Early Days with #1
In my super-expansive 8 months as a mother (haha) I have picked up some bits of wisdom from some of the more experienced mamas I've talked to. Below are some of the best tips I've found. I'd love to hear more pieces of advice from anyone else! Anything to make this job a little easier, right?
Babies need Naked Time, people. They need to air out their tushies (this helps prevent/treat diaper rashes) and the freedom from their diaper/clothing makes it easier for them to learn new skills (like crawling or rolling over or eating their feet). Plus, they like it. My mom suggested that we lay an extra waterproof mattress pad on the floor and put a towel over it. That way if she pees, the towel absorbs it and the mattress pad protects the carpet. We recently bought a California King mattress pad to cover more surface area (see below). We're serious about our naked time 'round these parts.
Have two sets of mattress pads & crib sheets on the bed
I don't just mean "have a spare." I mean, put on a mattress pad and cover it with a sheet, then put another mattress pad OVER that and put another sheet down. This way, if your baby pukes or has a "poo-splosion" in the middle of the night, you can just peel off the top layer and go back to bed. To be honest, I think this would be even better with three layers (that way there's always a spare in case of an emergency), but that's just me. I don't remember who suggested this, but it was one of the new mamas from my Weddingbee days.
Set up a mirror for Tummy Time
My friend Ann from my Mom Group suggested putting a mirror in front of Charlie's face during tummy time. All you need is a hand-held mirror, and I tell you: it changed everything for us. Rather than faceplanting and crying endlessly during tummy time, Charlie noticed the pretty girl in the mirror and found that she could actually hold up her own head. After that, we put her in front of her mirrored closet doors and she LOVED tummy time. Below is a photo of the first time we showed her the mirror - it clearly worked for us!
Get them on a schedule
From the moment Charlie was born, my mom was a broken record: "you need to get that baby on a schedule, Sara." It took months for me to take her advice (but in my defense, I'm convinced it's near impossible to get a colicky baby on a schedule). My mom recommended the book My First 300 Babies, which she used when I was a baby. It's an old-school book and suggests letting the baby cry it out from Day 1. I'm not a fan of that philosophy, because I think babies under 5 or so months are too young to cry it out (at least Charlie was). But the book's main message is really helpful: babies like structure in their day, and need to know what to expect. Schedule time into each day for eating, sleeping, and playtime (both with you and alone). But the book that really helped us is called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which was recommended by my friend Karen. This book talks about sleep in babies at various ages and covers no-cry and let-cry solutions. It even talks about sleep in post-colicky babies, which is a whole different animal. Another helpful method is the EASY method (Eat-Activity-Sleep-You time) from the Baby Whisperer (I'll let you click on that link, rather than bore you with the details here).
Set up "stations" around the house
This one is from my friend Kathy. She has twins and has lived to tell about it (sense of humor in tact, no less), so I take pretty much everything she says as gospel. When Charlie was about three months old, I started to get nervous that I had no idea how to entertain her. Here was Kathy's (genius) advice: "make sure you have "stations" set up for her, especially by the time she's 2 months. You kind of shuffle her around to each station until she fusses, and then you play with her, and then put her in a different station. These stations could be: activity mat (a must!), vibrating bouncy chair (a must!), swing, blanket with some toys, etc. (Add exersaucer and jumperoo as time goes on.)" This idea saved my sanity, because Charlie is easily bored. Now she spends most of her time on the floor with various toys, but if she starts fussing, we'll go into another room and play on THAT floor. She's instantly much happier.
Give your baby plenty of time on the floor
My mother kept telling me that I was "over-thinking" Charlie's day-to-day life. When I was a baby, apparently my mother laid a blanket on the ground and let me wiggle around. I think I felt obligated to entertain Charlie, so leaving her on the floor to fend for herself didn't even occur to me. But seriously, floor-time is super important. Sometimes I'd put her on her back on the floor, and other times floor-time and tummy-time were one and the same. This gave her plenty of time to experiment and learn about what her body could do, and I think it's the main reason why she learned to roll both directions and crawl. We love floor time. Thanks Mom.
What bits of advice have you received? Anything you care to share?Comment
I feel a little annoyed by people who talk about how their babies never fuss, they're great sleepers, and they can be passed from person to person without crying, then label them "good." As if babies who aren't like that - and most aren't - are somehow BAD. And while these people pretend that they aren't bragging about their "good" baby (which they are, it's only natural), they're making the rest of us feel a little insecure. And that isn't helpful. It might be part of the reason why no one talks about their bundle of joy screaming their freaking face off night after night.
