Sunday, February 08, 2004

My thoughts on breast pumps 

The medela breast pump is the highest rated one so I think it's a good choice. I am borrowing the purely yours one which is ~$100 less ($189 @ and I think it works fine (but I've never compared the 2 pumps). I've read that the <$100 electric pumps are usually crappy.

I also have the avent isis manual pump ~$50. The manual is convenient for when you are engorged and need relief, are in a hurry, want to carry it to the bedroom, etc. It is also small, light and easy to assemble. It is also good if you're only planning to pump occasionally. Some people say they think this pump is as good or better than electric but I disagree b/c you still have to use your hand to work the pump plus you can only do one side at a time.

If you're using a pump while working I'd say you need an electric pump. You can always rent/borrow one too to see how breastfeeding goes before investing in one, or wait a little before buying the electric and just do the manual for now. You probably have several months off so presumably you won't need this 'til then and then you'll have a better sense of what you'll need.

No matter what, once the baby is born, I say definitely introduce the bottle around 3-4 weeks old, and have someone like your partner/mom give the baby the bottle once a day or every other day to get used to it. We introduced it early, had no problems, so only gave the bottle like once a week or so and now we have issues where she refuses the bottle. ugh! I wished someone had told me this we had to do this more consistently and often.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Review of Baby Books 

When Rich and I came home from the hospital, it quickly became apparent that we had a STEEP learning curve as Isabella cried and cried and we didn't know how to console her. What the @#$%& did we get ourselves into??! ;-) You can imagine me in the middle of the night leafing through all my books trying to learn differnet techniques to calm babies, etc. Here is my review of the books that I read.


Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp

I highly recommend this book. The suggestions in this book TOTALLY worked to calm Isabella, and she was transformed from a fussy baby to an absolute angel in minutes!

The main idea is that babies actually experience a "fourth trimester" outside the womb. Unlike other animals which can walk and fend for themselves once they're born, the human baby is quite helpless when born. For God's sake, they can't even burp by themselves! They were once warmly cuddled 24/7 with constant feeding and a lull of bodily fluids sssh'ing around them. To go from this environment to a cold, quiet world is so jarring, that babies get very out of sorts by this adjustment. When they fuss, the best way to calm newborn babies is to remind them of the womb environment.

(Note: It is amazing to me that a being that is so vulnerable and incapable of taking care of herself eventually grow up with so much intelligence that they are on top of the food chain. Weird. If the animals wanted to take over the earth and were smart, they would target human babies when they can.)

Anyways, to replicate the womb, Dr. Karp suggests using the "Cuddle Cure":
1) swaddle your baby ULTRA tight
2) side/stomach - lay your baby on her side/stomach so she doesn't startle herself with the Moro reflex (feeling of falling down)
3) ssssshh - Mommy's fluids were as loud as a vacuum cleaner in the womb, so have a similar LOUD white noise, or simply say "sssh" close to your baby's ear; your sshing must be louder than your baby's cries to calm her down
4) swing/jiggle - babies are used to lots of movement so swing or jiggle your baby - careful not to shake him/her; little movements as if you're shivering help calm baby
5) suck - sucking releases a calming reflex in baby

Keys to doing the Cuddle Cure correctly:
1) take the lead from your baby; if she is screaming loudly, then the louder the sssh'ing and the more vigorous the swinging must be to catch her attention
2) use a combination (not just 1) of the 5 steps above to calm baby
3) if baby is hungry, make sure blankets, etc. are not rubbing his/her cheek which would trigger the rooting reflex and frustrate him/her even more
4) when swaddling, make sure her arms are straight so she can't wiggle her arms out and hit her face with her hands. her arms and wailing distracts her from your soothing techniques. tuck the blankets with each fold to make sure of this.

My opinion is that Karp's Cuddle Cure is a great start. Ultimately, you need to figure out through trial and error what will comfort your baby. The Cuddle Cure gave us the theory and foundation, and helped us through the beginning rough periods. Through time I found that Isabella instantly calmed down when I held her with a "Neck Nuzzle", i.e. her upright against me, chest to chest, cheek to cheek, me saying sssh, walking back and forth with a slight upward bounce, kissing her, with my arm holding her up under her butt.

Secrets of a Baby Whisperer, Hogg

I highly recommend this book. It really helped us interpret some of Isabella's body language, and gave good suggestions of how to make our lives together easier. Hogg provides a good balance between Sears' attachment parenting and the reality of creating realistic habits for the baby. The insights she provides are invaluable in understanding baby.

Main takeaways:
- EASY - Eat, Activity, Sleep, You - routine to put baby on; babies thrive on routine and this is flexible (you don't have to be ruled by the clock) yet consistent so baby knows that to expect
- SLOW - Stop, Listen, Observe, What's Up - what you should do when baby starts crying; baby cries for different reasons so you must interpret what the baby is trying to say to you based on body language and intonation
- not letting baby be dependent on props or creating & perpetuating bad habits; if you make baby dependent on rocking to fall asleep, she will continually need this if she wakes up in the middle of the night; gives insight as to what behavior parents do that perpetuate habits
- provides interpretations to read the baby's cues, i.e. when she is tired & overstimulated
- recommends to "start as you mean to go on" - create the environment of how you want your life to be like x months from now from the beginning, i.e. do you still want to be rocking your baby to sleep for an hour when she is 20 pounds

