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Archive for the ‘Breastfeeding’ Category

Let me be clear: pregnant women do not want your advice.   If they want it, they will ask for it.  And if they ask for it and then realize they disagree with what you are saying, they will probably go vacant-eyed and fantasize about ice cream until you stop talking.  

Mint chip.. Rocky Road... Wait, were you talking?

For the most part, pregnant women or their partners do not want to know what you think about swaddling, whether (and for how long) you believe in breast-feeding, or whether you decry pacifier use as moral downfall or uphold it as your family’s personal salvation.  It’s not that the topics of swaddling, breast feeding or pacifiers don’t interest them.  The problem is that advice givers are so invested in their own choices that their advice, rather than being neutral and informative, is actually a high-pressure sales pitch in disguise.  The expecting parent is like a person who doesn’t yet have a driver’s license but has wandered into a used-car dealership.  “You’re going to buy a car ONE DAY,” the peddler of advice is insisting, “why not buy MIIIIIINE?????  THIS ONE?????  Because I know this one is RIIIIIGHT??!?!?”  And you, the expecting parent, flounder to be polite without committing to anything.

To swaddle or not to swaddle?

My usual approach with expecting parents is to be vague and supportive on any topic.  They don’t need any judgment from me, and if they parent with love everything will probably work out just fine.  My stock phrases are “Every baby is different” and “Whatever works for your family.”  If the expecting parents press me and ask what I did with Miles, I usually answer honestly and then add one of my stock phrases.  Sometimes I finish with, “I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine.” 

Swaddling?  “We did it with Miles.  Whatever works for your family.”  Pacifiers? “Miles refused to take one.  Every baby is different.”  Burying the placenta under a neighborhood tree?  “Ewwww!  I mean, um, we didn’t do that. Whatever works for your family.  I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine.”

Pacifier dreams.

But I have opinions.  I’m not claiming my opinions are exclusively right or that they work for everyone.  (See stock phrases above.)  But here, without further disclaimer or self-deprecation,  are my honest opinions.  This is the stuff that I wish the future me could have flown back and told the pregnant me — the stuff I learned the hard way.

1. Baby wash cloths are not necessary.  They are cute, yes, and registering for them is fun.  But they.  Are.  Wash cloths.  Just use what you have at home and call it good.

2.  Pacifiers.  If you can get your baby to take one, thank your lucky stars.  More time on the pacifier is less time on the boob, which can be astonishingly helpful when you want to shower, make a bowl of cereal, or ride the subway in New York city without stripping.  Not that I would know, because Miles refused to take a pacifier.  He was a boob man through and through.  (In the photo at right, we put it in after he was asleep.  It didn’t last.)

3.  This brings me to breast feeding.  I recommend making it work if you can.  I think it’s better than formula (sorry!), but if you are going to breast feed, puh-LEASE don’t be sanctimonious about it.  Breastfeeding does not give anyone license to berate others. 

Plugged in.

If you try BFing and can’t do it, you are not a bad person.  If you try it and succeed, expect to have mixed feelings about it for the first several months at least.  It will sometimes hurt.  You will not necessarily feel “bonded” when your newborn wakes up every two hours at night wanting to latch on.  You will instead feel furious, cranky and tired.  You will think that all those people who described it as a beautiful experience were lying, and you will want to blow them up.   That is okay.  You (like me) may one day describe it as a beautiful experience.  And even though breast feeding in public is embarrassing and some people will freak out and give you flak for it, just do it.  You are feeding a baby in public, not masturbating, and your alternative is to go home EVERY TWO HOURS to feed your baby in private.  Just use a nursing cover or get used to being bare-breasted.

4. Those little baby outfits with the feet on them? Those are pajamas.  No one told me this.  Miles wore those day and night. 

5. Co-sleeping versus the crib.  As you may know, we slept with Miles for the first year.  Now he sleeps in a crib.  We were happy then; we’re happier now.  This really is an every-baby-is-different-whatever-works-for-your-family situation.  Whatever you do, don’t let anyone give you any lip about it.  Lie if you have to.