I am not ashamed to say that my baby was colicky. It wasn't her fault, and it wasn't my fault. But Charlie had colic, and it really was awful. It lasted from three weeks until she was about four months old. That's a long damn time when your baby is crying most of the time and you don't know why. She cried and cried, but at no point did I think she was a "bad" baby. If I'm honest, though, I'll admit I was worried that other people might think she was "bad." Inside, I felt defensive of her. I also thought, "something is WRONG. I have to figure out what it is."
Before I go any further into this, let me define colic for those of you who don't know. Colic is medically defined as a condition in which an otherwise healthy baby shows periods of intense, unexplained crying lasting more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week for more than 3 weeks. It usually disappears by the age of 3-4 months, and is allegedly lower in breastfed babies.
When Charlie was about three weeks old, we noticed that she was crying a lot. To be honest, though, as first time parents we had no idea what a "normal" amount of crying was, and it took us quite awhile to realize that what was happening wasn't normal. After all, there's a book and DVD set called "the Happiest Baby on the Block," which is designed to get babies to stop crying...so some amount of crying is to be expected. We quickly became experts at the techniques in the Happiest Baby on the Block. We spent hours bouncing her up and down while sitting on an exercise ball. We swaddled her up and we had skin to skin contact. We put her on her side and shushed loudly in her ear. We "wore" her in a moby wrap. Y practically wore down the tile in the kitchen, walking around in circles night after night.
And still, the crying didn't stop. I called her doctor at least three times (and the advice nurse even more), when I had reached the edge of being able to cope and convinced myself that there had to be a solution. After all, the diagnosis of "colic" is complete and total crap. Yes, I KNOW my baby is crying all the time. Naming it doesn't help. Give me a damn solution, will you?
How we helped our colicky baby
While there was no solution, per se, we did find at least part of the problem. And to be honest, I am posting this not because I think you guys will find it riveting, but mostly because I hope that at least one mother (or father) out there will google "my baby cries all the time," "cause of colic" or "help with colicky baby" and happen upon this post.
Our doctor told us that some babies seem to have very sensitive intestinal tracts - it's not just that they're necessarily immature (which is an abandoned theory as to the cause of colic), as much as they are sensitive. It seems that the normal processes of digestion (not gas) cause these babies a lot of pain, and that pain causes a lot of crying.
However, in my online research I found some sources that say experts no longer believe that colic is caused by stomach pain or immature intestinal tracts; it is now believed that colicky babies are normal - just more vocal than other babies (ie, they're big complainers so their parents are more likely to call their doctor). There are several reasons why the opinion has changed, but I don't want to bore you with them. If you're interested, check out Wiki. There's one point, though, that I'm going to talk about:
In 90% of cases, colic is unrelated to a baby's diet. However, in 10% of cases colic is triggered by stomach discomfort from food allergy and requires altering the diet of a breastfeeding mom or switching a baby to a hypoallergenic formula.
So although some colicky babies are just "loud," some of them are obviously in pain. And I absolutely and completely believe that Charlie was one of these babies.
Why do I believe this? Well, let's return to that part about "altering the diet of a breastfeeding mom." Often, I'd feed Charlie and within an hour she would be screaming. Not just crying; she'd be screaming, writhing around, arching her back, and punching the air with her little baby fists. It was heartbreaking. Then one day, I noticed it was worse after I ate some (okay, a LOT) of the fudge that my sister-in-law made.
As a bit of background, my friend Krista had to cut dairy out of her diet while she was breastfeeding her baby. I remembered her describing her baby as "screaming in pain," so I decided to call her and have her describe what she had experienced. As a result of that conversation, I cut chocolate out of my diet. I lamented my inability to eat delicious fudge, but Charlie seemed to be crying a little bit less (I had been eating a lot of chocolate, haha). It was encouraging.
The screaming didn't end, though, and eventually I tried eliminating dairy, which I never would have thought I was capable of. Not only did I live off of dairy (cheese, anyone?), but I am kind of infamous in my family for having zero self-control. But man, I quit dairy cold turkey and never looked back. I was actually surprised by how easy it was (and seriously, if I can do it, anyone can do it). It was easy in part because the benefits were almost immediate. It takes some babies three weeks to show improvement, but with Charlie it was one day. She was like a whole new baby, I kid you not.
Unfortunately, it didn't last long. As you can imagine, eating dairy-free is really hard, especially for a vegetarian. I had to suck it up and eat a lot more meat. And, because I really don’t like meat, I was eating a lot more soy. But as it turns out, something like 30% of newborns with a dairy allergy/intolerance also have an intolerance to soy. Charlie and I are apparently part of that lucky 30%. Trial and error has shown us that she can tolerate small amounts of soy (like butter substitute, a Tofutti Cutie, etc), but a meal made with primarily tofu is a no-go.
