Saturday, October 29, 2011

Does this baby come with a user manual?

I started a new pregnancy / mum to a very young baby group for my local expat women's club, called Bumps and Babies, and for this past month's meeting I had everyone send a title for a book they found particularly useful for pregnancy, labor, baby's 1st year and/or breastfeeding.

I then compiled the list (with a lot of my own titles thrown in there) and printed out copies for everyone at the meeting.

I also did a very insensitive thing and wrote an asterik and a disparaging comment by the name of a baby book I (and many, many others) feel very strongly against. "The Contented Little Baby Book" is written by a child-less woman who advocates having a very strict scheduling of feedings for baby from birth. This flies 100% in the face of all medical professional's advice that I've ever read about breastfeeding, most of whom say that - especially during the "fourth trimester" of the first three months of baby's life - that all feedings should be baby-led (aka - and this sounds so very intuitive to me that I feel silly saying it - feed baby when baby is hungry and not because - omg! it's 3pm and that is his scheduled time to feed!)

Granted I have never taken care of a new-born before (so who am I to judge whether this woman's, Gina Ford, advice is good or not?) BUT my NCT instructor has, and she went on a whole diatribe against this book, and ones like it, that advocate for strict schedules for newborns, saying she sees at her clinic all the time under-fed babies who are failing to thrive because their parents follow strict schedules like Ford advocates. Like my NCT instructor says, newborns just went from being continuously held and fed 100% of the time in the womb, to being in this cold new world where they must suck and digest their own food, and be left alone some of the time! Add to this the fact that newborns are not developmentally ready to be born yet (read "The Happiest Baby on the Block" or any other book that talks about the "fourth trimester") - and you have a poor, helpless infant who can only understand love, warmth and comfort - but certainly not that you cannot feed him right now because you must wait 3 hours between feeds or else! All babies are different and maybe Ford's schedule works for some but I do not think it is a good book for new mothers to read thinking that they must do what Ford says, especially when much of what she says can be detrimental to the establishment of a good milk supply.

So there are all these reasons why I wrote that comment, but I shouldn't have. It hurt the feelings of the woman who recommended it (who DID, btw, follow Ford's advice!) and I just should have kept my big mouth shut. Because I really liked this woman and would have liked to be friends but now I think she thinks I'm just a huge bitch. Ugh. Is one lost friendship worth my moral integrity? I feel so strongly against having pregnant women read this book that I feel highly like it WAS a question of moral integrity to put that warning there. But there were only 5 people at the meeting, and only 1 other first-time mom. So, so much for my moral integrity in saving 1 person from reading it. Why can't I leave well enough alone?

But without further ado, here is the list. I personally highly recommend "The Happiest Baby on the Block" (given with much praise to me by my cousin, a mother of two), "Fatherhood: The Truth" (laugh-out-loud hysterical, and the only book DH has read cover-to-cover all year long, and with no prompting by me!), and lastly "Birth Skills" by Juju Sundin (even if you do want an epidural, her skills are helpful for early labor!) 

Bumps and Babies - Book List

Baby’s first year:

The Baby Book, by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, MD
The Wonder Weeks, by Hetty Van de Rijt and Frans Plooij
The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, MD
Brain Rules for Baby, by John Medina
The Contented Little Baby Book, by Gina Ford **
The Yummy Mummy Survival Guide, by Liz Fraser
What to Expect during the First Year, by Murkoff, Eisenberg & Hathaway


What to Expect When You’re Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff, MD
The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy, by Vicki Iovine


Birth Skills, by Juju Sundin with Sarah Murdoch
New Active Birth, by Janet Balaskas


So That's What They're For: Breastfeeding Basics, by Janet Tamaro
The Nursing Mother’s Companion, by Kathleen Huggins
The Breastfeeding Book, by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, MD

For dads:

Fatherhood: the Truth, by Marcus Berkman

Websites & blogs: - in particular the “Advice Smackdown” column

** A very controversial book: Medical professionals say following Ford’s advice can prevent the establishment of a good milk supply if you are breastfeeding. The National Childbirth Trust strongly advocates baby-led feeding and avoiding a strict schedule in the first three months. (My NCT instructor says she sees new babies in her practice all the time who are under-nourished because the parents are trying to adhere to a strict schedule of feedings instead of listening to their baby’s signals.) That being said many new parents find Ford’s book helpful, as evidenced by its appearance on this list, and Ford has many devoted followers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pregnancy brain

I made pumpkin waffles today. (Yes, I found both canned Libby's pumpkin AND a waffle maker in this country!! yay Americana!)

