Friday, March 29, 2013

In case you missed it...

I posted this on facebook, but it was too cute not to share. See! Babies don't cry forever ;)

This was a couple of nights ago right before bath time. Judah has really picked up some awesome dance moves!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What I've Learned Part 3: Crying

So this week's Part 3 is a little bit shorter, because sleeping and feeding are really overarching themes when it comes to babies. Everything else is in its own little subcategory, so you'll have to forgive me for this being kind of random. But isn't that what parenting really is? Flying by the seat of your pants, learning-as-you-go randomness? Let's get to it...

I took this picture as a reference for future use if we ever decide we want more children.


There's a few things in this world that can truly make you feel inadequate. I would imagine meeting Bill Gates would be one. A screaming infant is definitely one. You check out of the hospital (not always but in most cases) and are presented with a squalling baby and a "good luck" from the staff. And unless you've been around a lot of babies or read a lot of baby books, (and sometimes even then) everything you've heard about calming the crying goes out the window, and you're left standing there panicking wondering how the heck you're supposed to do this.

I remember in the beginning being very nervous every time Judah would cry within earshot of anyone else. I was so worried that people were judging me as a bad mother because my baby was crying. Even in the hospital, Judah had a crying jag that lasted for about 15 seemed like hours. I was paranoid that the other moms with their newborns would be wondering what I was doing in our room and why I couldn't get my baby to calm down.

Of course, that is just not the case. Any parent knows that babies cry. It's their one and only form of communication in those early days and essential to their survival. They cry because they're hungry, wet, uncomfortable, tired, stimulated, and sometimes for no reason that's apparent to you. I found the key was to keep repeating, "It won't last forever. It won't last forever." And you know what? It didn't last forever. I think we are extremely lucky - we didn't get a baby with colic - which is usually defined as a baby that cries unconsolably for at least 3 hours a day for 3 or more days per week.

Judah usually only cried for the "Big 3" - Hungry, Tired, Lonely. He never cried when he had a dirty diaper. To this day he will poop at 4 am and not wake up to complain about it - which is an entirely different issue. The longest he ever cried unconsolably was about an hour, and at the time, it seemed like it would never end. That happened a couple of times during his 6-8 week growth spurt.

Whoo, this boy scremed for his first bath. At least we knew the cause of the crying.
What you have to do is find the calming technique that works for your baby. And the cruel part? Just when you find something that works for a couple of days, your baby will switch it up and decide that doesn't work for them any more. So it helps to have a lot of tricks in your bag. Harvey Karp's 5 S's System - of The Happiest Baby On The Block fame - is a good place to start: Swaddling, Side/Stomach Position, Shushing, Swinging, Sucking.

What worked for us:
• White Noise: We would turn off all the lights in the first couple of months and go turn on the clothes dryer while we swayed with him in our arms. I laugh now to think of Scott standing by the back door at 2 am swaying by the running dryer with no clothes in it. We also downloaded some creepy white noise loops on our iPod and played it in his rooms during a few naps. It worked maybe 50% of the time and it sounded like aliens were talking to him in his sleep.

• Fresh Air: Weather permitting, if we really couldn't stop the crying, all we had to do was walk outside into the backyard and he was usually immediately silent. It's like the fresh air reset his brain or something.

• Swaddling: We loved the breathable, stretchy Aden + Anais muslin swaddlers, and Scott was the king of the swaddle technique. I could never wrap him quite tight enough to where he wouldn't escape within 5 minutes. If you're going to swaddle, please do it safely and learn a technique that will keep your baby's hips moving freely. You could do serious damage to their hip joints if not, or use a hip-safe swaddling blanket like the Halo Swaddle. We would swaddle him up and then put him in his...

• Swing: Usually the cradle motion of the swing would calm him down within a couple of minutes. This is one of the reasons he lived in his swing until about 4 months or so.

• Babywearing: I would wear Judah in the Moby Wrap and walk around the house or backyard. Being close to me and warm would immediately make him fall asleep. He slept on me for three hours during a friend's baby shower at 3 weeks old in his Moby. I liked this wrap a lot, but it is a bit of a production to get it on, and it's not too great for older babies.

Hopefully you can use a few of these, and always remember that it WON'T last forever. Don't get me wrong, my 13 month old still cries. Most of the time it's just whining - dear God, the WHINING! And true crying happens when he falls down for the 437th time that day or when he's extremely overtired. But little crying babies grow up and become eventual functioning children and adults who don't cry quite so often.