After we initially figured all of this out, I went for about two months with very little soy, and no dairy or chocolate. Then one day, Y messed up and accidentally gave me cheddar popcorn (he thought it was plain popcorn and didn't read the ingredients). I thought to myself, "man, this popcorn is GOOD! I can't believe it's 'legal' for me to eat!" As it turned out, it was not legal. It seemed like every freakin' ingredient in that popcorn contained some kind of dairy. I was so, so upset. And so was Charlie. She screamed in pain, like we hadn't heard in weeks. Poor Y felt horrible. If we needed any more convincing that Charlie had a dairy allergy/intolerance, that popcorn did it.
So the screaming was gone, but I eventually ended up cutting out wheat as well. A lactation consultant gave me a handout about "food sensitivities in babies" and I learned that "chronic congestion" was one of the symptoms. After I cut out wheat, Charlie's stuffy nose was gone. It was amazing.
Now, I don't want to leave you thinking this cured Charlie of colic, because it didn't. She still cried a lot more than "normal" three month old babies, and she had a hard time sleeping (colicky and post-colicky babies often do). But the difference in our lives after cutting out dairy was AMAZING. Watching our baby scream in pain made us feel helpless. Our hearts broke for her. After I cut out dairy, she still cried, but we no longer felt that same level of heartbreak.
Why I think food sensitivities are more common than experts think
If you'll recall from above, Wiki mentions that about 10% of breastfed babies have problems relating to their mother's diets. And remember, I mentioned that my friend Krista had to cut dairy out of her diet. Well, she wasn't the only one; I also know five other breastfeeding women who have had to cut dairy and other foods out of their diets. How many breastfeeding women do I know? Uh, not that many. When we switched to a new pediatrician and I explained Charlie's food sensitivities, the doctor nodded knowingly and said, "this is a lot more common than one might think."
When I was a baby, I was breastfed until I was five months old, at which point my mom tried to switch me to formula. Cue insane crying. I was intolerant to pretty much everything she tried to feed me. Y also cried incessantly as a baby. How many "colicky" babies are being breastfed by mothers who have no idea that babies can be affected by a mother's diet? How many babies are being formula fed, when they have an intolerance to dairy or soy? My guess is a lot more than experts think.
The #1 question I was asked when I told people about my limited diet was, "will she grow out of this?" And the answer is "most likely." For most babies, this is an intolerance, not an allergy. But this issue doesn't seem to be very heavily researched, and a lot of doctors don't know much about it. In order to find out whether Charlie was actually allergic, we went to an allergist and had the poor girl tested. We found out later, though, that allergy tests in babies under a year old aren't even considered valid - yet the allergist we saw didn't know that, hadn't heard about actual allergies to proteins passed through breast milk, and had never tested a four month old baby.
Where we are now
Charlie is now seven months old, and is a complete and utter joy to be around. She only cries when something is wrong. Over the months, we've done a few food trials to see if she's more tolerant to foods in my diet:
- 5 months: drank a lot of soy nog, which caused her to have a lot of gas and wake up crying. Determined that a lot of soy is still not good, but a little is okay.
- 6 months: introduced wheat, which caused no reaction. I now eat wheat, but only in small quantities (just to be safe). Interestingly, I think I felt a little healthier when I wasn't eating wheat, so I may experiment with that later.
- 7 months: four spoonfuls of yogurt, no reaction. We were told to try yogurt before other forms of dairy (not sure why). I didn't have a lot, but enough to definitely consider it a trial.
- Yesterday (7.5 months): three large crackers with delicious cheese on top, no reaction. YAY!!! I'm not going to go hog-wild or anything, but I think it might be okay to stop panicking about whether or not something is made with butter.
Solid foods, however, are not going very well. At six months, we started introducing various kinds of vegetables to see how she liked the taste. At first we were trying Baby Led Weaning, but I was nervous about choking after she kept shoving sweet potatoes down her gullet, so we switched to purees. The first thing she ate a lot of was carrots, which she loved. Unfortunately, she spit up most of it and seemed to have a horrible tummy ache. A few days later, we tried butternut squash, which gave her a rash. After contacting her doctor, we are now introducing solid foods much more slowly, starting with a week of rice cereal followed by a week of oatmeal, then mixed grain. Once we're finished with that, we'll start introducing vegetables - one per week.
So as you can see, Charlie has a very sensitive tummy, which we are still dealing with seven months later. But colic has been gone for months (thank god) and her real personality has come out! She's so much fun. When you're in the middle of it, it seems like it will never, ever end. But it does.
