Monday, March 22, 2010

Visitors = No Sleep For Baby?

Does your baby’s nap schedule change when you have visitors?

I’m not talking about the inevitable excitement that your baby experiences when new faces are in the house. A baby is bound to be a little more wound up and restless than normal when new people are around.

I’m talking about purposely changing a baby’s nap routine so that the baby is awake as much as possible when the guests are over.

When our baby was little, she slept just as well, if not better, in someone’s arms as she did in her crib. Having visitors over made almost no impact on her naps, because she was able to sleep while someone held her. True, she maybe didn’t sleep as much because she wasn’t as comfortable with the visitors as she was when my husband or I held her, but she still slept when she was tired.

Now, she only really sleeps in her crib. If we try rocking her to sleep, she arches her back and fights it.
During the last two days, many situations have presented themselves where it appeared to be a “good” idea to keep our daughter awake instead of letting her sleep.

Yesterday afternoon a friend called me, wondering if I’d like to go on a walk with her and bring our babies along in strollers. I thought it sounded great; unfortunately, my baby had just gone down for a nap. I told her we’d be ready to go in an hour, figuring she’d be up from her nap by then.

She wasn’t up from her nap, and I debated whether I should leave her with her dad while I walked. I leave her quite often with him, but I knew she’d be hungry when she woke up. After weighing the pros and cons, I woke her, fed her, and we went for an hour-long walk.

She took a quick nap after we got home, and we were off again, this time to a get-together with my friends. When we came home, I discovered that her grandparents (my in-laws) were coming to stay overnight. My baby was beyond tired, so I put her down for a nap. Her grandma and grandpa were, of course, 
disappointed that she was asleep when they arrived. I went in to feed her at about 9:30, and could tell she would easily sleep all night if I let her. Instead, feeling bad for her grandparents, I brought her out to play. She played until 11:30pm, which is WAY past her normal bedtime.

The next morning, everyone wanted to go out for breakfast. I had already put our baby down for her usual morning nap, and I could tell everyone would like to settle on a definite time for departure for breakfast. This time, I was firm – “If you would like to set a time to leave for breakfast, that is fine with me. The baby and I will just have to stay home from breakfast if she isn’t up yet.” They decided to wait for her to wake up.

By the time we were done with breakfast, she was ready for another nap. Instead of coming directly home, which is what I would have preferred, everyone decided to stop at the grocery store to pick up a few things. Then, when we got home, Grandma and Grandpa wanted to play with the baby some more, of course. She finally got her nap in when they left.

By the time Saturday night rolled around, our baby was exhausted, crying inconsolably, and I was feeling all kinds of different emotions. First, I was feeling guilty and mad at myself for not standing up for her and letting her sleep when she was tired. Secondly, I was mad at my in-laws. Even though they didn’t really do anything wrong, I felt pressure to keep our baby awake because of their presence. Third, I was mad at my baby, because she wouldn’t stop crying. (Yes, also ridiculous, but it had been a long couple of days for me too!)

I made a decision right then and there that we wouldn’t have a repeat of the last couple of days. Yes, I understand that, sometimes, babies have to be woken, because parents need to go places, and the baby can’t stay home alone. However, when it comes to visitors coming over and desiring to play with the baby, they can wait until she wakes up from her naps, and they can say goodbye for a little while if she needs to go down for a nap.  Adults can understand and deal with disappointment. A baby can’t very well understand why she is being woken up and kept in a constant state of over-tiredness.

I’m going to be firm on this. Although people may have a strong desire to spend time with our baby, my desire for her to be healthy and well-rested is much stronger. Even though I might really want to get out and socialize with my friends, I’m not going to do it at the expense of her sleep.

And so, another lesson has been learned the hard way. It’s not the first on the list, and I’m positive it won’t be the last.  

Friday, March 19, 2010

Play Dates: Germ Factories?

I’m a social person. I enjoy getting out and talking with other moms, especially other moms with babies. If they breastfeed, it’s an added bonus, because it means we will have lots to talk about.

My baby and I laid pretty low this winter. I felt like I wanted to keep her protected from germs during flu season. Now that spring is upon us, I’m much more open to getting together with other people. In fact, this week alone, there are three play dates we are attending.

I’m not sure what your experiences have been with play dates, but  mine usually go something like this: There are blankets on the floor, everyone brings some toys to share, and all of the babies are sitting up on the blankets or lying on their backs or stomachs. It’s a free for all with toys – each baby can play with whichever toy strikes his fancy. Toys go in mouths, back on the blanket, and into another baby’s mouth.

Part of me really doesn’t mind this, but another part of me is fighting the urge to sanitize every toy that my baby is about to play with. I know she’s at an age now (almost 8 months old) where she can fight off a cold pretty well, and it might even do her immune system some good. However, no one can deny that having a baby with a cold is a pretty miserable state of affairs – for both the baby and the mommy.

Another aspect of this is the huge differences in the way parents handle their own children being sick. When my baby is sick, we don’t attend play dates. If we get together with people, I keep her away from the other babies, and I don’t let other children play with her toys. I would feel terrible knowing I caused another baby to get sick. I know that not all parents share my philosophy on this, though, and would be all too willing to allow their sick baby come into contact with my healthy baby. Does this bother me? I haven’t decided yet.

When I start to panic, I think about all of the germs we come into contact without even realizing it: The shopping cart at the grocery store, the products at the grocery store, my car door handle, my car keys, playground equipment, library books. Is there really a way to completely avoid germs?

I don’t agree with doing everything the way my parents and grandparents did when it comes to raising children, but I think I agree with the way they handled germs. Sure, we washed our hands before eating and after going to the bathroom, and we bathed regularly, but that was about it. We played outside in the dirt, we played with other children, sick or healthy, and they didn’t worry too much about it. Somehow we all lived to adulthood, and I have a feeling my daughter will too, play dates or not. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Baby's First Easter

Hubby and I just went to Target to buy a binder for one of his school projects. Even though we promised to only buy what we went in for, we, like normal, ended up with a heck of a lot more than a binder.

For our baby, we bought a reusable swim diaper, swim hat, swimming shirt (SPF 50, baby!),
and shorts/t-shirt outfit. I thought that was pretty reasonable, since we've been needing to get her a swimming suit, and the outfit was on a great sale.

All reason went out the window when we caught a glimpse of the Easter aisle.

We've been talking about getting her an Easter basket, which makes sense to me, because she'll use it every year. We found one we liked, and took it off the shelf. An Easter basket needs Easter grass, though, right? We grabbed a pack of that. Our baby isn't old enough to eat candy this year, so we decided it would only be fair to pick out a toy for her to have. We decided on a Little People Easter set. Even though she can't eat hard-boiled eggs or really participate in egg-dyeing, we still thought it would be a fun experience for her to look back on in pictures. Add that egg dyeing kit to the cart.

It went on and on.

I'm curious what other parents do for their baby's first Easter. I'm sure some do nothing, since the baby has no clue what's going on anyways. I bet there are others who go all out. It seems like stuffed animals would be a popular choice for an Easter gift for a baby.

What did you do for your baby's first Easter?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Uplifting Words, Positive Reminder

Sometimes it's hard to put complete trust in God. There are times when problems come up in life - problems that are emotional, financial, relational, whatever. I look back on my life, though, and I've been blessed beyond what I could ever imagine. We've always been able to pay our bills, we've been blessed with good health, and we have wonderful friends and family. We don't deserve any of it, and yet God still continues to bless us. How awesome is that?

I read a great blog about this today. You can read it by clicking here.

