Parenting lesson #5: Mommy brain is real.


Forget actual scientific research.  I don’t care what (mostly male) researchers have to say about pregnancy or momnesia.  I am confident I can claim 100% matter-of-factly that “mommy brain” is a real ailment.  It is my diagnosis for having a short attention span, terrible recall, and doing stupid stuff.

The coffee does not come out from there.
Exhibit A: Before having kids, I would have known coffee does not come out of that side.

Take Exhibit A.  Not once, but TWICE, I have tried to pour coffee into my mug from the hinged back of this coffee carafe instead of where the dispenser spout is.  I took this picture to document the second time this happened.  If you look closely, you can see that I managed to drench the sugar in the sugar bowl with coffee as well as the tablecloth before my friends were able to stop me.

And this is one documented example of hundreds.  I have poured coffee into my cereal and milk in my orange juice.  I have even poured liquids straight onto the counter.  I have found my missing keys in the refrigerator.    I can’t even recall simple words like “mug” and “cabinet,” so I often ask Greg to get me a “thing” from the “thing” and hope he can deduce what I need because I’m holding a coffee carafe.  This week alone, here is what I remember: On Monday I forgot to strap Ethan into his car seat when I went to the gym.  On Tuesday, I took out the trash in the pouring rain on my way out the door, and upon returning, Eliza said, “Mommy, the front door is open!”  Just to be safe, I waited for three police cars to arrive 20 minutes later to check that it wasn’t an intruder who had opened my door, but rather that we had left for two hours without closing and locking up.  Yesterday I grabbed my mailbox key instead of my neighbor’s house key to let out their dog, and I didn’t figure out the mistake until the key didn’t work in their door.  And just now as Greg got home, we found I had left my keys in the door for the umpteenth time.

Seriously, look how much bigger that belly is than my head.  Imagine how much of my brain just Ethan took.
Exhibit B.  Seriously, look how much bigger that belly is than my head. Imagine how much of my brain Ethan sucked into his.

Check out Exhibit B.  I’m going to say that the laws of proportion back me up on this.  My thought is if your body incubates a baby and provides what it needs to grow its own organs, bones, and especially brain, then just as the baby will take Vitamin D and Calcium from your bones, it will also take cells from your brain.  It also follows that the more times you go through this process, the worse off you are.  I’ve read that the parts of your brain that control motivation, reward behavior and emotion regulation actually grow after you give birth, presumably to help you care for the child.  That’s lovely.  But my brain can only do so much at a given time, so keeping a baby’s needs at the forefront means other things – like remembering the word “chair” – go out the window.  In fact, a British study showed that hormones can control spatial memory, which would explain why when you’re pregnant or a mommy with a baby, you can’t remember where you put things or why you walked into a room in the first place.

Sleep deprivation has to be a part of it.  We are sleep-deprived when pregnant, and even more so after giving birth.  This past week, Ethan has woken up every night, I think because he’s going through a growth spurt.  I fed him a bottle for a few nights in a row, and now I think he’s waking up because he got in that pattern.  (Ugh.)  He was sick before this, so I haven’t had a good night of uninterrupted sleep in a while.  Mommy brain always gets worse at times like these.  I am hopeful that I can get close to normal again soon.  I do think I remember it getting better.  I vaguely recall that once Zach was two, I felt like my brain was sharper and I could remember things better.  I think …

I think I’m resigned to having mommy brain forever because I’m getting older.  And maybe that’s part of it, too: maybe women are having children later in life, and so our brains are already less capable of bouncing back easily.  Like I said, I don’t claim to have any scientific basis for my conclusion.  I just know I’m right.  It is the one thing I can trust my brain on these days.

What is your funniest pregnancy or mommy brain moment?

 

Parenting lesson #10: Be prepared, but when the diarrhea hits the fan, seek help from another parent.


I like to be prepared.  Although having three kids has thrown my life into more chaos than two ever did, I still try to keep myself from getting caught off-guard.  For example, as a general rule, I have six diapers in the diaper bag.  My nursing class teacher shared how she got stuck traveling with her baby who had diarrhea.  Flight attendants had to take turns running paper towels to her seat, and the story stuck with me.  I don’t ever want to have diarrhea all over me in a place where I can’t get to a change of clothes.

This story comes to mind when I travel, so I try to pack extra diapers.  But for our last trip home from Florida, I had three remaining diapers when we left for the airport.  It should have been more than enough to get me through.  But that’s not how things went down.

