Why I stopped reading parenting blogs

Why I Stopped Reading Parenting Blogs

Before the Bug was born in January 2015, I did a lot of reading.

Chico and I both got the Baby Center weekly emails, telling us just how pregnant I was and comparing the foetus to different fruit and vegetables (for size, I mean). It was exciting to follow his development week by week, and know how he was growing.

It wasn’t until after the Bug was born, though, that I really delved into the online world of parenting blogs and forums.

And it wasn’t long before I realized I simply had to stop.

Parenting bloggers are not always experts.

I’m someone who likes to seek advice from perceived experts. Most bloggers describe themselves as normal parents and share tips that have helped them (I’ve done it myself!). But when it comes to a specific concern, they are rarely qualified experts.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course. But when you’re in the totally normal state of near-panic when you first get home with your child, you’re often looking desperately for immediate answers. Answers which most bloggers and forum posters are not qualified to give.

Parenting blogs don’t describe your situation.

You’ll never find a forum post or blog article that perfectly describes your situation, or your child’s.

You’ll be thinking, “That *sounds* like what’s happening, except for this, that and the other thing.” So the solutions or suggestions they make never seem quite right, because you’re not sure their situation is the same as yours in the first place.

Then there are the blogs and books (I’m thinking of the “What to Expect” series in particular here) that make things sound so categorical. Reading these can make you feel even MORE insecure, especially when what they’re saying goes against what’s happening at home.

You can’t get immediate, accurate answers.

Online advice never comes fast enough. When you’re a panicked new parent, wondering if what your child is doing is normal, you want answers NOW.

Most people can’t call up their paediatrician and ask every single question whenever they want. If you go searching for info online, you have to wade through your search results first, then see if they apply to your situation. If you post on a forum, you never know how quickly someone with any experience is going to answer you.

You’re craving advice, information, or perhaps just comfort immediately, but you cannot get it.

When advice comes in, there can be too much.

Sometimes, when a question I had was responded to, it brought on even more confusion.

There are so many rights and wrongs, so many ways of doing things that are dictated by our family practices, our cultures and our backgrounds. Sometimes it can just be overwhelming thinking of all the possible solutions to a problem.

Often, by the time I got around to trying any of the suggestions I had received, whatever it was was no longer a problem.

Getting into a vicious cycle.

For a couple months after the Bug was born, I had some books I looked to frequently (“What to Expect the First Year,” and others), and I was frequently on Baby Center forums. I started listening to a parenting podcast called “The Longest Shortest Time.” I became a member of a couple of Facebook parenting groups. I downloaded an app for timing nursing sessions, measuring the baby’s weight, and knowing how long he slept.

While each of these resources was helpful in its way, and none of them was negative or toxic, I became overwhelmed.

Seeking answers or advice, I would turn to one or any of these resources, and would inevitably come back with more questions than answers. That brought on anxiety, as I then tried to find answers to the new questions that had sprung up.

I even wrote a couple of articles myself, hoping that by putting things down in words, I would clear up my own confusion, and thus make things easier.

Finally, I decided that spending my time with all these things was breaking down my confidence, rather than building it up.

So I threw it all out the window.

Not literally. I didn’t throw a book out the window.

I cut myself off. I deleted the app, shelved the books, stopped listening to the podcasts and removed myself from the forums and Facebook groups. I also cut off contact with a couple of people in my life who had proven to be toxic.

I decided to trust my instincts–to trust my husband’s instincts. I decided that the only “experts'” opinions I wanted or needed were our family and our doctor’s. I did hold on to the Quebec “From Tiny Tots to Toddlers” book, which healthcare providers in Quebec often refer to as “the Bible.” But that was the one resource I retained.

And do you know what?

I found myself so much more relaxed, more confident, more delighted with our baby, and happier.

Suddenly, motherhood became joyful rather than fearful.

Rather than over-thinking things, and worrying about how I was going to be a parent, I found the confidence to enjoy every single day.

