Navy Seal Mommy

Snaps are the bane of a mother’s existence.  I would like to meet the inventor, just so I can lock him in a onesie and watch him try to escape.  The madness begins with changing and dressing a screaming baby at 2 a.m. while everyone else is trying to sleep.  You try to move quickly, but the outfit has lots of tiny SNAPS that only a flea could possibly close with ease.  Finally, the last snap is next, but wait – they don’t match up!  You Do a Magoo,where temporary blindness from sleep deprivation causes you to misalign the snaps, and it’s time to start all over again.  Breathe deeply and try not to cry louder than your baby.

When shopping for baby outfits, look for clothes that will be easy to get on and off quickly in dim lighting.  The best ones are simple with one zipper down the center.  Also look for a flexible head hole that will open easily and not upset your baby when he gets stuck in it.  Trust me; one of my sons had a head larger than Jupiter, and I spent many nights trying to perform impromptu noggin surgery to extract his head from an impossibly small hole. 

County fairs often have contests where people can try the seemingly impossible act of catching a wild and slippery pig.  This might be a good place to hone skills needed for dressing a baby who has become mobile.  If your child is particularly mischievous, you may need to gently pin down his legs with your knees while you dress him.  Use whatever other body parts are necessary to achieve success.

When changing a diaper on a baby, just remember one simple formula:  Delay Equals Spray.  Do it fast and get out.  Pretend you’re a Navy Seal if it helps. There is no time to analyze the job, because he who hesitates gets wet!  Babies do not know enough to wait until you cover them before they can release.  In fact, exposing a baby to cold air by removing a diaper often quickens the need to go.  Boys are more difficult in this situation, mostly because they have a built-in faucet aimed at your head. 

When babies are being changed, never leave them unattended on a changing table or bed.  Even if you think it is safe because they don’t know how to roll over yet, there is a first day for every milestone.  Sometimes newborns roll over accidentally.  Keep all changing supplies out of reach, because a baby will instinctively sense your weakness and one day be able to grab the diaper cream, powder, or wipes. 

Diaper rash may occur if your baby stays in a wet or dirty diaper for too long.  When this happens, use wet paper towels instead of baby wipes, which contain alcohol and will sting on a wound.  Soak your baby in a bath of baking soda and warm water.  Once the irritated area is dry, generously lather the irritated area with all-natural diaper rash cream and fill the diaper with absorbent cornstarch baby powder.  Increase the frequency of diaper changing to help heal the rash quickly.

Diaper changing does not have to be an unpleasant job.  Try to utilize the time as special one-on-one moments with each child.  Once they are old enough, you can have them hold a book or toy to distract them during the diaper change.  Until then, you can sing silly songs, invent fun tickling games, and test your creative abilities to make your child laugh.  Even a Navy Seal has to have fun sometimes. 

A Whole New Dinner Topic

I once offered some leftover newborn diapers to a couple who was about to have their first baby.  “No thanks,” the husband replied.  “We have a pack of diapers already.”  A pack.  How quaint. Obviously no one had shared the news with them yet, so I felt that it was my duty as a friend.  “A newborn needs to be fed every two hours,” I began, as the woman’s eyes widened in horror.  “He will poop almost every time you feed him, so you could be changing around 10-12 diapers per day.”  “Whaaaat?!” they screamed in unison.  “How come no one ever told us before?”

What is the color of love? Never will your love for your baby be more “brown” than during his infancy. When you first bring your baby home, you will be amazed at the efficiency of his tiny body.  In the beginning, the poop is dark yellow and seedy, sometimes called a Mustard Poop.  (Believe me, you will switch to ketchup on your hot dogs for a while.)  These poops are runny and messy, but do not smell bad; that comes later with solid foods.

Inevitably, runny poop will defy gravity by leaking out of the top of the diaper, running UP the baby’s back, and saturating his clothes. When your baby demonstrates this inexplicable phenomenon, you will discover The Bowels of the Nile.  Explaining this trend is like trying to teach students that the Nile River actually flows NORTH; they scratch their heads while picturing a river flowing UP.  When your baby goes through the Nile phase, put a larger size diaper over the regular one, just to give coverage higher up on the back.

