New Mommy Disease

Today, a guest post from Uncle L – his words of wisdom for the family and support structure for new mommies. Enjoy!  OLM

New mommies brains leak out their ears – example:

I had to threaten to take her child to get her to shower.   Really.  Mothers of newborns are exhausted and irrational.  This is not a failing or a weakness.  This is a fact of life and human nature.  Start by squeezing something the size of a watermelon out of an opening the size of a lemon, OR getting gutted like a fish, if that’s your choice, then sleep maybe 4 hours out of every 24, and that in 20 minute increments, and see how well YOU do.

It’s even worse for first time mothers.  No confidence at all.  Women who can facilitate a meeting between the Socialists of America and the John Birch Society or plan the invasion of a small country are going to approach first time mom-ing with all the aplomb and savoir-faire of a pubescent boy trying for his first kiss; that is to say, none at all.

So what’s the reaction:  to convince herself that she must do absolutely everything with her own two hands (and boobs) and that any consideration of her own needs is selfish and to be pushed aside.  Stir in the “my milk isn’t coming in” trauma and sprinkle on just a hint of post-partum depression, and you’ve got a recipe for pretty severe personal neglect.

Somewhere around day four or five, I leaned over to kiss her goodbye and got a whiff.  So I sniffed again.  After all, it could have been me.

“Sweetie, when did you last shower?”

“Um, I don’t remember.”

“Was it before, or after you went to the hospital?”

“Oh – at.”

“Today you should take a shower.”

<Insert plethora of excuses here . . .>

“Ok – I’ll put it this way.  If I come back tomorrow and you have not showered, I’m going to pack a diaper bag and a six-pack of formula, and take your baby away.  I will not return her until you have showered.”

<Insert quiet, exhausted splutters of outrage and vague threats here>

“At the moment, you are not fit to care for WCB.  She’s completely dependent on you, and you are clearly making bad decisions.  Her best interested are not going to be served by an exhausted, in pain-filled stinky mommy.  Besides, you always feel better after you’ve showered.  Daddy –O and Daddy-N will help me, and you know it.  So make some time to shower in the next 24 hours and such ugly scenes will not come to pass.”

<Insert small smile under incredibly baggy eyes here.>

When I got there the next evening and asked, she told me she had showered. 

So I sniffed, because while she is generally honest to a fault, OLM can lie like a Louisiana politician when she thinks it’s in good cause.

The moral of this story is, new mommies, at least first timers may not take care of themselves.  You, as part of the support team, have to help them do so. 

Oh, you can also threaten to just wait until they pass out and then spray them with the garden hose.

 

Jeez, folks, it’s just Formula!

Is it me, or are there a lot of women out there much more defensive and ‘intense’ about breastfeeding than I am?  I was checking out all the links in this post from Mother Knows Breast, and thought, yet again, *man* these folks are WAY serious about this.

When I was trying to get pregnant, I considered the idea of breastfeeding rather idly.  I admit to a Scarlett O’Hara take on major decisions (“Ah’ll think ahbout thaht tahmarrah.”) and as far as I was concerned, I didn’t need to learn about breastfeeding until I was actually pregnant. My take was – if I never got pregnant, then I wouldn’t have wasted my time preparing for something that would never happen.  I was leaning towards it ‘tho – what little I had read seemed to indicate that it was best for the baby.

Then I got pregnant, and I realized I would have to make a decision.  So I did what I always do – I researched it on the web, read a couple books, talked to a few folks, and based on what I read, I decided to *try* to breastfeed.  The reasons that convinced me were:

  • It had significant health benefits for the baby
  • It had significant “bonding” benefits for the baby (and mom)
  • It was cheaper (oh yea, I *am* a serious penny pincher)
  • and – hey cool, there are benefits for me too.

I noted, however, that lots of folks, my own mother included, reported issues, problems, unhappiness with breastfeeding. So my PLAN was to give breastfeeding a *serious* try.  Goal #1 was *at all.*  Goal #2 was at least 3 months (the time I expected to be out of work/half/time). Goal #3 was 6 months and then we’ll re-evaluate and go from there.

