The benefit of y’all’s wisdom

Week 18, Day 1

Being a first-time mom at 42 … what the medical professionals politely call “of Advanced Maternal Age” … means I have lots of friends who have children already, from newborns to teenagers.

I absolutely plan to exploit this to the fullest.

For instance, as I worked on our Amazon registry this weekend, I was trying to decide what to do about:

* cloth diapers vs disposables, and, because we’ve almost settled on cloth, how to make cloth work and which system is better and should we just get one each of a whole bunch of kinds and see what works before making a huge investment, or is that in itself a huge investment?
* when do I need what? i.e., does a breast-feeding newborn need a bib? how many times a day will diaper changes turn into onesie changes?
* who liked which stroller system? I have at least one friend who has a stroller but uses her Ergo baby carrier almost exclusively. Does anyone else have experience with carriers?
* what are some awesome lullaby albums?

And so on and so on. Don’t think more of these questions won’t pop up here on the blog. Because what I’m hoping is that y’all will feel free to give me the dirt on what worked for you, what didn’t work for you, what you tried that you would never do again, what you think I should consider. Really. I mean it. I. Am. Asking. For. This. Advice. I might not take all of it, but this is new territory for me and I don’t do well without input and information. And I’d much rather have it from the family and friends who I love and respect than from conflicting articles and anonymous Internet chat-board sources.

So lay it on me. Really let me have it.

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29 thoughts on “The benefit of y’all’s wisdom

  1. Two things spring instantly to mind, one general, one specific. I’ll start with the specific:

    -Vaccinations are often a trying time for both parent and child. One word – Bactine. An over the counter topical anesthetic, we call it the “magic spray” in our house. Haven’t had tears during vaccinations since the youngest was two. Spray it on literally RIGHT before they get the shot. Guaranteed to reduce tears. πŸ™‚

    -Start As You Mean To Go On. With children, whichever path you take FIRST will be what they expect, and default to, later on. If you can plan ahead (not an easy task, I grant you) and figure out what you want the kids to do in any given situation, and guide them toward that behavior first, it’s much easier than trying to CHANGE that behavior later. Example: We wanted Ben to get more exercise at Grandmas after school. So when she got a Wii for christmas, we decided to tell the kids, before they had ever played a video game, that they had to go for a walk around the block before they could play. Three years later, Ben is the first out the door, REMINDING grandma that they have to go for a walk, so that he can play his video games.

    • Eric, these are both great, and a perfect example of the kind of big and small tips that will be so helpful. I may make a little placard of “Start As You Mean To Go On” for my office board.

  2. When they are newborns get the sack-type pajamas and get the large swaddling blankets. Then wrap the kid up tight! The small blankets come unwrapped then they wake up when you don’t want them up. I believe they now sell swaddling blankets with velcro. Get those if available. There were times I considered duct tape to keep the blanket tight.

    Our newborns fell asleep at 8 and we forced ourselves to go to bed then. Really helped when we had to get up at midnight to have 4 hours of sleep instead of two. Every minute of sleep counts.

    • I hadn’t been clued into the swaddling concept until a friend here was swaddling her newborn daughter a couple of years ago. It made me think about how much I liked it as a little girl when my mom would tuck me in super-tight.

      I’ve seen a book called Baby-Gami with all kinds of swaddling techniques. And a friend of mine here who writes a blog called Taco Journalism claims to have perfected the Baby Burrito technique.

  3. One more. I’m not a big fan of television. But once the kid shows up there is naught to do but stay home for awhile. Being able to select from a large selection of channels while I was pacing the floor at 2 am kept me sane. Sounds trivial when I write it but watching the BBC made the late nights bearable.

  4. You started your list with diapers, so that’s where I’ll start. We use both! Generally overnight each girl gets a disposable diaper, then cloth during the day. And disposables on trips, for convenience sake. Elizabeth (2 yrs) gets Bum Genius. Colleen (4 mos) gets a combination of Bum Genius, prefolds, and…something else, I forget. The newborn will go through many, many diapers, so the prefolds work well for us to mix in with the Bum Genius. Watch craigslist as a way to try out different types of diapers without making a huge investment.

    We didn’t need very many “newborn” sized clothes. He’ll just outgrow them in a week anyway. You can start with 3-6 just fine.