And, sad though it is, I feel like it needs to be said: if the crying is really starting to get to you and wear you down, please do NOT shake the baby. Terrible things happen to overtired, overwhelmed parents who are desperate for their baby to stop crying. If you feel like this might happen and that you're not in control, put the baby in a safe place like their crib, and remove yourself from the situation for 5 minutes. Your baby won't be damaged by crying in their crib for five minutes so you can get some perspective. Never be afraid to ask for help!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Help Me Pack!

So, I've recently discovered the website - where you can curate shopping collections for yourself and others. It's the perfect way to organize what we'll need to bring on our trip to Seattle in June. It's kind of like Pinterest where you can view all your items, except it searches the internet for the cheapest prices and best deals! You can view my full collection of items here. But I'm having a little trouble coming up with a full list. Here's a few things I have so far:

I'll need a good rain jacket.
I like this one from Michael Kors:

But at $118, it might be a little pricey. I also like this one from LL Bean that's a little cheaper at $99:

I'll also need to get a rain jacket for the little guy - he has a really cute plaid one right now that I LOVE, but he'll grow out of it by June :(. He's also walking more and more which means he needs more shoes. Have you seen the Skidders? Judah has a pair of Thomas the Train ones that are pretty cute, and I love the cleat-like grippers on the bottom. Plus the soft soles make it easy for him to walk. He's not so much a fan of hard-soled shoes yet.

They're not too badly priced either at $12.95. I always have to laugh when I see $40 toddler shoes knowing they're going to grow out of them in a month. Babies require a lot of stuff to travel, so I'm thinking of not bringing our giant Chicco stroller, and instead either borrowing an umbrella stroller or getting one like this:

At 45% off it's only $60, and I know we'd use it again. Plus, we can just gate-check it. And of course, the main reason we're going to Seattle is to see my sister graduate from High School! This gives me a major case of the "olds" - but I'll need something nice to wear to the graduation. Here are some options I like:



Thoughts? What do I need to pack for 5 days for a Trip to Seattle in June? With a toddler?!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What I've Learned Part 2: Feeding

Oh, you have to feed it? Well that's easy, right? Ha. I can't tell you how many posts I see on my online baby community asking feeding questions - starting right from the time those babies are born to even now, a year later.

I was going to be so good, I tell you. Breastfeed exclusively for six months, and then introduce solids - all organic and homemade of course.

And now? I'll happily admit to feeding my mostly formula-fed baby a hot dog on more than one occasion in the past couple of weeks.

So, to reiterate what this series is all about - I'm letting you know what we did, how it worked out, and if we would do anything differently next time.

Month 0-1: The plan was to breastfeed exclusively for at least 6 months. One of the reasons I wanted a natural, unmedicated birth was that it was supposed to promote a healthy breastfeeding relationship. Well, that didn't really work out and Judah never latched on. You can read all about the breastfeeding woes here, if you need a recap, but it's a long story that makes me sad. Suffice it to say, things didn't go as expected. We only had two bottles in the house that I received at a shower and no formula - it's just not something I thought we'd need, and it was an expense I was not prepared for.

I pumped every two-three hours during the first month, and rented a hospital grade pump. But even doing that, my production was never what it needed to be to meet Judah's needs, so he was supplemented with formula from the get-go. After a month, I returned the pump to the hospital and decided it would be better for everyone, emotionally, if we switched to formula full time. Honestly, it was a relief to only have one thing to worry about and one thing that he needed. And I could spend more time with my baby when I wasn't having to pump and then clean the parts every time. Most of the formula he received was in the ready-to-drink Enfamil 2oz. Nursettes.

Months 1-5: Exclusively formula fed. Every 2-3 hours the first month. Then every 3-4. Eventually he was on 5 total bottles a day at 6oz. each by 5 months old. We found it helpful to mix all of our bottles the night before (If we knew we were going to use them within 24 hours), store them in the fridge, and heat them up as needed. We did all powdered formula after the first month or so.

Supplies we used:
A Medela Symphony Hospital Grade Pump & Accessory Parts - $50 a month for rental at our hospital, and the accessories/flanges/tubes/bottles etc. were given to us in the hospital.
Breastflow Bottles - wouldn't recommend, as they were too fast flowing for us
Avent Bottles - Worked ok, but made Judah a little refluxy
Medela Bottles - Great for storing breastmilk and worked pretty well
Dr. Browns Bottles - By far the best for us. They eliminated any spit-up, gassyness and reflux we had. The only downside is the millions of parts they come with that you have to clean. Also, the bottles are pretty skinny, so a lot of bottle brushes are too large to fit. These run about $15 for a pack of 3.
• Cloth bibs - Judah wasn't really a spitter-upper, but he did make a mess while eating and often had formula pooling around his chin and neck.
• Ready-to-Drink Enfamil Formula - $8 for a 6-pack of 2oz. bottles.
• Powdered Enfamil Gentlease - $24 for a 64oz tub + $39ish for 2 refills (holy crap, right?)
• Powdered Kirkland (Costco brand) Formula - $16 for a large tub.

