Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Big Stuff: What a New Mom REALLY Used

My previous post discussed the smaller stuff I really used, this one looks at the larger things I really put to work. We're really talking big in space and/or dollars, generally speaking, but still the items we chose to use and that made our lives that much easier. I'd also note that all of these are way under $100s so "big" is pretty relative. In fact, with the exception of gifts, most of these items were found used on Craigslist or in consignment stores.

Travel Bed
They sound silly, but, if you're going to travel with a pre-mobile infant, it is an awesome thing to have. We have the Eddy Bauer version and it comes with two dangley toys, and a toy bar which is impossibly to easily store with the travel bed, but cute to have. The great thing is that this has a couple of giant pockets and folds up to throw over your shoulder and voila! You have a clean safe place to set down baby for sleep, or diaper changes, or just because you can. We hauled this thing to Florida and Wisconsin before Jax was two months old and it was a work horse!

I know everyone says it, but it's true. It's not just for breastfeeding... (after all, it was invented as a baby sitting aid). It is a life saver for anyone holding a baby in those "just right" positions that would be super uncomfortable pretty quickly without support. As seen above, it's also handy for diversifying tummy time.

I also suggest springing for a couple of covers (keep an eye out at your local thrift and consignment stores). Boppy's are easy enough to wash, but covers are quicker and there will be spit-up... believe me... lots of spit up.

I intentionally shopped for and bought the Fisher Price Papasan Nature's Touch Cradle Swing for several reasons. 1. It was the least offensive color scheme available. 2. The daycare where I had worked had used it for the three years I had been working there pretty much twelve hours a day and it was still in fine form. 3. I knew I could get it used online or on Craigslist.

The major downside of this swing, which I knew going into it, is that it eats through D sized batteries like a pregnant me consumed Circus Peanuts. We invested in rechargable batteries which was another big chunk up front, but a known sacrifice. I would have preferred a plug in, or better yet, old school crank and wind option, but not to shabby. He loves the mirrored middle of the mobile but is more amused by the things I dangle from it than the leaves and butterflys that come from the factory.

I hate that these and the exersaucers are giant plastic pieces hideousness. Plus, you only use them for a few months, and, they take up a ton of floor space. I'm inventing something better, but it's not done yet. Before you go and suggest I do the door swing or a walker, those are both pretty much universally shunned by the baby world as death traps. The door swings are a strangulation hazard, and the walkers are bad developmentally, and worse for horrific accidents. Don't go looking for the stories, but it's bad news.

The up side is, Jax LOVES this. He bounces and squeals and generally treats it like baby crack. You'll hear that these aren't great developmentally and that your baby shouldn't be in them for extended periods of time... but when I want to spend more than 30 seconds in the bathroom without taking my son along... this thing is priceless.

Baby Bath Tub
This is another one of those things you totally DO NOT need (But I, secretly, love). We have this cute blow up duck and when you pinch his bill he goes all AFLACK sound effects on you... well, more normal duck, but that's what I always think. It's also soft and cushy which is good for a baby who likes to slam his limbs into the water a la the Hulk Smash. It was less than $10, and also pretty easy to deflate if you need your space back. We originally used it on the counter, but now it goes right in the big tub. It has a nifty suction cup to hang up to dry/make space for me to torture the dogs by bathing them.

Look for posts in the near future about babywearing (and my collection of carriers), as well as one on what I really wanted to use... but didn't!

Note to Self: You're NOT a Bad Mom!

Dear Self,

If you were counseling yourself, you'd point out a few logical fallacies. You would tell yourself to relax, to stop worrying so much, and to think about things with a little perspective. Go ahead and do that...

Remember listening to Ayelet Waldman's Bad Mother? She made some pretty good points! I think it's time to make a top 11 list of things you can let go... like back when you wrote for the humor page in college. Heck, everyone should probably do it at regular intervals!

11. The world's landfills will not overflow if you have to use the occasional disposable diaper because you forgot to keep track, and Jax just soiled the last cloth one before you could wash the rest of the fluff.

