Thursday, February 17, 2011

Now I'm the "experienced mom"

Once upon a time, I was a new mom too
This post was inspired by Teresa Strasser's hilarious and profane tell-it-like-it-is pregnancy and childbirth memoir Exploiting My Baby, which I read as part of the From Left to Write Book Club.

Six years ago, Z was 3 months old and I was heading back to work. I'd spent weeks nursing her through DVD-watching marathons of Gilmore Girls and The O.C., and while I was nervous about leaving her two days a week at our neighbor's home daycare, I was even more freaked out about those other three workdays, when my child was going to be cared for by Josh--proud parent, but utterly inexperienced when it came to caring for babies and children.

Our next-door neighbor Sharon was my (and Josh's) go-to gal when it came to parenting advice. I admired her children's collection of attractive wooden toys and knew I could count on her to always have Infant Tylenol (and Motrin!) in her medicine cabinet. Heck, "going potty at Sharon's house" was a major incentive when it came to toilet training.

Now Sharon's moved up the street to a bigger, better house (and replaced most of those wooden toys with sports gear, a Wii and a Dish subscription) and our elderly neighbor to the south passed on. Two new couples moved in on either side of us in the last year and both are expecting babies in the next month or so. I don't know if they'll look to me as the "experienced mom" next door, but if they do, I'd share what worked for me. It's not the same as advice, because I don't assume what's right for our family is some kind of gold standard.

1. Swaddle for the first month, but don't force it if your baby hates it. Z loved a tight swaddle and A wanted her arms free from the moment she was born.
2. Try to get your baby to accept a pacifier. Or you may become the pacifier.
3. Give breastfeeding a shot. I found it easy and convenient and snuggly as all hell. And I loved having an extra 500 calories in my diet. I breastfed exclusively for about 6 months and then supplemented with formula for another 6-8. There's no shame in using formula. Pumping at work does get old and since no one was giving out gold medals for breastfeeding, I took the path of less resistance.
4. Read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and follow Dr. Weissbluth's advice. The ability to sleep is a skill you need to teach your child. Don't believe the crazies who say you'll damage your 6 month old if you let him cry it out.
5. Wear your baby. I loved the wrap-style carriers for infants and the Ergo for slightly older babies.
6. But get a stroller too. If you've got the cash, start with a snap-and-go style stroller for your infant car seat and graduate to a well-made umbrella stroller. Get a used jogger or all-terrain stroller if you encounter a lot of rough roads or paths.
7. Don't go crazy with the baby equipment, but be sure to get a bouncy chair, an infant car seat, a high chair or booster seat and a Britax convertible car seat. Hit up yard sales, consignment sales and parents with kids a year or two older than yours for craptastic plastic toys, pack n plays, exersaucers and the rest.
8. Go out to eat and take your infant with you. You won't be enjoying your meals out in 5 or 6 months, I promise you. And travel while your baby is still young. Moms get nervous about taking their new babies on a plane, but as long as you've got a boob and/or a bottle, she'll be happy (and fly free!). It's one year olds who are holy terrors in flight.
9. Make friends. Having a baby is your free pass to making new friends. Just as my six year old makes friends with kids for any reason ("Hey, you like Harry Potter and I like Harry Potter--let's be friends!"), so do moms ("You've got a 2 month old and I've got a 3 month old--let's hang out with our tits out!").
10. Vaccinate. The data is in. The scaremongers were at best ill-informed and at worst committing fraud.