We knew when we left for the airport that our flight was delayed.  What we could not have foreseen was that the one-hour delay would become a four-hour delay, the final hour of which came once everyone had boarded the plane and a rogue piece of luggage fell from the overhead compartment, injuring a passenger.  This necessitated emergency aid in the form of a sheriff’s vehicle and fire truck pulling up next to us at the gateway “just in case” while the crew waited for this passenger to feel better.  (You can’t make this stuff up.)

The rip-off package of two diapers and eight wipes.  No thanks (but good to know they're there)!
The rip-off package of two diapers and eight wipes. No thanks (but good to know they’re there)!

When your 5-6 hours traveling with three children becomes 9-10 hours, you learn to relax.  You roll with the punches.  And you improvise.  A four-hour delay with Eliza would have had me sweating bullets about the diaper dilemma.  But with Ethan, I wasn’t all that concerned, despite having used up two diapers before our flight even took off.  I briefly considered buying the $5 airport pack of two diapers and eight wipes, but the cheap skate in me just couldn’t do it, and the diapers weren’t the right size anyway.  But the anal-retentive part of me couldn’t board the plane with only one remaining diaper.  (I might be anal, but Ethan is not!  And diarrhea was what I feared, remember?)  I decided to make a new friend.  There was a woman with an 11-month-old nearby.  I introduced myself, explained my situation, and asked if she had a diaper to spare.  She was happy to help.  I told her I just needed a one-diaper cushion.

Thank goodness for that woman.  And every other mom or dad who has been that person for another mom or dad in need.  I must confess that I haven’t always had the most gracious thoughts towards unprepared parents.  But the truth is we all need help sometimes.  No matter how well you plan or predict, parenting is beautifully unpredictable.  In the end, I did need that diaper.  I used one on the plane, and then of course Ethan pooped as I waited at baggage claim for Greg to pull up the car.  No, the little man didn’t get diarrhea.  And if he had, I might have ended up like my nursing class teacher.  But I have found that stressing out about every potential worst-case scenario makes for a really stressed-out mom.  Which can give you … diarrhea.

Parenting lesson #4: Your to-do list will never be the same again


If you’re a mom, it’s more like 10 or 10,000 things

There is nothing that will re-prioritize your life like having children.

Your to-do list expands overnight when you’re pregnant and you feel the pressure to read the countless books there are on hosting your little human parasite, birthing it and taking care of it.  Once you have the baby, your to-do list is almost entirely decided for you.  You never know how much time you’ll have before the baby needs you, so you have to decide whether to take a nap (as everyone advises), do laundry, eat something, do the dishes, write thank-you notes, or somehow try to feel like a normal person by talking on the phone to someone or e-mailing.

When I went back to work, the weekends became a juggling act of errands, going through mail, and trying to have “family time.”  Personal, pre-children projects like scrapbooking (laughable!) weren’t even in my “top 200 things I want to do list.”  When I quit my job five months later, my priority became figuring out what to do with an 8 1/2-month-old who couldn’t have a conversation.  Then I found out I was pregnant.  Of course, our biggest to-do list item became getting our personal wills done, as the thought of the government deciding what to do with our parent-less child would have been an overwhelming one without pregnancy hormones in play.

When Zach came along, my priority was surviving.  My to-do list was to -NOT-die, and not accidentally kill or maim either of my children from lack of sleep.  Honestly, the first few months of Zach’s life are a complete blur.  I wish I had started blogging then, but even the idea is ridiculous because, well, when could I have done it?

And here we are, with a 3 1/2-year-old and a two-year-old, and things seem a bit more manageable, but now my to-do list has more weighty items on it, like teach the kids to swim, figure out how to build Zach’s character, and research where we should send Eliza to kindergarten (because that decision is, scarily, a year away).  And of course, the scrapbooking from pre-baby days has fallen off the list, because it’s never going to get done.  I’ve come to terms with that.

The thing is, having kids pushes a lot of things you thought were important in life out of the picture.  And kissing them goodbye in return for newborn cuddles was a really tough pill for me to swallow.  I like control and I like thinking about myself.  But what I’m coming to realize is that I’m just beginning to understand what’s really important, and our kids are showing me that.  I am sitting here trying to think of what my normal, after work to-do list was like before we had kids, and I can’t even remember (maybe planning home improvement projects?).  I think that is more evidence that a lot of it didn’t matter; it isn’t lasting.  What’s lasting is leaving a legacy of children who will love others like we love them, and care about others like we care about them.

So if your to-do list is currently diaper-changing, spit-up cleaning, and round-the-clock feeding, hang in there; it will change again pretty soon.  Perhaps not to something easier, but at least, in my opinion, to something more rewarding.

I’m forever changed, and I wouldn’t ever want me – or my to-do list – to be the same again.