Keep a bucket full of soapy water in the bathroom to soak all of the dirty outfits until you have time to do laundry.  Sometimes the outfits are stained so badly that you need to just throw them away rather than spend hours trying to eliminate stains.  One sure sign is when the outfit is more stained than unstained, or if it disintegrates when it hits the water.

Almost as startling as the frequency and quantity of a baby’s bowel movements is the deafening explosion of sound during Grenade Poops.  Having never attended etiquette school, babies do not feel constrained by the restrictive rules of society.  They will “let loose” any time, any place, and they are not the least bit shy about it.  Of course, the more important the function you are attending, the greater the odds of an explosion.  They are just waiting for opportune moments like, “If anyone here has a reason these two people should not be joined together, speak now or forever hold your peace” (Grenade Poop).

Somewhere around three months old, a baby may go through a phase of constipation.  These episodes last for 7-10 days, and they will occur on more than one occasion.  Just like waiting for a pot of water to boil, you will start to agonize over when and if your baby will ever have a bowel movement again.  Somewhere around day 7, the obsession starts, watching and waiting for the big moment to arrive. Just remember, what goes in must eventually come out.

When a baby has been on solid foods for a while, nothing helps cure constipation like eating an entire jar of baby prunes.  With a newborn, however, you just have to wait it out.  When it finally does come, you will notice that the appearance has changed from yellow and seedy to a thicker brown.  At this point, the frequency of the bowel movements may change to every other day or even once a week.  And you will look back and wonder how in the world your romantic dinner conversations turned to the intricacies of a baby’s bodily functions.

Lean, Mean, Weaning Machine

I’m not one to tell a mother when she should stop breastfeeding, but there are some simple guidelines to follow.  For example, if your child can walk up to you and ask you for milk, it’s time to wean.  And if this happens during a cub scout meeting, step up the pace, will you?  In just a short amount of time you can become a lean, mean, weaning machine. 

Few moms are ever fully prepared for the emotional process of weaning.  One moment you’re fine, and then at breakfast you’re weeping into your oatmeal.  Like so many other situations in life, the proper attitude can help you peacefully survive. 

A baby is able to drink from a cup at five months old.  If you breastfeed for six months, you can wean from breast right to a CUP, eliminating the need to wean again from a bottle to a cup.  The weaning process is difficult enough – why go through it twice? 

Replacing one breast-feeding per week with a cup will make life easier for you and your baby.  If you try to do too much at once, your breasts will be sore.  One week at a time allows enough time for you and your baby to get used to the new schedule. 

During the first week, start with the feeding that is the easiest for both of you to replace, such as mid-morning.  Have a plan ready for your order of weekly feeding replacements, ending with the bedtime feeding.  Nighttime is the most special bonding time for you and your baby, so leave the toughest for last. 

As silly as it may sound, choosing the right cup for your baby can be challenging. Most cups are only “spill-proof” when they are stationary on the table.  As soon as your baby knocks it over, however, welcome to Niagara Falls! You may have to experiment before you find a cup you and your baby like.  Cups have different spouts, and some are easier to suck from than others. You should buy four cups and fill them all the night before, so you can grab one quickly from the fridge as needed. 

If you do not have a lot of free time, you can buy ready-to-pour liquid formula.  While these bottles are more expensive than powder, the convenience is well worth the extra money.  Sometimes you also have to shop around to find a formula your baby likes.  When a baby is one year old, you can switch from formula to milk.  Dairy is difficult for a baby to digest, so many parents experiment with alternative forms of milk. 

When you switch from formula, don’t continue to heat milk to the same temperature.  That could eventually result in a four-year-old who still wants her milk heated every morning.  Serve milk gradually cooler every week until she finally enjoys it cold. 