    We find that it’s not diaper leaks that require most onesie changes, it’s the spit up, drool, etc. Colleen goes through more outfits in a day than Lady Gaga at the VMA’s.

    • Great tip on the sizing. Especially considering that Michael is 6’5″ and our Nameless Dude is already a week ahead of size.

      And I am going to get my laundry room Just Like I Want It before the Dude arrives, since it sounds like I’ll be spending much of my life there for a while…

  5. What wise friends you have! I will be watching to steal more ideas.

    If you decide to use gDiapers let me know, I will send you a bunch of shells and liners. We couldn’t quite make them work for us, but I loved the idea.

    The thing I really learned when I had my second was that almost nothing is a sure thing. Alden loved the swing. I told all new moms that swings were crucial. Elliot wanted nothing to do with it. Borrow as much as you possibly can, at least to start. You can always buy later if it’s clearly going to be useful.

    An Arm’s Reach co-sleeper was a life-saver for me. Being able to grab the baby for a feed without getting out of bed felt much more do-able than traipsing over to a crib.

    Alden spit up after every. single. feed. for the first seven months of his life. Elliot never. I did 10x more laundry with Alden.

    I’ve never used bibs. I am still not sure how you contain the mess to the bib coverage area. But I don’t try that hard. A bit of food on the clothes doesn’t bother me. Probably if I tried harder it would have worked better. Like, you know, everything in life.

    For a newborn you need almost nothing. Diapers. A safe place to sleep. A few outfits.

    Babies will trick you. For the first few weeks they usually sleep a ton and you think, “Huh, this isn’t so hard.” And then they perk up. It’s much harder then, but also more fun.

    You will love your baby with your whole soul on sight. Or it will take time. Either one is fine and both paths end in the same place.

    • gDiapers are actually the only ones I don’t have on my list to try, because in reading over their Yahoo group, I kept reading lots and lots of “I love these so much that I’ll keep trying to use them until they don’t make so much mess.” Also, the disposable part (they say) is not septic-system-safe, though tossing the inserts *is* better than tossing a whole diaper…

      Bibs did seem like Just One More Thing To Launder.

      I do have an Arm’s Reach on the list. Not schlepping through the house three times a night, that holds appeal. And believe me, hand-me-downs and borroweds would be terrific.

  6. Re: Cloth Diapers
    If you have a great washing machine that has a good high temp setting, cloth is good. If you have a crappy washing machine, outsource or don’t bother. Unless, of course you enjoy boiling a vat of diapers. Another bonus of cloth diapers – you can use them as training underwear if you go with the fully adjustable ones (like mother ease).

    Get a wool soaker – etsy has some cute ones or you can make them yourself out of old cashmere/wool sweaters. They’re expensive but you’ll only need like one or two. Lanolin soap is a racket. Just use the lanosh (the stuff you put on your nips to prevent cracking) in the wash. There’s also something called “longies” which are soakers with long legs that look like long johns.

    Re: breastfeeding.
    If you feel you need support, ask now about your hospital’s lactation consultant, and make sure your insurance covers it. There’s a vibrant la-leche league scene in Austin. I believe you may need to pay some nominal fee, but it may be worthwhile. Since you’re registering on amazon, be prepared to be bombarded with lots of free samples of formula, among other baby items. Not sure what your feelings are on that (and you don’t need to explain here), but if you’re committed to b-feeding, the marketing machine and to some extent the hospital machine will tempt you with formula despite claims of being pro-breast feeding. The biggest thing you can do to support breastfeeding is good mental health and nutrition- taking care of any PPD, resting, eating well, staying super hydrated.

    Re: stroller system. Never used the stroller until much much later – like when they were a year. I just wore the kid on me (pouch/moby wrap/didymos wrap/long shawl/ergo carrier. Yes, you can go nuts with this stuff. Even had one specially made to match my wedding dress. I did purchase an infant carrier. Don’t bother with the base. Unnecessary expense. If I had to do it all over again, I would get a mai tai wrap too.