Parenting lesson #2: Friends don’t tell you what it’s like to have a newborn because they can’t.


Zach, all swaddled in the hospital

“Why didn’t anyone warn me?” I wondered to myself over and over in the early days with a newborn.  How could having a baby be so hard, despite attending breastfeeding and infant care classes?  How could two educated parents be so clueless?

The answer, I have come to realize, is three-fold.  For one, friends did reveal the truth to me to an extent, and so did the birth and baby books I read.  But like anything that’s hard (like training for and running a marathon, or making it through medical school, I imagine), people can’t fully make you understand it with words and warnings.  Going through it yourself is the only way to truly “get it.”

Second, when I was struggling, I wanted to talk to others who had struggled.  Crying on the phone to my childless friends about being tired, feeling trapped and not producing enough milk just wasn’t as comforting (or baggage I wanted to unload on someone who was hopeful to have children some day).  I needed to talk to people who could relate, who could promise me I would come out the other end of the exhaustion and struggle.  I think this means that we don’t get the real scoop before having a baby.

The third reason is that I have a few friends who have had their babies and everything has been dreamy – they had easy labors and deliveries, their babies were perfect little eating and sleeping angels, and for these friends, life was just beginning.  (Haters.)  Every family’s experience is so different, even from child to child, that trying to warn people about how bad it could be doesn’t make sense.

All of that said, there are some aspects of becoming a parent that are universal.  So, if you want to know what to expect (no matter what), here’s what I can promise:

1. Bleeding: I was left in wonderment at how I was supposed to think missing 8 periods was so glorious when, once I had Eliza, I got all 8 missed periods in a row (and then some).  Having a baby makes you bleed.  A lot and for a long time.  I’m talking about gelatinous clumps in the first 24-48 hours that make you wonder if you’re going to lose all your blood.  (And you can’t use tampons.)  The good news is that you get these really cool disposable net panties from the hospital or birthing center that you can throw out along with the elephant-sized pads you are provided.  This is one of the reasons many postpartum women are anemic, so it’s important to continue taking pre-natal vitamins for the first few months, even if you’re not breastfeeding.  (As a side note, my friend who just had a C-section was under the impression that she wouldn’t bleed because when they went in after the baby, they’d get that out, too, along with – in her dream world – a few pounds of extra stomach fat.  She had no such luck.)

2. Pain: Whether you have a C-section or a vaginal birth, there is pain after expelling another person from your body.  It’s not like the baby comes out and you prance out of the hospital like the sugar plum fairy.  They wheel you out in a chair for a reason.  And healing takes time, too.  You might be on acetaminophen, or you might get heavy duty drugs.  If you get heavy duty ones, they might be powerful enough to make you forget that you are wearing the aforementioned netted panties.

3. hormone changes: Some hormone levels drop instantly after a baby is born, and some take a few months to normalize.  Almost all women experience some form of “baby blues” (isolation, fragility, and crying) for the first couple of weeks.  If you are one of the few who doesn’t, you’re also a hater.

4. Engorgement: Whether or not you end up nursing, your breasts will assume you are.  Thus, you will experience engorgement, which can be described as a burning hot pain along with super rock-hard breasts that have filled up with milk.  If you don’t want to nurse and you express the milk by pumping, your boobs will keep making more milk, so you just have to suck it up and let them leak and cause pain for a few days.  If you are nursing, you will go in-and-out of engorgement as your body tries to figure out how much milk to produce to meet your baby’s needs.  It’s really awesome when your newborn starts sleeping longer stretches (like 3 or 4 hours) but your boobs wake you up anyway because they’re engorged, anticipating a feeding.

5. No exercise or sex:  At the time when you’re in physical pain and hormonally imbalanced, when a good surge of endorphins would certainly help, you can’t exercise and you can’t jump your husband.  The truth is, for the first 6-8 weeks, you won’t really feel like doing either anyway.  (And if you thought you didn’t want your breasts fondled during pregnancy, it’s a whole new ball game if you’re nursing, seeing as you could leak or spray milk at just about any time.)

6. You will be able to see your vajayjay again, but you’ll be sorry you looked past your flabby, gelatinous belly to peek at it: No further explanation is needed.

7. Eat, sleep and poop:  Granted, your child might not do them in that order, and the frequency of all three ranges from child-to-child, but for the first 6-8 weeks, it’s really all they do.  Then they add smiling to the mix.  (Yeehaw!)

8. Eating is the most important:  Oh my gosh, a newborn’s stomach grows from the size of a marble to the size of a walnut in the first week of life.  Then the growth spurts start.  The old saying, “Let a sleeping baby lie” is detrimental to your child’s health in the early days.  You have to wake them up to feed them sometimes.  They must eat at LEAST 8 times a day, but it’s normal for them to eat as many as 12.  For several weeks.