6. Speaking of lying, get ready to lie about your baby’s sleep.  Everyone will ask you, and no good can come of their response when you answer honestly.  In my experience, most babies sleep badly. Myths of newborns who sleep “all night” are greatly exaggerated.  Different babies respond differently to sleep training efforts, and those differences probably have more to do with the babies themselves than with anything the parents did correctly or incorrectly.  Yet the more sleep deprived you become, the more vulnerable you will be to other people’s advice, mockery, and judgment.  Protect yourself.  Lie!

Sleep is for the weak.

Different people ask about your baby’s sleep for different reasons.  Some — usually parents whose children are long grown or childless people who don’t want to ever have children — feel a cruel sense of pleasure at your suffering.  It’s true; they want to laugh at you.  People whose children sleep through the night want to confirm that they are better parents than you.  With these two types, you neither want to give them the satisfaction of knowing you suffer nor invite their unwanted advice.  When they inquire, smile sweetly and say, “She sleeps all through the night.” 

Others just want to tell you what you are doing wrong.  They may be well-meaning family members or neighbors or someone you meet in a parenting group.   They’re just sure that any baby will sleep for 14 hours at a stretch if you use their method.  Chances are good that, having tried every method, you will want to punch these people.  Take a deep breath and repeat after me: “He sleeps all through the night.”  If your baby magically sleeps all through the night, and anyone asks about it, just be vague.  DO NOT BOAST OR APPEAR TO TAKE CREDIT FOR THIS MIRACLE.  IF YOU DO, I MIGHT SPIT ON YOU.  Just say, “He sleeps okay.”  If the asker is another parent who looks exhausted and tortured by self-doubt, be vague and compassionate.  Try, “Some nights are better than others.”  If the asker is a friend who is genuinely concerned about your well-being but has no particular stake in the politics of baby sleep, maybe, maybe, MAYBE tell the truth, whatever your truth may be.  But do so at your own risk.

7. I won’t ask you how your baby sleeps, but I might hand you Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West.  It is the baby sleep book that saved us from baby sleep hell.  It’s my favorite because, like me, it’s more middle of the road.  It’s not a strict cry-it-out system like Ferber or Babywise, but it’s not a super-granola attachment parenting manual like The No-Cry Sleep Solution (which I tried valiantly to use for almost a year).  We used the methods in Good Night, Sleep Tight, Miles cried some but in a way I could feel okay about, and now he sleeps so much amazingly better.  He sleeps all through the night.  And I am not even lying.  Get this book.  Now.  NOW.

8. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp.  People will tell you it saved their lives.  Personally, I think it’s overhyped.  It worked for us about 60 percent of the time, which was helpful.  But you know what, sometimes all the swaddling and sideways laying and sucking and shhhhhing and swaying in the world does not work.  Sometimes they just cry. If you can borrow the book or DVD from someone, do.  If not, meh.  Whatever.

Dear Harvey Karp: You lied.

9.  Now for the best baby advice I ever received: Be gentle with yourself.  If you are a birthing mother, your hormones will be completely wack-a-doodle-doo for several months.  It is very possible that you will not know who you are any more.  If you are an adoptive mom, a dad, or any other kind of parent, you will still be going through intense experiences that change everything.  Everything.  New parenthood is surreal.  At times in the first weeks, I looked down at the crying bundle in my arms and could not remember its name or whether it was a boy or girl — I just knew I was supposed to appease it.  Give yourself a few months (or a year or so) for things to settle down.  You are doing a great job.  Trust me.  And, of course, congratulations!

This post is dedicated to Tina Anderson and Naomi Frame Powell, who have gracefully endured a great deal of unsolicited advice from me. 

Coming soon: The Breast Feeding Advice You Didn’t Ask For, The Stay-At-Home Parenting Advice You Didn’t Ask For, and more!

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Sad sack.

So, Miles got his first fever Sunday night and has been cooking ever since.  The doctor says it’s Roseola — a virus that usually gives a high fever for three days (or as many as seven!), followed by a ghastly whole-body rash when the fever breaks.  Our poor little guy has been pitiful.  He grips us with his hot little hands and looks at us beseechingly.  Nursing him is like cuddling up to a pot-bellied stove.  When we try to make him laugh, he cackles weakly and then looks pained, as if happiness were too much trouble. 