10. Jax will not have horribly debilitating physical deformities if he spends 20 minutes instead of the suggested "15 or less" joyfully playing in his Jumperoo.

9. It will not stunt Jax' emotional growth if you can't figure out what's making him cry and just have to hold and comfort him while he whimpers.

8. No one who matters will judge you if, sometimes, you don't feel like nursing and do so resentfully because you feel like a cow and hate sharing your body at this moment.

7. Cancer, disease, and genetic mutations will not instantly attack or overtake your body, or Jax' if you use the really-good-smelling Baby Magic lotion instead of some better-for-your-skin organic lanolin.

6. You have two dogs and a baby. At some point, they are going to lick each other without your knowledge. This will not kill anyone involved.

5. Feeling angry and frustrated and exhausted by nights when Jax wakes up every two hours because he needs you is ok. You still manage to love, cuddle, and feed him.

4. Needing a break from the baby for several hours is a legitimate and reasonable thing. The umbilical cord stopped beating before it was cut... I'm pretty sure it's not still functionally attached.

3. No one but you freaks out if a daily picture of Jax is not taken and instantly tagged and uploaded to be shared on Facebook.

2. Your son will not be doomed to illiteracy if you forget, and don't read to him on any given day.

1. In general, you are not Super Mom, you are a Mom who does her best and loves her son. That will be good enough for Jax and it should be good enough for you!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Small Stuff: What a New Mom REALLY Used

I like stuff. My husband, not so much. He fantasizes about not needing shelves and would probably prefer to have one utensil and multipurpose dish per household member. I, on the other hand, am emotionally attached to stuff. My house burning down when I was fourteen probably contributed to this emotional connection, but also made me aware of the temporary nature of stuff.

I tell you this to explain the logic of stuff accumulation in regards to having a baby. Like so many other pregnant women I created a registry, perused catalogs and websites, became a freaky lurker on message boards, and checked out enough books on baby essentials to seriously hurt the gas mileage on the twice weekly trips to and from the library.

So, after my exhaustive research, my basic summary of what one REALLY needs for baby is this:

1. Plan for nutritional input to grow baby... at least one functionally lactating human breast, or alternative if needed.
2. Plan to manage waste output of baby... diapers, Elimination Communication, or alternative if needed.
3. Safe way to transport baby... correctly installed car seat, have baby at home and walk everywhere, or alternative as needed.
4. Safe place for baby to rest... next to caring adult, in co-sleeper, in own bed in same room, or alternative if needed.

That's pretty much it. If you've got those things, pretty much everything else is something you are choosing as a luxury. I'm totally not saying that the luxury things are bad; on the contrary, I think they are AWESOME, hence this post. I have new/expectant moms ask all the time what I really used. That's a totally different question that what I really needed. I had much more fun baby shopping knowing I was choosing things for my luxury rather than feeling like I needed to cross it off the list or else I'd have to attend a 12 step BAADMOM meeting, you know for Behaving As A Dumb Meaningless Oblivious Monster.

What I REALLY Used: The Small Stuff Top 5

Nail Clippers
This is me, scared out of my mind to do the deed. You will hear a million options for dealing with sharp little nails. I needed to deal with them as his face, and my breasts were getting sliced and diced like a crazy Ginsu Knife commercial. You can bite them, use regular clippers, get baby clippers, or get the kind I fell for: the kind with the magnifying glass attached. I loved these. I was so stinkin' scared of slicing his little finger tips that the first time I tried to trim his nails I merely transformed sabers into daggers. These did the trick. I don't use the magnifying glass any more, but they were well worth the $3 at the time!

Jax has always HATED having bright light in his eyes. I bought three different pairs of baby sunglasses before I discovered the kind with the little strap. Here's the deal; the other kind are cute but they would not stay on his head/face for more than the most cursory of photo op. The ones with the little strap, on the other hand, stay on and sort of mold around to block out the light. He will wear these all afternoon if we're out and about and pretty much only fusses if they get pulled crooked. The neoprene strap is also supposed to float in water, but I don't really need it to. I also like knowing it's better for his sweet 'lil baby eyes.

