Sunday, August 30, 2009

Praise, Lying and other stuff

One of the benefits of traveling for my job (2 1/2 hours in the car, 2 days per week) is that I am now a fully certified, card-carrying, lover of NPR.

There is really only so much "morning DJ" one can listen to.

Now, I feel a lot more informed about a lot more things. I used to have time to read both Time and Newsweek every week, and now? Not so much.

So ... the latest ... I heard this interesting interview last week:
Parenting Tips: Praise Can Be Bad; Lying is Normal

The author, Po Bronson, wrote NurtureShock, the title of which refers (in a nutshell) to the shock a new parent receives when they realize that knowing how to raise a child isn't totally innate.

I rushed out to get a copy of the book and finished it this weekend. (As framework: I love to read and I have completed about 2 non-baby books since the Girl was born. Sad, but true).

I really recommend this book. The science geek in me found the research fascinating, but it is written very well - very readable and not too science-y. I am the first to acknowledge that authors can bend research studies to fit their point of view, but I thought the general themes of this book made a lot of practical sense. More that that, while it is based in science, there are definitely usable points scattered throughout.

I read tons of baby books before and immediately after Girly began living in our guest room. They focused on sleeping and eating and schedules primarily. Now that I feel we are more comfortable with this parenting thing (mind you, comfortable, not experts - far from it), the books are gathering dust.

I found that NurtureShock addressed some of the new fears of parenthood that are lurking on the horizon - discipline, language development, schooling, and raising a generally well-adjusted, happy and non-sociopathic member of society.

Give it a whirl.

I even got out my highlighter and everything.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Project Waikiki

Waikiki = Weaning

We are lucky enough to have a HAWAIIAN VACATION planned for October! A professional meeting, combined with free flights and hotel leftover from Huz's traveling days, was just too good to pass up.

And, the Girl is not coming. (Thank you, grandparents!)

This is sad and exciting and sad and exciting, all at the same time. In many ways, I'm glad the timing was already established, because I don't know that we would have gone on a trip so soon. I do think it is healthy for new parents to get away for a vacation at some point, but it is always easier said than done. I'm sure I'll miss her like crazy, and the OCD that will rear it's head whilst planning for her care for 8 days will be a wonder to see.

When the trip was planned, I wasn't sure if I would still be breastfeeding or not. I am, though, and the thought of pumping on my vacation just seemed ridiculous. Plus, the timing is really about perfect - she'll be 10+ months old when we leave. I'm not sure she would have been interested in nursing after 8 days of all bottles, and it seemed like a logical break.

Sniff, sniff.

It does make me sad to think about. I haven't enjoyed every aspect of breastfeeding, but I do like the cuddle time and, more than that, it is now so fast and easy. Five minutes each side and she is done - no warming of bottles or anything else. She is quite the distractible child, though, and now with her mobility I can only imagine that she'll be a progressively squirmy eater.

So ... the process begins.

If you have learned anything about me, it is that I am a Planner. With a capital P. I also have the luxury of doing this on my own time, so I have chosen a lengthy weaning schedule. There is no rush or deadline, other than mid-October hula time!

Girly has been at 4 feedings a day for quite a while now, but I added an "artificial feeding" first thing in the morning, so my body really thought it was more like 5 feedings. I would nurse her first thing in the morning on one side, then pump both sides. I truly feel that this helped keep up my milk supply while working, but it also added complications in the mornings when I needed to get out of the house to work (took too long to feed AND pump). This also significantly added to the milk stash in the freezer.

So, starting this month, I began weaning myself off that first morning pumping. I have always pumped for 15 minutes, so over about 2-3 weeks time I just slowly cut that back to 12 minutes, then 10, 7 and 5 until I just quit all together. Tuesday of this week was the day I stopped. I had Girly nurse on both sides at 6am (which she hasn't done since she was about 8 -10 weeks old) and that was it. I was more "full" than normal for about 2 days, and now I pump more at the 10am feeding time if I am at work, but I think things adjusted themselves well.

Also, starting this month, I cut back all of my pumping times from 15 minutes to 12 and to 10. I haven't noticed that it makes much of a difference, maybe an ounce or so less, but it is faster (yeah!) and I thought it would be helpful for the eventual dropping of feedings.