This is obviously only our experience, and not all colicky babies will be helped by changing their diet. But ours was, and I'm sure others will be, too. I know there are other people out there who had/have colicky babies, even if you don't see many bloggers talking about it. You are not alone!!Comment
On my last post, "Lies Parents Told Me," reader CrazyBunnyLady asked me a few questions. Rather than answer them in the comments, I thought I'd answer them here, so you guys could give your input too. After all, every family is different (especially when it comes to newborns), so different perspectives would be great!
How scary is it that first day when you know they are going to kick you out of the hospital and you’re going to have to take care of a little person on your own (with your H, but without docs or nurses)?
Y was apparently not nervous about this at all, and I think his confidence rubbed off on me - so my answer to this is probably atypical. We were asked to stay an extra day because Charlie was small and apparently having a hard time regulating her temperature (I still think the thermometer was broken, for the record). Although the hospital is full of a lot of very helpful people, it's also full of a lot of interruptions. Y had nothing but an uncomfortable pull-out chair to sleep on, and we were both exhausted. When we were told that we had to stay the extra day, we were super irritated - we weren't worried about learning to take care of her (after all, we had our parents' help), and we thought home would be more relaxing. So we weren't really worried about getting kicked out of the hospital - I just kept thinking to myself, "if they can do it on 16 and Pregnant, you can do it too." Perhaps I was in denial.
Do those first few weeks seem impossible, or do they fly by and then you don’t remember them?
I can't remember them now, so I'm really thankful that we had our iPhones and took a ton of photos and videos - even of the crying, because her cry sounds much different now. I do remember having a hard time emotionally. I had some postpartum issues in the first two weeks or so; I remember having a lot of anxiety and some mild depression. I called my parents at 11pm once, crying because I had no idea why I was freaking out and Y wasn't doing a good job calming me down. The moral of that story is to have a support system that extends beyond your partner, because s/he is also exhausted and stressed out.
That being said, the early weeks were nothing compared to colic. At about three weeks, Charlie started screaming her face off, and we couldn't stop it. It was exhausting and horrible, and we felt pretty alone. I swear, it seems like no one mentions colic on their blog, and at the time I only knew one person who admitted to having a colicky baby. It's as if people are ashamed that their baby is colicky, or they think it reflects badly on their baby (or maybe they worry it reflects badly on them as parents?). Charlie was colicky and it was awful. I'm going to write a post about this in the future, because Charlie's problem was due in large part to food intolerances (through my breastmilk), and I think that problem is a LOT more common than people know. But I digress.
The answer to your question, in short, is that they sometimes seem impossible, but they certainly do fly by. It was over before I knew it, and now I can't believe my baby is over seven months. In general, time passes a lot faster now. It's important to try to appreciate every moment (even the hard ones), because once they're gone, they're truly gone forever.
Do you recommend having a mom or sister or other family members over to help, or is it more a private time that may get too crowded?
I would recommend having only your partner in the delivery room with you, and maybe a doula if you choose. Labor & delivery can seem like a marathon, and it's an amazing bonding experience - I think having other family members would be distracting and possibly stressful...but of course, that's just me. I don't want people talking about food or television while I'm pushing an entire human being from my loins. But, like I said, that's just me.
However. After the baby is born and you're back home, I say ASK FOR AND ACCEPT HELP AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. The most helpful thing anyone did for us was my mother-in-law, who did our laundry for two and a half months. It was wonderful. We laundered the baby clothing (which doesn't need to be folded), but she took our laundry home and brought it back folded. Thank god for her. My mom was also super helpful, coming over to make us healthy meals and put healthy snacks in the fridge in the early weeks. Cooking isn't exactly a priority, and you'll start to feel like crap pretty quickly if you're surviving on take-out.
That being said, don't let people take your baby from you if you don't want them to. Aside from having someone watch the baby while you take a shower or have a moment to yourself, you probably don't need help with the baby as much as you need help with the house. My advice is to only invite people over who will do your laundry, bring you food, or clean your kitchen. This time is for you and your partner to bond with your newest addition, not watch as s/he is passed around to every member of the family but you.
Thoughts? Anyone have personal experiences to add?Comment
Before my baby was born and I had the big fat belly that apparently reads, “GIVE ME PARENTING ADVICE,” I heard a lot of crap from the mouths of strangers. I didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t, so I’m going to share with you what my experience has been. As always, I’d love to hear your experience too!
“My baby slept through the night at 6 weeks.”