If you decide to focus on The Last Supper, you will become an emotional wreck.  Do not worry about your baby; she will have no memory of breastfeeding once weaned.  Even if you imagine your tormented baby wailing as she roots for your breast, she has already “moved on.”  In reality, Mommy is the only one who is upset.   

Sometimes the emotional outpouring will not hit you until several days after you have weaned your baby.  A few days after the completion of weaning, you might cry at the slightest things, such as running out of potato chips.  It’s okay to “grieve” the end of a special time with your baby, but get it all out at once and immediately change your focus.  The end of every stage also heralds the beginning of a new and equally special time.  As your child grows, she will model your attitude and level of excitement about various stages in her life.  After the weaning process has ended, a mom usually feels a surge of energy. Let your liveliness and enthusiasm be a positive influence as soon as possible in her life, even while she is still a baby.

Onions in the Stream

A woman once compared nursing to voluntarily sticking a wet finger into an electrical socket.  This analogy is not entirely fair.  It’s more like sticking a fork in a toaster.  All kidding aside, soreness during nursing is normal; pain is not!  If your nipples are cracked, raw, and bleeding, this sort of discomfort is totally unnecessary.   

The first time you experience any pain, evaluate your positioning.  The entire areola should be in the baby’s mouth while he is sucking.  Don’t ever force him off your breast; just Unhook the Trout by gently prying his mouth off with your finger.  If you do experience soreness, many products currently exist to help alleviate discomfort.  Before spending lots of money on creams and cooling gels, try a cold, wet wash cloth.  Some women recommend a large, cold “cup” of iceberg lettuce, but don’t try to be frugal by using it later in a salad. 

Some women do actually develop mastitis, a painful infection of the breast tissue caused by bacteria entering a milk duct through a crack in the nipple.  Don’t worry; it’s much more painful than it sounds.  If this happens to you, please see a health care professional to determine the best course of treatment. 

Babies sometimes develop a lip blister from vigorous sucking.  While this may look painful, it doesn’t cause the baby any harm.  The blister will disappear on its own and possibly come and go throughout the time of breast or bottle feeding.   

HOLD THE ONIONS, PLEASE

Too much of anything is usually not a good idea, and sometimes babies can suffer from Mommy’s nutritional indulgences.  A lot of babies are particularly sensitive to dairy. Garlic and onions can change the taste of your milk.  In fact, there is nothing quite like Onions in the Stream to upset a baby. Huge servings of broccoli and other gassy foods can cause extreme discomfort to your baby. Since food takes approximately eight hours to enter the bloodstream, sometimes a baby has to suffer the consequences until the following morning.  You don’t have to eliminate these foods entirely; just keep them in moderation. 

H2O

Be aware of the dangerous potential for dehydration during breastfeeding.  About a week into nursing my firstborn, I thought that I had caught the flu.  I finally called my doctor after several hours of nausea, fatigue, and a fever.  He informed me that a nursing baby depletes his mother of fluids, and she needs to constantly drink water to rehydrate.  Drinking large glasses of water throughout the day will eliminate the uncomfortable symptoms of dehydration.   

GET A LEG UP

During nursing, getting physically comfortable takes some experimentation.  Everyone prefers different positions, from the football hold to the cradle hold.  The one common denominator seems to be elevation of the feet.  This can be accomplished by either putting your foot on a low stool or up on a chair or ottoman. 

When you start out nursing a baby, you can use a rocking chair or glider.  After a couple of months, however, babies no longer fit comfortably lengthwise in a chair.  They become so long that their head is on one arm of the chair, and their feet are in the neighbor’s kitchen.  At this point, you can nurse in the middle of the couch or on the bed with pillows behind your back.  Be sure to enjoy this one time in your life when you can sit still and relax with your feet up!

 

Hans Brinker Nursing Pads

After surviving labor and delivery, breastfeeding is not quite so intimidating.  In a way, a new mom is even tougher than Rambo. She handles the blood and gore of childbirth, and then endures milk shooting from her body, all without the aid of an assault rifle. 