Gas Leak - Rants and Raves

Some issues going on behind the scenes during our gas leak ordeal:

  • I had to pee SO BADLY! I was about to pee my pants BEFORE we left our friends' house, but decided to hold it until we got home because our daughter was so tired and so fussy. Little did I know I wouldn't be able to go into my apartment for quite awhile. A kind neighbor drove me to a bar on the corner, and the kind bartender let us use the bathroom without buying any drinks :)
  • My poor baby was so tired. She was beyond tired. She had reached the point of no return, where nothing could comfort her, where she would burst into inconsolable crying for no reason at all. Instead of putting her to bed, we got to stand outside, sit in cop cars, or sit in ambulances. Luckily, after breastfeeding her in the ambulance, she went to sleep on the ambulance bed. They even let her keep her ambulance blanket and teddy bear!
  • This brings me to my next point: The police, firemen, EMT, and ambulance driver were AWESOME. They were SO, so sweet, and kind, and caring. I can't say enough good things about the way they treated us.
  • Was everyone sweet and caring? No. Our neighbors were SO upset that they had to leave their apartments, and they openly were upset with US for it. They did nothing but complain and talk badly about us (in front of us). I'm sorry, would you rather I let you die in your sleep from inhaling natural gas,  or allow you to blow up if you decided to light a candle? Come ON! Yeah, it was late, but it wasn't that late, and it was a Friday night. And yeah, it was cold, but it wasn't that cold - it was in the 40's! Honestly, what should I have done? 
  • There was some uncertainty as to whether I should have called the police or whether opening the windows and running fans would have been enough. In my opinion, when a problem involves a gas leak, there's no reason for a person to try to fix it themselves. It's not worth the potential risks.
  • Our landlord and maintenance man were both notified, and both showed up. Maybe now they will believe us that that old gas stove needs to be replaced! We've complained about it before, and nothing ever gets done.
  • I've felt nervous that we don't have a carbon monoxide detector in our home. Hopefully this will be the push my husband and I need to go pick one up.

Gas Leak - The Story

The three of us got home around 10:00pm yesterday after spending time with friends. The second I stepped into our apartment building, I smelled strong natural gas. When we opened the door to our apartment, the smell got about 100 times stronger. Our stove is a very old gas stove, and I knew that that's probably where the gas was leaking from.

My husband went inside and saw that a burner was on but not lit. He turned it off, I immediately went outside with our daughter, and he followed. I wasn't sure whether I should call someone or not or whether we should air the apartment out ourselves. I decided to call 911. We live in a very small town, crime is very low, and I figured it wouldn't be a huge problem if I called 911 and they directed me to someone else if they decided I hadn't called the right person.

Turns out they were glad I called. One cop car showed up, and they could smell the gas from the outside. They must have notified a bunch of people, because within minutes, I could hear sirens coming from all over the place. More police cars showed up, a couple of firetrucks, and also and ambulance. They got everyone out of the building (4 people, 6 including us), and got to work ventilating and testing the air in the apartments. 

It was cold outside, so they gave me permission to sit in the back of the police car with my baby. Her first (and better be last!) ride in a police car! After awhile, we moved to the back of an ambulance, which was more comfortable. 

I have no idea how long this whole ordeal took, but they let us know when the coast was clear and everyone could go back in. They told me it was good I had called (I still felt unsure as to whether I had done the right thing).

I'm glad everything turned out alright and no one was hurt!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Baby: The Sleep Pro

There's a new baby living in our house these days. The old one was fussy, fought nap and bedtimes, and was hard to figure out. The new one goes to sleep without any sort of fight and is cheerful when she's awake.

I'm not sure why this change took place in her. A big part of me thinks it's because we let her cry herself to sleep a couple of days ago. It was after that that the big change took place in her. I let her cry for about 10 minutes before each nap, and by bedtime that night, she didn't put up any fuss anymore. For the last two days, she goes to sleep easily, and naps for much longer periods of time.

We all know the old saying,"The grass is always greener." Back when my baby was fussy and didn't sleep well, I wished she'd sleep for hours. Now that she takes long naps and sleeps well at night, I miss her and wish she needed me more!

Crying It Out vs Crying To Sleep

Crying it out and crying to sleep: is there a difference? To me, there is. My interpretation of these phrases probably won’t match every other parent’s interpretation, but I’m going to tell you about it all the same.

To begin with, I am not a supporter of the “cry it out” method. I never have been, and I don’t think I ever will be. Sure, there are times when I am really tired, feel like I have no patience left, and put my daughter in her crib, thinking, “I don’t care how long she cries – she’s staying in there until she goes to sleep!” Once I’ve calmed down, however, I usually go back and get her. Do I think badly of parents who let their children cry it out? Of course not. It’s just not for me.

There is definitely wisdom in knowing when to put a child down and walk away when you are at your wit’s end. I definitely DO support allowing a baby to cry when the alternative is worse. However, I don’t like the idea of putting my baby to bed at the same time every night, regardless of whether she’s ready to go to sleep, and letting her cry as long as it takes for her to fall asleep.

I am a supporter, on certain occasions, of letting my baby cry herself to sleep. I know it probably sounds like I’m contradicting myself when I say this directly after saying I’m not a supporter of the cry it out method. Yes, both involve placing a baby in a crib and allowing the baby to cry until she falls asleep. To me, though, there is a huge difference between letting a baby cry it out and letting a baby cry herself to sleep.

Let me explain my rationale.

To me, crying it out is supposed to serve the purpose of teaching a drowsy baby to go to sleep without help. Parents who do this want their child to learn independence at bedtime. This method can involve a baby crying for quite long periods of time before drifting off to sleep.

In contrast, crying to sleep serves the purpose of letting a baby who will clearly fall asleep within a short amount of time cry for a bit, if necessary, before falling asleep. To me, this method isn’t used to teach a baby anything. It’s used when a baby needs to sleep and no other method – whether it be rocking, shushing, or nursing – is working.

Let me give you an example. This afternoon, I could tell my daughter was exhausted. She was rubbing her eyes, snuggling her face into anything near her head, and was crying very easily. I put her down for a nap, and she closed her eyes almost immediately. A few seconds later, she opened her eyes and began to cry. A few seconds later, she closed her eyes again. This scene repeated over and over.

I could tell by her cry that nothing was wrong. It wasn’t a panicky, hungry, or scared cry, and it didn’t escalate. It was a tired cry. I knew she was tired, and I knew she needed a nap. I decided to wait 15 minutes before picking her up to see what would happen.

Her tired cries came and went for about 10 minutes, each time growing further apart, each time getting softer. By the time the 15 minutes were up, she was asleep.

Had her cries become louder and more hysteric-sounding, I would have gone in to get her. If she cried past the 15-minute mark, I also would have picked her up. It’s not worth it to me to have her cry for 45 minutes, or cry to the point of vomiting. It is worth it to me, however, to let her fuss a little when I know sleep is about to come.

Some of you might be reading this and thinking that my descriptions of crying it out and crying to sleep are the same thing. To me, there is a difference. I want to have children who are good sleepers, but I also want them to know I’ll come if they need me, even if all they need is comfort and security.

Reasons to be Glad it's Winter!

It seems like all anyone in the Midwest can think about this time of year is when spring will arrive. Now that it’s March, you might you might mistakenly expect spring to begin making its entrance. It might be happening other places, but it’s not happening here in the good old Midwest of the United States.

It’s one thing to survive a long, cold winter as an adult. It’s another thing altogether trying to survive it with a baby. An adult can handle a long walk in 20-degree weather to maintain her sanity. A baby can’t. If you happen to be in charge of a baby, you can pretty much kiss extended periods of time in fresh air goodbye.

And yet, as I strive to look on the bright side of things, there are aspects of winter that are quite nice with a baby. Aspects that even make me happy spring hasn’t arrived yet. Don’t believe me? Read my list:

  • There are no mosquitoes in the winter. Sure, it’s cold outside, but when we go for walks, I don’t have to worry about my little one getting bitten to death. I don’t like the idea of putting bug spray on her, and it’s nice not worrying about it.
  • The chance of my baby getting a sunburn is quite low. Not only is most of her skin completely covered with warm clothing, the sun doesn’t shine as much, and it isn’t as intense as in the spring and summer.
  • If I don’t shave my legs, no one knows. Sure, some days I have the leisure of taking a long shower. More often than not, however, I’m sudsing and rinsing as fast as I can in case my baby decides she wants me.
  • Heat is free in our apartment building, and air conditioning is not. We’ve been cranking the heat all winter long to keep it comfortable for our little sweetie. It’s very unlikely that we will crank the A.C. quite as liberally since it will mean a hefty electric bill.
  • And last, but not least: Some days it’s nice to have an excuse to stay home all day. “It’s cold outside,” always works as a reason not to go out with your baby. I love that people want to get together with us and that there are always things to do, but my life is much slower-paced since giving birth, and I have to admit that I rather like it that way.