Being soft-hearted rookie parents, we are lavishing him with sympathy and cuddles.  Robin even came home early from work yesterday, though that was partly to relieve me of duty.  Or so she said, as she rushed in the door and scooped Miles up in her arms.   “Can I take him to the doctor, or do you want to come with us?”  she asked as politely as possible.

Poor little munchkin.  For the next few days, you’ll find us cuddling and sweating.

Hold me, Mommy.

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See a glow on the eastern horizon?  That’s us, basking in the love we brought back with us from California.  Our trip west was wonderful, and I feel a little bit sad that it’s over.  Ten days of people being excited to see me? (I mean, us.  Or really, to be honest, Miles.)  Ten days of family, friends, hugs, baby-passing, and merriment is kind of the opposite of my usual daily life.  A true vacation.  So here’s a little entry to spread the joy, with of course tons of pictures. 

For now, I’ll just focus on Uncle Skip and babies.  In a future entry, I’ll give a more detailed rundown of each segment of the trip.

Uncle Skip

He’s big!  He’s cuddly!  He makes funny faces!  You can climb him like a mountain!  He’s Uncle Skip!

"I can see for Miles and Miles..."

Miles’ relationship with Uncle Skip reached a new level this time, on their third meeting.  Miles was fascinated with everything his Uncle Skip said and did.  His eyes followed Skip, and his face lit up when Skip came into the room.  As you can see, the feeling was utterly mutual.   They played and cavorted and cuddled and fed.  Why exactly was Miles so into Skip?  The one explanation we’re not entertaining is that Miles is desperate for a male role model.  He’s totally fine with his two moms, really.  And the fact that he started saying “Dada” during this trip is pure coincidence, right?  Right??

Hey. I'm watchin' you.

I reached the summit!

I'm going to be just like you.

Off we go!

Hey, Baby

Thrilled to meet Mya.

Breasts, Bananas and Babies.  They’re possibly Miles’ favorite things in the world (after his moms, of course).  To Miles, our trip must have seemed like an endless delight.  We saw babies everywhere we went!  And we even ate bananas.   The breasts, well, they go where he goes.  In fact, he took an unexpected plunge toward the boobs of some other lactating women on this trip — sorry, ladies.

I often say that we only have one set of friends with a baby — then instantly amend that to say, in New York.  We have tons of friends with babies in other states.  This was a great chance for Miles to meet up with his future California pen pals, and we got some priceless footage.  The baby madness started when we ran into his yoga pal, Sebastian, on the plane.  It continued with babies in both Northern and Southern California.  We even timed our vacation so that we’d be able to rendezvous in Fremont with our good friends Jordan and Erica, who live in Portland, Oregon, with their son Parker, born just six weeks after Miles.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get photos of Miles interacting with every baby he met.  Not pictured here are the adorable and much-loved Maleah, Quincy, Abby and Emma.  Not to mention the big kids Henry, Spencer, Ella, and Sophia.  Trust me: they are painfully, awesomely cute.

Hi Mya. I see you have a nose, too.

Besos from Anna Sophia.

Seven-months-old Miles, meet 1-month-old Maya.

Joe with his mom Inder, Mommy's go-to source of parenting advice.

Parker and Miles. "Twins?" asked a woman jogging by. Just friends.

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 “Just give him a bottle or nurse him during take-off and landing,” people say, “and his ears won’t bother him at all.”  That’s all very true.  But you try telling a hyper-active, curious, 7-month-old baby when to be hungry.   I will stand by and laugh an evil, maniacal laugh, MWAH HA HA HA HA!   Okay, let me back up. 

We flew cross country with Miles today — not his first air travel, but his longest.  Overall, it was delightful.  In fact, it was something of a love fest.  Our driver on the way to the airport was alarmingly cheery for a New Yorker.  At the terminal, Miles stared and cooed and “walked” about perkily (more on that later).  People in the terminal oohed and ahhhed over the eager little traveler.  As we settled into our seats with bags laden with toys, books, diapers, wipes, food, spoons, bibs, infant Tylenol, burp cloths, back-up clothes, a blanket, teething rings, and a sippy cup, (gasp, pant, ugh) the people in neighboring seats seemed, however improbably, thrilled by our presence.  Sympathetic and admiring fellow passengers are a huge boon!