With my work schedule, I plan to drop feedings on Fridays, every 1-2 weeks, which will give my body about 3 days to adjust until I am back at work again. I'll drop her 2:00pm feeding next Friday, which will be the easiest because my supply is lowest at that point. Then, a week later, I plan to drop the 10:00am feeding, which will be a little harder. This will make for only a 6:00am and a 6:00pm feeding. It also means the end of pumping at work - can you say HALLELUJAH?!?

I plan to wait 2 weeks before dropping the 6:00pm bedtime feeding, but in the meantime, will slowly start to introduce formula. I plan to use every bit of frozen breastmilk (800 oz. and counting!), but will start to introduce 1 bottle a day of half formula and half breastmilk and work up from there.

When I drop the 6:00pm feeding, I'll add 2 bottles a day of half formula, half breastmilk. So, she'll nurse first thing, and have 3 bottles for the rest of her feedings. Some people I know have dropped the bedtime feeding last, but Girly is used to getting a bottle at that time of day, and she is often so tired that she doesn't nurse well anyway. Her morning feeding is the best and it is nice to cuddle in bed - I'll definitely miss it.

About 10 days later, I plan to drop the first morning feeding and be finished. This will be about 2 weeks before we leave for vacation. By the end of that week, all of her bottles will be half breastmilk and half formula. It would certainly be easier to use all formula, but I worked hard for that breastmilk, so we are using it! Plus, it is free!

If I have calculated correctly, I have enough breastmilk to get us through this transition over 2 months, and then I will just use up whatever is left, adding more formula as needed. Just in time for the transition to real milk, dontcha know ...

So, I've penciled in Saturday October 3rd as the last time I'll nurse her. Teary, even now. I think I will really enjoy the freedom, though, and I will feel proud of what I accomplished in 10 months.

And, shortly after, I will be tan and drinking girly drinks by the pool. And I'll be glad Mr. Medela is nowhere in sight.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Making my life easier

Our girl has skills. (Or is it skillz? I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be using words that end in Z).

She has achieved quite a few new things in just the last 2 weeks or so ... some of which I am loving, and some of which I am tolerating until they pass.

Under the "why didn't I think of this sooner?" category ... Girly will now lay on the floor, propped in her Boppy, and feed herself her entire bottle. I had seen a triplet mother I know (can you even imagine?!) do this with her trio, but it never occurred to me to do it with my singleton. I just attempted it one morning out of desperation - Dad out of town, Mom has to be somewhere, Baby won't nurse and now Mom has to pump. I sat by her on the floor pumping while she was thrilled to be feeding herself. I sat her up to burp half-way through, then she finished. I am telling you - this is GREAT.

She is also on the move. Not full-on crawling yet, but definitely scooting backwards, rolling all directions, up and down to sit, and more than anything else, totally motivated to get to things. Like hangers and remotes and plastic bags. Literally, on a Monday morning we sat her in the middle of our bed with toys while we got ready for work, as we had for months, and by Friday this was no longer a safe option. So, now we have the Pack n'Play in our room (Dad calls it "her house") so she can play with toys. While confined. Plus, it is so cute when she scratches her fingers on the mesh siding and presses her face into it to see us better. Maybe not so much "house" and more like "jail". Whatever.

While all the moving has taken some getting used to (I know, I know - it only gets more challenging), it has also affected her sleeping in good and bad ways. On the bad side, she practices moving in her crib. So, she'll be quiet for a while, then scream out because she is stuck on all fours, or crammed into the bars at the bottom of her bed. She settles quickly once we move her and I know that soon she will be fine on her own. I am certainly willing to tolerate this because of one SUPER unexpected side effect of all the moving. Our former "I'll-start-crying-at-5:15am-until-they-get-me" daughter has slept late for the last FIVE mornings. Before you get too excited, by late I mean somewhere between 6:15-6:50am, but this is still a major accomplishment. I can only conclude that she much prefers sleeping on her side or belly. The lovey also helps, which she now truly cuddles in the most adorable way. I can also conclude that I am happy.

