Archive for December, 2010

December 31, 2010

Another Year Over, a New One Just Begun

Since senior year of college, I have been going to Mass just about every day.  It’s always a beautiful way to start the day, but some days in particular—like today—are made even more special when they begin at church.

 

Today is the last day of 2010, a year that began with realizing I was pregnant with our first child in a Manhattan Verizon Wireless and that is ending with a squealing little boy wriggling beside a spindly Christmas tree in our Brooklyn apartment.  This has certainly been the Year of Jacob.  What a wild and wonderful ride it’s been, and thank God for all we have to look forward to with him in the year to come.

 

New Year’s Eve is generally not my favorite holiday, because it involves staying up late and unnecessary pressures to make huge lifestyle changes literally overnight.

 

At the same time, it’s an obvious opportunity to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the year to come.  Doing so in a prayerful community and with a focus on the Eucharist challenged me to be more intentional and more honest about my objectives for 2011.

 

For example, yesterday I was thinking I’d resolve to read, write, pray, and exercise a half hour each every single day of this new year.

 

Yeah, okay.

 

In reality, this is too regimented for me, and I’ll feel like I’ve failed before I’ve had a chance to begin.  Resolving, rather, to be more disciplined and more charitable in what I think, say, and do is a more achievable goal, because it’s both more flexible and has a greater purpose in its objective.  While it may seem unwieldy, this resolution’s adaptability is more suited to the kind of life I have right now with the little guy.  I hope that with this in mind, and with a generous helping of God’s grace, I will become a better mother, a better wife, a better Christian woman.

 

What hadn’t struck me until today was that the end of a calendar just overlaps with the beginning of a new liturgical year.  Advent, the season before Christmas, marks the start of the Church’s year, and gets us in the mindset of making changes to welcome new beginnings before the calendar page turns.  After having worked through a period of true preparation, and while we are still officially in the Christmas season, what better time than this to push aside the darkness of our old lives and find joy in the light of a new beginning?

 

The gospel reading today was from the beginning of the Gospel according to John—those puzzling and almost circuitous verses about the Word of God made flesh and come to dwell among us.  It was read carefully and slowly, and gave me a renewed sense of joy and gratitude in the beautiful traditions of the faith and how they influence my life.

 

My prayer tonight is gratitude for the year past and hope for the year ahead.  May God bless us all in 2011!

December 22, 2010

An Informal Guide to Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery in NYC, 2010: Part II

Update from last post! I haven’t tried it, but word on the street is that Babies ‘R’ Us takes BuyBuyBaby coupons if they’re not expired.

***

New and veteran moms alike love sharing advice on all things baby.  Here’s the second installment of what I’ve learned from fellow moms as well as my own experience over the past year.

Nursing essentials
I knew I wanted to at least giving nursing a try, but I didn’t have any idea where to begin.  Thankfully, our childbirth instructor recommended The Nursing Mother’s Companion, which was indispensable in getting me started.  Once I got home, I was  grateful to have these things on hand:

Lansinoh cream:  The hospital gave me some of this, but I was grateful to have another, bigger tube waiting at home.  It seems pricey, but don’t fret, hopefully you won’t use it for long.  I went through one tube in the first two weeks, when I was using it after every feeding. (They say your nipples will toughen up, and trust me, even when you don’t believe it, they will.)  After that, I used it before (and occasionally after) showers to protect from pain with the water falling on me for another few weeks, but I haven’t needed it since.  Watch out, though, because while this stuff is wonderful, it leaves a bit of a greasy mark on some clothing.

Nursing pads: I use disposables. . . . and I apologize to the environment each time I do.  I like the ones by Avent, Johnson & Johnson, and Nuk.  I buy whatever I can get the best deal on at the time.  I don’t like the ones by Lansinoh; they didn’t breathe enough and caused unnecessary soreness.   A friend said the reusables leak, and having another thing to wash seemed like more trouble than it was worth to me.  Again, environment, I’m sorry.

Nursing bras:  You’ll want a couple of these for day and night, as you probably won’t be wearing your regular bras for a while.  The question is, when to buy? I was told to shop for these after 36 weeks.  I went at 37, but kept getting bigger after that, so mine were a bit small for a while.  I should have bought one more size up to be more comfortable later.  If you grew a lot up to 36 weeks, you may want to buy big.  Don’t wait too long though, because you don’t want to have to shop for these with a newborn!

Some folks say you shouldn’t get bras with an underwire, because it can cause obstructions and infections, like mastitis.  However, a lady at a specialty mommy shop told me that as long as the underwire hits the right spot on you, you should be fine.  If you want bras with an underwire, it may be best to wait until you’ve been nursing two or three months and your size is more stable.