What I'd do differently:
• I'm still disappointed about the breastfeeding "failure". If I do it again, I will TAKE A CLASS. I did read The Nursing Mother's Companion (ooh, retro illustrations!), and felt I had a good handle on the situation before Judah was born, but nothing is as good as one-on-one interaction with someone who really knows what they're talking about. The lactation consultant I saw at the hospital was very good, and helped Judah latch with a nipple shield, but by the time we used it, my milk production was too low to really do much. Next time I'll bring those shields to the hospital with me just in case, because those first few feedings are SO important. If you choose to use a shield - ask a lactation consultant to make sure you're getting the correct size. Also? Don't be afraid to use the services of an LC. An in-hospital one-on-one hour-long consultation for us ran about $40.

• Under the Affordable Care Act, many breast pumps are completely covered by insurance. I just checked in with our new plan at work because I was curious, and sure enough, a breast pump was a covered cost. So next time I will definitely be checking into having insurance pay for a pump or rental!

Month 5 - 7: We dove into the world of solids a little early. Pediatricians have different guidelines for when to introduce baby's first solids, but ours said between 4-6 months, after they've lost their tongue-thrust reflex. We started with organic brown rice cereal, per the advice of our pediatrician. Judah was just kind of "meh." Then, a few weeks later we tried some mashed avocado - and it went over much better. His first few foods were avocado, banana, and sweet potato.

He never had a hard time swallowing food or eating off of a spoon, and really seemed to love to eat and try new flavors. Most doctors/allergists will advise you to try a new food, then wait 3-4 days before introducing anything new to see if they develop an allergic reaction. We did this at first, but eventually just stayed away from the high allergen foods like peanut butter, strawberries, and eggs. Although a new study is saying to introduce these high allergen foods EARLIER to prevent allergies. So...who the hell knows which is right. Just trust your instincts, and if you don't have a family history of food allergies, it's probably going to be ok.

I started off making most of his food by hand. Some foods were easy - like avocado and banana - to just mash up and give him directly. Other foods, like sweet potato, I would bake, then puree with a little water. Eventually I said, "screw it" and gave up and just switched to organic pouches like Ella's Kitchen and Plum Organics. We weren't spending any more money by doing it this way, and I trusted that the ingredients were pure with no added colors, preservatives, flavors, sweeteners, crap, etc. Along with solids, Judah was still having about 5 bottles a day. He went down to four (8oz) around 7/8 months.

In the beginning, Judah would just have one solid "meal" a day. We didn't increase it to three until about 8/9 months or so. We also introduced a sippy cup around six months, with only a couple ounces of water in it. Mostly, Judah just liked to throw it on the floor.

Supplies we used:
• Blender
• Baby Spoons
• Organic Food Pouches
• Bumbo Seat with Tray
• Plastic Bibs you can wipe off easily
• Sippy cup with a soft spout
• Puffed rice snacks (like Gerber Puffs) and Mum-Mum crackers - 7/8 months

What I'd do differently:
• The only thing I would change is I would start with vegetables instead of rice cereal.

8 Months - Present: Finger foods! I mentioned in my last post about Judah's wildly independent streak. At around 8 months he decided he didn't like anyone feeding him with a spoon. He wanted to do it himself. This led to a lot of shenanigans where I would feed him by rotating two spoons. I would load up 2 spoons with his puree and give him one. He would hand it back to me while I gave him the other spoon. Rinse. Repeat.

I decided now would be a good time to introduce more finger foods. We went with soft cut up chunks of fruit like peaches, pears, avocado and shreds of cheese, cubes of cooked carrots and baked sweet potatoes, tiny toast points with hummus, etc. It was a challenge to find a variety of foods that he could feed himself and that were still soft. But it was also a fun way for me to get him to try new foods that are different and fun. For example, at one meal he had toast cubes with hummus, crumbled feta cheese, shreds of rotisserie chicken, and peas covered in tzatziki sauce. I can tell you I probably didn't eat any of that when I was a baby. I hope to expose him to a variety of food cultures, because that's how we like to eat! We love Greek, Mexican, Italian, Asian, why shouldn't Judah? At age one, he only has around 7 teeth and no molars - but you'd be surprised at how powerful those little gums are - as anyone that's been bitten by a baby with no teeth can attest.

