Enjoying the first five months

Before Viola was born, we took a class called Surviving the First Six Weeks, wherein it purported to educate us on how not to die nor kill the baby.

The first six weeks were hard, but the problems they taught us to solve (breastfeeding difficulties, changing diapers, sicknesses) all paled in comparison to the only one that mattered: sleep. In the first six weeks, one does not sleep. At all. It's like finals week dragged out three times as long (and I'm not as young I once was to handle the sleep deprivation).

But after that, when the baby starts sleeping in 3, sometimes 4 hour chunks, life gets better. Until it gets worse. Viola's sleeping like a newborn again, thanks to teething and her baby-sized stomach.

We got lots of advice, most of it well meaning. Advice from a doctor is good, except when it relates to anything slightly outside their expertise. For example, the pediatrician at the hospital told us not to use a nipple shield for breast feeding. At the time, we didn't know that she was speaking from experience, not from her degree. She was wrong. A lactation consultant set us straight.

Here's what I recommend (from experience, not expertise) how not just to survive the first five months, but maybe even enjoy it.

1. Any trouble with breast-feeding? Get a lactation consultant immediately. From reading and asking around, the ones that make house calls are orders of magnitude better than the ones on staff at hospitals.

2. Baby accoutrement will abound, in the form of presents, cool craigslist finds, and hand-me-downs. Babies grow fast. Don't buy too many new clothes, there's no point; they'll be hand-me-downs soon enough. And a baby monitor is over-rated. If the baby can't be heard from your bedroom, a) you're deaf, or b) down-size your house. Also, avoid toxic toys, even if it means throwing away the perfect toy that your baby loves.

3. The only advice worth taking is that from other parents, and your own don't count (they had babies 30 years ago, what do they really remember? Only the good stuff, I hope). Parents of children who are slightly older than yours make perfect sounding boards. They were just there! All others, mostly useless. They remember stages wrong, can only remember the good times, and the advice changes from decade-to-decade. Not that we were raised wrong, but "Cry it out" isn't reasonable as anybody with a heart knows.

4. Get out of the house. As often as possible. Take the baby with you as often as possible. No matter how strange or tired it might feel, it's always worth it. But don't go to the places your used to go. They don't want you at the pub with your baby (in this country, state, neighborhood).

5. Have a backup plan. It's usually: get in the car and go home. You might feel tired, the baby might be melting down, or your old/new friends don't understand that being on time is more important than ever and only the couple with the baby can be late. Don't feel bad about ditching, or at least, get over it quicker than you used to.

6. Understand that your old friends still like you, but you're probably not going to see them every Saturday night like you used to, unless they have kids too, then you'll see them more than you ever did before.

7. Take offers of help from your friends, whether it be food, or watching the baby while you shower, or a walk to the farmers' market with good company. Caveat: all real work exceptions apply. If they make food you don't like, or worse, buy lousy fast food, or the worst, make great food but can't clean it up, decline their offer next time.

8. The baby will change daily, especially after 2 months. You don't want to miss it. Get on the floor with her, pick her up and hug her, read books with her, anything that maximizes the fun time.

The rest is already out there--what stroller to buy, tummy time, back sleeping, when to start on solids, what solids first, sleep-training (or when to start failing at sleep training), and what toys are appropriate. My wife is putting together a list of phthalate-free and Bisphenol-A-free toys and companies.



At 8/28/09, 1:01 PM, Blogger rahkan said...

I can't believe you have a child.

At 8/28/09, 7:59 PM, Blogger Independane said...

in case you haven't yet - www.dooce.com is awesomely hilariously and you will totally relate!


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