I realized that it’s not about how *I* am going to parent, but how *our son* needs to be raised. Taking the focus off of me and putting it back onto our son actually helped me make more time for myself.

It may sound contradictory, but there you go. Deciding to be confident and to trust my instincts, allowed me to use the time I had spent worrying to do other things. I made new friends. I got back into my crafting.

Life got good again.

No, life got better. Because now it includes a wonderful little person I am lucky enough to call our son.

 

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4 Great Reasons to Take Your Kids Outside

Summertime, and the living is easy. With the good, warm weather, it’s also easy to remember to take your kids outside. But when the cold north wind starts to blow, we forget how important it is to get outdoors. Here are 4 great reasons to keep taking your kids outside, come rain or shine.

1. Get the kids some vitamin D

Exposure to direct sunlight is the best way for the body to produce this happy-making vitamin. However, if your kids have very pale skin, you’ve got to balance the benefits and the dangers of exposure to direct sunlight.

The Vitamin D council recommends short periods (15 minutes) of exposure in the mid-morning during high summer for pastier kids, and longer periods for kids with darker skin. After that, cover up with clothing, stay in the shade, and/or apply sunscreen.

In winter time, when it’s harder for everyone to absorb vitamin D, it’s even more important that kids spend time outdoors (as well as taking a vitamin D supplement). Why do you think people in Iceland stick their bundled up babies outside to nap? So their little faces can absorb some all-important rays.

2. Burn off energy with some exercise

Having an 18-month-old can feel like sharing a house with the Energizer bunny. They just keep going, and going, and going…

If you ever find yourself stuck in a spiral of hyperactive kids bouncing off the walls preventing you from getting things done, then it’s time to throw them outside.

For younger kids, just being outside and taking it all in will help expend excess energy, even if they don’t do much running around. My little guy loves to lie in the big basket swing in our local playground, but he’s always heavy-lidded and ready to sleep at night, even after spending all afternoon lying back gazing at the sky.

3. Watch them discover EVERYTHING

It takes about 15 minutes to walk from my town’s train station to our house. The other day, it took us an hour and a half.

That’s because the Bug was saying, “Down? Down? Down?” as we got off the train from Munich, and when we approached a safe walking area, I complied.

He stopped at every. Single. Puddle. Every single twig, leaf, or slug. It was pouring rain, but we were both well-equipped with rain coats and pants, and crocs. Since I was in no particular hurry to get anywhere, I just let him be.

Gently encouraging him to move forward from time to time, we spent the next 1.5 hours throwing pebbles down drains, splashing in puddles, poking at snails and slugs, and generally absorbing all there was to discover.

It was amazing to see him wonder at it all, and though I was desperate for a cup of tea by the time we got home, I wouldn’t have hurried him for the world.

4. Take a little time for yourself

As your kids get older and are better able to play on their own, you’ll find that outdoor time becomes you time. Yes, you have to be observant and constantly aware of where your kids are, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow them around the playground.

We are lucky to have playgrounds every few feet here in Germany, and many of them are fenced in, and very toddler-friendly. We have found one where no matter where I sit, I can see the Bug. He’s now big enough to run from game to game on his own, and I can sit and knit, while keeping watch out of the corner of my eye.

Being outside with other people takes the pressure off me. While at home I am constantly in demand for entertainment, the great outdoors provides enough to keep him engaged.

It’s also a nice opportunity to meet other parents. I have found this to be especially true when coming to a new place. When kids play together, parents get talking. It’s been a wonderful way to make new friends.

Get the right gear and get going

Germans say that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. While a hailstorm is definitely best avoided, rainy, snowy and gloomy days need not be spent indoors.

For your kids’ sake, and for your sanity, get the right outdoor gear you need, and try and get outside every single day. You’ll all feel better for it.

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Help! My kid has started daycare!

Today is the Bug’s first day of daycare. I’m celebrating (and distracting myself) by writing a long-overdue blog post!