    If you’re looking for a fun place to shop, check out the Juniper Tree House at the Austin Waldorf School. Lots of beautiful hand made toys, play silks, wooden toys, art supplies, books etc. It is pricey, but still a nice place to browse.

    http://www.austinwaldorf.org/index.php/store/

    My favorite parenting book is You are Your Child’s First Teacher
    http://www.amazon.com/You-Your-Childs-First-Teacher/dp/0890879672/ref=pd_sim_b_11

    You know how I feel about a for-profit medical system, so I’ll do my best to keep the rants to a minimum πŸ˜‰

    • Lisa, thanks (as always)! We have a good washing machine, thank goodness. Like you say, I can’t imagine trying cloth otherwise. Etsy is turning out to be a terrific resource for a lot of nursery items (not to mention giving me lots of DIY ideas, though I wonder how much time/energy I’ll ever have again for DIY fun). So far we’ve avoided most marketing propaganda, except for the Pampers sample that my OB’s office put in the tote bag along with all the information about the hospital. Glad to be warned about it, and especially glad for the signposting to breast-feeding support.

      And I’ve always had a soft spot for Waldorf schools, so we’ll definitely have to check out the Juniper Tree House. Thanks for everything (and let’s rant over lunch!)!

  7. One more thing – for the newborn opt for zip up one-piece outfits. Your fingers will be much happier, especially for those night time changes. Hanna Anderson makes some and they are very durable in the wash. Sometimes Costco sells Hanna Anderson organic pj’s

  8. Kim, I missed this awhile back — so many great pieces of advice! I agree totally with the swaddling. By the time Eve came along I had forgotten about/how to swaddle (doh!) and took her, screaming (her screaming, not me) to the doctor for a checkup, said “I just can’t figure out why she is crying so much.” Pediatrician deftly swaddled her, handed me a very contented baby. Then I remembered how Isaac and Jacob had both loved to be swaddled very tightly.

    Cloth diapers– been there, done that, loved that! Did the opposite of commenter above — we used disposable during the day at part-day care (while I was teaching at a local college) because they weren’t set up to appreciate the subtleties of cloth diapering. Used cloth the rest of the time. Loved it. May have diapers I could send you but probably in the larger sizes! Also my sister Amy has taken up the g-diaper, which sort of combines the best of both worlds. She and little Olivia are very content with this system (and Olivia has far fewer rashes than when they’ve tried stints in disposables.) Oh, I could go on and on. We breastfed for years (2 years each baby), made our own babyfood, you cloth diapered, wore a sling, read books on “attachment” and so on (could take or leave some of that.) Read more books on “boundaries” later on. Hahaha! Loved the babyness/smallchildness of it all! Eve at age 4 still sleeps every night in our bed. (She refers to our bed as “our bed” — including herself in the group. She sees her own room as a fantastic playspace with bed-style trampoline.) And while this would drive some people nuts, we really enjoy it. How much longer, after all, will we have an adorable small person in our bed? We are sure she won’t want to do this anymore by the time she goes off to college, and probably much sooner.

    I’m so glad you are able to relax and enjoy — Jennifer

    • Thanks, Jennifer! One of the things I’m really appreciating about everyone’s comments is the way they’re sort of building up and working with each other to give me some big-picture ideas as well as practical tips. For instance, organic swaddling cloths are definitely on our list!

  9. Re: strollers, the only one you need at first is one of those universal carseat carriers–lightweight, can click the carseat in it easily without waking a sleeping baby. Then 6 months later, you can figure out the next one. We like our City Mini a lot, and still use it; it collapses so easily.

    In general, I’d concur with Jillian above about nothing being a sure thing, though we have only one. The saying I’ve heard is “if you know one baby, you know one baby.” Every kid is different, and you may get great ideas from all of us that may not work at all for your little one. Flexibility is the most important thing for parents, I think.

    And defininitely borrow what you can and get much of the rest from consignment stores, including maternity clothes.

    • I haven’t seen this mentioned yet (of course, I could have missed it) — but lots and lots of baby washcloths are important to have around. We still have a few left (making them almost 20 years old!). They are really useful. More later!

    • This recovering Type-A has been working hard on letting things go and being flexible, so this is good encouragement. And I’m about to Google local consignment stores… thanks, Meg!

  10. Kim,
    As you know, I’m not an experienced parent yet, but I can tell you what our hours of research have resulted in:

    We are using cloth diapers. I compost and reuse/recycle whatever I can. Melissa, after four years of living together, still puts the milk jug in the trash sometimes. The reason we are doing this is primarily monetary and then comfort for baby and environmental. We bought 25 used newborn Happy Heinie diapers for $200 through friends of Melissa. Actually, it was through an online community that she frequents. You might enjoy it as well:
    http://community.thebump.com/cs/ks/forums/4554280/ShowForum.aspx
    You will be able to recognize Melissa because Rolo’s picture is at the bottom of her posts.

