Swaddling

Swaddling will be your lifesaver with your newborn for the first few months. It helps calm and relax them. Just remember where they were for 10 months! In a cozy warm snug womb. They don’t know they have hands, arms or legs so they scare themselves if they move their arm in front of their face. They also have the moro reflex where they feel like they’re falling and flail their arms above their head when placed on the back. This reflex goes away around 2 months, which is also when you should stop swaddling.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet on how to swaddle: down, up, down, up.

Video demo (with a few other tips on soothing, side and shush!):

 

Make sure when you swaddle you use a square blanket. The best swaddle blanket I’ve found, and I’ve tried at least 4 types, is the Swaddle Design Ultimate Receiving Blanket. It’s thick enough that it keeps them warm, it’s the perfect size, and the right texture to help keep the swaddle in place. They also have a light weight version if you live somewhere really warm.

Sleep – Putting Your Baby to Sleep

It’s important to know there are two philosophies for getting your baby to sleep: cry it out method and the Dr. Sears sooth to sleep. Both work, it just depends on what you’re willing to go through/do to help your baby sleep. We used the Dr. Sears method. Mostly because I wasn’t willing to let Archer cry for extended periods of time and I generally believe it’s the right approach.

If you opt for the cry it out method of sleep training it shouldn’t stat before 4 months or before they weigh 14 lbs.

We’re not sure if we’re lucky because we have a baby who is a great sleeper or if we had good habits early on that have helped our baby become a great sleeper. Probably a little bit of both, but what we did has worked.

-Make the crib a happy place. We would help Archer fall asleep by walking and rocking him to sleep. Then we’d put him in his crib. If he woke up, we’d get out of bed, pick him up and help soothe him to sleep again. He learned that we’re there for him and going to bed isn’t scary and he isn’t alone.

-Gradually start putting your baby in their crib when they’re just drowsy, not fully asleep. At first when you start doing this, you may have to put them down up to 4 or 5 times. Each time Archer would start to cry and fuss, we’d pick him up promptly before he’d get too upset, tell him it’s ok and it was time for bed, and when we was calm and falling asleep again, we’d put him back.

-Now at 4 months our night time routine is set: promptly at 7:00pm we get him in his PJs and sleep sack, bath or wipe him down (sponge bath) and turn off all the lights in the house. Then I hold him laying in my arms and we walk around the house for 5 or 10 minutes until he’s calm and starting to self soothe. Then in his crib he goes! He knows it’s bedtime. If he fusses we quickly pick him up and walk or rock him a bit more. Sometimes we have to put him down once and he’s out and other times we have to put him down up to 4 times. Yes it takes anywhere from 15 to 45 mintues to get him to sleep, but there isn’t any crying involved and it’s more bonding time between me and him.

Some people say up to 45 or more minutes to rock and walk with your baby to put them down is too much, but I disagree. When you do sleep training (cry it out method) it can also take to an hour, but that hour is filled with crying. Which would you rather have? An hour of crying or and hour of holding your baby in your arms and walking around? Easy answer for me, but as my sister says (who sleep trained) it’s all about what you’re willing to do.

My whole motto with sleep is to not make it scary or forced. Make your baby feel secure, that you’re there for them and if they have trouble one night falling asleep that’s ok. You’re there to help them. Don’t you have trouble sometimes? It’s only natural.

Now at almost 5 months old, he sleeps 10 hours every night and another 2 or so after he gets fed in the morning. I will say that during certain developmental milestones (e.g. cognitive burst around 3 1/2 – 4 months) he has more trouble than other times going to sleep on his own. That just means sometimes I have to hold and walk with him longer than usual.

I’ll also note that sleeping through the night for us has varied. When he started teething he would wake 3 times a night for a few weeks. It was bad. He often wakes 1 time a night still even when not teething. I asked my pediatrician about night waking and she said her kids always woke at least 1 time a night so nothing to be worried about just something to deal with. (for those of us who don’t sleep train I guess)

This is a tricky subject for all parents, you have to decide what you’re comfortable with and what you’re willing to do to get your little bundle to sleep. Good luck and feel free to share what worked for you!

Here’s Dr. Sears’ video on sleep tips:

Sleep – Setting a Nap Routine

In the early weeks your newborn will sleep when they they want to and they will sleep a lot! Around 4-6 weeks you’ll notice your baby sleeping less and being awake for longer periods of time. They’ll still fall asleep pretty easily when needed, but by 2-3 months you should establish a nap routine.

We were told to start noticing his natural sleep patterns and start putting him down at those times each day. Well Archer didn’t have any sort of regular sleep schedule so by 3 months he still didn’t have a nap routine and sometimes would be up for 4+ hours straight which apparently is too long for a newborn. Here’s the simple advice we followed and it worked!

Every two hours you baby needs a nap.

