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Babywise

8 Weeks In

I can hardly believe it’s been 8 weeks since I gave birth to our son, Micah-John.  He is such a lovely little baby and very cuddly which is always nice. I am reminded of all the emotions and craziness that comes with recovery from birth and having a new baby in the house and thought I might talk a little about that today.

Let’s talk about Mommy first and then we will head onto baby! Mommy you are amazing! Seriously! You have done an amazing thing whether you had medical assistance (ie epidurals) or gave birth on your bedroom floor.  For most of us the role of Supermom is familiar at some point; we are trying to manage the kids, cooking meals, keep a house clean, work, etc. Having said that Supermom needs to dial it back and recover for the first 2 weeks at least. Your body has been through trauma and it needs to heal so be nice to it! Sleep when you need to, keep your feet up, drink lots of water, rest, let people come to you if you want company. If people offer to help, let them! If you take care of baby and concentrate on taking care of yourself you will thank yourself later. For the first few weeks you will likely feel exhausted and emotional due to lack of sleep and hormones flooding your system.  As you get a few weeks into nursing your hormones will start to settle. The first week really is the hardest and each subsequent week gets a little easier. By the time you get to 4-6 weeks you are usually in a pretty good rhythm and if you are doing babywise by week 8-10 they are sleeping 8-10 hours at night and you feel like a human being again.

Tips to help in the first 6 weeks:

  1. Nursing is a skill and it’s one you learn. Very few babies just latch on and away you go like they show you in the movies. My advice is make use of the lactation consultants while in hospital, or midwives to help you and baby learn this new skill.  It can be painful at first but if you are getting a good latch the pain fades quickly and again by about 10 days in it’s not very painful at all. 
  2. Enjoy all the firsts! Since MJ is our last baby I have especially determined in my heart to enjoy each moment even if its in the middle of the night and I’m exhausted.  I saw his first big smile during a 4 am feed and it melted my heart. Now I’m not saying I love being sleep deprived but I do things to help me get up and stay awake and I’m trying to enjoy each moment. Having said that I still sometimes fall asleep while feeding and am afraid I might head butt my son before I wake up:-) 

What do I do to help myself with the night feeds? Especially the first 6 weeks when it feels like you just got to sleep and now you are up again? I tend to portion out little snacks for myself for each night time feed and make sure there is plenty of water within reach. Since MJ was born close to christmas I would have a little snack of dark chocolate and a clementine ready for each feed.  In addition I pick a new TV show on Hulu or Netflix and watch it only at night during the feeds so there is something else to concentrate on rather than the time and the fact that I am awake!

  1. Plan things to look forward to during the waking hours like a nice coffee date (Decaf:-) with a friend, a favorite food, a little shopping date etc. I spent the first 2 weeks basically in pajamas and rested tons but after those first weeks I found it helped my state of mind to shower and at least get dressed even if I didn’t plan to go anywhere just so the days and nights don’t bleed together.
  2. Give yourself loads of grace. Like loads and loads of grace. And ask questions! If there are moms around that are wise and have parenting styles that you want to emulate then ask them if you can text or call when you have questions.  They say it takes a village to raise children and there is truth to that! Let the wise ones around you help and encourage you. 

Ok Let’s talk about baby...

You are no doubt in love with this tiny little person. Part of you wants to hold them every minute and cover them in kisses and that is completely understandable and normal.  The thing is if you do hold them every minute they never learn to sleep on their own and you will pay the price later on.  I cannot recommend highly enough reading and following babywise. Don’t do your own modified version (I haven’t seen that work) Just do what they tell you to do. If you follow what they tell you to do it will work.  In addition you end up down the road with kids that are easy to put to bed, pleasant to be around and kids that people want to babysit.  You will be able to plan your days because you know when feeds, naps and play time happen. 

I will post on this site a cheat sheet for Babywise to help you stay on track and for quick reference. I still recommend reading it at least twice before your baby comes if it’s your first and then I do a “recap” read between each baby.

For the first 3 weeks just concentrate on getting good feedings going. You are aiming for at least 20 minutes per side. Try for 2.5 to 3 hours between feeds and try not to assume that because baby is crying after an hour and a half that the issue is hunger.  In the NICU they have all the babies on a 3 hour schedule. (Well at least the 2 NICU’s my babies have been in because of being premie) If premies can do a three hour schedule so can your baby! They are rare feeds when all of my babies “shorted me” on the feed because they were just extra hungry or hadn’t fed as well as they could on the previous feed but it’s not a regular occurrence.  If my baby is legitimately hungry and is not just struggling with a burp or has been awakened by noise then I feed them but I still try not to go below 2.5 hours to avoid colic.  Again if you read babywise you will see that adding new milk on top of old milk (which is still processing) is a huge contributor to colic as it creates gas. 