Yes, I could swaddle my son using a receiving blanket, but these bad boys were priceless during the first few days of total insanity. They could stretch then Velcro in place, keeping the little guy from waking himself up as soon as he nodded off. This also being the only time in Jax' life when was ever cold, they were a nice layer in winter. We had two brands, and, frankly, both seemed equally easy.

Car Mirrors
This just shows the one in the back, I actually also have one attached to the rear view mirror. That way I don't have to move my rear view mirror or take up the whole back window. These are priceless for me when I'm driving Jax somewhere with no one sitting back there next to him. Just in the last few weeks is he able to see me occasionally when he's checking out the reflection, but really, it's all about me knowing he's ok and breathing.

Ok, this is way on the luxury side. It's really handy to play games or check my e-mail when I'm nursing at 3am and can't sleep. Seriously though, we've been using the Total Baby app to track his feedings and diapering since birth. I also use it to track my sleep... which turned out to me more relevant to us than Jax' sleep. Because we had a rough time in the beginning before my milk came in, I was a little paranoid. Since then, the nerd in me just likes the statistics and checking for patterns. Hmmmm he's eating four hours total today instead of his usual two: growth spurt! Now, obviously, we could easily track this another way, or, not at all, but it makes me happy and I use it constantly, therefore, included. *check my next post for thoughts on the carrier*

Monday, July 12, 2010

Elimination Communication, or, Antarctica Reconsiders the Embrace of Diapers

Spoiler Alert: this post contains frank talk about urination, defecation, and bodily function in general. As in, I'm gonna tell you all about poop and pee and who does what where.Ok, now that THAT is out of the way, I'd like to start by saying I like to defecate in the place of my choosing. I feel better when I do and, I find, it is much less messy than cleaning it out of my underwear and pants. Further more, I prefer that my dogs poop where I would like for them to poop. They hold their urges to go so long as I help them get to where they need to go before they give up and have to go where I'd prefer they not go.

I have found that the above paragraph also applies pretty well to my baby. He seems to feel better when he voluntarily empties his bladder and/or bowels. He seems more comfortable and we both find it to be less messy than my having to wipe smeared poo from the amazing amount of surface area it seems to occupy when I don't get him to the potty in time and he defecates in his diaper. He can hold his need to eliminate for longer and longer periods of time.

OK you say, this makes sense, sort of... except that your son is not even six months old! That is also true, but we have been practicing Elimination Communication, EC for short, since he was four weeks old, so, most of his short life. The practice goes by plenty of other names like Infant Potty Training, Natural Hygiene, and Diaper Free Babies to name a few. The basic idea boils down to this:

1. Babies can and do signal their needs for elimination much like their other needs, such as being hungry or hot.
2. Diapers are a fairly new invention and used mostly in Western cultures or for very young infants.
3. You can work with your child to develop an understanding to facilitate meeting their elimination needs.

Before you freak out and tell me I'm really messing up my child by forcing them to potty train before he is ready and that I'll permanently damage him etc. Let me share a few things that EC is not. It is not attempting to force a child to eliminate, or, to reward or shame a child for his elimination behaviors. It is also not an all or nothing endeavor. Jax wears a diaper almost all the time (although I know several children his age *and younger* who don't wear diapers at all in my monthly local group, Diaper Free Baby of GA/SC).

My Discovery

I stumbled across EC while pregnant and remember thinking "crazy hippies!" I mean, seriously, who tries to potty train a kid who can't get to the toilet? You're going to have to hold over the potty every time he needs to go?! I skimmed a few sites and forgot about it. I was pretty much too busy puking into my toilet to care about whether my son eliminate into it. I had found the cloth diaper world, why would I want anything more?

Then Jax was born, and I noticed he seemed to have a little bowel movement every time he nursed. Because I'm an info-holic, I was reading about this predictability *which is totally normal* and I came across a few references to EC. I spent an hour or two reading, mostly on the Diaper Free Baby website, and thought it sort of made sense. I was dealing with my son's elimination all day anyway, why should it matter if I held him over a toilet or spent twenty more seconds wiping his bum? Of course, I was totally sleep deprived and almost anything "sort of made sense."