Judah loved the independence this provided him and the exploratory nature of playing with a variety of foods. By Thanksgiving, he was eating pretty much everything we were, provided it wasn't a choking hazard (popcorn, pretzels, hard uncooked veggies & fruits, whole grapes & raisins, etc.). Luckily he had a pretty good pincer grasp by about 8 months, so that was helpful. So, we didn't do the full baby-led weaning (where you skip purees entirely), but we did a combination of purees and finger foods that both Scott and I felt comfortable with.

I still buy purees every once in a while. He can squeeze the pouch himself and suck the puree out that way. I also like to freeze dots of the purees on wax paper as a little finger food treat.

Now, at 12½ months, Judah can pretty much eat anything except for the above noted choking hazards. He's also become obsessed with forks lately, and I feel okay giving him a dull baby fork. It's so cute: I load the fork for him and watch him study it and try to figure out how to get the food on the fork himself. At this age now, when he's done with something, he shows us by immediately tossing it on the floor. He's also kind of sneaky and will feed the dogs a bite, then himself, then the dogs again, then himself. It's a miracle our dogs aren't obese at this point. Although he also enjoys sharing with me. If I ask him for a bite, he'll hold out a messy, slimy hand with a little choice tidbit to try and feed me.

I also started introducing a straw sippy instead of a regular spout cup. It has worked so much easier for us and it lets Judah get his water himself. Our favorite is this Playtex one.

• Playtex Straw Sippy Cups
• Still using baby spoons and forks
• Plastic Bibs
• High Chair - Graco Cozy Dinette - My parents found this one on Craigslist in great condition for $50 - Thanks, parents!

What I'd do differently:
• Not much. I say that now. We'll see how picky of an eater he turns out to be...

If you need any meal ideas, feel free to ask! I've got a million of them.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What I've Learned...

So I realize I've been a bad blogger and have not posted in a month. That's because we've had a birthday celebration with family every single weekend since February 2nd. We won't know what to do with ourselves now that we have a free weekend.

Oh, and of course this little guy turned one...

Since it's been one whole year since I've given birth, I've decided to do a series of posts chronicling my amazing VAST experience (/sarcasm) of what I've learned in the one year that we've been parents. I'll let you know what we did, how it worked, and what I'd do differently (if anything) next time (if there is a next time ;)). First Topic? What else?! SLEEP.

What we did:
0-1 month - Judah slept in our room in his Rock N' Play sleeper. He slept in 2-3 hour increments at night. I would feed, Scott would change diapers - every time he woke. This arrangement didn't last very long because neither of us were getting more than 2 hours of sleep at a time. Plus I was pumping the middle of the night. FUN! Naps were often - he was never awake for more than an hour.

1-4 months - Judah slept in his swing. This made me a little worried because I'd heard things about babies sleeping in swings and Plagiocephaly. This, on top of his other cranium issues, made me a little bit of a worried mess. BUT, he slept SO well in his swing that I didn't want to mess with it. He would normally sleep in two 5-hour shifts by the time he was 2.5 months old - waking once around midnight/1am to eat and once at 5am. Scott would take the night shift, meaning if Judah woke up anytime between bed time and 1 or 2 am, Scott would feed him and change him. After that I was on duty. This meant we each got at least 5-6 hours of sleep at a time, which made us happier and much more productive members of society; and of course it was crucial when I went back to work when Judah was around 3 months old.

We would do our nighttime routine: bath, bottle, book, bed. We usually rocked him to sleep or placed him awake in his swing. We used this swing. Judah LOVED it and would only swing in the cradle position - he was not a fan of back and forth.

For naps, I made sure that he was never awake more than 90 minutes at a time. If so, it was overtired city and cranky pants baby. We didn't follow any sort of "method" or structure. The only rule I followed was the awake-time rule of no longer than an hour and a half along with a very clear bedtime routine. I never attempted to do any sort of sleep training because I felt he wasn't cognitively ready, and I happily swaddled, rocked, swayed, fed, and did anything else he needed to be comforted to sleep.

*Note: Judah did experience the "4-month regression" which lasted only for a week or so where he was waking multiple times at night.

4-8 months - The day after he slept all night in his swing for the first time, I decided it was time to transition him to the crib. Because of course my theory is "If it ain't broke...well, fix it anyways!" We still kept the swing for naps for another few weeks, but he was getting a little big for it...