To prepare I read more books and web pages, and looked up the #s for the La Leche groups in town. I took a class (with Daddy-O) in my 8th month. I researched breast pumps. I spoke to my Obstetrician, GP, and WCB’s pediatrician.  And I researched formulas. 

Yep – I committed a cardinal sin according to most of the “breastfeeding mom” blogs. I *planned* to use formula as a backup in case I gave up/it didn’t work.  I even asked for samples from the hospital before I left (they didn’t offer).  Over and over all the ‘pro-breastfeeding’ materials I read seemed to imply that having formula in the house would somehow taint the baby, or make me a bad mommy.*

Luckily, the other more general books I read presented a more moderate approach.  They counseled that either method was fine – baby would grow and develop and be healthy either way – but they did encourage moms to at least *try,* pointing out all the research-based benefits.  As I am an ‘overplanner,’ I wanted to have an option on hand if it just didn’t seem to be working.  The last thing I wanted to do was hold a screaming hungry child while dad went to the store and tried to choose formula.

And my child had formula on her 3rd day.  And she didn’t explode. 

She was a large child – 9 1/2 lbs, and, likely due to my cesarean, my milk was late in coming in.  By the middle of the 3rd day she was screaming, “I want *food* dang it – colostrum simply isn’t cutting it, mom!”  As this was at like 2am, and she had been latching on and then letting go screaming over and over for more than almost an hour, I was frantic.  Feeling like a failure, I tried some of the sample formula.  And she ate it, and was satisfied.  Feeling relieved but guilty, I was able to get through the night, and breastfeeding went OK in the am.  The next day, her pediatrician flatly instructed me to do what I was already doing – supplement with formula. WCB’s weight had dropped alarmingly (almost a pound and a half in 4 days). On day 5 my milk came in, and I stopped giving her formula on day 6.  On day 7 she was back up to 9 pounds and I cheered. Overall, she drank no more than 2 oz per day for 3 days in her first week. 

There was, as far as I could tell, no effect on her ability to breastfeed (which had many challenges – believe me). In fact, within a couple of weeks, she flatly refused to take breast milk, much less formula, from a bottle.  On top of this, I was really struggling to produce much at all with the pump.  As I wanted to return to work, this did pose problems.  We struggled with it for most of month 2 and 3, with WCB finally resigning herself, unwillingly, to bottled breast milk just in time to go to daycare.  As I continued to pump just barely enough for the next day’s daycare feedings, I tried formula off and on over the next few months. Roughly no more than 4 oz per month were accepted (she *knew* what she wanted, and it was NOT this).

I must admit, if she had been at ALL willing to accept a bottle of formula, I might have given up at the end of month #1 when my (admittedly mild) post-partum depression hit.  In fact, much of the depression thinking revolved around “I can’t pump much, and she won’t take a bottle, and she won’t eat formula, what am I going to do, how am I going to go back to work?!” (She also wouldn’t sleep, but that’s a whole other post.)  And I felt guilty about *wanting* to feed her formula – in part because of the *intensity* of the pro-breastfeeding materials I read.  Surely these folks don’t want moms to be breastfeeding out of guilt! Eventually, in month 6, she begain drinking formula without much complaint.  This was a great relief to me, as I was ready to start weaning.

Anyway, if you want to breastfeed – do so.  If it scares or weirds the bejesus out of you, or there is a medical reason, or if it simply does not fit your lifestyle, then don’t.  I’d advise everyone who is considering it, to TRY it.  Seriously give it a really good try – with your eyes wide open and knowing that it is HARDER than formula. More painful, more inconvenient, more emotionally taxing, and more responsibility piled all on you than feeding with formula. It is significantly more work and challenge if you plan to return to your job while still breastfeeding.