So he’s out of the house… What now??

I have been extremely lucky. First, I benefitted from Canada’s generous parental leave policy with one whole year of maternity leave. Second, my family’s timely move from Canada to Germany allowed me to extend my maternity leave while we settled into our new life here.

But it’s time for this charmed period of my life to end. It’s time to get back to work. This, of course, is easier said than done.

Since it looks like Chico and I may move around quite a bit in future, I have decided to become certified as a teacher of English as a second language–a career that will hopefully allow me to work wherever we end up.

I’ll be taking a 4-week intensive CELTA course (a Cambridge English certification) in Munich starting in September. I’m lucky enough to have daycare lined up, as well as family who are available to come and take over running the house while I am in class full-time. Not everyone is so lucky.

Organizing your overwhelming amount of free time

Suddenly you’re home alone, and you have all this amazing free time. You’re going to be able to get all that stuff done you’ve been meaning to do! Right? Wrong.

The few precious hours you have will slip by like water over Niagara Falls. There’s just so much to cram into a short space of time that (if you’re like me) you can sometimes end up ignoring it all and wasting time online.

So how do you make the most of the time without feeling overwhelmed? I have a simple answer.

LISTS.

i-love-listsI love lists. Lists help keep things clear, manageable, and tidy. I make lists for everything: To Do lists, Honey Do lists (technically for my Chico, poor man), packing lists, grocery lists, and many more.

I use a notebook to make a general list for each week. Then, I’ll make a break-down list to more specifically detail each day’s plan.

A list of what makes a good list notebook:

  • Spiral-bound
  • Able to sit open on a desk or tabletop
  • Lined or squared
  • Portable (A5) size
  • Tear-away option for the pages

A list of what makes a good list:

  • Short. Limit yourself to a maximum of 3 to 5 main tasks.
  • Specific. Don’t just say “clean.” Clean what? The kitchen? The bathroom?
  • Sweet. Don’t just put chores or unpleasant tasks (like cleaning) on there. Make room for a cup of tea, or for writing a blog post!

Making lists helps me to remember what I so desperately wanted to do before the chasm of free time stretched out before me. That chasm has a tendency to swallow all memory of what I had planned, hence the lists.

Take time to do something for yourself

Whether it’s an activity you love (exercise, reading, crafting), or a personal development project like my CELTA training, take some time to do something for yourself.

The few parenting resources I’ve read (I swore them off after I started feeling overwhelmed last year) recommend that parents set an example for their children of taking care of themselves.

Pursuing our own development shows our kids that parents have enough self-respect to maintain our interests outside of our families. Most everyone who’s an expert on the subject agrees that this sets a good example of self-respect to our children.

Far from resenting our absence from their lives, as long as we strike a good balance between our activities (whether it be work or hobbies) and family time, our kids will appreciate the example we set.

Enjoy your kids all the more when they get home

If they’ve been gone all day, chances are you’ll be pretty excited to see your kids when everyone gets home. As time spent together gets more limited, enjoy the moments you spend together to the max.

As far as I can, I’ll try to have everything prepared to keep cooking and chores to a minimum when the Bug gets home, and put away the iPhone and iPad, and try to nab some quality time with the little man.

Here’s hoping all goes well.

How to Move Across the World and Stay (Relatively) Sane

Pardon my silence, dear readers! It has been a hectic couple of months.

In September, Chico, Bug and I picked up and abruptly left Montreal, headed back to the old country (or at least the old continent). We are still very much in transition, but one thing is for certain: we will not live through another Montreal winter. Huzzah!

We will miss a lot of things about Montreal, especially the good friends we’ve made there.

Since our move was pretty quick, and quite an adventure, I thought I’d tell you a bit about it and give some helpful tips for how to move across the world and stay (relatively) sane.

Selecting a moving company

Friends of ours who left Montreal in the summer had a devilish time with their moving company. It was such a fiasco, we were determined to avoid such a mess.