Then we noticed our flight was full of kids and babies.  It was like an airborne day care.  Toddlers walking by pointed at Miles and announced, “Baby!”  Parents with other babies smiled knowingly at us on their way to the bathroom with diaper bags in tow.  In the row across from us and one up, a woman and her 8-month-old, Sebastian, settled in.  Instantly, the boys began making eyes at each other.  “Hey!” they seemed to be saying with their drooly fists waggling in the air, “I have toys!  I like to spit up!  Want to hang out?”  As the other mom traded basic baby facts with us and we all said admiring things about each other’s progeny, I started thinking that this woman and her baby were familiar. 

“I think I know her,” I whispered to Robin.  “Like maybe from yoga at the Y? But what are the chances that I happen to know a random woman and baby flying from New York to L.A. on the same day as us?” 

Robin shrugged.  “Didn’t you tell me there was a Sebastian one time?”

The problem is, I always think I see someone I know.  I’ll be convinced that the person I just passed on the street in, oh, Sedona, Arizona, is someone who was in my art class in Whittier, California, my freshman year of college.  But by then the person has usually walked on and I torture myself for the next hour over whether I should have said hi or if perhaps I was merely hallucinating.  I also tend to think that people won’t remember me.  I deeply offended a friend of a friend once by introducing myself to him after we’d known each other for four years.  (I knew who he was, but I assumed he didn’t know me.  Oops.  I still squirm at the memory.)

After awhile, with the babies still ogling each other hopefully, the other mom invited me over to her otherwise empty row.  Miles and I went over, and the two infants promptly began slobbering on one another.  Literally.  You may think I am exaggerating, but as a parent I know body fluids are no joke.  Sebastian grabbed Miles affectionately by the head, placed his open, gushing mouth on Miles’ scalp, and released a torrent of drool that drenched Miles down to his collar.  Miles smiled and grabbed one of Sebastian’s toys, and their friendship was a go.  This indiscriminate friendliness gave me courage.

“Maybe this is crazy,” I blurted out, “but could I possibly know you?”

Jackpot!  It was the woman from yoga, and she was relieved I had said something!   So our six-hour flight became a series of play dates in Row 21, interrupted by naps and feeding sessions.  If you are going to fly with a 7-month-old, I highly recommend arranging to have one of his buddies on the same flight.  It helps a lot.  Love.  Fest.  Robin and I were gleaming with pride as we gazed at our contented, cheerful miracle baby.

Until the descent.  We started easing downward, and I got out my little blanket, positioned Miles on my lap, covered myself modestly, and tried to give him the breast.  He spit it out, looking annoyed.  I repositioned the blanket and tried again —ptew!, he spit it out.  With a sense of foreboding, I passed him to Robin.  He’s fine, we told each other.  And then.  Two minutes later.  The screaming began.

He needed to suck on something but he wouldn’t take the breast!  And this baby doesn’t do bottles, no how, no way, so we didn’t even have one with us.  Sebastian was over in his row happily sucking a pacifier, but Miles unilaterally rejects all forms of artificial nipple.  Just the real thing for him, please. 

Robin, in a stroke of genius, gave him the sippy cup.  It worked!  He swilled happily.  For a minute or two.

Then more screaming.  We held him, we rocked him, we shooshed him ever so gently.  Screaming.  I heard all those voices in my ear saying, “Just nurse him,” so I tried again.  As I laid him across my lap, his screams intensified.  Desperate, I tried a different position.  I threw off the blanket, yanked down my shirt, straddled Miles over my leg upright, and tried to latch him on.  All pretense of modesty was gone; my engorged, useless, ungodly huge lactating breast was laid bare as I grabbed it with one hand and Miles with the other. I futilely tried  to shove my breast into Miles’ mouth as he sobbed and looked at me in horror, his face saying, “Are you mad, woman?  My ears are killing me, and you give me THIS?  How can you think about food at a time like this?!”

Just then, someone in the row behind us leaned forward and suggested in Robin’s ear that we should “just give him a bottle or nurse him.”  Caught up in the moment and totally not filtering herself, Robin blurted out, “He’s rejecting the boob!  He’s rejecting the boob!” 