Some ladies really like it.  In truth, the only reasons I keep doing it are because it is cheaper,  good for her, and, well, now a habit.  Ok, and a little bit of guilt – I don’t want to ‘deprive’ her of what she is used to all at once.  We are progressing pretty well at weaning, and I hope to have her entirely on formula by the end of her 9th month.  The concept of breastfeeding for a year or more – NOT for me.

But formula is definitely more expensive.  WOW – like $100 or more a month.  I can’t wait until her birthday when we will celebrate with a sample of cows milk. 
[NO, I am NOT a bad mother – shut up! Shut up! – MAN, the cricket in my head just never stops!]

* Which, by the way is why I never called the La Leche folks – they just seemed to intense for me. I really didn’t want any more guilt than I had already created for myself, and didn’t want to take the chance that they would heap on more by being shocked and appalled that I considered and fed my child formula.

Basic needs for newborns

I had a very hard time weeding through all the “lists” of what you need for the new baby’s “layette.”  Here, now based on experience, is  what *I* think you will need for a baby born in the midsouth in October:

 

          A half dozen or more “nightgowns” with mitten sleeves for the first month.  They have to wear something loose that “breathes” until the unbilical drops off, and the “mittens” make it easier to keep hands warm and scratches to a minimum.  You can also use “t-shirts” – but they don’t have mittens, you need to then find “newborn pants” or keep them swaddled all the time. I found this to be too cool/cold for indoors (the A/C made her hands and feet cold).

          Twice as many pairs of socks as nightgowns.  They will get eaten by the washing machine, the bedcothes and, evidently, air.  They will keep her feet warm and, more importantly, you from worrying.  Get the kind that look LONG and pull them up to the knees, otherwise they will be wiggled off by the time you turn around.

          A dozen plain cotton diapers – as burp cloths.  The cute peanut shaped burp cloths they sell just aren’t as good for “all purpose” wiping, and don’t cover anywhere near enough of your shoulder or back. Babies can spit up ALL down your back.

          ONE package size one diapers. I do not recommend cloth diapers as diapers for newborns.  Really – you don’t need to deal with this as well as a new baby. Experiment with cloth diapers LATER, after you have got a handle on changing, feeding, & sleeping basics. Disposables – Don’t buy a lot of size one disposable diapers.  If your child is 8lbs or more, you may use them for less than a month. Get folks to buy you size 2 and 3 – you’ll be sure to use way more of these. We used the local grocery store’s generic – they worked fine.

          A half dozen or more *large* thin receiving blankets.  Get an experienced nurse to teach you how to “swaddle” – it is an art, and is easier with a larger blanket (or smaller baby). Practice a LOT – all parents. (Neither dad could really swaddle well and I had to re-swaddle all the time).

          4-6 baby towels and washcloths – be sure to get the towels with the little head pockets.  One bottle of Johnson’s baby wash (head and body) will do for all baths in the first 2-3 months.  Avoid baby bathrobes.  By the time you get their arms in the sleeves – the baby is howling and already dry.

          A half dozen or so sets of “footie pajamas” – for the 2nd month (or after the umbilical drops off)  I found these to be good all purpose clothes – kept all parts warm, easy into and out of for changing.  NOTE – onesies and t-shirts and nightgowns are great, but when “poopy” still have to be removed over the head.  Footie pajamas do not.

      Minimal skin care products: All the reading I have done says that baby powder and lotion are a crock – and can even be harmful. Mostly, baby’s skin will break out at random and heal itself without any assistance. You want something like Eucerin (plus intensive repair) for lotion on the occasions baby needs it (rare for WCB), Balmex for general diaper area redness, and some TOPICAL miconazole nitrate 2% (the topical cream for yeast infections) for the really bad bumpy rashes.*  The Eucerine will come in handy for *your* hands as well – you will be washing them ALL the time. The thicker the lotion the better – less bad things in it for your baby.