Yup, it’s that simple. Wake up, feed and then when it’s getting close to 2 hours from when your baby woke up, they’re ready for their nap. Start playing more quietly with them, stop talking to them, break eye contact and just hold, rock or walk them around. They’ll be out in no time and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they fall into a nap routine.

The other benefit, they sleep much better at night too when they get proper naps during they day. Babies need a schedule, it helps them feel comfortable in their environment and gives them time outs during the day to recharge, their brains are such sponges so they soak up a lot in those little 2 hour spurts when they’re up.

Sleep – Setting Day vs. Night

Your newborn won’t know day from night when they’re born. That means you can have a sleeping baby all day and then a lively baby that wants to play in the wee hours of the morning! To help Archer understand Day vs. Night we did something very simple:

-Only swaddled him at night, when it was time to sleep for a longer period of time.

-Only place him in his bassinet to sleep at night.

-Only use sound machine (i.e. Cloud B Giraffe) at night when it’s time to sleep.

All other times of the day when he wants to sleep, let him sleep on you for some good skin to skin time or have him sleep in a pack in play or a sling while you wear him. We had our baby sleep in the Bobby Lounger which we heard was great and prevented flat head syndrome — Archer loved it. We think he liked that is snuggled him a bit so he wasn’t flailing. Of course, never leave your newborn unattended sleeping in the lounger. If you read my boppy lounger post you can read my disclaimer.

My favorite was nap time for Archer and I together during the day — skin to skin! It’s the best and such a special time when they fit on your chest and just melt into you.

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Breast Feeding

It was very important to me to breast feed. I wanted to feel the connection to my baby, my baby feel the connection to me through the closeness and of course all the health and nutrition that comes with breast milk. It also is what is intended, it’s natural, it’s what our bodies are made of, it’s the perfect nutrition for your growing baby.

Benefits of breast feeding: http://www.lalecheleague.org/faq/advantages.html

With that strong desire, most moms have anxiety over breast feeding — I sure did! Will I produce enough milk? Will it hurt? How do I know they’re getting enough food? So I took a breast feeding class and worked with a professional lactation consultant to learn all I could before being put in action. I encourage you to take a class, but here’s what I learned:

-You can produce enough milk. Only a very small percentage of the population has issues producing enough milk. To give yourself the best chances, make sure to have baby latch on and nurse starting just an hour or so after birth and then every few hours after that. Don’t go longer than 2-3 hours without the baby nursing in the first few months. You are supposed to feed 8-12 times per 24 hours.

-Feed on demand. Don’t rely on the time between feedings as a gauge if your baby is hungry. If your baby is crying and fussy and can’t be soothed from other methods (holding, walking, singing, change of diaper, change of temperature) and their not sick then feed them, they’re probably hungry! I made that mistake where I couldn’t believe that Archer would be hungry again so quickly, but he was. Babies have growth spurts so sometimes they feed closer together.

-If the baby is latched on correctly, it will not hurt. When the baby latches it shouldn’t hurt. If it does take the baby off and try the latch again. I have had to do this 4 or 5 times before I felt the latch was correct. If you let your baby feed with an improper latch you will definitely feel the pain later and it will be hard to let your nipple heal when you have to nurse so often.

-Always offer both breasts. I made this mistake and assumed that one breast was enough, alternating between feedings. The trick to get him to take the other breast was to feed Archer on one breast, then burp him and offer him the second breast. He almost always wanted the second breast once I started offering both.

-Be patient. While in the hospital I was having issues getting Archer to latch and the lactation consultant said “Nothing will teach you more patience than becoming a mother.” That hit home. Breast feeding and getting your baby to latch and feed is on their schedule, not yours. You have to wait until they’re ready and willing and be there ready to offer them your breast, i.e. shove it in their mouth the moment it opens wide enough! In the first few weeks it sometimes would take me up to 45 minutes to get a proper latch when he was ready for it. Yes, that long! Just hang in there, they call breast feeding a learned art. Both you and your baby have to learn.

-To get them to open their mouths wide, rub your nipple on their lips, express some milk on their lips.

-Proper latch: http://www.lalecheleague.org/faq/positioning.html

-Babies know how much milk they need, all you have to do is offer the breast, be patient and if they’re hungry they’ll eat. You can’t force a baby to breast feed!

-If you have a sleepy baby that is hard to rouse to eat, i.e. they won’t open their mouths wide enough to eat, then try changing their diaper before you feed them, undress them, etc.. what ever you need to do to wake them up. We had to do this for the first month or so for Archer, he as a very apathetic eater.

-Your newborn should feed for 10 minutes on each breast. We had a hard time getting to 10 minutes. He’d get tired and would just stop after 8-12 or so on one breast. Like I said before, try burping your baby, playing with them to wake them up, stroking their cheek to get them to suck, etc… and offer the breast again.

In closing, if you are having issues reach out and get help through a local La Leche League. If you still are having issues and want to give up, do what you think is best for you and your baby. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad if you decide to transition onto formula. The most important thing is that you are a happy loving mom for your new little joy.