In an earlier life, I worked for an international company, managing expatriates’ moves all over the world. So I felt like I had a handle on how to approach this.

First, look up moving companies. I did a Google search of moving companies in Montreal and then read online reviews. I ended up choosing AMJ International and Westmount Moving for estimates. They got pretty good reviews, and they also responded quickly to my calls.

They each came in to do a survey and estimate the volume for the move. The key is to make sure both companies estimate the same (or similar) volume. If not, you’ll want to figure out where the discrepancy comes from (did one company forget to look in the basement? etc.).

After that, it’s a matter of comparing the quotes, and picking the one that seems most reasonable. Compare the “origin services” and “destination services” offered to see that they’re comparable (parking permits, crates for special items, etc.), and then pick your company.

We chose AMJ, simply because we knew people who had worked with them and were happy. Either company would have been fine, though.

A word on scheduling

Never, ever, EVER schedule your move for the same day you fly out.

Have I made that clear enough? Good. Here’s why: THINGS GO WRONG.

We were lucky; our movers were great. But we had friends who weren’t so lucky. They had scheduled their move for the same day they traveled, with packing and moving on the same day. It was a nightmare.

If not otherwise specified, ask that the movers come in one day for packing, and a second day for loading. Also, ask that yours be the first move of the day. That way, they’ll arrive early and finish early, leaving you time to do other things.

Some organizing tips

Make notes:

The movers are professionals, and they work FAST. They’ll make notes on the boxes, but you might want to make your own. If you can get in fast enough, make a note of which boxes contain the essential items you’ll want to unpack first when you arrive.

Move out before the movers arrive

I recommend booking a nearby hotel room once the packers have come in. They can leave your bed and some linens unpacked if you like, but you’ll probably be more comfortable in a hotel.

That also allows you to leave whatever suitcases you’ll be taking with you out of the way so they don’t get packed up.

We actually booked a hotel room for the night before, since they were arriving early in the morning and we needed to get the Bug set up with a baby sitter outside of the house. That leads me to another point:

Arrange daycare for children.

You’re going to need to focus on the movers, answering their questions, making notes on the boxes, etc. That’s why I recommend getting your kids out of your hair.

We were lucky enough to find a babysitter to stay with our Bug for two whole days while the movers did their magic. She even came in and babysat on our last evening in Montreal so we could enjoy a fabulous dinner at la Fabrique with friends!

Whether they’re at daycare, school, or with a babysitter, you don’t want to have to worry about keeping your kids out of the way of the movers.

This might sound easy, but…

Reading this, you may think, “Wow, it sounds like Jane really had things under control.”

There you’d be wrong.

For a couple of weeks leading up to the move, I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, always thinking of just one more thing to do.

They say that next to divorce and a death in the family, moving is the most stressful thing in a person’s life. That is entirely true. There’s always last-minute details to iron out, people to say good-bye to, and a suitcase that’s waaaaay over the weight limit.

We managed to pull it off in three weeks, and if we can do it, anyone can. Just organize yourselves as you do best (I am a notorious list maker), and know that sooner or later it will be over.

Once the container is sealed, things are out of your hands, and all you can do is look forward to the new phase in your life that is to come.

 

 

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Mamas: Stop Talking About Your Babies

It’s only natural; you’ve just had a baby. What else is there to talk about? Poopy diapers, how he sleeps, nursing, and just how ADORABLE he is when he smiles!

But mamas, you really need to stop talking about your babies. Here’s why:

Your babies are people whose privacy should be respected.

What? Not what you were expecting, right?? You thought I was going to tell you that you’re boring everyone, and no one wants to hear you talk about your baby, right? Well, perhaps. But there’s more to it.

Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE talking about my baby. I will talk about my baby with anyone who shows even a remote interest. My Bug (who really is no longer much of a bug) is, to me, the most amazing little person in the world, and given half the chance, I will talk your ear off about how awesome he is.