I like Medela, because they’re easy to open and you can always use coupons to buy them at Babies ‘R’ Us or BuyBuyBaby.  A friend recommended Bravado, but I have the tank top, and it’s cut too low to wear even under a cardigan in public.

Nursing cover: Whether you’re out and about or just having visitors over in your home, a nursing cover can be a great thing to make feeding more comfortable for everyone.  At first I thought paying thirty-five dollars for a rectangle of fabric on a string was ridiculous, but I finally gave it a shot.  Hooter Hiders and Bebe au Lait are essentially the same company, and their covers are great.  The boning at the top lets you see in to your baby, and the generous size covers well.  It is still nice to use nursing as an excuse for some alone time with the little one when there are lots of folks around, but the option to stay in the mix is welcome, too.

Night light: A night light in the room you nurse in and one in the room you change baby in (should these be different places) will help keep you both from waking up too much, and may make getting back to sleep easier for the little one.

Breast pump: A breast pump is great to have for a variety of scenarios, although it’s not entirely necessary.  If you will always be with your little one, and you are willing to simply keep trying if things don’t get off to a perfect start, you really don’t need one.  I’m glad we have one because we needed just a touch of help the first few days, and being able to pump helped ease us into nursing (again, I don’t think we really needed it, but it helped).  I also like that I can leave the baby with John for a couple of hours, or even go out for dinner with him, and know that baby will have milk and not need formula.

I opted for a Medela Swing single pump because it was cheaper than a double, and I don’t need the efficiency and speed of a double pump since I am with Jacob all day.  For the record, this decision and all of its implications caused a near breakdown in Babies ‘R’ Us.  But that’s hormones for you!

The only thing I wish were different about my pump is that it must be plugged into an outlet and cannot operate on batteries.  This makes it a more powerful pump, but sometimes slightly less convenient.

Other moms (ones who did go back to work) recommend the Medela Pump in Style in the backpack and the Avent handpump.

As for accessories, I’d recommend having some storage bags on hand to freeze milk once it’s pumped (this way it will last the longest).  I like the Lansinoh storage bags because they are easy to pour into a bottle and have a built-in labeling system.

Bottles: I have only used the bottles that came with the breast pump, and they have worked just fine.  We use them so rarely, having a full set seemed a waste.  Other moms recommend:

– Dr. Brown’s for colic babies.

– Breastflow because they flow similar to nursing.

– Playtex BPA Free Ventaire Advanced Wide Nursers

– Born Free because they have a wide mouth and are easier to clean.

One mom dissuades us from getting the Evenflo Purely Comfi Nursers because they leak. Consider yourself warned.

Getting around
Car seat
: Most recommendations are for the Graco SnugRide. There are a couple of different weight limits and a bunch of different fabrics, but they’re all really the same seat.  It’s best to buy a car seat new, but if you get one used, just make sure it was never in an accident and check the expiration date on it.  Yes, car seats have expiration dates.  Some car seats can adapt to older children, but it’s best to get an infant car seat first and a big kid one later.  Plus, if you intend to have more than one child, it may not be necessary for the seat to adapt with the child.

Stroller: A couple of moms liked the Graco Snap ‘N Go when baby was very young, so that they could figure out what they needed in a stroller and buy one they really liked once baby was bigger.

One mom said if she could do it again, she’d go for the Combi Flare because it’s light, it stands on its own when folded, it reclines, and it’s not so pricey.  She also likes the Maclaren Spitfire, because it’s lightweight and claims to be good for a broad weight range—although your needs for a stroller may change over time, so this isn’t always the best criteria to base a decision on.

We love the City Mini by Baby Jogger!  It’s good for city because it handles sidewalks well and folds up in a single motion.  Plus most car seats fit in so you can see baby.  The only drawbacks are: no cup holder, but you can get an attachment; the car seat adapter is $60; and you can never use a coupon on the stroller–like Apples or Uggs.  However, the stroller isn’t so expensive, relative to what else is out there. And again, we LOVE it.

Head and body support: A couple of us agree on the Summer Infant Velboa Snuzzler – Head & Body Support.  It’s helpful right away, in getting baby home from the hospital—even a big kid like Jacob benefited from this.  It’s also good for swings, strollers, and car seats in the weeks ahead, and very easy to move from one seat to another.  The head and body supports are separate pieces that Velcro together, so you can use whatever fits in your seat with your child.

Carriers and slings:  Oh, dear.  Where to begin?  There are lots of options out there and every mom and dad likes something different. Watch YouTube videos on how to use them to see which you feel is best for you.  I found it was helpful to see them in action when making my decision.