-sleeping through the night is technically 5 hours. That’s a bunch of bullshit, if you ask me. Whoever came up with that term wanted to be Braggy McBraggerton and make everyone think their kid was a freakin’ genius. Most babies do not sleep through the night - as in, 7pm to 7am - for a very, very long time. If your baby is breastfed, this is especially true because breastmilk is more quickly digested than formula. Charlie is 7 months and I wake up 2-3 times per night to feed her (usually at 10-11pm and 3-4am). Also keep in mind that sleep habits ALWAYS change in babies. People who say their baby is sleeping 8 hours straight at 3.5 months will probably be in for a nasty surprise in about 2 weeks, when baby starts waking up 4x per night for awhile.
“if you breastfeed, the weight will just drop right off”
- this has not been my experience. At all. Charlie is 7 months old, and I weigh a good 10 pounds more than I used to. That being said, I am only about 1 pants size bigger, so the weight must be mostly up top (as in my muffin top, haha). It has taken me 7 months to get here. People who have told me that they are in their pre-pregnancy jeans one month post-partum usually still have a muffin top, but decline to mention that in polite company (read = public). Don't listen to these people. I don't know why they think this is helpful "information" to share. That being said, I do have a couple of friends who look exactly like they did pre-baby - so there must be some kind of magical body type that a few really, really karmically gifted people possess.
“You will never sleep again.”
- Not true. The first 4-6 weeks are brutal, for sure. Baby will wake up a lot to eat. But after that, they’ll start sleeping longer stretches (5-6 hours) and you’ll start to feel rested again. There’s a “four month wakeful period” in which Baby may turn into a complete disaster and start waking every 3 hours. Charlie did this. We had to do sleep training to get her out of it, and now she wakes twice per night to eat. This is not terrible - she eats for 10-15 minutes and goes back to sleep immediately, so it’s not a huge production, and I can go right back to sleep. That being said, I am still tired.
“You will never sleep IN again.”
- Uh...I wish I could say this weren’t true. A lot of babies wake up at 6-7am. You can sleep in if you have a nice partner and you aren’t breastfeeding.
“I couldn’t even take a shower”
- This is a bunch of crap. You can take a shower for sure. You just might not be able to spend a bunch of time shaving your legs or individually conditioning each strand of hair. It’s about priorities; you have a certain amount of time, and you can spend it showering, sleeping, updating your blog, or painting your toes. I personally have always taken 5-10 minute showers and haven’t had any trouble taking two showers per day. However, you’ve seen my blog, and my toenails aren’t exactly fit for open-toe shoes.
“I was too busy to eat.”
- too busy/tired to COOK most definitely. But eat? Really? Yes, I eat regular meals and lots of snacks. Then again, eating is a priority to me. I can't imagine being too busy to eat.
“You will never be able to plan things again.”
- This is sort of true. You don’t know what kind of day it’s going to be for Baby, and if she hasn’t napped, napped longer than you expected, or doesn’t feel good, your plans go out the window.
“You will never be on time anywhere ever again.”
- Not sure if “ever again” is accurate, but I am finding this to be true. I swear, as soon as I’m ready to walk out of the house, she spits up on me, or I realize I forgot my own jacket because I was busy making sure I had 10 bibs in the diaper bag. One time when she was 6 weeks old, Charlie literally puked, pooped AND peed on me, all in the same 5 minute span. I was already 10 minutes late.
“Your house is going to look like a circus.”
- With the addition of a few baby toys, our house looks fine. It is not piled full of crap. I think a lot of this is a choice: do you put away the toys, or leave them out in the living room? Do you keep every big toy (like the swing), or do you donate, sell or store them when you get a new toy (like a jumperoo)? We have only one large toy out at a time. Yes, it looks like a baby lives here, but it doesn’t look like a circus. And yes, I realize aesthetics will be compromised when we have to baby proof - but my friend Sarah has a toddler and her house looks lovely.
“You will talk about poop a lot.”
- HAHA! YES. This is true. You will have conversations about poop that go on for 15 minutes and will find them FASCINATING. I have called Y into the nursery to look at a poopy diaper, and he has actually been interested in looking at it. Ah, my glamorous life.
“Parenthood will ruin your marriage.”
- The beginning was really hard, I’m not going to lie. Sleep deprivation + major life change + being responsible for an entire human being = lots of stress. However, my marriage is a lot stronger now than it was pre-Charlie (and I didn’t think it was weak). I have learned more about Y in the past 7 months than in the previous 2 years of marriage, and we understand each other a lot better now. Also, watching him be the most awesome dad ever is really, really wonderful.
For those of you who ARE moms (or dads), what were you told that turned out not to be true?
For those of you who AREN’T moms (or dads), what have you heard that you’d like to know is true or not?
Sometimes having a three month old is just a little bit awful.
Got a burning question? Ask it here!