But the thing is, aside from that being kind of obnoxious for my listeners, it’s also kind of obnoxious for my child.

Here’s an example. A few months back, I kept commenting to acquaintances that my little guy wouldn’t nap during the day. It became my main kvetch: I couldn’t get anything done because he wouldn’t nap.

A few weeks later, when all that had changed completely (because, let’s face it, everything in babyland is a phase and is over quickly), I was out with a group of ladies (sans babies) and someone made a comment that struck me.

She said, following on a conversation about someone else’s baby, “Well, at least your kid sleeps during the day, unlike Jane’s baby, who is always awake and crying.”

My first instinct was to protest the falsehood of this statement, and defend my child. But then I realized that the only person who had given this woman that impression of my child, was me.

It was an unfair representation of my Bug (who is perfect in every way, obviously), and I had no one but myself to blame.

A Reformed Big Mouth

So what is the point? The point is that our babies are our family, and our family deserve our complete loyalty. And I would argue that loyalty includes discretion; not talking about our family members willy-nilly, or spilling all their secrets.

Remember, that even though your baby is currently a little blob of a person, unable to express him or herself articulately, he or she is still a person. Just like we know we shouldn’t bad-mouth our spouses to others, we shouldn’t discuss our babies’ every concern with all and sundry.

Your Discretion Will Earn Their Trust

Now I’m not saying you can’t share anecdotes or concerns, or perhaps swap advice or strategies with other parents. I’m just saying that after that experience, and a couple others like it, I’m going to try to be more discrete about what I say about my kiddo. I now ask myself, “Would I want someone sharing this information about me?” If the answer is no, then I zip up.

So mamas, remember: there is such a thing as over-sharing, but the concern isn’t so much boring your audience, but mortifying the person you’re sharing about. Some things should be kept private, and if we get into the habit now of guarding our family’s secrets and being discrete, our kids will grow up knowing that they can trust us to listen and not spill our beans to everyone.

And isn’t our kids’ trust worth everything?

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More Helpful Lessons from Parenthood

Earlier, I wrote about surviving the first weeks of motherhood. As I get the hang of this whole motherhood thing, I want to share with you a few more helpful lessons from parenthood.

Note: these are some things that have really worked for me. Of course, every family and baby is different. Let me know in the comments if you had other tricks/recommendations that really worked for you.

1. Choose your visitors carefully.

Even if you’re the most put-together, organized person, having good help when you have a baby is essential.

All visitors are not created equal, however. Try to surround yourself with helpful, useful people whose goal is to make your life as a new parent easier. If you can, ask them to pick up groceries, or help you with cooking or a load of laundry.

Limit visits from people who will expect to be entertained. If friends or family come over expecting a warm meal from you, they are sub-optimal postpartum guests. If you feel you must see these people, suggest a meeting outside of the home in a café or restaurant, and then do not invite them home for a coffee.

2. Rethink your priorities.

Are you picky about the bed being made or the house being super tidy? Well, get over that.

Parenthood does not necessarily mean that your life will become a disaster (I’m thinking of this comic from the Oatmeal–caution, strong language), but if you’re a neat freak, you may have to tone it down a bit.

At the beginning, you’re going to want to sleep when your baby sleeps. If that’s in the middle of the day, so be it. It’s tempting to take advantage of a nap to throw on a load of laundry or do some dishes. But if you are sleep-deprived, forget it. Ask someone to do it for you (see point 1).

Eventually, as things get more regular, and your baby sleeps better at night, you’ll be able to do more.

3. Get out of the house.

This one can be tough for some and essential for others. It was essential for me.

Our Bug needed to visit the hospital two days after he was born for a follow-up check, so in early January in Quebec, we bundled him into the ErgoBaby carrier and trekked over to the hospital.

I was super stressed out about whether he was breathing okay, if he was warm enough, etc. But once that first outing was over and it went so well, Chico and I made a point of going out on an almost daily basis.