Some stores recommend waiting until baby is born and then bringing baby in to try out different styles.  This seems wise to me, as we didn’t use one with Jacob until he was a few weeks old, anyway.

Still, here are some recommendations . . .

One mom loved her Hotsling and Maya Wrap with a D-ring, but she would also have liked to try the ERGObaby.  Another friend has a carrier by Jeep that she likes.  Another uses a Moby Wrap and ERGObaby.  Another uses one by Maclaren and a Mei Tai.  Yup, that basically covers everything, and without any overlap.  The choice is really yours, and there are some great sites out there that chart what each carriers does and doesn’t do, so you can fit one (or two) to your lifestyle.

We have a Maya Wrap to get things and an Infantino Front-to-Back carrier—the former we bought for half-price on Craigslist, the latter was given to us.  Jacob has taken well to both.  While he’s a really easygoing baby, I haven’t heard any mom say that there was one that her baby didn’t take to at some point, if not right away.  As for me, I like having options.  The Infantino is good because it balances baby on both of my shoulders.  The Maya Wrap is good around the house because it’s a little quicker to get him in and out.  I like that it keeps his feet wrapped up on colder days, so that space between pant legs and socks is not exposed.  It’s also good when I have a heavy diaper bag; carrying the bag on one shoulder and baby on the other evens me out.

It may seem overwhelming to choose which carrier is right for you, but it’s worth it.  I use one carrier or the other literally every day, whether it’s to calm Jacob down or to continue to interact with him while I do things around the house or run errands.  When he’s not sleeping, he gets to see and experience so much, before he can move around on his own.

What to give at a baby shower
At one point in my pregnancy, I was approached at Babies ‘R’ Us by a woman buying a gift for her pregnant sister-in-law.  She wanted some advice as to which of the items from the expectant woman’s registry she would really use.  I hope my list thus far has been helpful for those in a similar situation, but beyond that, here are a few things I’d recommend as baby shower gifts:

–       Frozen food.  Both our moms gave us food just before or after Jacob was born, and it was nice to have home-cooked meals prepared for us in those first weeks.  Staying well-fed really helped me to get to feeling normal again as quickly as possible.  Happy mom, happy baby, right?  (And happy dad!)  If the shower is too early in the pregnancy for this to be feasible, perhaps give a note saying you’ll be dropping something off closer to the due date.

–       Clothes for children older than three months.  The expectant mother may end up with too many clothes for a time when children grow very quickly.  Having some items on hand for later months (or bigger children) will be much appreciated.  If you are buying young and you don’t know if it’s a boy or girl, try to stay away from white clothing.  I know this is tough, but cleaning stains on those clothes is even tougher!

–       If you’re given a coupon with your purchase and don’t have another baby shower to attend in the near future, pass the coupon on to the new mom.  It’s like the gift that keeps on giving!

–       Gift certificate to Shutterfly or some other online photo service.  We moms take lots of photos of our little ones, and family always appreciate when we share prints.

–       Diapers, size 1 or 1-2 (some babies never fit in the newborn size . . . ahem).  Save mom and dad from a late night run. . . . or save baby from increasingly infrequent changes when mom’s waiting for the delivery she placed a day too late from Diapers.com.  You can’t go wrong with Pampers Swaddlers; they’re what our hospital used.  I also hear Costco Kirkland wipes and diapers are good—they’re the same product as one of the brand names, but I can’t remember which now.

Lotions and potions
Johnson & Johnson baby wash:  Time-tested and gentle enough for brand new babies.  The pump bottle is easy to use, especially if you transition to showering with your little one.  (We found a baby bathtub wasn’t necessary; one of those blue dishpans you find in the drug store sufficed for his bath.)

Unscented lotion: Jacob’s skin is rather dry and I found out too late that the scented J&J lotion I was using was only making it worse. Aveeno’s baby lotion is twice as pricey, but works three times as well to soothe dry skin.  Aquaphor also soothed nicely, but it stays a bit slick on the skin, so unless you’re putting long sleeves and long pants on, this may make things a bit icky.

Diaper rash cream: John’s a big fan of Balmex, from his babysitting days, and we haven’t had a problem with it.

Clothes detergent:  Don’t bother with the pricey Dreft.  You can wash the whole family’s clothes in a less expensive detergent that is simply fragrance- and dye-free, like All Free Clear.

Packing for the hospital
Pregnancy books will often have lists of what to bring to the hospital.  Our childbirth instructor also provided us with a  good list, and we used both as a guide.  Try not to freak out over this.  The hospital has everything you really need, and hopefully there will be friends and family nearby who are willing to help with anything else.  That said, a couple other things to consider:

– A laptop. Our hospital didn’t have internet access, but another mom’s did.  She was happy to be able to email friends and family from her hospital bed.  Plus she said it was nice to have it as entertainment (and an aide in staying awake) during long middle of the night feedings.