Tips for the first 6 weeks:

  1. Babies cry. They are supposed to and even need to to strengthen their lungs.  Now I am not saying I love to hear them cry at all, It’s incredibly hard on the heart. My point is that just because your baby cries doesn’t make you a bad parent. Crying will not hurt your baby or his/her psyche.  Babies cry for a number of reasons; gas, burps, wet diapers, overheating, noise, or just because they are babies! 
  2. Babies like to suck on things, it doesn’t mean they need food.  Babies comfort by sucking. Just because they are making a sucking face (or hungry mouth as I call it) doesn’t mean they need food.  That’s where the schedule comes in handy because it help you assess if this sucking face is due to hunger or because they just like to! Babies also make the sucking face if they have burp they need to get out. The challenge is to learn your baby and what his faces and body language is saying and that takes a few weeks. I know that sucking face feels like it needs a response but I highly advise not getting in the habit of using pacifiers. The reason for this is explained in babywise more thoroughly but basically anything you teach them to need to be able to settle or sleep means something you have to have with you all the time and they always need to sleep. So you end up with a baby who needs a pacifier to sleep, but when the baby falls asleep and it falls out the baby wakes up and cries until it is replaced, and you get to reenact this horrible 10 minute replacement dance all night! I have 2 pacifiers that I use only in situations like being in a car and trying to get home to nurse when baby wakes and starts crying so to comfort and hold him over until I get home I *might* use a pacifier.

Remember to be kind to yourself! You really are doing well.

What else do I need?

avignon-inuse-138px.jpg

Well you likely want one of these! Especially if you will be breastfeeding and plan on leaving the house! This lovely thing is called a hooter hider! No, I am not joking that is really what it is called.  I didn’t have one of these with Abi and as Abi was an active nurser (liked pulling of the burp clothes I had cleverly wedged under my bra strap to provide some privacy) I often found myself more exposed than I might have liked! When I had Tia someone lent me a hooter hider and embarrassment free public nursing ensued! I’ll attach a link below but the website has all kinds of colors and patterns and also hosts another brand of nursing covers.  As long as the nursing cover has the boning across the top it’s useful. It enables you to be able to see the baby, help it latch, know if it’s sleeping and make eye contact all the while maintaining modesty.  I happily nursed Tia on the front row at church with one of these covers with no problems!

http://www.bebeaulait.com/products/hooter-hiders-nursing-covers/avignon

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What about wipe warmers? Do you need one? Ummm.... NO! They are a gimmick and tend to just dry out your perfectly useful wipes and make them useless.  In addition, I bank on the changing of the bum and the coolness of the wipe to wake the baby enough to feed. If you loose that little bit of cold discomfort that wakes the little one up enough to feed, then you have to take more drastic measures which never feels kind.  Having said that, if the baby is due to feed you may have to do tricky things to maintain motivation to stay awake and feed like cold wash cloths on the feet and head and such! I know it sounds horrible but especially for the first few weeks they are not always as motivated to eat as the are to sleep.

What about Pacifiers? Well if you read Babywise they would have you not start to use them or you will need to keep using them.  That means for some babies when they fall out that the baby wakes and screams which makes it much more difficult to establish and good sleeping pattern early.  I usually had one or two around and typically I only used them in emergency situations like when you are driving, still need the baby to wait 10 minutes until you get to where you can nurse and want to help him/her stay calm and comforted rather than cry.  I didn’t use them for naps or the night sleeping sets and I also never had to get up in a groggy stupor (which is me at any time during the night) and try and replace the little thing! Bother of my girls “found their thumbs” early because they didn’t have something else to use. This meant when they did wake and wanted to suck something to go back to sleep I didn’t have to be part of that scenario and often they do it without even fully waking up.  Granted it might be harder to get them off of sucking their thumbs or fingers than removing a soother but from what I’ve heard it can be easy or hard either way.  For Abi the dentist told her at 3.5 years old that she needed to work at stopping sucking her fingers. He suggested she only suck them at night when she went to bed and that at 4 years old would be a good time to fully stop. She took the dentist seriously and at 4 he said he thought it was time to stop completely. At the same time I told Abi that when it had been a whole week of not sucking her fingers then we would start painting her finger nails in pretty colors. Well that did it and she stopped that night. Now perhaps bribery and corruption with nail polish promises isn’t your thing but al that to say it wasn’t difficult but I have a sneaking suspicion that Tia might be slightly tricker to convince! Ok sorry rant over! I like the Avent soothers or pacifiers (same thing) they have a cover that keeps them from getting dirty in your bag.  They are BPA free and sized by month so you can fit it to your wee ones face! 