Getting out of the house will help you in so many ways: it’s exercise, it’s a change of scenery, and it will likely knock your kid out for a nap. Sweet.

4. Make a bedtime routine.

I have no idea if Chico and I just lucked out, or if it’s because we started a bedtime routine from early on, but our Bug is a champion sleeper (knocking on wood like crazy here).

Starting at just a few weeks old, we got used to giving the Bug a nightly bath, and now it’s like a pavlovian response: his trigger is the bath, and his response is sleep. It’s amazing.

Bath time is also a great opportunity for Chico to bond with the Bug. Chico is the Bath Master, and he and the Bug have a blast splashing around in the tub, and then giving and getting a massage.

Little by little we are working on a daytime routine as well, in order to help Bug master the daytime naps. I’ll let you know how that goes.

5. Baby wearing is a lifesaver.

Some people swear by it, and others say it’s dangerous to get a baby used to it, but our Bug loves to be slung in the Moby wrap. Sometimes he falls asleep, sometimes he doesn’t, but he always loves it.

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Sorry about the poor photo quality, but here’s me wearing the Bug.

 

I read in “What to Expect the First Year” that baby wearing for a few hours a day can actually lead to a less fussy baby, and promotes bonding.

Eh, whatever. All I know is that our Bug loves it, and he has even nursed in the Moby wrap like a champ. When he’s fussing and I have things to get done, I sling that baby like a badass and carry him around while I fold laundry, do dishes and get dinner ready (just don’t go putting anything in the oven while you’re wearing your baby, okay?).

***

What lessons have you learned that made your life as a parent easier? Do tell in the comments!

 

Learning How to Breastfeed

In my last post about surviving the first few weeks of motherhood, I wrote that breastfeeding is hard.

I stand by that statement. Breastfeeding IS hard. It’s hard for you, and for your baby. Successful breastfeeding, though facilitated by your baby’s sucking instinct, is a matter of practice and patience. And in the end, it is totally worth it.

Here’s my story about learning how to breastfeed, which will hopefully prove helpful to other first-time moms getting started.

They Make It Look So Easy

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Real-life breastfeeding looks a lot more disheveled than this…

If you went to a prenatal class, you probably saw a bunch of videos about breastfeeding.

These videos show relaxed, happy mothers, with calm, happy babies, latching on like champs and sucking away with no problem. You see what a good latch looks like, and how to position your baby. It all looks so easy.

Well, it’s not.

Sometimes (especially at the beginning), your baby gets hungry and gets MAD. An angry baby makes for a rough time getting him on the breast. If he’s screaming and squirming, good luck getting that ideal latch.

Also, babies’ mouths are pretty tiny when they’re born. Sometimes (like in our little Bug’s case), they can’t open their mouths wide enough to get much of the breast and areola.

Positioning Is Key

Every baby-and-mother combo is unique. Depending on your (*ahem*) size, your baby’s size and preferences, you may find that one position is ideal, while another is a disaster. The key is to keep trying different things.

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Biological nurturing position

The traditional positions you hear about are cradle, cross-cradle, football and side-lying. But a couple others to look up that might work for you are the biological nurturing position, and saddle hold.

It’s worth it to give each a try, and more than once. Try each for a day at a time and see how your baby does. If you find that one seems to work better than any other, stick with it. But remember that variety is the spice of life, and changing things up every so often is good.

Our Bug was coughing and spluttering at the breast (hello powerful letdown! Oh, is that TMI?) and a breastfeeding consultant recommended the “biological nurturing” position (yeah, I had never heard of it either). This position helped avoid his getting an uncontrollable mouthful of milk, and ensured that he was, in fact, sucking correctly in order to get it.

Also, as your baby grows and matures, his preferences may change, and you may find yourself having to practice a new position.

If It’s Painful, Seek Help

Some people will tell you that pain during breastfeeding is par for the course. Well, yes, this may be true, especially in the beginning. But it is certainly not normal, and it is not necessary.