Finally, a new entry into the "clearly I am a Mom now" category: scraping off cradle cap with oil and a comb. Eeewww. Our Gal has had cradle cap pretty much since birth. She was born with a mop of hair, though, so it was kind of hard to see and even harder to get at to remove. When she was brand new, she had it in her eyebrows and it looked sad, but as she got older, it just didn't seem to matter. While I still don't think it matters or bothers her, fast forward to 8 months when you pick up your daughter at daycare and they have been playing beauty parlor and her hair is up in a pony. AND she has yellow waxy scales all over her head and looks like a creature from some alien movie.

I had read that baby oil or olive oil would do the trick, but it just seemed to be a Challenge with a FULL head of hair. I bit the bullet today, though, because it was driving me crazy. I loaded the Girl in her highchair with graham crackers, poured grapeseed oil (so she doesn't smell like a salad) on her head and scratched away with a comb until she wouldn't tolerate it anymore. Then, I took the greaser straight to the tub and, while The Fonz look was cute, I am happy to report that her scalp is MUCH improved.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Current Approach

I am really having a good time planning the Girl's menu these days. Making our own baby food has been pretty simple with a little planning and I think the cost is about the same (or less) as if I was buying the organic stuff in jars.

The gear:
- Baby Cubes
- ice cube trays
- Magic Bullet
- immersion blender
I've mentioned all these before, but they really are essentials at our house.

The "recipes":
- Baby and Toddler cookbook
- Cooking for Baby
- Babyfood 101
- Nurture Baby
You don't really need "recipes", but more for inspiration. Also, we were lucky enough to get a few cookbooks as gifts. You don't need to buy them, though - there is tons of stuff on the internets.

The process:
If I spend a few hours on a weekend, I can easily make enough food cubes to last the Girl for 2-4 weeks (depends if it is a FAVORITE food or merely a TOLERATED food).

I do buy organic produce when it is "recommended". Usually this is at a farmer's market (makes me feel better about spending the money) or at Whole Foods. Our farmer's markets in the Midwest rarely have a lot of fruit, but do have tons of veggies. (I also shop at our local Price Chopper and on Tuesdays they have 10% off organic produce - ask at your store!). Also, I use some frozen foods (mangos and peas at this time, but probably more during the winter).

I bake in the oven (potatoes, butternut squash), microwave steam (carrots, peas, zucchini) and cook on the stove top (most fruits).

I fill the Baby Cubes or ice cube trays with the pureed food, lay plastic wrap over the top and stack in the freezer for a day or 2 before removing. (Last time I didn't wait long enough and the center cubes weren't totally frozen - a mess!) Then, transfer each food to separate ziploc bags and I stash all of it in the bin in the bottom of my freezer.

I really like the Baby Cubes for the convenience of sending food to school, but if I were home all the time, I think ice cube trays (1 oz. cubes) would work better. A Baby Cube holds a 2oz. portion, and I generally give her about 3oz. of food per meal (3 times a day). It is my preference to mix up the foods - generally giving 2-3 different foods (1oz. each) per meal. I don't think she really cares ...

I find that the Ziploc Snap n'Seal 1 cup containers work great for transport- hold 3 ice cubes of food for a meal. At home, I just pull out the ice cubes and microwave them for about a minute in a ceramic ramekin. Easy!

We stopped rice cereal pretty quickly - too constipating. The Girl now gets 1oz. of juice (prune apple!) each day and 1 oz. of plums each day, which seems to help move things along. Ahem. We do use the oatmeal cereal to thicken fruits and veggies now that she will take more texture.

We added plain whole milk yogurt a few weeks ago and she loves it! I was getting a little lax on introducing foods every 3 days to watch for allergies ... I was vigilant at first, but after she didn't have any issues, I loosened up a bit. (As my pediatrician said - if you wait 3-5 days for every new food, she'll be 3 years old and you will still be checking things off the list!). That being said, I was cautious with things like milk and wheat, just in case. (No problems so far). I like the little portions of yogurt - she only eats about a tablespoon at a time, so it is less wasteful to use a tiny container for a few days than to open one large container and throw it out due to spoilage.