Well that’s the end of my thoughts for tonight! Our son is kicking so hard that I think he might be launching some sort of escape plan. So I think I will get to bed and give him some extra room to move around. 32 weeks and growing....

Breast Feeding

Let’s talk about breasts shall we? Am I a breastfeeding fan? Yes, I really am. I would say for a number of reasons, that we will look at, that breastfeeding is the best choice for Mom and baby.  What was interesting for me is all the ideas that I had about it before I had Abi. I mean I really had no idea what to expect. From watching movies or seeing mom’s breastfeed that are more practiced I just thought it would be easy. That I would just know what to do and that Abi would. Well I have since discovered that there is a reason that there is an entire profession revolving around learning to breast feed! These wonderful angels of hope are called lactation consultants and there is a reason they exist.  God did absolutely make your body to be able to breast feed, and certainly some mom’s have babies that just take to breast right away and feed wonderfully from the beginning, but other’s of us get to press through a little. 

I had been told that breast feeding, and pumping, can be painful.  That after a few weeks I would feel much better.  The thing is that’s true but uncomfortable and extremely painful are to different things! But I didn’t know that, so when things were hurting (particularly the pump) I just thought that was normal and had no idea I was actually damaging my breasts. It was hurting, like really hurting so I thought I was doing something right!  When Abigail was born premature by nearly 6 weeks she was not able to breast feed to begin with. She was in an oxygen dome for the first several days and then moved to an incubator as her oxygen levels improved.  As a result she was being fed through a tube into her nose for the first 10 days before we could even start trying to breastfeed.  So during that time I was pumping to make sure she got the colostrum and breast milk instead of formula as the nutritional value of breast milk cannot be matched.  So there I am sitting day after day in the NICU watching sweet Abi in an incubator and pumping through the pain every three hours.  The day before we were about the start breast feeding in the NICU a nurse was checking up on me and I mentioned that it was really hurting to pump.  I told her I knew it was supposed to hurt but I wasn’t sure how much. She looked at my breasts and realized I had blistered and damaged my nipples and that we needed to switch pumps and get some ointment.  It was fixed in a day or two (and we began bottle feedings her the pumped milk) and then I was able to start breast feeding sweet Abi. Because she was premie and her suck was weak it took some work to get it down but I was determined. Abi preferred the bottle as the milk was easier to get out so for a few days she fought the breast but then she realized this was her only option and she started doing much better. I breast fed every feed but also pumped off the extra until I was comfortable on the first morning feed each day. Having said that I do produce an enormous amount of milk!

So then with Tia I had problems as well.  Tia was premie too, but only by 3.5 weeks, and this time I knew how to latch but again I didn’t notice that I had managed to damage my nipples with a pump before I got to take her home.  For those of you that are getting worried about pumps I have posted a good one in the blog marked “A few of my favorite things...” and I will tell you in this post how to avoid my mistakes! I have every confidence that with what I know now I will not have these issues again.  So back to Tia ... I went home from NICU and Tia stayed for a few days.  I went in first thing in the morning and stayed into the evening and fed her every three hors but then pumped when I was at home so there was food for her during the night.  It was during those pumping times that I actually managed to tare my nipples (on the underside where I couldn’t see the damage).  So fast forward to two days after we get Tia home and I’m in so much pain while feeding that I almost pass out and I am bawling my eyes out.  When Alyn came in the room and saw that I was crying, white as a sheet, and punching the bed next to me to get through the feed he booked me to see a doctor.  We were going to the children’s clinic anyway that morning and so we mentioned it to that doctor that I was in extreme pain and was needing to see a lactation consultant.  The Dr then said I was likely not latching well and was suffering from postpartum depression.  I explained the tears were from pain, not depression, and I did know how to latch and I didn’t think that was the problem. We went back and forth and he called the consultant to book an appointment for later that day and finished the conversation by trying to prescribe me meds and telling me that once I learned to latch the baby I would be fine. I was so frustrated!!! In the afternoon I had my first appointment with their lactation consultant named Robyn. When we got in the little room Alyn was holding Tia (who was hungry and waiting to feed) and Robyn asked what was happening. I told her and she asked to see my nipples (how many times can I say nipples in one post?). When she looked at me she said we would not be breastfeeding for a few weeks, wrote me a prescription for a special cream, sent me home with their Medela pump, the correct size of breast shield and specific instructions for healing.  Apparently I had managed to rip one nipple half off and the other three quarters of the way around. She feared if I nursed again the worst one would actually come off.