After that, no one else had anything helpful to add.

In the end, we had to hold him as howled.  It was awful, and we kept wanting to take him out of each other’s arms because neither one of us could bear to JUST DO  NOTHING.  He cried, we soothed, and I’m sure some of the people around us weren’t quite so glad to have made our acquaintance.  But you know what?  The crying jag ended as abruptly as it began.  The smiles returned.  Miles went back to playing peek-a-boo over the back of the seat.  We landed.  Uncle Skip took Miles into his arms. 

And the real love fest began.  Vacation. Is. Awesome.

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On a Roll

Can you believe I'm changing so fast?

I should be blogging about 742 times a day, because Miles is changing just that much.  Instead, we’ve been on vacation, then recovering from vacation.  But the changes!  The changes!

First of all, Miles has a rolling problem. A few days ago, our last day in Georgia, he finally mastered the elusive back-to-tummy roll.  He did it in the very house where his Momma grew up, where she too learned to roll.  The secret, apparently, was that he needed to lift his head and use its momentum.  At the moment of revelation, a look of wonder passed over his face, followed by stern concentration.  He lifted, he wobbled, he tipped, and he plopped belly down.  We laughed and cheered; his Georgia Nana caught it on camera.  I rued my days of being able to just set him down anywhere.  I figured that was my biggest concern.  I was wrong.

I'm on my belly -- did I do that?

Miles has been a haunted man (er, baby) ever since that day.  He has a rolling problem the way some people have drinking problems or gambling problems or shopping problems.  It’s all he can do, all he can think about.  Lay him down on the floor: he’ll roll onto his tummy.  Lay him in his crib: tummy.  Lay him on the bed: tummy.  He can’t sleep at night because he wakes up — I’m not joking here — once or twice an hour trying to roll over.  Daytime is no better. In the middle of eating, he stops abruptly, throws his arm up wildly, and tries to roll over on my lap. 

“Miles,” I say, as reasonably as possible, “in order to breastfeed, you need to be facing the breast.”

When I change his diaper, he grunts and hurls himself toward the edge of the changing table.  If I try to carry him around in the Moby wrap or set him in his bouncy chair or, God forbid, in the Bumbo seat, he tosses his shoulder and arches his back desperately.  WOMAN, he seems to be saying, WHAT IS THIS?  I NEED TO BE ROLLING!

His habit brings him both pleasure and agony.  The funny part is, he doesn’t really want to be on his tummy.  Once he gets there, he’s stuck because that tummy-to-back roll still eludes him most of the time.   Trapped on his belly with his head stuck up like a turtle’s, his pride quickly turns to indignance.   He pouts, then wails until I turn him back over.  And when I turn him, he fights me all the way, NOOOOO, WHY ARE YOU UNDOING MY HARD WORK?!?!?

Feet are fun.

But rolling is just one thing.  There’s so much else.  Like his recent fascination with his feet.  (He grasps them and stares at them lovingly.)  Or his ability to pivot in a circle from the tummy-down position, and even scooch forward a little, to get to a wayward toy.  Or the teeth we can see just below the surface of his gums, ready to bust out.  Or the fact that he can sit upright, briefly, resting his weight on his hands.  What happened to that baby I blogged about who couldn’t even grab onto anything?  These changes come so fast, and even as I cheer them I realize they’re irreversible.  Parenthood makes all the cliches suddenly, profoundly true — most notably, they grow so fast.  I always just smiled and nodded when people said that, but now I feel the truth of it like a fist to the sternum.  Where is my baby?  He’s practically driving.

Ready for breakfast.

But here’s the big one.  Solid food!  Yesterday he graduated from tasting to gobbling.  We mashed up some bananas with a little breastmilk and cautiously fed it to him with a baby spoon, watching to see if he was ready.  He lunged enthusiastically at the spoon, chomping joyfully.  Chewing and swallowing?  Not a problem.  The food disappeared with alacrity.  We repeated the experiment today, and he ate even more. 

Um, I think he’s telling us he’s ready.

Bananas are yummy, but where's the steak?

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