Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Things I wish I would have known with Baby #1

I have learned so much with Josh. He has definitely not been an "easy" baby (Heather was definitely a lot more "easy"). I have learned a lot of helpful ideas that have really helped him and me have a calmer and happier first 3 months (as calm and happy as it can be having a baby with colic). Many of my friends are about to have their first babies, but this post is especially for my sister, Rachel, who just had her first baby.

1. The Fourth Trimester -- This is a newer idea, but basically the first 3 months should be treated as the last trimester. Your new baby is accustomed to being in the womb 24-7. The womb has constant sound, movement, and is warm and snuggly. After being born, we basically deprive the baby of what he has been used to since conception. While we can't provide all of the sensations the baby experienced in utero, we can help them feel more comfortable by giving them some of the things they want and need to remain happy and calm. And that brings me to point number 2: The Five S's.

2. The Five S's -- The five S's are 5 ways that you can help your baby feel more comfortable, and I am telling you, they work like a charm! I suggest you watch the DVD The Happiest Baby On the Block. (It is only an hour long, and it is definitely worth your time.) This is where I get a lot of these ideas, and it was WAY helpful. Some people might say that by giving your baby these things is going to "spoil" them, but remember: your baby has been used to these things 24-7, and really we are the ones depriving them! Even if we did the 5 S's 12 hours a day, they would still be having a 50% decrease in their favorite calming, soothing sensations.