I didn’t think I was going to be able to stick with breastfeeding. Our Bug’s latch was so bad to begin with that he rubbed my nipples like crazy. Every time I went to feed him, it hurt, and I had horrible scabs on my nipples. Eventually they developed callouses, so they weren’t so raw, but breastfeeding was painful for several weeks.

What made it worse was that I seem to have an overly abundant supply, and as I mentioned before, my powerful letdown was making my poor Bug splutter and cough at the breast.

Had it not been for a helpful friend from my Stitch n’ Bitch group, or for the lactation consultant at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal, I might have ended up giving up.

There are tons of resources available, both online and in person, that can help you stick with it. If your heart is set on breastfeeding (like mine was), there are ways to make it work.

Look up a local lactation consultant. Use online resources like KellyMom.com or BabyCenter.com. Call a friend who has had a couple of kids.

You may find that they have helpful ideas. Or, like me, you may find that it’s just a matter of your baby’s mouth growing, and getting the hang of it.

Breastfeeding Gets Better

I’m happy to say that our little bug is feeding well and slowly morphing from frog stage to buddha-baby stage. But every single day I ask myself if things are going well, and if he’s doing okay.

It sounds ridiculous, especially because he’s gaining weight every day and growing before our very eyes. But with breastfeeding, you can’t know exactly how much he’s getting each time, and that can be hard for some.

And even once things are on track and going better, something can come along to throw things out of whack again. One day last week, my Bug didn’t want to eat on the left side. Then, a couple of days later, he wouldn’t take from the right.

Today, he’s been sucking away, only to suddenly turn his head and break himself off the breast. Then, he starts crying because he’s still hungry! Go figure.

You’re Doing Great

There are ups and downs, even when you think you’ve mastered breastfeeding. And that is because your baby is changing and growing every single day. Every day is different, as my mother has told me a million times.

The key is to have patience with yourself, and your baby, and to give yourself a break when you need to. Ask Dad to give the kid a bottle every so often (they say it’s a good idea) and relax a bit.

If your baby is peeing, pooping, growing and thriving, you’re doing just fine.

Pat yourself on the back. Have a glass of wine (after the kid is in bed). You deserve it.

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Cheers!

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Surviving the First Weeks of Motherhood

 

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Hello! I’m back!

Lots of things happened recently. The holidays happened, then my web hosting provider informed me that I had exceeded my database limit for my website (whaaaaaat?), so I couldn’t log in, then I had a baby, and then I got a little busy.

A baby? Yes! I had a baby! My last post was about the agony of waiting around for a baby to be born. This post is about surviving the first weeks of motherhood after that baby finally arrives.

HOORAY! We finally get to meet him!

…Now what?

You’ll get lots of contradictory advice.

Even if you’ve read all the baby books, you’ll still be totally clueless when your first kid arrives. Why? Because no book in the world can tell you about YOUR child. Now it’s time to get to know him!

If you’re in a hospital setting, you’ll get lots of advice from nurses and doctors. Sometimes, that advice might even seem contradictory. Once you’re on the post-natal ward, the confusion starts.

Our morning nurse told us categorically to NEVER swaddle our baby, and to ONLY treat sore nipples with breast milk.

Our evening nurse, on the other hand, gave us a lesson in swaddling the Bug, and even set up a little nest for him in the bed next to me (which horrified the morning nurse when she came in the next day). She also recommended lanolin cream for sore nipples.

The afternoon nurse said Bug was latching on perfectly, while the morning nurse said he had a tongue-tie (turns out he does) and we should use a pacifier.

“Wake the baby up to feed him every two hours!”

“Never wake a sleeping baby!”

“Put mitts over his hands so he doesn’t scratch himself.”

“Don’t cover his hands with mitts or he won’t be able to comfort himself.”

It’s enough to make you go mad!

What is right and what is wrong?