So, Warm Weather, I’m excited for you to be here, but Winter and I aren’t quite finished with each other yet. See you in April (hopefully!).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Curtained Storage: My First Attempt

As my daughter becomes more and more mobile, I am increasingly aware of all of the hazards in our apartment. There are exposed outlets, breakable knick knacks, and garbage cans within reach.

A major hazard is our TV stand. There is a big pile of electric cords and wires under it, easily within reach of a curious baby.

I wrote about a solution I read about online. It’s called curtained storage. I decided to give it a try, and am pretty happy with the results.

First, I measured the height and width of the spaces I wanted to cover with curtains. I went to Joann Fabric and picked out some black and white fabric. I used a 40% off any regular priced item coupon from their weekly ad, and ended up paying about $6.00 for the fabric.

Next, I went to Target and picked out three tension rods. The total came to about $7.00.

When I got home, I got to work sewing. I’m not an accomplished seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, and basically made up my own way to make the curtains. I folded all four edges of the fabric over, ironed them to give a nice crease, then used my Grandmother’s old sewing machine to stitch the hem. (To be honest, I have no idea if I’m even using correct sewing lingo! If you aren’t sure how to make curtains and my writing makes no sense to you, either try to make it up, like I did, or look it up in an internet search engine.) I stitched the top hem about an inch from the crease to leave room for the curtain rod to slide through.

I think it looks much better, and I’m also hoping it will keep our baby from getting in to all of the cords and wires. Either way, it was a cheap fix, and very doable for anyone.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Infant Bathtub Review

When our daughter was born, we didn’t give her a bath for a long time. We for sure didn’t want her to get the usual bath most newborns get within hours of being born. The vernix (white, waxy-looking substance covering a newborn’s skin) has many health benefits for babies, and we wanted it to be absorbed into her skin, not washed off.

When her umbilical cord fell off and we finally felt comfortable giving her a bath, we were excited to try out her infant bathtub.

The little hammock that came with the infant tub was great, because it kept her secure while we washed her. We didn’t have to worry about her slippery body sliding out of our hands, and her head was nicely supported.

As she got bigger and was better at supporting herself, we took the hammock off and let her sit/recline in the tub while we bathed her.

When she got to be about 6 months old, it became apparent that she was outgrowing the tub. Even with the infant tub completely full of water, the water only came a little past her bellybutton, and she looked like she was freezing. In addition, when I would take her out of the tub, she had red marks on her back where the plastic dug in to her skin.

For Valentine’s Day, we decided to buy her a new tub. We didn’t feel like we wanted her in our big bathtub yet because it seemed a little too big, plus we didn’t want her sitting in any remnants of the cleaner we use in the tub.

We got many recommendations for an inflatable tub sold at Target. It’s in the shape of a duck, and it is, quite honestly, fabulous. It is the perfect size for our now 7-month-old. It is soft on all sides, so if she loses her balance while sitting up, she falls on something soft. It’s deep enough that the water keeps her warm. When she sits in it, she is secure, warm, and plays happily as long as we let her stay in it. We love it.

What’s even greater about the tub is the price. It’s about $10.00.

If you’re wondering where on earth you’re going to store a large, inflated duck, have no fear: it comes with a handy suction cup attached. We hang it on the back side of the tub, and it’s completely out of the way when we take showers.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Free Indie Art

When I got pregnant, my husband and I were temporarily living in another state while he completed a year long, paid internship. My due date was right around the time we had to pack up and move back to where his school is located. Because we knew our departure would happen soon after our daughter was born, we didn’t set up a bedroom for her.

Our living situation this year is also temporary, because my husband graduates from school in May, and we’ll most likely move to wherever his job takes him. Since our daughter cosleeps with us and we’re moving soon again, we decided it would be wise to put off decorating a room for her for yet another year.

I have to be honest: This is making me a little crazy. I want to decorate a nursery!

I see all of my friends and their babies’ cute rooms, and I get jealous.

I think about all of the nursery décor I picked up along the way, and lament over the fact that all of it is neatly packed into boxes, waiting to shine in its full glory when we finally live somewhere permanent.

Even though we’re putting off the majority of the buying and all of the decorating for the nursery, I’m definitely not putting off the planning.

As I read and research, I’m always a little amazed at how overpriced some baby room items are. One of the most expensive items desired for a nursery always seems to be wall décor. New parents can easily find themselves spending anywhere from $30 to $250 for wall hangings and wall art.

I’ve been thinking of creative, do-it-yourself ideas for my daughter’s future bedroom. These include pressing and framing leaves and flowers, or having my husband make cute shelves himself.

I found an awesome website today, and I’m so excited about it. It features Indie art, and people can download and print featured art for free. I totally plan on doing this next year, and putting some of the framed art up in my daughter’s room. I’m not crazy about all of the pictures, but I really like a few of them. They are bright and colorful, and definitely go along with my decorating style.

I can’t wait to decorate, and I can’t wait to do it for free.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

DIY Baby Proofing: Curtained Storage

Our baby just turned 7 months old today, and she’s getting eager to be on the go. When we put her on her tummy, she’s kicking, reaching, and wiggling. She can’t move forwards yet, but she can scoot backwards, and turn her body in circles.

Our living room furniture faces the TV. When I see what’s underneath the TV stand and think about the fact that our sweetie may soon be crawling, I shudder.

Lurking under the TV stand are piles and tangles of electric cords. Cords that lead to the TV. Cords that connect the TV to the VCR and DVD player. Cords that go from our modem to the power strip. Cords that go to our Wii, and to our Rock Band equipment. Cords, cords everywhere!

Our TV stand, unfortunately, does not have doors or drawers. In fact, I think it is supposed to be a coffee table. The result: an insane amount of exposed, unprotected electric cords, easily within the reach of a curious baby.

If we had extra money, I’d buy a new TV stand, but we don’t have extra money. We definitely could store our Wii, Wii equipment, and other electronics in a different room, but that’s not very convenient.

I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to make the coffee table/TV stand baby friendly. So far, I’ve been coming up with nothing.

I stumbled upon a fabulous idea today, and I am excited to give it a try. I didn’t find it under “baby proofing” or “TV stand” – I found it under the heading of “curtained storage.”

The idea is very simple: If you need to store items that you don’t want to display, buy a cheap curtain rod, buy some cute fabric, do a little sewing to turn the fabric into a curtain, hang up the curtain, and cover it up yourself.

This idea is perfect for what I need. I can easily buy 3 curtain rods, put them between the legs of the table (the back of the table is against the wall – that’s why I don’t need 4 rods), and hang fabric. Sure, it’s not totally baby proof – our baby could reach under the fabric – but it should at least serve as a deterrent.

I’ll let you know when I get around to doing it, and will for sure post before and after pictures.

Get Out of my Face!

My poor baby couldn’t catch a break this morning.

We have a morning routine. I hear her stirring (she sleeps with us), roll over to feed her quickly, then pick her up for some pajama snuggles. After we’re all snuggled out, I change her diaper, since it is usually saturated with pee.

It’s during diaper changing that I have a prime view up her nose. Yes, I admit it: I’m one of those mothers – the kind that hates boogers in her baby’s nose.

I could see a big one, so I got my bulb syringe and got to work. I thought it would be quick, but soon realized the booger was a little too dry to get out without the aid of some saline. My daughter was shaking her head back and forth and waving her arms in an attempt to ward of the “booger sucker,” and she grew more agitated when she saw the saline bottle coming.

I held her head still with one hand and squirted a few drops in each nostril while she yelled. Only a few sucks with the bulb syringe, and the booger was out. Freedom at last!

Or so she thought.

I noticed that she was wheezing. She’s had a cold for over a week, and was prescribed an inhaler because of the whistling, wheezing sound her breathing was making. I knew that she was already sick of me poking around at her face, but I wanted to get things done as quickly as possible so we could get busy playing with toys.

I shook her inhaler and attached it to the contraption the hospital sent home with us. Laying her down on my lap, with her head held stationary between my knees, I put the breathing mask over her face. I pushed down on the inhaler to release the medicine, then waited for her to take 10 breaths.

If only it was as easy as counting to 10. She thrashed, yelled, screamed, kicked, and did everything she could to knock the mask off of her face. If that wasn’t enough, the prescription called for two sprays from the inhaler, so we had to go through the whole ordeal again.