  • Swaddling--It needs to be tighter than you think! Have you ever noticed that if you are holding a baby and you sit down really fast their arms shoot out like they are desperately trying to grab for something? What you are witnessing is a natural reflex in babies called the Moro reflex. This reflex only happens when a baby feels that it is falling. You may also have noticed that babies will reach their arms out in this way when they are on their back. Why? They feel like they are falling. That's where swaddling comes in handy. It keeps their arms down and helps them to feel snuggled and safe. When you first start swaddling a baby, they may seem like they hate it, like they are trying to break out, that's because they had their hands free and up by their face in the womb, but if you were to swaddle them like that, they would break out in no time. Swaddling with hands to the side helps prevent breakouts. Josh loves to be swaddled. In fact, when he is really upset and knows he is going to get swaddled, he will often put his hands down to his side. Here's a video (notice how happy Josh is to be swaddled):
  • Shushing -- LOUD, shushing.  It is natural to shush your baby. All over the world people shush their babies. Mom's know that this works...However, what many moms don't realize is how loud it needs to be. Recent studies have shown that inside the womb babies where hearing constant sounds as loud as a vacuum! You can imagine how eerie it is to a baby to go from loud, constant sound to your quiet home. This was the magic "S" for us. We could do all the other S's, but it wasn't until we shushed (LOUD) that Josh responded. And when he did, it was like pushing a button. We finally got smart and made an mp3 with white noise on it, and TURNED IT UP! Seriously, Josh is memorized and calms right down when the white noise gets turned on. You have got to try it! I was going to upload the mp3 here, but I couldn't figure out how to do it. So...if you want it, leave a comment and I will email it to you.
  • Side/Stomach -- Because babies often feel like they are falling when they are on their backs, babies like to be held on their side or stomach. There are lots of positions that put pressure on the stomach to help the baby be more comfortable. Josh likes me to hold him either up on my shoulder, or in the cradle hold (stomach to stomach), but he likes Daniel to hold him in the reverse breastfeeding position. Another position that works well is called the football hold. It's really great for dad's to do.
  • Swinging/jiggling -- When in utero a baby feels a tremendous amount of movement. Imagine if the mother was walking up the stairs, or exercising, or running to the bathroom 'cause she's about to pee your pants! The baby is used to constant jiggly movement. You can create this same movement by gently jiggling your baby's head. Don't SHAKE your baby, just jiggle jello! Here is another place where I really suggest you watch Happiest Baby on the Block. I jsut can't explain the technique without showing you.  I found an excerpt on his website to show how awesome it is.
  • Sucking -- Sucking is like the cherry on top when you are trying to calm your baby. A baby needs to suck to survive, but some babies need to suck a lot more than you are willing to feed them. For this reason pacifiers come in handy. We went through about 4 different kinds before we found "the right one." It's playtex Most like Mother
    This one shown here is latex, but we got the silicone kind. Also, we found it at Target. I don't think walmart carries it.
3. Baby Wearing -- I have already told you, Rachel, how much I LOVE baby wearing. Josh loves it too. I love having him close to me, and I am sure it is nice for the baby to feel safe and secure with mommy...just like in the womb. I put Josh in the wrap and 5 mins later, he would be asleep. You can make your own by buying 6yds of cotton jersey (or any other interlocking fabric, that doesn't fray) and cutting it down the middle lengthwise. You now have two wraps. Yes, they need to be that long. (You could maybe buy 3 yds, cut it in half and sew the two 3 yd strips together too...) You can learn how to tie a wrap at My absolute favorite wrap for newborns is the Newborn Hug Hold. Unfortunately, Josh is too big for it now.
4. Routine -- being on a routine is SO important for kids. While it is hard to put a newborn on a routine, I would suggest making a routine as soon as possible. When the baby starts to be older, you will start to notice certain tendencies such as, the baby usually will go down at this time, and wants to eat at this time. Your baby can help you decide on a routine that works for her. I am not a stickler for a strict routine during the day (although we do have a pretty rough routine worked out), but naptime and bedtime roll around, and I find that having a routine is the most beneficial thing to getting the kids down at a when you know they need it. Our bedtime routine goes like this. Dinner, clean up, scriptures, bath, story, prayers, songs, say goodnight. (That's the watered down version...)
5. Sleep --We all need it, but kids need it most of all. This is probably the area I have bragging rights with as a least with Heather. Heather still sleeps 12 hours at night, and 3 in the day. She is a very happy girl, and while a lot of it is personality, I know a lot of it comes from the amount of sleep she gets. We are still working on sleeping with Josh. I don't have any tricks up my sleeve. Teaching a child to sleep is a totally different ball game for each child, and it is hard work, but it is worth it! I recommend the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth.
6. Nursing tips and tricks -- When I had Heather, I thought you just held the baby in your arms (in the cradle hold) and they did the rest. Not so... No one tells you how frustrating (not to mention painful) nursing can be. It's all peaches and cream "I just love breastfeeding my babies..." blah, blah,'ve heard it. While breastfeeding is wonderful once you and the baby learn how to do it, breastfeeding takes work. You have to do it right, or it is a miserable experience. I really struggled breastfeeding Heather. We didn't have a good breastfeeding relationship down until she was over 3 months old. With Josh it was a lot easier. Why? I learned these things (unfortunately I learned them the hard way): 
  • Use the cross cradle (or football) hold with newborns. Newborns don't have the head support and coordination they need to get a good latch. If you use the cross cradle hold you can help them stay on longer by holding their head in place. It is also easier to see if the latch is correct.
  • Make sure the latch is right EVERY TIME! If the baby slides off, or you feel pinching, break the suction, and change immediately. Seriously, it will save you a lot of soreness. 
  • Baby to breast, not breast to baby. This has become my breastfeeding motto. Another fallacy I had was that you stuff the boob in the baby's mouth. It is much better if you wait for the baby to open wide, and then quickly pull the baby onto the breast. It helps you to have a better latch, and it helps the baby learn how to position her head correctly.
7. Let Daddy Help! and don't criticize! -- This is SO important. Most daddies really want to help. They may be scared at first, you know, "I might break it" but they want to help. What they need is gentle encouragement. NOT criticism. The trick is to ask them (nicely) for help, and make them feel appreciated and loved for doing so (whether or not they don't throw the diaper away). Many dads don't have as much experience in taking care of babies. Show them gently and kindly, and then if you can't handle it, leave the room! Why, you ask? Because the whole reason you are letting the dad help is to get a break. There is no use standing there and stressing out that "he's not doing it right" or standing around and watching him struggle with the screaming baby (just like you were, remember?) and then decide to take the baby back. You need a break, take it! It's OK to leave your baby. Really. Let Daddy and baby have some time to experiment. Both of them would probably appreciate it if you weren't there breathing down their neck. Josh really likes when Daniel holds him in certain ways, in fact there were times where I tried everything I could with Josh, and in total desperation, finally handed him over to Daniel. Josh settled down so quickly, I wondered why I hadn't given him up a lot sooner.  I am so not perfect at this, but I have let Daniel help more this time around, and it has saved my sanity.

8. Daniel's advice? You can't take too many photos. We love to look back and see how much our babies have grown. They grow SO fast when they are little, document it!

I know this was a really long post but, I hope that helps at least one of you new mothers. It will at least be helpful to me when the next baby comes. :)  


    Adams Family said...

    The thing that has worked great for me and lots of others I have told is to swaddle the baby or just hold them really close and then use one of those huge exercise balls to sit on and bounce. This works really well with babies that want you to walk and won't let you sit. It really saves the sore back. Anyway, great post, thanks Stephanie.

    Michele said...

    Great post Stephanie. I can't wait to make my own moby wrap, I"m totally wearing this next baby!

    Jenny said...

    Great post. I'm glad you wrote it all out again after blogger lost it. And here's hoping one day I'll be able to try some of this on my own babies. ;)

    Techno Grandma said...

    There's got to be a lot of truth in what you say--remember how Trevor wanted the vacuum running when he went to sleep? Laura had the cleanest house that year!

    Rachel and Erick Morwood said...

    Thanks for the post Steph! The past couple weeks have been a bit rough for me, especially when it came to nursing, so this post was really helpful. I really want to make me a moby wrap!!

    Rachel and Erick Morwood said...

    Thanks for the post Steph! The last couple weeks have been hard for me, especially when it comes to nursing, so this post was really helpful! I really want to make me a moby wrap!