While there can very definitely be a wrong when it comes to taking care of your baby (i.e. neglecting the poor thing), there is no one right way of doing things.

“Right” is going to depend on what works for you and your baby.

Take any advice you get into consideration (or totally disregard it, especially when it is unsolicited and obnoxious), and decide for yourself what works for you. You may have never thought of one technique that someone suggests, and it could prove helpful to try it out. Just try things on for size. You’ll soon learn what works and what doesn’t.

Also, take any categorial advice (the NEVERs and the ALWAYSs and the YOU MUSTs) with a grain of salt. Excepting, of course, the big ones like, “Never shake a baby,” and, “You must feed your baby.”

We were told, for instance, to always wait an hour after feeding before giving the Bug a bath. But just after his meal is when he’s most amenable to bathing! So to heck with that one hour wait. Our Bug eats and then bathes, and he loves it.

The first night home is terrifying.

Though the advice and instructions you get at the hospital can sometimes be confusing, at least you’re in the care of professionals, right?

Well, when you get home, it’s just you two and your baby. Holy. Crap. It’s scary.

Suddenly, you realize that you guys are on your own and that you’re responsible for this tiny little human being. And what’s more, you have NO IDEA WHAT TO DO.

Do what I did: Call a friend in tears and ask for advice.

This is when it’s super helpful/important to have friends or family who have been through this and can listen to you and comfort you.

If you don’t know someone who’s been in your situation you can call, look up a local mommy group. Chico and I took our Bug to a breastfeeding meet-up when he was just one week old. That really helped me, especially to encounter other mothers in the same boat as me.

And if you’re freaking out about anything, just remember:

There is no normal.

Well, let me rephrase: There is such a wide range of what makes a baby “normal” that nothing seems normal.

We were told to feed our Bug at least 8 to 12 times a day. Well, he usually eats 6 to 8 times a day (occasionally he’ll have a big day where he eats 9 times).

For three weeks, this fact stressed me out. I constantly checked the time to figure out how long it had been since his last feed, and I continued to wake him up to feed him.

That is, until we realized he was gaining almost 50g per day (they aim for a 20-30g/day average weight gain). Apparently, our Bug doesn’t eat very frequently, but when he does he gets the job done effectively!

Again, this is a question of figuring out what works for you. If your baby is having issues gaining weight, that’s another story. You should discuss with your pediatrician.

But if your baby is gaining weight, peeing, pooping and eating well, then relax. You’re doing just fine.

Breastfeeding is hard.

The videos they show you in the prenatal classes make it look sooooooo easy, right? Baby will obligingly open his mouth wide and latch on well and OM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

I hate to break it to you, but that doesn’t always happen.

It can be for any number of reasons. Our Bug has a posterior tongue tie that makes his latch less than optimal. That’s made for some pretty sore nipples on my part, and a fair number of tearful feedings. (We’ve decided to cut his tongue tie on Monday. I will probably weep.)

But even if your baby doesn’t have a specific problem making breastfeeding tricky, it’s still a skill that both mother and baby need to learn, and it takes practice.

My only advice is this:

Be patient. Both with yourself, and with your baby.

If you really want to breastfeed, seek help from a lactation consultant, or a breastfeeding “godmother.” They’ll be able to give you advice and techniques to help you succeed.

If it doesn’t work, though, don’t think of it as a failure. Give it a go for as long as you can stand, but if you and your baby aren’t bonding over feeding time, then it’s time to consider a new option.

I’m still working on this one, so I’ll keep you posted as things progress.

That’s all for now.

I’ve touched on a lot of stuff in this post, and I think I’ll write more on each individual topic in other articles (especially the breastfeeding).

I thought it might help other new parents to know that tears, frustration and fears are perfectly normal. But so are joy, delight, and an almost overwhelming love for this new little person.

Our Bug is the light of our lives, and though we’ve had ups and downs, we wouldn’t go back or change anything for the world.

Despite all his little imperfections, he is absolutely perfect.