9. You will fear the baby is not getting enough to eat:  It is unnerving to be responsible for the survival of another human life, and not knowing how much a child is eating and only being able to gauge it by whether the thing is peeing and pooping can be anxiety-inducing, especially for type-A folks.  Your pediatrician and/or lactation consultants can help you, so don’t be afraid to ask.

10. You will be afraid you are going to hurt the baby: On our first pediatrician visit with Eliza, Kathy, our lactation consultant, was hurling our baby around as if she were Gumby, bending her into different poses and manhandling her.  She was trying to show us how sturdy our love bundle actually was, and that it’s pretty hard to hurt them when they’re so nimble.

11. Exhaustion: Because of 1-9, you will be more tired than you’ve ever been in your life.  (Thanks Dana!)

12. Love overload:  Yet despite all the above, it is impossible not to be in awe of what God has created through you and another person.  There is so much warmth inside on an entirely new level when you nurture a newborn.  There’s no way to recreate it and bottle it up, because if I could, I would, and then I’d sell it on eBay and become a bajillionaire.  And I believe you still experience this, regardless of your level of postpartum depression (it just might be more in moments than all the time).

There you have it.  And I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot because I’ve read that some of those hormones make you forget how hard it can be.  (Please feel free to fill in my gaps by commenting.)  To the childless, consider yourselves warned.

Fewer naps, dwindling sleep … thank goodness for Daylight Saving Time!


Tonight is the night I’m going to sleep in.  Even though it won’t be a real gain on the number of hours I get to snooze, I am blissfully assuming that when we roll the clocks forward an hour, my kids will just start sleeping until that time.

Until recently, my kids slept from 7 to 7.  Then somehow both of them decided 5:30 to 6 a.m. would be a good time to wake up, despite going to bed at the same time and despite not napping longer.  (In fact, Zach is transitioning from two daytime naps to one, but that is another post.)

We have tried putting them to bed earlier for several days in a row because the “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby” book says to do that.  It didn’t work.  We have tried putting them to bed later, around 7:30 to 8, because my dad told me I should do that and they would adjust, eventually, to sleeping later.  But two weeks into that, I’m here to tell you it hasn’t caused much improvement.  This represents a huge pain in my butt because having your kids decide all of a sudden that they need an hour or two less sleep each day, despite that causing multiple tantrums and fits and ornery-ness, is like having your house broken into and robbed of your most prized possessions, and all of your furniture pooped on by the thieves.

Although I haven’t put much research into sleep, I’ve put a lot of effort investing into bedtime routines and scheduled naps, and it’s worked for me.  My kids generally don’t fight about heading to bed.  So this is an unexpected thorn in my side.  And perhaps I just need to accept that they are getting older and sleeping less.  But why is that so hard?  Why am I clinging to their sleep patterns of old?  The answer, of course, is because this change doesn’t meet my expectations and I don’t like getting woken up by crying children who need more sleep at 6 a.m. but are up anyway.

So, if Daylight Saving Time doesn’t work (and oh, how I hope it does), I’m going to buy a large, digital alarm clock for Eliza’s room, draw a 7 and put it above the hour number, and tell her she’s not allowed to leave until the clock shows a 7 or higher in that hour spot.  But what to do about Zach?  I guess, in the words of Princess Leah, help me Daylight Saving Time, you’re my only hope.

The “big deals” of child rearing that we dread don’t always turn out to be dreadful


Killing two birds with one stone is awesome, especially when it relates to kids.  Often, it seems like forces are working against you as a parent.  Some days nothing goes as you wish, you feel like a failure and Murphy’s Law kicks your butt.  But sometimes, you get pleasantly surprised.

I’ve been dreading weaning Zach from his pacifier.  Of course I read somewhere that kids shouldn’t need them or use them past the age of 1, so as Zach is 13+ months, I already feel like a failure in this area.  (We type-A folks put a lot of pressure on ourselves.)  Side note: I know plenty of two- and three-year-olds who still use them, and they seem to be doing just fine, but that just isn’t for me, like changing two- and three-year-old poop diapers isn’t for me.  (See all my posts about potty training Eliza at 23-months.)

So, Zach has used the pacifier to sleep since he was a newborn, and he just started sleeping 12-hour nights consistently a few weeks ago.  So the idea of weaning him from using it was looming over me like a storm cloud.  I didn’t want to lose my newfound seven straight-hours-of-sleep nights that have made me feel like a new woman.