– Food.  Either bring food for your husband, or be sure there are places nearby that he can run to.  Because I was induced and most of my labor plodded along, John just went out when he needed food.  Our hospital had ice-pops for me (the kind with the jokes on the stick—just like when I was a kid!).  As for postpartum, John went out to get me a sandwich earlier in the evening, before the doctor came to check on me, so I’d have something for later.  The nice nurses let us keep it in their fridge.  Welcome back to my life, cold cuts!

– Toiletries. I brought shampoo, conditioner, tooth stuff, contact lens stuff, deodorant, hair brush, etc.  Being able to clean up and feel fresh-ish makes a huge difference each day postpartum.

– A baby book. We didn’t do this, but another mom says they’ll footprint your baby for your book if you’ve got it available in the delivery room.

– Clothes for you and baby.  I brought way too much clothing for myself.  Near the end of my stay it was nice to be in my own clothes.  But things are, let’s say, messy the first day or so after delivering, and I didn’t want to dirty my things.  I stayed in the hospital gown for a while, and ended up using the disposable underwear from the hospital the whole time (oh, and grab a couple more of these before you leave the hospital, too).  You’ll need something to bring baby home in—the hospital will give you a few diapers, but probably want their shirt back.  I tried not to get too attached to this outfit in case the baby soiled it, but we made it home just fine.

– A blanket for baby.  There was a third party photographer at our hospital, and it was nice that we had our own receiving blanket for her to use when taking photos of less-than-one-day-old Jacob.  It made things a little sweeter, not using the hospital blanket.  Plus, it was helpful to have this in the car with him to keep bundled and snuggled.  Another mom said her hospital gave her some blankets to take home, so be sure to ask what you can take before you leave!

– Car seat and snuzzler.  Make sure you know how to get the car seat in the car and the baby in the car seat before you even go to the hospital.  Two days postpartum is not the time to start figuring this out.

 

Well, if you’ve made it through to the end, thank you for reading!  This should take a new mom through the last weeks of pregnancy and into the first few weeks of caring for a newborn.  I hope it’s been helpful!  All the best to new and expectant moms out there.  What an exciting time of life to share!

December 17, 2010

An Informal Guide to Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery in NYC, 2010: Part I

There are plenty of guides out there as to how to prepare for the birth of a baby—so many, that figuring out which to use can be overwhelming.

I was fortunate enough to have four or five friends or friends of friends preparing to welcome a little one just before I did.   When I asked for their advice on everything from registering to what to bring to the hospital, I got wonderfully detailed and comprehensive responses. I quickly learned was that moms love sharing their tips and experience. . . . so here I am, doing the very same thing!

I’ve compiled their dos, don’ts, and must haves, and added my own thoughts in as well.   While I recognize I’m adding to the wealth of knowledge already out there, I know I appreciated information from people I really knew.   In hopes that this advice may new moms or for those with friends expecting, here goes!

What to Read
The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
– My doctor recommended this over What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  It has a better tone and good information.

Your Pregnancy Week-by-Week – I used some of the weekly exercises described here. . . . I didn’t use them often enough, but I liked thinking about them.

Baby Bargains – Try to check this out of your library.  It has lots of advice as to which brands to buy for different items.  Kind of like this list, but with more opinions compiled.  Dads seem to really enjoy this book.

The Nursing Mother’s Companion – This book taught me how to breastfeed.  Read the chapter that runs up to feeding a two-week-old baby before yours is born.  That’s all you’ll need right away.  Save the rest for later, once you feel comfortable with what you’re doing.

The Happiest Baby on the Block – Or watch the DVD!  This was great information on how to swaddle and what else to try to calm your little one’s crying.  It’s good to build up your arsenal before the battle begins.

How to Shop
Use Craigslist!  We got our glider/ottoman, co-sleeper bassinet, baby sling, first stroller, and changing table there and saved at least $700.

For purchases from Babies ‘R’ Us, use their coupons.  One mom returned nearly everything big she got (breast pump, stroller, car seat) and bought it back with a coupon, earning herself an extra $150.
For purchases from BuyBuyBaby, use not-yet-expired coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond.  Twenty percent off a few big purchases really makes a difference.

Shopping online:  Currently, we’re getting 30% cashback on diapers at Diapers.com, which we thought was a great deal.  I also just signed up for Amazon Mom, which gives you free two-day shipping (like Amazon Prime, but free).  Take a look for good deals like these; they’re certainly out there!