Needless to say, she wasn’t a happy camper.

Don’t worry, though. Five seconds later, I shook a rattle in her face, and she forgot the whole thing. Ah, the beauty in the distractibility of infants.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

La Leche League Washable Nursing Pads

Having a baby sure changes a woman’s body. I’m not going to get into all of the ways my body will never be the same again after conceiving and giving birth, but I am going to talk about one part of being a new mom: leaky breasts.

I’ll never forget the day my milk came in. I still hadn’t left the hospital, because my daughter stayed in the Special Care Unit for a week. I had just walked out of the bathroom connected to my daughter’s room, and either a nurse or my mother asked me, “Has your milk come in yet?”

I responded, “I don’t think so,” and looked down at my breasts.

Imagine my surprise when I saw two huge, wet circles on my hospital gown. “Never mind – I guess it did!” I exclaimed.

I’d been preparing for this. I had researched different breast pads and decided to buy La Leche League Washable Cotton Nursing Pads. I didn’t have them with me at the hospital, so I used the “complimentary” pads the nurses brought to me. (When I saw the hospital bill later, I realized just how “complimentary” they really were.)

When we finally got home, I was excited to try my reusable pads. My excitement quickly faded when I soaked through the pads, my bra, my t-shirt, and the sheets on my bed within about an hour. Let’s just say I never had and still haven’t had a problem with low milk supply.

For about 5 months, I wasn’t able to use the reusable pads, especially not overnight. I’d occasionally use them during the day. They were okay at keeping me dry if I doubled up on each side.

Once I corrected a milk oversupply problem by doing block feeding, I decided to try the reusable pads again. Hallelujah, they worked!

It’s not that the disposable breast pads were all that expensive. It’s not that they were uncomfortable. It was more that it was a pain in the rear trying to keep track of whether I had enough on hand. There’s nothing like realizing you are out of breast pads right before you need to leave for the day. When you have reusable breast pads, you almost always have a fresh pair handy, because they get washed whenever you do laundry.

I’ve never tried another brand of cloth breast pads, so I can’t really compare, but I really like these. They are very comfortable, and pretty good at absorbing leaks. I leaked through them quite easily before my supply regulated, but I still have an abundance of milk, and I can usually wear the same pair all day and all night. (I switch after that because I don’t particularly want to smell like a gallon of milk that expired last month.)
They are relatively inexpensive. One package costs about $6.00, and each package comes with 2 pairs of pads (4 pads total). I bought 4 packages (8 pairs of pads), and that amount has worked perfectly for me. 

Again, these definitely did not work for me at first, but I love them now that I’m not making enough milk to feed a small army. It might seem a bit pricey at first, but you’ll definitely save money in the long run by using them over and over again.

When your Child gets Sick on a Sunday

Does it ever seem like your child gets sick more often on a Saturday or Sunday than any other day of the week?

It has seemed like that at our house lately. Two Saturdays ago, I was sure our daughter had an ear infection, so I made an appointment for her. Luckily, despite the fact that it was Saturday, a pediatrician was available to see her.

We entered the nearly empty waiting room, and I questioned whether it was a good idea for us to be there. The only other people in there were a mother and teenage daughter, who was coughing up a storm, not wearing a mask like she should have been, and not covering her mouth.

This Sunday, after suffering from a cold for a week, she woke up with some pretty bad wheezing and whistling going on every time she breathed. I had never heard that from her before, and called the 24-hour nurse. She suggested giving her a steamy bath. If that didn’t work to relieve the wheezing, she said it would be good for us to take her in right away.

Take her in where? I knew that no regular pediatric office would be open on a Sunday.

After giving her a bath in a bathroom so steamy that water was running down the walls, the wheezing did not improve. We quickly showered, packed the diaper bag, and headed to the Emergency Room at the local Children’s Hospital (and by local, I mean the one that is 30 minutes away).

I felt a little silly walking into the E.R. with her, but we had no other choice. I also felt silly when they admitted her to her own room, and asked us to change her into a hospital gown.

This is a little off the subject, but have you ever seen an infant’s hospital gown? They are ADORABLE. Just like adult hospital gowns, only miniature.

Anyways, after listening to her lungs, the pediatrician decided to administer a breathing treatment to her, and sent us home with a prescription for an Albuterol inhaler. Thank goodness for Walgreens. Their pharmacy was open, and they were able to fill the prescription within 15 minutes.

Hopefully we won’t need to take her to the doctor again anytime soon. Just in case, I’m putting in a special request to my baby that if she feels a problem coming on, she puts it on hold until we can take her Monday through Friday.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vitamin D! Get Your Vitamin D!

I don’t give my daughter the liquid vitamin supplement that many pediatricians recommend. I’m always in favor of doing less – less vaccines, less medicine, less supplements.

To be honest, I don’t think my breast milk needs any supplementing. I take plenty of vitamin D, and I eat a healthy diet. I know that people say vitamin D doesn’t pass through breast milk, but I have hard time believing that alcohol passes through, eating lots of broccoli can make her gassy, but vitamin D won’t get into my milk.

Anyways, none of these random thoughts are the main reason I’m writing. The reason I’m writing is that I know, without a doubt, that my daughter got her dose of vitamin D today. How can I be sure? It’s sunny, and we went for a walk.

Sunshine is one of the best ways to get vitamin D. For all the bad reviews the sun gets in relation to skin cancer, God put it up there for a reason. It’s not an evil, horrible thing to be avoided. Yes, we have to expose ourselves to it using common sense and moderation, just as we do with everything in life, but there are very good things about it.

When I hear people say, “You need to give your daughter a vitamin supplement because breast milk has a vitamin D deficiency, I want to respond, “No, my breast milk has everything it needs. Our society has a sunshine deficiency.”

It’s true. I’m glad we know the harmful effects sun can have on a person, but do we ever talk about the positive effects? All of the talk of skin cancer and other negative results of too much sun exposure have sent people into an anti-sun panic. No one dreams of going outside anymore without first applying their SPF 15. Children go outside on a 70-degree day wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a sun hat.

Don’t get me wrong – I know we have to be careful with sun exposure. But allowing our “unprotected” skin to be exposed to sunlight for short amounts of time each day is very beneficial to our health. Vitamin D is essential for building healthy teeth and bones, since it aids in the absorption of calcium. It also regulates the immune system, and can even help prevent certain cancers.

We can’t get all of the vitamin D necessary for good health from food alone, and the body doesn’t absorb nutrients from supplements as well as it does from natural sources. So, how much sunlight exposure does your baby need in order to get enough?

To begin, your body can only make vitamin D from UVB rays, and those are only present between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm. Experts recommend that a light-skinned baby (like mine) get 30 minutes of sun exposure per week during these hours if he is wearing only a diaper, and 2 hours per week if he is fully clothed, not wearing a hat. I understand that two hours of outdoor time per week during the cold winter months might sound a bit steep, but it translates into about 15 minutes per day. I also can sense some hesitation about exposing your baby’s tender skin in the summer months during the times when the sun is the hottest, but 30 minutes per week in the summer translates into about 4 minutes per day. I certainly think that is manageable, and not at all dangerous.

Are you unsure about giving your baby a vitamin D supplement? Stop worrying, and get outside! The sun is your friend, not your enemy. Just use common sense. Extra outside time will not only give you and your baby vitamin D, you’ll probably come back inside feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Monday, February 22, 2010

When Is It Safe to Keep Using a Car Seat After an Accident?

My family was in a car accident this past week. We were inside our car, which was parked in a Walmart parking lot. I had just finished buckling our infant daughter into her car seat when a car struck us on the driver’s side front door.

After getting everyone out of the car, calling 911, and calming our unsettled nerves, I began to consider the lasting impact of the car accident. Would all three of us be sore the next morning? Should I take my daughter to the doctor to be examined? The biggest question on my mind was the following: Can we safely continue using our daughter’s infant car seat?

I did a little research, and discovered that we would not need to replace the car seat. In a moderate or severe crash, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that an infant car sear be replaced. In a minor crash, however, there are some cases where it is possible to keep using the child’s car seat safely.