Welcome to real life, where children younger than five get an average of seven infections a year and a bunch of viral colds on top of that.  A week ago Zach started hacking so badly it made him throw up.  For the first several nights of the sinus infection that has now infiltrated us all, I gave him his pacifier but he kept spitting it out.  He could not breathe with it in.  And finally, I just stopped giving it to him at all on Tuesday.  He has been pacifier-free since then.  Granted, he’s not sleeping great anyway because he’s sick, but I’m not planning on giving it back to him.  In the quest to get him well, I’m also fixing his pacifier addiction.  I was anticipating a difficult, drawn-out process, but this illness has forced me to have more sleepless nights, and presented the perfect opportunity to wean him because he can’t use it anyway.

I love it when things like this happen as a parent.  You can keep changing phases and stages so quickly that all you do is dread the next big thing.  The problem is you forget to remember all the progress you’ve made and all the things that end up not being a big deal.  It’s amazing that Eliza has mastered so many skills that seemed so onerous when they were on the horizon, such as feeding herself and using the bathroom by herself.

So with Zach, it’s amazing that he’s mastered things like smiling, feeding himself finger foods and crawling.  I don’t want to forget to be thankful that we’ve passed through these phases joyfully.

Now, if only there were a way illness could get him to walk.  Oh well.  One thing at a time.  It’s pretty hard to kill three birds with one stone.

Parenting is so challenging because every child presents different challenges


If he only looked like this all night long

Parenting is not like math, unfortunately for those of us who enjoy formulas.  No, it’s definitely more like poetry or impressionistic painting.  Sometimes you get it, sometimes it makes no sense; sometimes up close, in the words of Cher from “Clueless,” it’s just a big old mess.

Before having Eliza, I read the book “Baby Wise” for advice on getting her to sleep well.  I decided that if I followed its principles, it would be nearly impossible to have a child who didn’t sleep well.  Wouldn’t you know, Eliza was sleeping 8 hours through the night consistently by 11 weeks.  (Looking back, I believe God was just being gracious because of the injury she caused when she exploded out of me on the third suction attempt, causing a fourth degree tear.)  She slept 12 hours a night from about 5 months on and has never looked back (except of course for her two-month-long battle with night terrors from July to September last year that I am still trying to forget and never blogged about because, as I just said, I don’t want to remember it).

Throughout Eliza’s infancy, I smugly and silently scoffed in my head at the moms who told me, “Well, Johnny’s always been a great sleeper, but Emily’s my one who still wants to get up several times a night.”  I thought it must be the parents who screwed up, got lazy, or didn’t follow through.  I looked forward to following the same formula with Zach and – POOF! – sleeping well again by the time he was three-months-old.

I was very, very wrong to make such an assumption.  Zach turned one a couple of weeks ago and he is still not consistently sleeping through the night.  All along as I’ve tried to train him to sleep and then found myself having entire two-sided debates in my head about the benefits and drawbacks of going into his room, I’ve thought, “At least by the time he’s one this won’t happen anymore unless he’s sick or teething.”  (The day I learn not to make assumptions about what should and should not happen developmentally for my kids on my self-determined time line will be very liberating indeed.)

The thing is, I followed the “Baby Wise” formula again.  I couldn’t be as rigid and calculated about it because I had another toddler to manage, but I followed it.  The problem is two-fold: he is a second child and he is a different child.  It was a whole lot easier to let Eliza cry it out to get herself to go to sleep because there wasn’t another child in the house she could wake.  Not only that, but for her, “crying it out” meant letting her fuss for a few minutes and then enjoying the silence.  For Zach, it turns out that crying it out is an inexorable affair that causes me to wonder, “If I put him outside in the backyard and go back to sleep, will the neighbors be able to hear him?  And if they call the police, will I have broken any laws?”  These eternal screaming fits eventually and inevitably wake Eliza, and then we have two inconsolable babies with which to deal.

I’ve tried two or three times (I can’t remember exactly because sleep deprivation inhibits memory retention) to let him cry it out for days on-end.  I also follow the rules about not picking him up when he cries.  If I go into his room, it’s just to rub his back for a few seconds and replace his pacifier.  He will randomly sleep through the night without a peep, as he did two nights ago.  Then he’ll have a night like last night when he screamed for more than an hour.  It just doesn’t make sense.

So if you are a mother out there and you have figured out the formula for getting a child like Zach to be able to self soothe when he wakes, I’m all ears for suggestions.  Just don’t expect me to be able to do it unless it’s X + Y = blissful sleep.