When a mother nurses her baby for the first few days, she is not actually supplying milk, but a substance called “colostrum.”  Colostrum provides all the nutrients that a baby needs until his mother’s milk comes in, usually around day four.  Engorgement, a painful yet short-lived occurrence, also happens at this time.  For a few days, your breasts will be painfully swollen with milk. You may experience The 9 to 5, the cruel irony about how you always wanted to look like Dolly Parton, but now it hurts too much to enjoy it. Sometimes the breasts become so hard and swollen that the baby has trouble latching on.  For relief, you can express some milk by pumping or massaging circles around the breast.

Mothers have to be courageous in order to stick their breasts into a pump that looks and sounds like a mini-blender. (Even the bravest of men would hesitate before sticking a private part in there and trusting that all will be well.) Pumping milk may sound scary at first, but it is a completely painless process with all of the new fancy electronic equipment that is now available.  Some women even pump both breasts at the same time – a true octopus maneuver – during breaks at the office.  That could be a little awkward if your boss suddenly walked in at that moment. (Did you see the game last night? Go team!) 

THE LET-DOWN

If no one has prepared you, the first time you have milk “let-down” can be shocking.  Whenever your milk is about to flow, you will feel a tightening or tingling in the chest area.  After this sensation, the milk will be “let-down” or released from your breasts.  Sometimes your baby will have to suck for a while before the milk flows. Depending on your milk production, the milk may come in as slowly as a leaky faucet or as quickly as a monsoon.  If you happen to have an overly abundant milk supply, this steady stream will be convenient for your baby, but messy for you.

Supply and Demand dictates that the more frequently you nurse, the more milk you produce.  A baby’s cry will also stimulate milk production.  You could be on a date with your husband when a crying baby in the restaurant stimulates your milk let-down.  Since any crying baby can start your milk flowing, you have to be prepared for leaking.

THE LEAKY FAUCET

It is both annoying and amusing that when a baby nurses on one breast, the OTHER breast leaks at the same time.  You need to cover the other breast with a cloth or towel to prevent making a mess.  In an emergency situation, do The Hans Brinker to decrease the flow of milk by pressing firmly against the other breast.  (Hans Brinker is the story in which a little Dutch boy saves his country by plugging a leaking dike with his finger.) Nursing pads for the bra can be handy, but they are small and expensive.  Cut a maxi pad and stick it in each half of your bra. Maxi pads are twice as big and absorbent, and you can buy them in bulk inexpensively.  Newborn diapers are another alternative.

The first time your milk comes in, you may have two huge wet circles on your shirt if you are not prepared for leakage.  You will want to prevent that embarrassing moment of talking to someone and feeling milk leaking down your shirt. (Got milk?)  To avoid looking like an advertisement for a wet t-shirt competition, use pads.

The Nursing Nazi

After a grueling labor and delivery, my baby had arrived, and I blissfully sank my head into the hospital pillow.  Two hours later, I thought I must be dreaming as a starched demon-nurse was standing over me with my newborn in her arms.

“Time to nurse your baby!”  she beamed.

I wiped imaginary sand from my eyes. “B-b-but I just fell asleep,” I stammered.

“Newborns have to be fed every two hours!” She was way too enthusiastic about this.

Every TWO hours?  Why hadn’t anyone warned me about this?  My new daughter was looking at me expectantly with her huge, saucer-like eyes.  She started to root toward my breast, and I hoped she knew what she was doing, because I sure didn’t.

I called a close friend to tell her the good news, and she asked me how breastfeeding was going.

 “Have you started leaking yet?  Have you experienced let-down?”

(Dead air).

Leaking?  That didn’t sound good.  Let-down?  Was there supposed to be some sort of disappointment coming?  She then elaborated on some details, and I realized at that moment how little I knew about breastfeeding.