The website of NHTSA gives a sort of checklist to go through to help you decide whether your car seat is still safe and fully functioning after a car accident. A crash is only considered minor and the car seat can only continue to be used if both meet the following criteria:

  • Your vehicle must be able to be driven away from the accident. Our vehicle was running perfectly after being hit in the parking lot. Check.
  • The door closest to the car seat must be undamaged. Our car was hit on the driver’s side, and our daughter’s car seat is located on the passenger side. Check.
  • No one in the vehicle at the time of the crash can be injured as a result of the crash. We had no injuries, even though I wasn’t buckled in yet. Thank goodness, and check.
  • The air bags cannot have deployed. Ours didn’t deploy. Check.
  • There can be no visible damage to the car seat. No damage visible on ours. Check!

If you were in a car accident and the crash does not meet ALL of these criteria, you will need to either replace the car seat or have the car seat tested for safety.

Some information was taken from All information on the website is considered public information and may be distributed or copied.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

So, we got into our first car accident with our baby today...

We got in our first car accident with our baby today. It was very minor, thankfully, but it left me feeling very shaken.

Our little dear has been down with a cold for a few days, and we decided a little fresh air would be good for all of us. Since we were running low on groceries, we bundled up and headed to the store.

After shopping and loading our bags into the car, I got into the back and began buckling our daughter into her car seat. My husband waited in the front for us to finish, keys in the ignition.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a car driving towards us. It was approaching driver’s side of our car. I assumed it was waiting for us to pull out of our spot so it could pull in after we left. I was shocked when it kept coming closer and closer, and before I knew what was happening, BAM! It hit us!

My husband and I both stared out the window in shock, and became even more surprised as we realized no one was driving the car that hit us.

We got out of our car quickly – both climbing out the front passenger side door, since the car that hit us was pinning both driver’s side doors shut, and our baby’s infant car seat was blocking the passenger side door in the back. As soon as I was out of the car, I immediately I tried getting our daughter out. My hands were shaking too much, so my husband did it for me.

We had no idea what had happened, but found out from witnesses that someone hit a parked car as they were parking. The parked car that got hit rolled across the parking lot and hit us – thus, the absence of a driver. (In other words: Car A was parking and hit Car B. Car B rolled across the parking lot with no driver after getting hit by Car A and ran into us, Car C.)

It was a very minor accident, but scary, nonetheless. It made me very thankful for my family, thankful for a reliable car seat, and thankful that the car seat was on the passenger side of our vehicle.

I did some research after I got home, and was grateful that we will not need to replace our car seat.

Check back tomorrow to see which types of accidents make it possible for you to continue using your child’s car seat safely.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meal Prep With Baby

Meal preparation can be tricky with a baby.

A baby takes up a lot of my mental capacity. Some days, the last thing I want to do is think about what to make for lunch or supper, especially when I want my meals to be healthy.

A baby makes grocery shopping more complicated. If the baby is in a good mood, it can be a fun experience. I get to get out of the house, and my baby gets to see and hear interesting new things. However, if my baby is fussy, it’s a whole different story.

Even after I decide what to make and have the ingredients, putting the food together can take awhile. If my baby is napping during supper prep time, great! If she wants to be held when I need to be chopping vegetables or standing near the stove, it’s not so great.

My solution? When I go grocery shopping, I make sure to buy a green pepper, red onion, mushrooms, and tomato. I chop each of them up when my daughter is napping, and store them in the refrigerator in Ziplock bags. The possibilities for easy meals to make with these ingredients are endless, and most of them require only one hand (because your other hand is busy holding on to your baby, of course).

Lately, I’ve been making pizza. I buy pizza crust from the store, or make my own. I spread pizza sauce over the crust, sprinkle on a layer of cheese, and load it up with the pre-cut veggies. Ten minutes in the oven at 425 degrees, and supper is ready.

My husband likes making omelets with the veggies. He whisks a few eggs with some milk, throws in the veggies, and adds some cheese at the end. Breakfast is served!

An easy choice for lunch is a veggie wrap. I spread a little ranch on a whole wheat tortilla, add the veggies, and maybe add some avocado, lunch meat, and/or cheese.

If you like salads, the pre-cut vegetables liven up a plain romaine lettuce salad.

The next time you are chopping vegetables for a recipe, do yourself a favor and chop more than you need. Having pre-cut vegetables on hand makes meal preparation with a baby a breeze.

What Kind of Newborn Mommy are You?

Whether you’re a veteran mom or about to give birth to your first child, you probably have opinions about life with a newborn.

My husband worked in a church last year, so we built close relationships with many people. Everyone in the church felt a close connection to us, even if we didn’t know them very well. It was wonderful.

We found out I was expecting a baby in the fall, and as the due date approached, I got an increasing amount of comments from people that made me very nervous. They were comments like, “What hospital are you delivering at? We want to come see you and the baby right after you give birth!” and, “Are you going to have the baby baptized the first Sunday after it’s born?”

I always thought I’d be a laid-back mom, but I realized, after hearing these comments, how protective I am. The thought of my hospital room being flooded with well-meaning church members, quite honestly, freaked me out. I didn’t want people holding my brand new baby, and I didn’t want to sacrifice my bonding and resting time.

Even the thought of family members coming to visit filled me with apprehension. I didn’t mind my mother coming, because she’s not the type of person that will insist on holding the baby. She’s only there to help with whatever I need. However, I did not, under any circumstances, want my siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, or anyone else coming to stay with us and visit us in the week immediately following the birth. I love them, but I wanted them to wait about a month before coming to see us. (In case you are wondering what the big deal is, anyone in my family would have to fly or drive at least 7 hours to see the baby, so it wouldn’t be a quick visit – it would be at least an overnight stay).

My ideal situation was one where I’d give birth, my mother would fly out to help with cooking, cleaning, and whatever else I needed, and the four of us (my husband, mother, baby, and I) would stay at home with the doors locked. I wanted to stay in bed all day, doing nothing but holding my baby. I wanted to nurse without having to cover myself with a blanket. I wanted my new family to have a chance to bond, without any interruptions.

I realize not everyone is like me. I know plenty of mothers who give birth on a Wednesday and are in church on Sunday. Some of my close friends had their entire extended family (or so it seemed) in their hospital room within hours of giving birth, and everyone held the baby. They couldn’t wait to get out of the house, go for walks, go grocery shopping, et cetera. To them, the joy of a new baby wasn’t complete if they couldn’t share it with others.

What type of newborn mother are you?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We've Got Nothing Planned Today

I went outside this morning for the first time this week. You might think that going three days without ever leaving the apartment is crazy, but there have been weeks this winter when we haven’t ventured out.

It’s a beautiful, sunny day, and if I wasn’t able to look at the temperature or see the snow, I’d think it was spring. The sky is blue, there’s a breeze rustling through the trees, and I can hear the mellow clanging of our neighbors’ wind chimes.

Sure, I could bundle my baby up and take her for a walk in the stroller. I could put her in my Moby Wrap and walk that way.

Instead, we’re staying in. She’s napping peacefully on our bed, and I’m catching up on my reading and cross stitching. We’re both toasty warm, and we’re not wearing mittens or hats.

Half of me feels caged in and stir-crazy. I don’t even want to think about how many winters I might spend like this – wanting to be out, but deciding it isn’t worth it. As I look outside, I’m dreaming of warm spring afternoons at the park. I want to throw on a pair of shorts, flip flops, and a tank top, and sit in the sun.

The other half is content to stay in. When will I ever again have the luxury of doing nothing all day? When it’s warm out, there’s so much to do, and I feel guilty if I waste a beautiful day being indoors. When we have more children (and we plan on it), I won’t have the leisure of doing whatever I please while the baby takes a nap. When our children are older, they’ll want to play in the snow – and it will be my job to take them out.

Sometimes I think the mindset in our country is that we need to constantly be busy and accomplishing something to make our life worthwhile. I don’t think we realize the importance of rest and relaxation.

Today is going to be a boring, uneventful day. I can’t wait!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tea Tree Oil: Worth The Risks?

I’ll admit it. I jumped on the tea tree oil bandwagon, and I don’t want to get off.

Tea tree oil is said to have numerous uses and health benefits. From relieving the itch of insect bites and speeding up the healing process of cuts and bruises, to clearing up acne and curing athletes food, it seems there is nothing tea tree oil can’t do.