Now my experiences were extreme! I have’t heard of others that have done the kind of damage I did so please don’t worry.  The only reason I am telling you all of that is to say both times I recovered, the girls learned to feed well, and we fed for a year each with no problems and it was really awesome.  If you do have a rough start, or need help to begin with from a lactation consultant, don’t get discouraged that just makes you normal! 

Here are some tips I wish I knew the last 2 times! With pumps I would only recommend the Medela just because of the bad experiences with some other pumps. They do not have a seem in their breast shield (the part that fits against the nipple) and that seem is what tore me.  In addition to using a good pump don’t pump on to high a speed but actually build up to what you can handle.  If it hurts, not just a little uncomfortable but actually hurts then you are using it on too high a speed. Each time you use an electric pump rub a little coconut oil or olive oil on the inside of the breast shield especially where it goes from being wide and flat to tube like. That will stop any damage to your nipple by eliminating friction. If you do those things you should never have an damage! Coconut work is also antibacterial and anti-fungal so it stops potential infection and is totally safe if some gets in the breast milk.

As far as the health benefits of breast feeding there is a known correlation between a decreased risk of breast cancer and breastfeeding moms. In addition I read a report a few years ago about the decreased risk of Cancer in breastfed kids. (i’m still trying to find where I read that so I will post when I do).

Please read this article by Dr Josh Axe on what is in breast milk and it’s nutritional benefits.

http://www.draxe.com/breastmilk-original-fast-food/

In addition to what Dr Josh has written there are other useful things you can do with breast milk!  (breast milk shakes, ice cream... totally kidding of course!) Because breast milk has it’s own antibiotic properties thanks to God’s design it can clear up infection. Abi had an eye infection in the first few weeks of life and my midwife said to “squeeze” breast milk into it and let it sit for a bit. I did this a few times a day for 2 days and the infection was completely gone. It can also be sponged onto scratches or diaper rash to clear things up! Breast milk is amazing stuff and is totally God designed! I loved breast feeding both girls, I loved the bonding and the eye contact while we shared time only we had together.  I’m excited to do it again with the wisdom I now have (and you have now) and am looking forward to bonding with my son!

On Becoming Babywise

When we were expecting Abigail I started paying attention to the kids of my friends and family and how things seemed to be going for them.  I found the moms who seemed to enjoy being a mom were less stressed, their kids were a pleasure to be around, and life just seemed more at peace for them. When I asked them for mommying advice, without fail, every single mom said "Babywise! Read it and do it." So I did. I read it, followed it, and it worked great for us.  Now, having said that, Alyn and I are both left-brained, scheduled types so it really appealed to us. We asked the grandparents to read it so they understood what we were trying to achieve when they visited and we stuck to it like glue.  For us, it worked great! We travelled the world with Abi and with Tia (to a lesser extent) and were able to easily switch them into new time zones with sometimes more than a 12 hour difference. 

My advice is to read the book through at least twice before they baby arrives and then download the cheat sheets I have posted on this site to help with quick reference.  The reason I say read it at least twice is because for any new adventure that is going to make your whole world different it's wise to know what you are trying to do and why.  That's why it's so important that, in the tough moments of parenting (and there will be some)  you don't loose focus or give up. You and your spouse both need to do this and agree to do it because, that way, you can support one another in moments of weakness and you are headed in a direction together with knowledge of the goal and the prize.

As with any book or program there are contrary opinions on what is good for a baby and what program is the best. I have observed many people who were into demand feeding and Dr Sears but it just didn't appeal to me, and many (not all) of the families I observed doing demand feeding seemed to struggle a lot more than the Babywise families and got a lot less sleep! Did I mention I both like to sleep and need it?  My cousin's four girls began sleeping through the night (7-8 hours) by 7-9 weeks. My girls were both premature (one by 5.5 weeks and one just under 4) and they managed to start the longer sleeps of 7 to 8 hours by 9 weeks.

My girls are now 5 and 3 years old. We can take them anywhere, to any restaurant, and not worry abut bad behavior.  They are both very cuddly, well adjusted, know they are loved, and rarely fight.  I honestly think a lot of it came from starting them off with Babywise.  Babywise babies never learn to run the home, they are part of a family.  They don't dictate the schedule or cry to get their own way because that behavior is never rewarded. When you do Babywise and read the book  thoroughly you learn the difference between a hungry cry, a tired cry, a frustrated cry or just a cry because babies cry! (They are supposed to cry incidentally... it's how God designed their lungs to strengthen!) I have also never seen a Babywise baby that ever had colic which in itself is enough of a reason to do it! So, yes, I am obviously a big fan and yes we will be doing Babywise with our son.