The good news about breastfeeding is that it is a natural process that woman have been doing for thousands of years.  If you have a baby in a hospital, they now have Lactation Consultants, who will help you with everything from the latch-on to the proper release.  Most of them will even provide in-home assistance, if needed.  Beware of the overly enthusiastic ones, however, as they can turn a beautiful experience into an anxious one.

By the time my third baby arrived, I was fairly comfortable that I knew how to nurse him.  Unfortunately, my assigned Lactation Consultant was Nancy the Nursing Nazi.  Nancy was a perfectly lovely lady, but she was a little too obsessed with breastfeeding.  Nate would be happily gulping away at my breast, and since Nancy had too much time on her hands, I would have to endure The John Madden Play-By-Play of breastfeeding.

“See how his chin is two inches below your breast?  That is NOT proper positioning!  Move it up 1.5 inches.  Now, see how his head is at a 45 degree angle?  That’s terrible!  It should only be 38.5 degrees!  Your hand is not supporting his neck enough; babies don’t like that!”

This was news to Nate, who was now milk-drunk and ignoring every word she said as he emptied me of my last drop.  I felt sorry for Nancy, so I humored her until she left the room, at which point I promptly returned to my own comfortable technique.  When Nancy offered me an in-home follow-up visit, I briefly considered changing my address and phone number.

Are you comfortable while nursing?  Is your baby happy, healthy, and growing?  If the answer to both of these questions is “yes,” then relax and don’t get caught up worrying about the “perfect positioning.”  Women nursing thousands of years ago did not have Lactation Consultants, and they somehow managed to feed their babies.  Try not to let the beauty of breastfeeding be diminished by the anxiety of trying to achieve perfection.

Apples to Oranges

From the moment you announce your pregnancy, the comparisons begin.  Other moms will ask you all sorts of questions about weight gain, morning sickness, and baby statistics, and then supply you with every nauseating detail of their own.  Apparently these comparisons never end, even when the children have long grown and left home. Consider the traditional Christmas newsletter.  Have you ever seen one where the parents actually discuss their children’s shortcomings?  This past year, Tommy (14) flunked Geometry, Susie (15) got pregnant, and John (16) wrecked our brand new car.  No, the job of parents is to prove how great their children are! 

THE ONE-UP

For every developmental milestone you celebrate with your baby, there will always be someone around to one-up you.  If your baby starts walking at twelve months, so-and-so’s baby walked at nine months.  Hopefully, you will quickly learn to weed out the phonies.  Your baby started talking at seven months? Mine talked at two months!  Try to avoid deflecting with sarcasm.  My other baby actually talked in the womb!  One-upping the One-up is generally considered obnoxious and unacceptable.  Simply nod and smile and try to rejoice in their successes. 

THE NFL CONTRACT (BRAGGING)

Comparison conversations tend to become extremely ridiculous when boys are involved.  Everyone wants their boy to be the tallest, biggest, and strongest boy of all time – the kid who will be picked first for teams in gym class. Once you have a boy, you will be inundated by other parents with stories of how their son was so strong he could hold his head up as soon as he was born.  Even though this is completely irrelevant in life, it sure sounds impressive! 

Our first son was a fairly large baby at birth (9 pounds, 3 ounces, 22 inches), and his head was only slightly smaller than North Dakota. Despite his size, we always met parents with much smaller sons who would brag about their herculean boys.

Despite the temptation to one-up, one has to just play along and respond politely. 

BOAST TEMPTING RESPONSE POLITE 
Davey was 9 pounds at birth! My son’s big toe weighed that much. Big boy!
     
Davey could throw a football at 6 months. My son could throw a football player. NFL contract!
     
Davey is the strongest baby EVER! My son could bench press his car seat at birth. Awesome!

The most important thing to remember is to not get wrapped up in The Comparison Game.  After all, you would love your child the same regardless of height, weight, and ability.  Do not stoop to a lower level to make someone else feel inferior.  You need to learn how to humor these people while remaining polite and friendly.  Act impressed, no matter how ridiculous the statement!