    We plan on using the pocket system adjustable cloth diapers once she grows out of the newborn diapers. We are going to buy a couple different diapers to try before we spend about $400 on 20 new diapers. We will be trying out the diapers in that time when she is almost too big for the newborns and about to start on the adjustables. I think the Bumgenius 4.0 and Happy Heinie equivalent are what we will start with. I don’t think we have decided on aplix v. snaps, but we are leaning towards snaps because they are tougher for little one to remove. I have heard that 2 year olds love to take their diaper off!

    http://www.bumgenius.com/one-size.php

    Even if you buy a few cloth diapers and that particular type doesn’t work, you can sell them for about 75% of their original value and try a different kind. And this is all nothing compare to the $4-$5K for disposables.

    We are using four different baby transport systems. First, Melissa likes the moby wraps and so she will be using that around the house and for quick trips. For longer trips and for me, I will be using an ergo baby. We bought a BOB revolution stroller with the car seat insert. And fourth, carrying the baby in car seat will make sense in other situations.

    As far as co-sleeping goes, I feel compelled to share some statistics with you:

    “Travis County makes up approximately 10% of the SIDS/ SUID (Sudden Unexplained Infant Death) and ASSB (Accidental Suffication and Strangulation in Bed) deaths in the state of Texas.

    The latest statistics are from 2008. There were 14 Sleep Related Asphyxial Deaths in Travis County. Of those, 7 were attributed to Overlay and 7 to Suffocation from bedding materials. There were also 5 infant deaths that fit into the SUID or Sudden Unexplained Infant Death category. Of those 5 deaths all of them were found by the Medical Examiner in unsafe sleep environments.”

    That is from a co-worker who has started an educational program about safe sleeping for infants. She lost her 5 day-old from suffocation while bedsharing, which is deemed an unsafe sleeping environment.

    http://www.kvue.com/news/consumer/Promise-to-Payton-Austin-couple-teaches-other-parents-about-safe-sleep-94886009.html

    Sharing a bed with an infant, even with a product designed for co-sleeping, is always taking a risk. The safest place for an infant is in a crib, on their back. If walking to a nursery in the middle of the night a few times is a concern (which is valid of course!), consider a pack and play that can be set up next to your bed.

    As a paramedic, I have seen too many devastated parents from the tragedies of an unsafe sleep environment, so I feel strongly about this.

    Hope some of this info helps. You know how to find me πŸ™‚

    • Eric, thanks! I’ll definitely check in with that community at The Bump. And I’m looking forward to hearing how things work for y’all in practice. Any day now, I know! πŸ™‚ And thank you for the paramedic’s point of view on co-sleeping. What we’ve been thinking is not to have our little guy actually in bed (amazing how the king-sized bed is already too small), but in a bassinet on my side of the bed. The Arm’s Reach has a co-sleeping label, but from what I can tell, keeps the baby in his own safe space. Pack and play-like, as you point out!

      Hope everything goes quickly, smoothly, and wonderfully for Melissa this week! πŸ™‚ Y’all take care and let us know if you need anything.

      • Oh, and go to a nursing class at Special Addition (it is by Seton Main). It was really helpful and they have lactation consultants there.

  11. I loved the Wilkinet carrier (http://www.wilkinet.co.uk/) — it takes a little investment of time to figure out how to rig and adjust, but once you do it is incredibly flexible and adjustable — you can position the baby a million different ways, and adjust the strain around your back and shoulders exactly the way it is comfortable for YOU. Also when baby is out of it, it folds up quite small and portable and is washable. I found having the babies attached to my body as I did household stuff made us both calmer and happier. YMMV of course.

    We did cloth diapers for the first two and ended up doing disposables for number 3. It’s the hassle factor, I’m afraid, that overcame our green scruples. There are biodegradable disposables on the market, though.

    Always have a burp cloth handy. Always. So get lots of them.

    When the kids were tiny I used the wilkinet instead of a pram, and when they could sit up I favoured the very lightweight easy-fold ones for use on public transport. If your transport is mostly by car, you probably have different needs.