Healthy Sleeping Habits, Happy Baby
I highly recommend reading this book. The author is a pediatrician who specializes in sleep issues. It was the most helpful for me in getting my baby to sleep better, understanding how sleep works and creating a good routine. I found this book because it was highly recommended in the Berkeley Parents Network. When I first read excerpts of this book, I didn't think I would like it because much of the antecdotes were all about making your baby cry it out, and some of the comments are quite frank (such as "parents are directly to blame for their baby's sleep problems"). But as I read through the book, there were lots of insights that I found useful, and I picked and choosed what I was comfortable with from the book and implemented them along with those from "Secrets of a Baby Whisperer". I wound up using a "pick up / put down" and a "pat/shh" check & console method, with mild CIO and it seems to be working great after 4 days.
Main takeaways:
- Babies get tired after 1-2 hours of being awake. You must put them to sleep at that time; otherwise, they will become overtired and overstimulated and it will be a struggle to put them to sleep. (Human bodies produce stimulating hormones to help fight off the sleep.) Overtiredness is a state which accumulates over time and only gets worse. You have to start any sleep training when a baby is well rested - first thing in the morning.
- Babies need to have an early bedtime, like between 6 - 8 pm
- Naps of shorter than 1 hour duration are not considered restorative
- You have to get your babies out of the habit of catnapping by elongating their naps; don't pick them up - encourage them to fall back asleep; once you do this they will be able to send themselves back to sleep once they finish each sleep cycle and not need you
- Naps in cars and in motion are bad quality naps which should be avoided whenever possible
- Babies develop natural biorhythms after 3 months which dictate their sleep and awake times. Babies usually naturally wake up around 7 am. Typically, after 3 months, they will need a nap in the morning (9-10), early afternoon (12-2) and sometimes in the late afternoon (3-5).

What to Expect the First Year, Murkoff, Hathaway & Eisnberg

I highly recommend this book. It has answers to practically every question you might have, especially anything medical. Very thoroughly written. Good resource to have in the house; like having a pediatrician in your hands; a no brainer purchase.

The Baby Book, Sears
He is a pediatrician who has ~8 kids, so this reference is not only very thorough (like What to Expect the 1st Year), but it is also very personal because he adds his own experiences into various situations. It includes parenting philosophy and is less medical oriented. It's a more fun book to read because it's more warm, friendly and conversational and talks about how to enjoy your baby, etc. Generally I like this book a lot and would recommend it as a secondary resource. It’s thick so you’ll probably more likely read/skim for appropriate sections.

I have to admit that I sometimes find it annoying because there is an overemphasis on "Attachment Parenting". Carrying your baby in a carrier or sling, and cosleeping seem like the solution for all problems. I really like the concept; it is indeed "beautiful". But I believe that it is very hard to implement in modern society, and does not create a well balanced family. For example, they suggest cosleeping and say your baby will want to sleep on his/her own when they're 2 or 3 years old. Man, that is quite a crimp on your love life until then!! I tried my darnest as a full time Mom, but being an attachment parenting purist is exhausting and you may wind up resenting baby which is very counterproductive. The solution to burnout is to get more help, but sometimes that is not possible. But consider that this theory is based on tribal cultures. Well, for one thing, maybe that is why tribal cultures are still tribes and not developed! My Mom grew up in a village in China and she was forced to "attachment parenting" because she didn't have a choice. She had to carry the baby around in the rice field because otherwise no one else would take care of the baby. And, the baby never touched the ground because it was so filthy in the village and babies have such delicate immune systems! Good book overall, and do the best you can with the recommendations but don't obsess over it.

Contented Little Baby Book, Gina Ford
This woman is all about scheduling your baby. Many people say babies thrive on routine and predictability, which I agree with. But I am not 100% comfortable being so strict about scheduling my baby at such a young age, i.e. waking her up at 7 am SHARP, etc. But this method really works for some people. I did take some general ideas from the book to generally understand what a good daily feeding and sleeping structure for a baby would be and what is appropriate for a child at different ages, and I incorporated my own flexibility. Her tone is a little nazi like so read it with a grain of salt and get the information you need out of it.

Nursing Mother's Companion, Huggins
I didn't get that much out of this book that I didn't gain from all of the above resources, except it gave me a better idea of how many ounces of milk a certain weight baby should be drinking. I think for new Mommys that are having trouble breastfeeding, it helps provides recommendations of how to better achieve latch, increasing milk production, etc. which might be helpful.

Fun books:

Baby Owner's Manual This is the cutest book. Written as if the baby is a VCR, and is essentially just as the title calls it - an owner's manual.

Worse Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Parenting A cute book to give someone who doesn't know what's about to hit them.

Other book recommendations I received (but I didn't read):

Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Shelov
Babyhood, Leach
Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, LaLeche League - supposedly the breastfeeding "Bible"
So That's What They're For, Tamaro - funny book about breastfeeding

Recommendations from Quyen:

Wonderplay by Fretta Reitzes - an activity idea book to stimulate baby. Easy to read, with lots of suggestions for activities, songs, etc from birth to toddler age.

Baby 411 by Denise and Alan Fields - from the same people who wrote Baby Bargains. It's a condensed version of everything you need to know to take care of your baby. They also give you summaries from popular baby books so you can get to the nitty gritty of the information rather than having to read the books.

Growing Together by Dr. William Sears - all about baby's first year including info about milestones, etc.

Baby Minds by Linda Acredolo - Lots of info on games and other things you can do to help baby build her brain.

Baby Signs by Linda Acredolo - Gives you information on how to start your baby on signing.

Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber - Soon you'll discover there's a ton of info out there to help your child with her sleep issues. This is the heavy hitter and it's supposedly pretty controversial b/c the dr. advocates letting your baby cry it out.

First Foods by Bryan Vartabedian - answers all your feeding questions. A lot of the books I've come across on food focus more on recipes than answering your questions about what to feed baby, when and what's good, not good, etc.

Sesame Street's Favorite Songs 2
Baby Faces - shows a bunch of different babys' faces with nursery songs playing in the background