Jax was sleeping, as four week old babies are want to do. I thought to myself, this site says babies usually go when they wake up... I'm home alone with the baby... I could try it and, if it didn't work, no one would ever have to know! So, Jax woke up, I took off his diaper and held him over the toilet and made the cue "Psssss sssss" sound. He urinated and then defecated. I almost did too. I literally stood their laughing like an idiot. What the crap? *literally* I could not believe it. He did it again when my husband got home and I was hooked!

My theory is this: any pee or poo that doesn't go into a diaper is poo and pee with which Jax and I don't have to deal. I'm not really worried about potty training, although it seems like it would be much easier with a child who knows when he's going and just has to learn the when and where; rather than working with children to learn when to go and all the places and times not to. The big benefit to me is knowing Jax is more comfortable, and that the two of us are more in sync.

What We Do

In the grand world of EC we're considered "Part Time ECers." Basically it means we don't go without diapers all the time, but we do it more than occasionally, in our case, every day. I'll do a basic break down for you. But do remember, this is just us, just what we, personally do.

When Jax wakes up in the morning, I take off his diaper and hold him over the potty. I cue him by talking about what we are doing "I'm taking off your diaper, it's time to go to the bathroom" and hold him over the toilet with my hands under his thighs and sing the potty song I modified... it goes to the tune of "This is the Way We Wash our Hands...."

"Where do we go to urinate,
defecate, urinate?
Where do we go to urinate?
We do it in the toilet!"

This makes me giggle pretty much every time. I borrowed it from someone who suggested "Where do we go to poop and pee..." but the nerd in me totally loves using the correct word for things. Now, he usually starts to urinate about mid song, if not, I'll further cue by making a "Psssss sssss sss" sound. When we first started he would wait for the cue sound. On a side note, he is often flatulent first thing in the morning, and, lately, will also have a bowel movement every other day or so.

Because I narrate almost everything Jax and I do together, I will then continue "you urinated here in the toilet. Does that feel better? I feel better when I urinate in the toilet." We then will put on a diaper and nurse or do a morning activity.

He usually takes the opportunity to urinate at any given diaper change and I will offer more often if he is kicking or seems fussy for no other obvious reason or just have the gut feeling that he needs to go. He pretty consistently will urinate the most upon waking up from sleeping. If we're going to be home, I'll use a BumGenius 3.0 with no insert or soaker so he can feel as soon as he is wet and get changed immediately. If I am consistent, and offer opportunities *or Pottitunities* at least once an hour, he will generally stay dry for a whole morning or afternoon.

I also try to give him some "naked time" when he is not wearing any bottoms, but is sitting on a towel or something "just in case" so we can both notice as soon as he starts to urinate. In the beginning he would just release and empty his bladder; now, he will just barely start and if I pick him up, he'll stop and wait 'till I get him to the toilet or his little Ikea L√ĄTTSAM Potty.

Take Away

Long story short, EC would be way easier if I could just hold Jax out any time he needed to go and it would fall somewhere, like the grass, where it wouldn't matter. Because we have carpeting, and generally wherever is not an acceptable location, we use a back up system. My Mom shared with me all about split pants being used with toddlers in China this way, and I have since read more anthropological information about how other cultures deal with children and infants eliminating. It's actually quite interesting.

I know EC isn't for everyone, and, I know it sounds weird and crazy to lots of folks. On the other hand, it works for us. When Jax makes a great big bowel movement in the toilet and grins at me, I grin back. He feels better and one swipe is better than five wipes. I also know I'm not hard core enough to just suck it up and deal with the misses of going 100% diaper free. I think that's the great thing about EC... it's not really about potty training, it's about communicating better with your child.

P.S. I just discovered this awesome blog today, Do-it-yourself EC, with posts on how to make some home-made EC stuff and I thought this would be the perfect place to link to it! It not only talks about EC, it's all crafty and sewy and stuff!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Antarctica Embraces Cloth Diapers

Having a baby is generally not a total shock, you often get to know as many as eight or nine months ahead of time that someone of the diaper wearing age is about to join your family. (Notable exceptions being friends who adopt on short notice). Hence, I figured since diapering is one of the biggest expenses to accompany a new baby, I'd try to plan ahead to budget for it. Because I've been asked several times about our decision to use cloth, I thought I'd put my diaper notes together.