          A few small bibs to start. You will likely need more in the 1st months if you are bottle feeding than if youare breastfeeding. I used them rarely in the first 2 months. But around the end of month 3, WCB started pouring drool – which is when we needed like 3-4 good absorbent bibs a day. The really big bibs are “eating” bibs.  You’ll not need those until you are feeding solid foods.

          2-3 hats with brims – essentially sunhats to allow you to take baby outside without getting sun in his/her eyes.  You will also want a sweater or 2, or a warm suit for later (like December). We had a “hoodie” that was WCB’s all purpose jacket for months 2-6.

 

 

Everything else is really an extra – and sometimes an annoying or exhausting extra. “Fancy” clothes are cute for special outings, portraits, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really, folks should spend their money for you on diapers, formula, or giftcards to your preferred baby supply store/web site.   

 

* My Pediatrician said to use a thin layer for 5-7 days. Honest – really, he did. yes I know it is designed for adults and that there are “prescription baby creams” available.  It worked, each of the 3 times we’ve used it.  Use it for 1-2 days after the bumps go away or it will come right back. (5-10-20100) Later note – we’ve now used this regularly over WCB/WST’s life so far and it has WORKED with no harmful side effects.)

From the US National Institute of Health

Older Mothers More Likely Than Younger Mothers To Deliver By Cesarean

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have found that older mothers with normal, full-term pregnancies — particularly first-time older mothers — were more likely to undergo Caesarean delivery than were younger women with similarly low-risk pregnancies.  Read more: http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/mar2007/nichd-08.htm

I am an Older mom – and I delivered by Cesarean because I had 18 hours of labor with only slow progress for the first 12 and no progress in the last 6.  Turns out the World’s Cutest Baby was over 9 lbs AND facing upwards.  No way that baby was coming out normally without endangering ONE or both of us.  The operation was *frighteningly* quick and smooth.  Auntie got to watch it all and reminds me on occasion “I got to see your guts!”  I was shivering uncontrollably at the time and just happy all went well.  Silver lining?  WCB had none of the visible “squishing” effects like a pointy head or reddened face.  Cute from the VERY beginning!

Ultimate Power

Being the brand new mom (or parent) of an infant is a lot about feeling powerless. (Heck, so is being pregnant for that matter.)  You have so few REAL responsibilities to this new being – essentially all you need to do is make sure they are healthy, and develop in a healthy way.  Easy – huh?  Soooo…

Healthy = eats appropriately, sleeps appropriately, kept clean (bath and changing), not hurt/cold/hot, not sick

Develop in a healthy way= feels nurtured, gets appropriate stimulation, bonds with parents, meets developmental goals reasonably

Ok – of all that, you find that you can’t:

  • MAKE the newborn eat
  • MAKE the newborn sleep
  • MAKE the newborn meet goals
  • MAKE the newborn stay healthy
  • KEEP the newborn a steady temperature (some part is always too hot or too cold.)
  • KEEP the newborn FROM CRYING (your only measure for “feels nurtured” “gets appropriate stimulation” or “bonds with parents”)

The first month home, especially the first few weeks, my child had nursing issues, and sleeping issues. I could not really determine what made her cry.  I felt like a BAD MOMMY most of the time.  I was sure I sucked at this!

But in NO TIME AT ALL I began to look forward to changing her.  For all that it was gross looking (breastmilk poos are *always* wet and runny and an unbelievable color), and I was sure I could be doing it better, BY GOSH, I COULD CHANGE HER BUTT.  I might be failing in all the other areas, but I could *keep her clean.*  Baths were worrisome because there was so much risk for injury, plus she cried at random points during baths, but I looked forward to those a good bit too.

So to those of you worried about the “diaper”/poopy part of parenting I say, “HA! Diapering is the ULTIMATE NEW PARENT POWER TRIP.”  For 5 brief shiny minutes, roughly 10 times a day, I KNEW I was doing the parent thing right. 

Unless, of course, the newborn stops pooping. Or peeing.  Then I’m a bad parent again.

Until the EXPLOSION occurs.  Then I am too busy frantically scrubbing to fret about what kind of parent I am.