I didn’t start using tea tree oil until I came across recipes for homemade baby wipe solutions that called for a couple drops of the oil. My baby has always had sensitive, diaper-rash-prone skin, and a few sprays of the solution cleared her rash up in no time.

Because I had a bottle of tea tree oil on hand, I began looking up other uses for it.

During my pregnancy, I developed a slight case of tinea versicolor. I didn’t treat it with medication, because I didn’t want to risk hurting my unborn baby. Because I waited quite awhile to treat it, it spread to cover most of my upper arms, neck, and a little on my chest. It isn’t noticeable now, but it will be once I get tan in the summer. I did a little research to see what tea tree oil could do for it.

During my research, I discovered that tea tree oil can indeed clear up tinea versicolor; however, it was also during this research that I became a little wary of using tea tree oil on my baby or myself, or even having it in the house.

Every article written about the benefits of tea tree oil contains a similar warning: “Do not take tea tree oil internally.” I was shocked to read that if an adult consumes a teaspoon of tea tree oil, it can be fatal. I didn’t even want to think about what an accidental ingestion of tea tree oil would do to an infant.

In addition, tea tree oil has been found to alter hormone levels. When tea tree oil was used on young boys, some of them grew breasts. Scary!

The articles all shared a second warning: “Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.”

To be fair, I realize that many products state that a woman should not use their product of pregnant or breastfeeding. The product manufacturers want mothers to check with their doctor before using any product to make sure it is safe in their individual situation.

And yes, tea tree oil is fatal if swallowed. That is alarming when thinking of how children put everything in their mouths. However, I bet that many dishwashing and cleaning products are also fatal if swallowed.

Tea tree oil alters hormone levels. What other unnatural products are in my home that might do the same thing?

I’ve made the decision to keep the tea tree oil around, because I still prefer to use it over other unnatural medications that are probably just as bad for a person. However, I have completely stopped using it daily on my baby’s butt, and only use it on my rash when mixed with body wash – that way it isn’t sitting on and being absorbed into my skin.

What are your thoughts and experiences with tea tree oil? Is it something a parent should be concerned about?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Excess Lipase in Breastmilk, Part 2

Upon discovering that my properly-stored breast milk consistently tasted sour, I talked with other moms and did research to try to solve the mystery of what was making it taste so bad. I discovered that the likely cause was an excess of lipase.

Lipase is an enzyme contained in breast milk that breaks fats down into individual fatty acids. Lipase is part of why breast milk is so easily digestible for babies. It’s good that we have lipase in our breast milk. However, too much lipase results in fat being broken down too quickly. (The fat in milk is apparently what makes it taste good.) The end result? Sour-tasting milk.

My first suspicion was that my milk, for whatever reason, had too much lipase – more than the average breastfeeding mother. I wondered what was making my milk that way. Was it something I was eating or drinking? Was it the vitamins I was taking?

The solution offered for too much lipase in the actual breast milk is to briefly scald the milk before storing. To do this, a mother needs to heat freshly-pumped breast milk on the stove until small bubbles form around the outside of the pan. When breast milk is scalded on the stove (not scalded in the microwave, not boiled in the microwave or stove), it stills retain its amazing properties, but the lipase will be inactivated.

I’m a little wary of this, because I figure God put lipase in breast milk for a reason. I don’t like the idea of inactivating any part of breast milk. If you’re able, feeding your baby directly from the breast is probably healthiest. However, if you need to pump, scalding is definitely a better option than switching to formula, and is still good for your baby.

After doing a little more research, I found another explanation for excess lipase. Many mothers blame the excess lipase found in their breast milk on metals found in their tap water. They feel that, when the breast pump and/or bottles are washed in tap water, the metals in the water stick to the pump and containers and get into the breast milk when it is stored.

The solution offered for excess lipase caused by water is to simply wash the breast pump, storage containers, and bottles in distilled water.

I like this idea much better, because nothing has to be done to the actual milk.

I haven’t tried either method, because I’m at home all day with my baby, and there’s no immediate need for me to do so. If I decide to test these methods, I’ll keep you posted on the results. In the meantime, I’m hoping this blog will help other mothers who have suffered frustration because of excess lipase.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Excess Lipase in Breastmilk

My daughter rarely takes a bottle. My fulltime job is staying home and taking care of her, so there isn’t any need for her to get nourishment from any place other than me. Every once in awhile, however, I get curious about how she’d handle taking breastmilk from a bottle.

For about a month, I was pumping and storing milk in case of an emergency. I figured if something happened to me and I’d be unable to breastfeed her, it would be nice for her to have a little comfort from breastmilk while she was slowly weaned off of it.

Sometime during that month, I was once again overcome by curiosity over how she’d handle a bottle. I took a container of frozen milk out of the freezer, put it in a cup of warm water, and waited for it to thaw.

One it was ready, we settled into the recliner, and I put the bottle in her mouth. She gave a few sucks, then pulled her face away and spit out the milk. I tried again, and got the same result. “Wow, she really doesn’t want it from anything but the boob,” I thought. I tried singing to her, switching positions, whatever else I could think of, then gave her the bottle again. This time she gagged for about 10 seconds. I decided to taste the milk to make sure it didn’t have an overpowering plastic-y taste from the bottle.

The second the milk hit my tongue, I ran to the sink, also gagging. It was sour.

My first emotion was pity. I felt awful for my poor baby, having a bottle of sour milk forced into her mouth. I got a fresh container of frozen milk out of the freezer, prepared the bottle, and smelled the milk before giving it to her, just to be sure.

It was sour, too.

My next emotion was anger. I assumed our refrigerator/freezer must not be working properly, because the milk hadn’t been in there very long. I muttered under my breath about worthless landlords who were too cheap to replace appliances that didn’t work.

Next, I felt sad. I realized all of my pumping and storing had been for nothing. I dumped all of the stored milk in the sink, staring sadly as the frozen chunks slowly melted down the drain.

I breastfed my now nearly starving baby, put her down for a nap, and began chatting with a fellow new mother on the computer. I explained to her how I had just fed my baby sour milk twice. She asked if I thought I had an excess of lipase in my milk.

An excess of what…? I’d never heard of anything called lipase, and certainly not in the context of breastfeeding.

I typed “excess lipase” into Google, and was surprised what I found. More on this tomorrow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's That Time Again: Swimsuit Season

We’ve probably all heard it before. We probably didn’t give it much thought until it actually happened to us. We probably all look back and think, “I didn’t know how good I had it until it was gone.” I’m talking about pre-pregnancy boobs.

Sure, some of us who were smaller-chested before pregnancy probably loved the increase in size that came with being pregnant. I was your average C-cup before being pregnant, and I enjoyed the newly acquired curves. During the first few months of my baby’s life, I was too busy with my baby to pay attention to what was going on with my body. Besides, before my milk supply regulated, my boobs were bigger and firmer than ever. I didn’t realize what had happened to them until I was trying on swimming suits at a department store. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Like I said, my boobs were your average boobs before pregnancy. Not too big, not too small, not overly perky, but not saggy either. Just nice, regular boobs. One look in the mirror in a tankini top (ha, you think I’m showing my stomach in public again?), and I realized things had really gone downhill – literally.

It was kind of a depressing moment. I realized I had entered the world of mom bodies. I see a lot of moms walking around who look great, but I bet that even they will admit that their post-baby bodies aren’t what they once were.

I also realized that my body serves a different function now. I still want to be fit, and I want to look good, but my boobs’ primary responsibility right now is not to look sexy in a swimming suit; it’s to feed my little girl.

I’m not admitting defeat, however. Since I have entered into the world of mom bodies, I plan to proudly enter the world of underwire swimming suit tops.

Were you shocked the first time you put on a swimming suit after giving birth? Which suit did you find to be most flattering?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday dear me! Happy birthday to me!

Yep, you guessed it: It’s my birthday. Another year gone, another year older.

Birthdays used to be so exciting. I remember looking at the calendar in anticipation when I was younger, counting down the days until I got to eat cake and open presents. It was nearly impossible to go to sleep the night before.

I’d wake up early, go into my parents’ bedroom, and the entire family would gather around for gift opening. I would be freed of my morning duty of making my bed, and would skip off to school.