First things first, I'm by no means an expert. I've been doing it for six months and think it's pretty crazy easy, good for cutting down landfill junk, and a big money saver. Let me also preface this by saying that cloth diapering may not be for everyone. It works for us. It makes sense for us. I've had folks ask about it, and the best jumping off point I've found is; but you're reading this because you wanted to know what the Queen of the Penguins does with her chick.

What We Penguins Do:

We use BumGenius 3.0 one size and they’re pretty darn easy. I honestly chose them based solely on internet research before I knew anyone in person who uses any cloth diapers *other than the old school pins plus cotton square aka prefolds*. Anyway, these have snaps to size up or down so they'll fit for years, are structured like “disposables” with Velcro, use waterproof cloth on the outside, and have a microfiber soaker insert. We pull those out, and throw it all in a pail, dump it in the washer and wash once on cold (to rinse), then once on hot with about 2 Tablespoons of Rockin’ Green Detergent. (I currently love Smashing Watermelons in Classic Rock)

The wipes are just squares of cloth serged around the edges. I keep a squirt bottle with a couple drops of baby lotion and a couple drops of baby body wash to a cup or so of water and wet down wipes as needed. They get thrown in the diaper bucket. I also now use these for nose blowing and cleaning, they’re handy and one less disposable thing I’m throwing away.

I do diaper laundry about twice a week and have started drying them outside using these nifty octopus hangers, the Pressa, from IKEA. I also have a “wet bag” for the dirties on the road. I "strip" the diapers about once a month by doing a hot soak and adding a little bleach.

Why We Cloth Diaper:

I’d like to claim cloth diapering was all about the environment or what not, because that is important... but, really, it’s mostly about economics. Say you find REALLY cheap disposables for 15 cents a piece. Lets also say you use very few, like 8 a day (We tracked it, and Jax averaged close to 11 for the first few months and is now closer to 9 a day.) That means in one year you’re talking $438 (0.15*8*365). Plus however much wipes are.

Lets say you went over to and bought two twelve packs of brand spanking new bumGenius 4.0 diapers at $203.40 a piece for $406.80... (I’d suggest going with the recently discontinued 3.0 line, or going used at, or looking for a sale or deal, but lets just say, for the sake of argument, that you go new) and two sets of wipes at $11.95 each for $23.90 (again, not sure why you’d spring for brand new brand name pieces of serged flannel, but, say you do) that puts your total at $430.70 (free shipping).

If you add in the laundry costs, then it could, technically, be more expensive to cloth diaper. Until you add that second year, which doubles the cost of disposables and only the laundry prices for cloth... and, unless you really rock the EC and go diaper free, *see next post,* I’m betting you’re going to need diapers for closer to two years minimum.

To be more realistic, disposables seem to average closer to 20 cents a pop, we used closer to 10 diapers a day putting that total estimate at a much heftier $730. I also had no idea how to include wipes in the disposables pricing.

You could also use Econobum diapers with covers and prefolds from the same site and manufacturer for $99 (two sets of 3 diaper covers with 12 prefolds at $49.95 a piece) plus one set of wipes at $11.95 for a yearly total $110.95.

So, you could be talking $110.95 for cloth vs. $1,460 for disposables over two years... cloth diapering can be even cheaper than that if you go a bit more old school/shop around. Those are my quick thoughts and numbers, I'm sure there's plenty of room for variation. If you're local in Atlanta, you should check out Atlanta Diaper Service as an option and for info.

Oh, and on a total side note, cloth diapers come in about a million super cute colors/patterns/designs. They can pretty much function as bottoms during the summer, and offer a veritable plethora of fashion opportunities if you're into that for your "fluff."

P.S. Expect a bunch more New Mom blogging as I answer the most common questions I'm getting from friends and family. I'm not the expert, I'm just a new mom who is willing to share what I've learned so far.