 

Baby products (and beyond) that you can’t live without


No matter how much you prepare for a baby, there’s no real way to prepare for a baby.  It’s impossible to avoid some trips in the early weeks to the baby superstore or drugstore for things you either didn’t know you needed or thought you wouldn’t need (like a nose suctioner), only to find out you did.  Or, there are lots of things you find out you need to try various types of before you find exactly what works for you and your baby (such as pacifiers, bottles or nursing pads).  Then there are the things you simply can’t buy in advance (like mass quantities of nursing bras because you don’t know how big you’ll be).  Maybe I’ll make lists of those separately.  But for those who like to be prepared (like me), there are ways you can minimize your stress.  This post is about the things you can definitely anticipate you will use and should have ready to go.  They will make your life easier and from my limited experience with two babies, here they are:

If you are planning on nursing:

1. Boppy or My Breast Friend nursing pillow – You can take this one to the bank – and the hospital.  If you want to nurse, a nursing pillow is essential when you spend half your day with a newborn attached to your nips.  You have to be able to get comfortable.  With Eliza, I carted the Boppy all over the house with me.  With Zach, I bought a spare from a consignment shop so I had one upstairs and one downstairs.  A neighbor of mine just had her second baby, and she loves My Breast Friend because she can strap it to herself and nurse the baby (or just let her fall asleep at the breast) and walk around with her arms free.  The Boppy does not strap onto you, so you can only use it while sitting.

2. An electric pump – If you have any nursing issues, want the convenience of being able to give your baby a bottle at some point while nursing, or if you have to go back to work, a good quality pump is non-negotiable.  With both Eliza and Zach, I required a hospital-grade pump to get my milk going in the beginning with 2 jaundiced kids.  But you should probably rent one of these as they’re super expensive and not needed for very long.  The consumer electric pumps are perfect for the job once your baby is a few weeks old and nursing is established.  And if you introduce a bottle around 4-6 weeks, you will most likely have a much easier time getting your baby to let you get out.

3. A lactation consultant – Find a friend who’s had a baby and get the name and number of one to have on-hand should you need help.  I had terrible issues with Eliza and if I had gotten help on her first, second or even third day of life, it would have made such a difference.  Your hospital or birthing center should also have a lactation consultant on staff who can help you while you’re there.  Even if you think everything is going peachy-keen, still get a consultant to watch you nurse and give you pointers.  You can be latching improperly the first day or two in the hospital and seem fine, and then get home and experience agonizing latching pain and bleeding and chafing because you’re doing it wrong.  Get all the free help you can wherever you birth your baby, and then have someone you can follow-up with just in case.  If you do a home birth, have your midwife help and do a follow-up.

4. A fashionable nursing cover – If you’re going to have to nurse in public, or are just more modest about nursing, it’s nice to feel like you have something stylish to put on when you’re generally wearing sweat suits everywhere.  If you lay a blanket over you, your baby can wave his arms and move it out-of-place.  Having something that straps around your neck makes a difference.  I like Bebe Au Laits (in stores) and uddercovers.com.

No matter whether you nurse:

5. A pediatrician – The practice we ended up choosing does not visit the hospital where we delivered, and it made things harder having our kids real pediatricians not see them until they were 4- or 5-days-old (both were born right before the weekend).  When searching in the last trimester, make sure you find someone who can visit your baby in the hospital or birthing center with you.

6. Sleep and swaddling blankets – Whether it’s summer or winter, loose blankets are a no-no in the crib.  It’s nice to have blankets you can zip up around your baby, as well as swaddling ones.  Some babies like being swaddled, and others prefer to have their limbs free.  You will want to try both.  For summer I like the Aden + Anais muslin sleep blankets and swaddling blankets.  Any of the fleece sleep blankets are great for winter.  I would get 3 different kinds of swaddling blankets because some babies seem to break free from some fabrics, while others really hold together.

7. Lap pads – I bought a pack of these thinking I would give them to people to put on their laps and protect themselves from spit ups or other various and sundry fluid leaks.  They are useless for that because they’re about 1 foot square.  However, I decided to use them on top of my changing pad covers right in the area where I changed diapers.  To this day I still do it so I don’t have to wash a whole changing pad cover when a diaper change gets messy.

8. Burp cloths – Again, Aden + Anais makes some great ones because they are shaped to fit around your neck and they have snaps so they convert to regular bibs.  I also used cloth diapers as burp cloths and kept piles of them everywhere around the house because Eliza spit up ALL.  THE.  TIME.