    When you get to that point, a hand mouli for grinding up food into baby-friendly pablum is really useful. Freeze the resulting mush in ice cube trays by their dozens and defrost in the microwave a cube or two at a time — SO much cheaper than jars, and you control what goes in.

    If I could only give 2 pieces of advice it would be 1) to persevere with breastfeeding because it’s hard in the beginning but the payoff downstream is HUGE (also to pay really really close attention to how the baby is oriented and latched and don’t be afraid to take them off the nipple and start again, several times, if it is painful)and 2)never make things quiet to help the baby sleep, because once the baby needs silence to sleep, you will pay forever — babies can sleep perfectly well in a racket if they never know differently, and that gives you so much more flexibility and freedom. So turn on talk radio if your house is naturally quiet; you’ll be doing your future self a favour.

    Also, I am always surprised at the number of people who seem to think that breastfeeding and solid food are mutually exclusive (ie that once they are on to solids, they should be weaned off the breast). Nonsense! At the end of the day weaning is really about balancing your needs and theirs, and for me I found the benefits for both of us outweighed the downsides for a good 2 years — though by the end it was only a cursory 5 minutes at bedtime.

    I’m sure there’s more….

    • Melanie, thanks! I’ve been hanging onto a chinois and an ancient Mouli grinder for years now; can’t wait to have a real use for them! I really appreciate the encouragement re breast-feeding too. I’m sure I’ll come back and re-read the “persevere!” comments several times while I’m getting the hang of things.

      You’re the second friend to advocate the mostly-use-the-carrier strategy over heavy stroller use, and I hadn’t really thought about it before now. It sounds like if we invest in a good carrier, and make sure we have a safe stroller for when we need it but a relatively inexpensive model, we’ll have flexibility. I wish we had more public transport here to factor into the decision-making!

      I’ve been trying not to reflexively shush Bailey when she barks at the doorbell, thinking exactly what you’ve noted about noise. It can be pretty quiet around here otherwise, though, so I may even be manufacturing a little bit of racket. πŸ™‚

      • Also just wanted to say the data don’t support a ban on co-sleeping, especially if you are neither obese nor a heavy drinker. I followed the link above, and the story told is not about co-sleeping, but about the tragic mistakes caused by exhaustion.

        One of the hardest things for the human brain to do is think about risk statistically, not anecdotally. Statistically, the one thing you can do which will have the greatest effect on reducing your child’s risk of morbidity/mortality (and it is a MASSIVE effect) is to get rid of your car.

        That said, we didn’t do co-sleeping because I found it too hard to sleep. We used a Moses basket next to the bed (or futon was low to the ground, so I could just reach over and get them for night feeds) and then into a crib when they were 6-months-ish (when I was about to go back to work, and when my interest in privacy with my partner had returned). But YMMV.

      • The latest child death data I could find was for 2006. In Texas of the 1,522 deaths not due to natural causes, 44% were motor vehicle accidents. Fewer than 6% were due to all kinds accidental suffocation/strangulation and co-sleeping would have been implicated in a very very small minority of those.

      • I appreciate the research, Mel… What I’m gleaning from everything you’re all finding and sharing, data-wise and experience-wise, is that our thought to have the baby right beside the bed rather than in the bed (partly from concerns, partly because of M’s sleep apnea, partly because of space) but definitely in the room is a good direction to go, at least for starters.

        (A blue ribbon to anyone who diagrams that sentence. πŸ™‚ )

  12. I had an arms reach co-sleeper and ended up using it mostly for storage. When the kids were very young I would use a moses basket. I co-sleep with my boys and continue to do so. Call me a lazy breastfeeder but it was easy to take care of business half asleep when the kid is in the bed. Not everyone has the temperment for c-sleeping and I think you’ll know if it works for you and your hubby. I’m still b-feeding my almost 2 yr old and the 3 yr old is almost out of the bed. Again, it doesn’t work for everyone. Sites like mothering.com can help in that area.

    If you do want to explore co-sleeping I can direct you to some tips and things to consider, but probably offline.

    Look at major national campaigns regarding parenting with a critical eye and to do your research. As a marketing professional I’m sure you understand the need to cast a wide net and provide lowest common denominator talking points and advice. Guidelines and averages are just that.

    I also suggest practicing your stink eye and that stare that says “I can’t believe you had the audacity to ask me a personal question like that/criticize my parenting choices”.

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