Going to school on my birthday was the best. I loved handing out my homemade birthday treats to my classmates (ah, the days when it was safe and acceptable to bring homemade treats). I’d race home after school (I have to insert another “ah” here: Ah, the days when walking home from school alone was safe) and get busy playing with my new toys.

Having a Saturday birthday was even better – I got to sleep in AND play with my toys all day.

My dear mother always made whatever meal I requested, and my favorite cake – usually something with a lot of chocolate. We invited aunts, uncles, and cousins to help celebrate.

Now that I’m a grown-up and a mother, birthdays are still fun, but they sure aren’t the same as when I was young.

The excitement and anticipation are still there, but the night before the big day is sleepless because of frequent breastfeeding, not because of adrenaline.

I briefly consider abandoning my morning duties – making our bed, emptying and loading the dishwasher, rinsing poopy diapers, and doing laundry – but quickly decide against it when I realize no one will pick up my slack, and it will just mean twice as much work the next day.

I don’t go to school. In fact, this year, I didn’t even go outside. When your birthday happens to fall on the same day as a major snowstorm, going out with a 6-month-old baby isn’t exactly a good idea.

I still got to play with my new “toys,” however, and my husband made my requested meal and favorite cake. Just like when I was young, we invited family over to help celebrate.

As far as special treatment goes, adults might still be extra nice to me, but my daughter doesn’t know the difference. She still cries like normal, poops like normal, and, of course, snuggles like normal.

I tried explaining to her that, because it’s my birthday, she really shouldn’t be fussy at all today.

I’m not holding my breath.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Doctor’s Appointments: More Traumatic For Baby Or Mom?

My husband and I were advised by a G.I. Specialist to have our daughter’s blood drawn due to some issues she was having with blood in her stool. They wanted to test it to make sure she didn’t have any blood clotting disorders.

After giving it some thought for a couple weeks, not wanting to inflict pain on our baby if it wasn’t necessary, we decided we’d take his advice and take her to the “local” Children’s Hospital (a 30-minute drive, but definitely worth the extra time on the road).

The morning of the blood draw, I woke up feeling nervous and queasy. We are delaying vaccinating our daughter, so, except for her newborn screening, she’s never been poked with a needle. I had no idea how she would handle it. I’d heard that some babies do very well, and others scream and thrash the entire time.

I had considered having her pediatrician write up a prescription for EMLA, giving her Tylenol an hour before, or seeking other pain management techniques. However, as I am in favor of doing things as naturally as possible, I decided the only pain management we’d use would be a Sweet Ease. I packed a sippy cup of water and a ziplock bag of sugar in case the hospital didn’t carry them, but I was pretty confident they would.

My sister was in town, visiting from another state, and came along for moral support. We took advantage of the hospital’s free valet service and headed up to the outpatient lab. I breastfed her in the waiting room to keep her veins nice and plump. We watched as preschool-aged children were called and headed to their appointments with their parents. One by one, they all returned, smiling and holding a sparkly sticker - a reward for their good behavior.

It seemed like we waited forever, and when they called our name, I was eager to get it over with. The second we entered the room, I requested a Sweet Ease, and the nurses gladly brought one out. They asked me to lay my daughter down on the table, and quickly and efficiently prepped her for the poke, including dipping her binky into the Sweet Ease. They told me that they would hold her down, and I could stand nearby.

I felt close to tears as I envisioned my sweet little baby being restrained, thrashing around in pain, and wondering why her mother wouldn’t save her from the strangers that were inflicting pain on her body.

A few seconds after sucking on her sugary binky, my usually squirmy baby became unusually calm and placid. She lay completely still, hardly moving a muscle. “Just wait until you try to hold her arm still,” I thought, remembering how strongly she resists the few seconds when her arms are trapped as I get her dressed each morning.

One nurse applied the tourniquet, and I held my breath, waiting for the outburst. It never came.

Next came the needle, and I was shocked as they slid it into her vein (got it on the first try – go Children’s Hospital!)… and she didn’t even flinch!

I continued to watch in amazement as they filled three small vials with her blood, never once needing to restrain her.

They removed the needle, put pressure on the poke site, then applied a Band-Aid. Still no movement.

I was in shock. After a few seconds of silence, I exclaimed, “Wow, that really couldn’t have gone any better!” I was grinning from ear to ear with relief. “It really couldn’t have,” agreed one of the nurses.

I thanked them for the job well done, and walked out of the room, feeling triumphant. I chose a sparkly sticker on my way out the door.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

FYI: Questions You Should Ask Before Getting Your Infant's Blood Drawn

From the time my daughter was about three months old, she’s had blood in her stool. It’s not every diaper and not even every week, but it consistently reappears. Her pediatrician and a G.I. specialist have almost entirely ruled out the possibility that it is anything to worry about. Even so, they recommended we get her blood drawn to test for and rule out any blood clotting disorders.

I’m not the type of parent who immediately goes along with what a doctor tells me. I like to do my research, weigh the pros and cons, and then make a decision. If I decide to go ahead with what the doctor recommended, I try to make the experience be as pleasant and worthwhile as possible.

I decided I was alright with my daughter having her blood drawn, but I called different outpatient clinics at hospitals to decide where I wanted it to happen. I came up with a list of questions that I asked each location.

If your infant needs to get his blood drawn, you might find the following list of questions helpful:

  • Do you have a pediatric phlebotomist at your lab?

A pediatric phlebotomist is someone who has been trained in drawing blood from infants. They are skilled at finding their veins (this can be very tricky sometimes), and also are great at keeping them calm.

  • What size of needles do you use?

Only a butterfly needle should be use on an infant, and the nurse should preferably use the smallest size of butterfly needle.

  • What are your pain management options?

Whether you use the topical EMLA cream or dip your baby’s pacifier in Sweet Ease, there are ways to make the experience non-traumatic for her.

  • From which part of the body do you draw the blood?

Depending on the size of the baby and the tests that are being done, the blood may be taken from the arm, finger, heel, or even ankle.

  • How many attempts do you make before giving up?

I didn’t like the idea of my baby being repeatedly stuck with a needle, no matter how small it is or what type of pain relief was used. The place we ended up going said they would make two attempts to get in the vein. If both attempts failed, they would bring in another nurse, who would also make two attempts. That makes four attempts total. When you want zero attempts, four might seem like a lot, but it sounded very reasonable to me.

  • Who holds the baby while the blood is being drawn?

Some labs have the parents hold the baby, others have nurses hold the baby with the parent standing very nearby. You should go with what you are comfortable with.

  • How much blood do you draw?

It’s nice to prepare yourself for how many little vials the nurses will need to fill before the blood draw is over.

If you are like me, having information and being prepared makes unpleasant experiences like this much less nerve-racking and much easier to handle.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The JJ Cole Original BundleMe Saved Me This Winter!

A well-meaning friend gave us a JJ Cole Original BundleMe for Christmas. It’s pink, it’s thick, and it’s adorable. Is it safe for a car seat? I’m not so sure. For this reason, we decided not to use it on our daughter’s carseat.

Although we don’t use it in the car seat, the JJ Cole BundleMe is not collecting dust. I found an awesome way to use it. It is especially handy if you live in a state where winter lasts from November to April and is bitterly cold.

Before I get into what I use the JJ Cole BundleMe for, let me ask the following question: Have any of you mothers become frustrated when trying to take your baby for a walk on a cold day? Maybe the blanket you so carefully tucked around your baby in the stroller came undone or loose. Maybe your little sweetie was so busy kicking that his socks came off. Perhaps you’re simply annoyed with how long it takes to bundle your child in.

Enter the JJ Cole BundleMe. Attach this handy device to your stroller, and voila, taking your child on a walk on a blustery day just became much simpler. The Velcro openings on the back mean that it will fit in virtually any stroller and with any system of straps and buckles. The convenient zippers on either side make putting your baby in the stroller and taking him out very simple. The density of the fabric equals your baby staying toasty warm and protected from the frigid air. If you feel that the BundleMe alone isn’t enough to keep your child warm, it’s easy to stuff additional blankets inside, free from worry that they’ll fall onto the ground.

I’ve used the bundle me on our Graco Quattro Tour Stroller and on our Especially For Kids Deluxe Umbrella Stroller. It works great on both, and I’m much more willing to go on walks now that the process has been simplified.