9. Diapers and wipes – Don’t buy mass quantities of these before your baby arrives.  Get one small pack (24 or so) of 3 different brands of disposable newborn diapers.  These should get you through roughly the first week.  Try them all to see which one seems to work best.  If none of them leak for your baby, then go with the least expensive option that you like.  Most babies grow out of the newborn size within the first 2-4 weeks (and some are born too big for them anyway).  Having a huge supply of newborn diapers doesn’t make a lot of sense.  You will need to go to the store to get diapers in the early days no matter what, so don’t freak out about needing a supply to get you through a month.  It’s silly.  If you are planning on using cloth diapers, I would recommend trying 3 different types as well.  If you’re comfortable with it, you could borrow the outer casings of a few different brands from friends who have used them and just buy the inserts so you don’t spend a lot.  Some of my friends swear by FuzzyBunz and bumGenius.  Econobum is another brand.  There are also hybrid systems that combine the convenience of disposable with the earth-friendliness of cloth, such as the Flip System and G Diapers.  (I did not have good luck with G Diapers, but that’s just me.)  I would also try 3 different brands of wipes.  Some babies have sensitive skin and do better with less wet wipes than others.  Once you find the brand you like, then buy the huge, economy-size packs.

10. Some changing station on every floor of your home – Keep a basket with wipes, cream, diapers, and some sort of changing pad (it could even be a receiving blanket you lay on the carpet) in all the major areas where you will be spending time so you don’t have to climb flights of stairs 12 times a day just to change a diaper (especially if you end up having a C-section).

11. Netflix – When you spend hours and hours in the early days feeding your baby, you often want to keep the lights down while you do it so the baby can go right back to sleep.    I remember trying to read Sarah Palin’s book in the faint shine of Zach’s night-light (because I wanted to read something that wouldn’t wake me up too much).  During the day, it’s also nice to have something to do when you’re feeding.  This is a great time to catch up on past seasons of shows you like or movies you’ve been wanting to see.

12. Bjorn or Ergo Baby or Moby Wrap – You can register for these and return the one(s) you find you don’t like or don’t use, or you might find you like having options depending on what you’re doing.  There is no price value I can place on being able to carry a young baby while having both hands free to do dishes, vacuum, make yourself a sandwich, go to the bathroom, or take a hike through the woods.  I personally loved the Bjorn and never had luck with either of my kids in a sling.  But I never tried the Ergo Baby.

13. A baby swing or bouncer – Again, you will need to do some things that require you not be holding your baby.  It’s great to have somewhere safe to strap the baby down while you do something.  Bouncers are more portable and smaller than swings (and some bouncers actually swing babies, too).  If you want to have your baby nearby while you load the dishwasher, and also when you go to the bathroom, a bouncer is great.

14. A portable crib – Although I have a regular pack-and-play, I would highly recommend the PeaPod Plus if you like to travel and want something light.  At home, it can be another option for a safe place to set your baby (away from pets, for example).

15. A stroller for your car seat – One of my most favorite pieces of equipment was my Snap ‘N Go stroller.  Although it doesn’t specifically say it is compatible with Chicco car seats, it worked for me.  Babies sleep a lot, and often fall asleep in the car.  Having to transfer your infant and wake her up to move her to a stroller is no fun.

Obviously, there are some things I’ve left off the list such as a crib, a car seat and clothing.   But I think it would be hard to forget those, and I don’t have a specific recommendation for any of them.

What have I forgotten?

Baby products you simply don’t need


A friend recently sent me a Reader’s Digest article about baby products that are a waste of money (thanks, Irene!).  I agreed with every one of them, and it got me thinking that the list wasn’t exhaustive enough.  Thus, I’m posting the list here, as well as adding my own additions to it.  Right now I have at least half a dozen friends who are pregnant (three with their first children), so this is for you guys (or I should say gals)!

Reader’s Digest list:

1. Diaper Genie – You have to buy specific brand trash bag refills for this.  I used a Diaper Champ that allows you to use regular medium trash bags.  I used it a little while for Eliza, and then realized that no matter what you do to mask the smell, you just have to get diapers out of the house on a daily basis.  My kitchen trash can became the receptacle for all diapers.

2. Pee pee Tee Pees – Sure, Zach peed on the wall and on me a few times while getting changed, but you can just keep the dirty diaper over a boy’s anatomy while you change him and quickly recover the area with the new diaper.

3. bottle sanitizer

4. bottle warmer

5. wipe warmer

6. baby powder

7. diaper caddy

8. receiving blankets – I would recommend Aden + Anais swaddling blankets,

9. hand mittens – My lactation consultant chastised me for ever putting these on Eliza, saying a newborn only has so many ways to learn about the world, and one of them is touch)

10. baby food processor (I have another post about the Beaba)

11. baby video monitor – You don’t NEED to see your baby while he sleeps.  An audio monitor will suffice.  If you WANT to, that’s a different thing entirely.