She started eating Ritz crackers at school, so I promptly went and bought the "healthy" version of Ritz in the health food section of our store. I know, I know - my mother thinks I am crazy. Makes me feel better, though. I find that half a graham cracker is easier for her to manage and she doesn't bite off such a large chunk. Puffs and Cheerios are fine, too, but she can't quite get them to her mouth yet, so for now, just pincer practice. Big sticks of cucumber are good for chewing, but certainly require supervision if she bites off a big chunk.

On the horizon ... I am holding off on meats, mainly because I don't want to deal with it yet. I got some quinoa and lentils that I will start adding, along with some whole wheat rotini noodles. I think whole wheat couscous would work well, too. I am loading up on fruits now while they are in season.

While you may be tempted to go hog-wild and fill your freezer with purees, I would advise making smaller batches. I have lots of purees still frozen and she can definitely take chunkier texture, so I am mixing cereal with everything to thicken it up. Also, be wary of freezing larger portions of certain fruits - like plums and blueberries - that might cause a poopy nightmare. I like to mix just 1 oz. of these fruits with a couple of ounces of apples or peaches, you know, just to balance things out!


I'm off ... my blender calls!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Convertible time!

Ahh, remember the days when this meant a sunny day, top down, wind in your hair?

Now, it means ... BIG GIRL CAR SEAT!

We are officially in the market for the next car seat. Girly hasn't outgrown her bucket, but I almost have! There are only so many more times that I can hoist that thing into the center of my back seat before I throw out my back. It's funny that I picked her infant bucket because it went up to 30 pounds / 30 inches. (Most of them do these days, but not all). There is NO WAY that I could haul her around in that thing when she weighs 30 pounds!!

Our experience with the rental convertible car seat gave me a few insights, and I've picked up a few other tips along the way ....

- We have smallish, 4-door cars. The convertible seat in the rental was placed in the center, which is ideal, but this necessitated moving up the passenger front seat so far that it was almost not usable. (And my legs are short). This simply would NOT do for our cars that we use all the time.

- The harness-tightener-apparatus is my nemesis. I never feel like it is tight enough. Britax (and maybe other companies) offer a "Click and Safe" feature on their seats where there is an audible click when the harness is tight enough. Sold!! Unfortunately, I have heard from a friend and read online that this could give false reassurance - it clicks before it is really tight enough. So, I don't think I'll opt for the $20 upcharge.

- Consumer Reports is your friend. I bought an online membership when I was registering and I just renewed. The Britax Diplomat is their top-rated car seat for 40lbs and under at this time. It seems to offer some of the best features of the Britax Roundabout (smaller / lighter weight) and Britax Boulevard (true side impact protection, easy adjustable harness).

- Britax has a new seat - the Advocate. (Seriously ... who names these things?) I have read good things online, but it hasn't been tested by CR because it is too new. It has a new-fangled side impact protection device. I, of course, want the safest car seat for my child, but this seat is $100+ more than the already expensive Britax convertible seats. Is it really justified? At this time, without more evidence, I'll say no ...

- Ask around! I polled my friends about their car seats and (shocker) read tons online. (The Huz is about to throw up his hands and buy me every car seat on the market just to get me to shut up!). Amazon, Baby Bargains, and Consumer Search have good reviews. They all are user-opinions, but I think you can get a good general overview.

- There are also sites, like Car Seat Data , that gives user opinions about the fit of a specific car seat in a specific car.

Also, worth noting, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends keeping your toddler rear-facing as long as possible - up to 2 years old. Our Girl has short legs, so we'll try to make it work.

The Britax Diplomat only goes up to 40lbs, while the Boulevard goes up to 65lbs. I think this will be OK ... most 3-year-olds are around 40lbs, so I think we'll be OK buying a new car seat at that point if needed. Plus, if we have a second child (!), we would need two car seats anyway.

Finally .... SALE! Many of the Britax car seats are on sale at Amazon through tomorrow. I encourage you to visit Hip Monkey to buy your seats - free shipping, no tax and they price match any deal on the internet. This organization donates proceeds from car seat sales to buy safe car seats for needy families. And, if you live near a USA Baby store, they will also price-match.

Safe travels!