If there’s one thing every mother needs, it’s a way to make life with a baby simpler. Do you have a JJ Cole BundleMe that you’re hesitant to use in your carseat because of safety reasons? Get some good use out of it and simplify your life by using in your stroller.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Really, Tyra?

I was watching The Tyra Banks Show a couple days ago, and the conversation that went on really irked me. The guests of the show were parents who entered their children in beauty pageants, and Tyra was clearly not a supporter of such activity.

She kept asking the parents questions like, “Does your child want to be in the pageant, or do you want your child to be in the pageant?” She was very much against the idea of a parent making her child do something the child didn’t want to do. I got the impression that to her, being a child was all about the child doing whatever made her happy and not being forced to do anything unpleasant.

She was also horrified to hear some parents limiting the amount of sweets and hot dogs their child ate in order to keep their children in shape for pageants. She made comments similar to, “Brownies are good for kids! Hot dogs are good for children!”

I am not writing to comment on children participating in pageants, and I realize the comments were made in the context of pageant-crazed parents. I’m also not trying to be too hard on Tyra, because I think her show sends out very positives messages for young women. However, I got the impression that, when Tyra made comments like, “You shouldn’t force your child to do something he doesn’t want to do,” or, “Junk food is good for kids,” she felt this way about all aspects of children’s lives, not only those related to pageantry. I reply to that with a resounding, “Are you kidding me, Tyra?”

You are horrified that a parent would make their child do something they didn’t want to do? So when a child doesn’t want to brush their teeth, go to school, look both ways before crossing the street, go to bed, or be polite, the child shouldn’t have to?

You think brownies and hot dogs are good for a child? Guess what? They’re not. I agree that parents need to let loose and allow their children to enjoy life, but if we are being totally honest, brownies and hot dogs really offer zero nutritional value to a growing child. They’re much better off eating a myriad of other foods.

Part of being a good parent involves making your child do things they don’t want to do. How will they learn to do the right thing if you aren’t expecting them to do so? Part of being a good parent also means monitoring and limiting what your child eats.

In short, good parenting isn’t all about making your child happy right now. It’s about guiding and directing them to ensure that they have a happy future.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bedtime, Bedtime: What To Do??

I go back and forth a lot on how to handle bedtime with our daughter.

Up until this point, I’ve been very relaxed with our routine. If she seemed tired, I’d let her sleep. If she woke up and wasn’t happy being in bed, I’d take her out and hold her, feed her, or do whatever else it took to make her happy.

In the last month, she settled into a routine by herself. She took naps about the same time each day and went to bed about the same time each day. However, every once in awhile she’ll wake up a couple hours after going to bed for the night, and will not be content. I can tell that she isn’t hungry, her diaper is fine, and she is obviously still very tired. These are the moments when I’m not sure what to do.

Do I pick her up and hold her, which is what she obviously wants? Do I let her be up with us for awhile, knowing full well that she is still tired? Sometimes I think, “Who cares if she is still tired? She wants to be held. Why not hold her?”

Do I let her stay in bed, cry awhile, and hopefully fall back asleep? Is it good for her to realize she can wake up and put herself back to sleep without relying on me to comfort her?

I realize that she eventually needs to be able to get back to sleep on her own. I’m not sure when is the developmentally appropriate time to let her cry it out.

Almost every person I ask has a different answer. There are people who get their babies on a strict schedule within a month of being born. There are some who say after the first four months that a baby is ready to learn to self-soothe. Still others say that parents should always go to their babies when they cry, because responding to those cries gives children an important sense of security that will benefit them the rest of their lives.

I’ve always leaned towards responding immediately to my daughter’s cues. The reason I do that is because I think it is best for her. When she is overly tired, though, and needs sleep, is sleep what is best for her, or is comfort what is best for her?

I also realize that consistency is important for her. If one night I immediately pick her up when she cries, she’ll expect it. If I make her cry for 45 minutes the next time she cries, that might confuse her.

Are the answers ever obvious when it comes to babies?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Baby's "Big-Girl" Car Seat

Although my only child is an infant, I feel like I have a small window into the world of parents sending their kids off to their first day of school. They dab at their eyes with tissues, give tearful hugs, then burst into tears as they (or the school bus) drive(s) away. They exclaim, “It’s too soon!” What gave me this insight? Today, my daughter will be riding in a convertible car seat for the first time.

I can’t believe she already outgrew her infant car seat. It seems like only yesterday that we were putting her in the car seat for the first time, taking her home from the hospital. She used to look so tiny in it.

Part of the reason I don’t feel ready is because I thought she’d be in it a lot longer. I wasn’t expecting her to outgrow it before she was 6 months old.

I know I’m being silly, and that a car seat is just a thing. It doesn’t really matter what she rides in, as long as she’s safe. I don’t care, though. I want her to always ride in that little infant car seat. She’s getting too big!

Our local Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) office has an awesome program where they give families free car seats as soon as they need them. Since our daughter is approaching the weight limits of her infant car seat, they made an appointment to set us up with a new one. I thought it would just be a matter of me picking it up and bringing it home. I figured I could spend a few days “getting to know” the new car seat before actually installing it into our car.

I was wrong. I spoke with the lady from WIC today, and she cheerfully informed me that they help me take out our old infant car seat, properly install the new car seat, and that my daughter gets to ride home in it today. Isn’t that wonderful?

No, it’s not wonderful. Yes, it’s wonderful that they are so generous and helpful. Yes, it’s wonderful that the car seat will be installed properly. I just don’t feel ready for it yet.

At this rate, somebody be better to sedate me on the first day of kindergarten. College? Don’t even talk about it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reusing Coffee Grounds - And Pampering Myself!

Has your relationship with coffee changed since becoming a mother? Mine sure has. I grew up in Seattle, and inevitably have had a lifelong love affair with Starbucks. I couldn’t imagine anything more refreshing on a warm summer afternoon then an Iced Vanilla Latte. Nothing warmed me up better during rainy fall afternoons than a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

After I got married and the reality of paying bills set in, paying $3-$5 for a cup of coffee was no longer a reality. I soon began brewing my own Starbucks coffee at home. The love affair continued.

Then, I got pregnant, and began avoiding caffeine. I dreamed of the day my daughter would be born and I could, once again, indulge in a steaming cup of Joe. She was born, began breastfeeding, and, lo and behold, was very, very sensitive to caffeine. If I drank a cup of coffee, she’d be fussy for the rest of the afternoon. Deciding that the cranky hours weren’t worth it, I ended my relationship with coffee and didn’t look back. I forgot about all of the fragrant grounds stashed in my cupboards.

I’m guessing that, if you are a new mother, your relationship with coffee has also changed. Maybe you’re like me and have had to give up drinking coffee altogether. If that is the case, you probably have unused coffee grounds that are getting staler by the minute. You might be on the other end of the spectrum, and have come to rely on coffee to get you through the day after another sleepless night. In that case, you’re probably going through coffee grounds like nobody’s business. Whatever the case, you probably have some coffee grounds around the house (brewed or unbrewed) that could be put to good use.

This week, as I was sorting through my cupboards, I came across my stash of coffee grounds. I looked at the expired dates on the bags and decided the grounds were no longer of brewing quality. I hesitated to throw them in the garbage, because Starbucks grounds aren’t cheap. I began researching alternate uses for coffee grounds.

I found many interesting uses for coffee grounds, but one really caught my interest. Many people suggested using coffee grounds as an exfoliating body scrub.

As soon as I read about it, I couldn’t wait to get in the shower and try it out. I put my daughter down for a nap, filled a little Tupperware with grounds, and got in. I dug my fingers into the grounds, rubbed them between my fingers, and started scrubbing. I can’t even tell you how good it felt. It was so relaxing, so calming, and my skin felt so soft and smooth afterwards. Sure, my shower looked like it was covered in dirt, but it rinsed off quickly and easily. The next day, I did the same thing, and loved it just as much. I began looking forward to showering as a time to indulge in a little self-pampering.

I didn’t only find a use for my old coffee grounds – I had fun doing it. The few minutes of scrubbing did wonders for relieving my stress, and the positive effects it had on my skin lasted all day. Are your unused coffee grounds getting stale, or are you wondering what to do with your wet, used grounds? Put them in your shower!