To transition him to the crib, I did our whole bedtime routine, rocked him to sleep and laid him down asleep in his crib. He woke crying a couple times a night for about a week or so. Then, one day I decided to lay him down completely awake and wouldn't you know it? He fell right to sleep. No crying, no fussing. He'd been ready to fall asleep on his own, but I loved rocking him so much that I thought he really needed it when he didn't. From this point on he slept pretty consistently through the night, 12 hours, with no night feeding. Bedtime around 7:30.

I realize this makes us extremely lucky. He didn't require any sort of sleep training, which I realize can be a rarity. Don't get me wrong, there were clingy times that he just didn't want to be left alone that required us to let him fuss for a little while. But it never lasted for more than five minutes or so. I was fully prepared to hard-core sleep train, and bought this book: The SleepEasy Solution. Even though we didn't need to use it, I read the whole thing and it has great reviews, so I would still recommend it to anyone looking for a good sleep book. I also think putting him down AWAKE in his swing for months 1-4 helped him learn to make the leap himself that he knew he could fall asleep on his own, even if there was movement involved at first.

Another thing that I think helped us? Judah being at daycare. By state law, he has to sleep on a flat, non-moving surface for naps at daycare - no swings, rock n' plays, etc. Just cribs, cots, or pack n' plays. So he was already used to sleeping this way at daycare, and that made our transition to the crib a lot smoother. I swear, kids will do things at daycare they never do for you at home (take three hour naps, sit in his highchair nicely, etc.). Daycare also helped him get into a consistent 3 nap-a-day schedule, since all the kids (it's an in-home daycare) take naps at the same consistent time every day. Awake time was around 2-3 hours and he would take an hour nap in the morning, two hours in the afternoon, and a little catnap at around 5pm. Bedtime was still around 7:30.

We did have a couple little regressions during this time period - most notably right around 8 months when Judah was learning to crawl and cutting a couple of teeth at the same time. But it was short lived once again.

8 months - present - We continue to be consistent with our bedtime routine, and Judah normally goes to sleep when we set him down awake in his crib. Now when I rock him, it's not for him, it's for me. Because I do it to still feel needed and to convince myself he needs my help doing something. He's so fiercely independent, and prefers to put himself to sleep, feed himself, etc. He'll push our hands away if we're trying to help him walk. And I rock him because it's an amazing feeling to have a baby fall asleep in your arms.

He takes two naps a day now - usually 1.5 hours each. One at around 9:30 and the other at around 2pm. Bedtime has gotten a little later recently - closer to 7:45 or even 8. However, we're now dealing with early wake times - 5 or 6 am. He'll put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night and even if he wakes at 5 or so. But if he's up at six...well so am I. I'm trying to play around with nap times and bedtimes to see if we can remedy it. But it may be something that only time (and that darn tooth waiting to pop through) can fix.

If you've stuck with me this far, I applaud you. This has gotten really long! Overall, I think we've had a pretty easygoing baby when it comes to sleep.

If I had to do anything differently, I would have:
1. Not changed his diaper every single time he woke in those first couple of months. It's so stimulating and wakes them up completely. I didn't know they didn't need to be changed that often overnight! Seems like such a "duh" moment, but one I honestly didn't know as a first time mom.

2. Let him "fuss" just a little bit more in the early months. I read a book recently called Bringing Up Bebe that discusses French parenting. In it, the author Pamela Druckerman talks about how all French parents expect babies to "do their nights" - i.e. sleep through the night - at a very early age. Usually only 1 or 2 months. But at the same time they never let their babies "cry it out." They do this by being extremely attentive to HOW their baby is crying, and they believe each cry is trying to communicate something very specific. Even from day one, they won't pick their babies up immediately when they are crying, because they don't want to inadvertently wake them up. They listen to their fussing and crying for about 5 minutes before picking them up. By doing this, the French babies' brains make the connection from one sleep cycle to the next earlier in life, and they learn to sleep through the night much quicker - and with less crying. They call this "the pause" - and I wish I would have known about it earlier. I can't even imagine how many times I must have woken Judah up unknowingly. Newborns make A LOT of noise in their sleep, and I probably misinterpreted a lot of middle of the night fussing for being awake.

In the end, I'm not a sleep expert, nor can I cure your sleep woes. But this is what we did and what worked for us. The most helpful online site I found during my numerous sleep searches was this one:

In my next post in the "What I've Learned" series I'll talk about feeding!