12. Baby Einstein DVDs

13. shopping cart cover – You bring the cover home, which now has all those germs on it anyway.

And now, my additions …

14. a portable crib with any bells and whistles – the one I got was $170 because it had a changing station attached to it, a music player, a vibration machine … and I never needed any of those things.  I’ll say it a million times: you want your kids to learn to fall asleep without help, so getting in the habit of putting them down with sleep crutches is just dumb.  (My disclaimer here is I’ve never had a child with colic, so I’m sure if I did I would be willing to try anything.)

15. crib or bedroom ambiance toys – ocean wonders, noise makers, etc. all become sleep crutches.  It depends on you if you want to have to travel with these things for life.

16. special detergent – find a scent-free detergent you can use for the whole family and be done with it.

17. backseat mirror for the car – they’re safety hazards because they can cause accidents (because they distract you) and in an accident they can become airborne weapons.

18. car seat head supports – unless you have a preemie or your baby is underweight for your car seat and your pediatrician recommends this, you do not need it.

19. sleep positioners – aside from them being ridiculous to begin with, recent research has warned they are safety hazards.

20. Special stroller organizers or umbrellas – Honestly, marketers will try to sell you ANYTHING …

21. strap covers for car seats or strollers – My opinion is car seat makers have to meet strict standards to keep your kids safe.  Why add anything unnecessary to such a piece of equipment?  My kids are perfectly comfortable in their seats without these.

Stay tuned for a list that’s just the OPPOSITE – all the things you just can’t live without!  And I’m curious if you have any baby products you got that you found to be useless.

The illusion of sleep


Last night was the first night since June 26th that I slept for 7 straight hours without moving.  Well, perhaps I moved, but you know what I mean.  (Incidentally, don’t ever expect to get good sleep on your first trip away from your kids if you’re at a college reunion, sharing a house with 16 other people.)

I didn’t get up to pee.  Nor did I get up to change Zach’s diaper, put a pacifier in his fussing mouth, or rub his back and make sure he had his blankies just how he likes them.  I didn’t spend time rocking or holding him to get him to go back to sleep.  I didn’t spend 2 hours dealing with one of Eliza’s night terrors that begins with screaming cries of “MOMMY COME!”  And I didn’t have to take her to the bathroom (because now that she uses the potty, she doesn’t ever want to use a diaper).

Nope, last night I slept like a baby.  (What a laughable phrase.)  And it got me thinking about sleep in general.  I find myself continuously hoping my sleep life will revert to what it was at a certain phase in my life.  It’s like how you always look back and wish you could just get back to your college weight once you’re out, but when you were in college, instead of appreciating how great you looked then, you wished you weighed what you did in high school.

For example, the best, most recent phase of sleep I had was between when Eliza was 4-months-old, when she was sleeping through the night and my boobs finally let me do the same, and when she was 8-months-old, when I got pregnant and immediately began having to get up at least once to pee.  I have not slept well since then.  And I thought at this point, with Zach being 7-months-old, that I would be in sleep heaven.  But on any night that Zach seems to make it all the way through, Eliza seems to wake.  And on the nights she sleeps well, Zach inevitably wakes.  Of course, there are the nights when one of them is so loud it wakes the other up as well.  That’s even more fun.

What I’m coming to realize is that just like I will never weigh what I weighed in high school or college again, I will never sleep like I did in those years again either.  I am realizing that I’m chasing a pipe dream of sleep.  Here’s how I know: I might not remember waking my mom as an infant or a toddler.  But I remember being 5- or 6-years-old and being scared of the leaves on our tree out my window that looked like the profile of a scary old man.  I remember going to get her several nights, and her lying in my bed with me to help me get to sleep.  I also remember when I was a teenager and my brother and I would come in from being out, and I would hear her finally relax enough to sleep tightly, knowing we were home.  And now, as a grandma, she’s here visiting, and she’s up when I’m up, offering to help so I can get some sleep.

It makes me realize that by the time I’m done raising kids who keep me awake, I STILL won’t be well rested because I will have to get up to pee (like when I was pregnant), or I’ll have back pain, or Greg will be snoring much more loudly.  Take your pick and fill in the blank.

So, I’m on a new mission.  I complain out loud and in my head – a lot – about not getting enough sleep.  Instead of letting it get to me, I’m going to be glad that once a month, I seem to get 7 straight hours of blissful wake-up-in-the-same-position-I-was-in-when-I-went-to-bed sleep.  And perhaps there will be more and more of those nights.  At least until Eliza starts dating.  Which won’t be for a long, long time.