The Big Stuff
Crib: I have nothing to recommend as far as cribs because my parents passed along the one they used for my brother and me.  So, I guess, check your parents’ attic?

Glider/rocker: GET ONE.  Dutalier is considered the best brand out there, and moms agree their chairs are spectacular—classy and comfortable.  We bought our glider/ottoman combination from Craigslist for $200 instead of $500+ new.  We would have liked the lock on it, but it didn’t turn out to be necessary.  Ours reclines, which is nice sometimes, but also unnecessary. It’s great to have somewhere other than the couch to sit.  Plus the gliding motion soothes parent and baby in the middle of the night, and it’s super comfortable to nurse in.

Diaper Genie: I’m not sure this was necessary.  I think it’s really just a glorified garbage can—but if you can get this for less than a garbage can with a self-closing lid, then go for it.

Boppy pillow: Good to help get you situated in the beginning with positioning during breastfeeding—you may even want to bring this to the hospital so a nurse can help get you settled.  There’s a waterproof cover available to protect the pillow, which is probably worth it.

Receiving/swaddling blankets: Every mom has a different preference for these.  We used the simple Carter’s blankets until we were given one by Aden and Anais.  I like that it’s a lighter weight, plus it’s much bigger and wraps around our growing guy better these days.

Other recommendations
The Ultimate Receiving Blanket by Swaddle Designs. I saw a friend use one of these to swaddle her six-month-old, and it was a dream.

Halo Sleep Sack and SwaddleMe.  We used these, but not right away.  The sleep sack in particular worked wonders, and we wish we’d started to use it sooner!

Miracle Blanket.  One mom recommended this–which is essentially the same as a SwaddleMe, but I haven’t used one.

Swing or bouncy chair: These work for some and not for others, so it’s best if you can get one for cheap—or better for free—or at least try one out at a friend’s before buying.  It seems that every kid likes these for some period of time, but whether that’s a week or month will depend on your little one.

Pack and Play: Most moms recommend Graco models, but Chicco are good, too.  We keep this in the living room so Jacob has a place to nap and otherwise hang out while we do things around the house.  We like the feature that raises the mattress up, but the small bassinet feature isn’t necessary.  The changing station doesn’t support baby very well; our little Peanut rolled and we took it off about as quickly as we put it on.  There are some models with lights and sounds and whatnot.  Ours has a simple wind-up mobile, and Jacob loves it (and I love it because it doesn’t use batteries!).  He smiled at those teddy bears before he smiled at us!

We also bought one on Craigslist to keep at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  We spent $25 on it, it’s in great shape, and it’s totally worth it to have a bed at their house and not have to lug ours out when we visit.

Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet:  This is super helpful if you’re breastfeeding.  It’s pretty easy to find on Craigslist—we found ours for 25% of retail!  It is basically a freestanding bassinet that attaches to your bed so baby is right there and you don’t always have to get up for late night feedings.

A Pack and Play can do this job as well, but I like having this in the bedroom and the Pack and Play in the living room, rather than moving one piece throughout the day.

Go for the original size over the mini, because it will last longer as your child grows.  The mattress can be lowered, and this can be used as a play yard (a la Pack and Play) as well.

You’ll want extra sheets for both the Pack and Play and the Co-Sleeper.  I’ve found the Graco Pack and Play sheets are too thin.  The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper are a more durable fabric and construction, and those for the original sized Co-Sleeper fit on Pack and Plays, too.

Baby gym: This is a great thing to have once baby can focus, and especially once he starts reaching for things.  We have the Twist & Fold Gym, Baby Animals by Infantino, and this Farmyard Activity Gym by Pottery Barn Kids is also recommended.

White noise machine: Some moms love having a white noise machine to soothe little ones to sleep. Personally, I don’t like the idea of white noise, because I fear children will become dependent on it to fall asleep.  But then again, I have a child who falls asleep very easily, so I never even tried it.  Other mothers, however, feel this is essential.

Clothes: If you’re having a shower—even if you’re not—you will probably get tons of onesies.  And you’ll need them!  Carter’s fit very well and wash up well.  I like BabyGap, but another mom thinks their fabric isn’t as durable.  Her babies live in clothes by Gymboree.  Gerber runs extremely small and are very thin.  Before you take the tags off things and wash them to prepare for baby, take stock and make sure everything isn’t for newborns or 0-3 months, as baby will grow out of these sizes quickly.

You’ll also want burp cloths, hooded towels, washcloths, and blankets—both to snuggle with and to lie on the ground for a clean, safe playtime.

 

Look out for information on breastfeeding, getting out and about with baby, and more in the second installment—coming soon!

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