So I made pumpkin waffles. I got out all the ingredients and put them on the counter. Put the little bit of butter in the microwave to melt. Mixed batter. Made waffles. Ate waffles. Cleaned up waffle-making mayhem. Did fifty billion loads of cloth diaper laundry. (Did you know you have to pre-wash hemp diapers FOUR to FIVE times? Bah.) Sent a million emails. Made, ate, and cleaned up LUNCH. Went to make afternoon tea and opened microwave. To find the butter from this morning's waffles. I completely forgot about it!

(Good news - the waffles were still delicious without it. I know you were worried about that.)

This forgetfulness is a really weird pregnancy symptom that I SO thought people were joking about / exaggerating. Surely - my first trimester self thought - surely you can't leave the house without your keys? I mean. That is just a WHOLE crazy level of forgetfulness. But yes, you can. I've left the house without my blackberry twice. Which is just about the same as leaving without your keys when you realize that you don't have it when you're 20 minutes from home.

You can also go to a gelato store, and pay for the gelato with a 10 pound note. Have the guy give you a loyalty card in return. Go to park and eat said gelato. Go BACK into gelato store and ask if they have toilets. Having received an answer in the negative you go to the Cosi coffee next door and kind baristas let your HUGE pregnant self (the omg is she gonna give birth here? look of terror on strangers' faces is priceless) use the restroom. You get your large, waddling self somehow down two flights of stairs and a long walkway to the tube. You get your large, omg I move like a turtle but look like an elephant self finally up your own stairs and into your flat. Which is precisely when you realize that the gelato guy NEVER GAVE YOU YOUR CHANGE! WTF? Dude, you just robbed a PREGNANT lady! Hope you feel good about your day. You probably do. You're four pounds richer. But maybe you feel a little sorry for me - like, hey, that lady is so dumb she probably needs that four pounds.

Keep your four stolen pounds, gelato guy, I just have pregnancy brain.

My mind will return.... hopefully.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some painful acronymns to ponder



SPD, symptomis pubic dysfunction, and PGP, pelvic girdle pain, previously thought to be two separate conditions, are now apparently the same thing. This pregnancy-induced pain (caused by the hormone relaxin relaxing the ligaments connecting the pelvic bones TOO much) has been recognized since the time of Hippocrates. But my favorite quote on it is this one from the 17th century:

The affection appears to consist of relaxation of the pelvic articulations, becoming apparent suddenly after parturition or gradually during pregnancy and permitting a degree of mobility of the pelvic bones which effectively hinders locomotion and gives rise to the most peculiar and alarming sensations.
—Snelling (1870)

Please excuse me, it's just that I have a peculiar and alarming sensation in my pelvis.

Personally, I don't care what they want to call it or what funny adjectives are used to describe it, it is what I have. Pelvic Pain. Imagine you got alternating sharp, stabby pains, and a dull, constant achy pain in a single spot directly at the top and center of your (low-rise) panty line. That is what I have. To prevent it I can only sit in very specific ways (no crossed legs, ankles or knees, back straight but not too straight, knees lower than hips, feet flat on the ground), I can only walk/shuffle at an honest-to-goodness-that-IS-an-old-lady-with-a-cane-passing-me speed,  I have to take stairs very gently and at very, very "excuse me ma'am are you alright?" speeds, I can't stand for longer than 5 minutes, I have to wear orthopedic inserts or Birkenstocks even at home (good bye to my collection of cute flats and boots!), I can't swim, do yoga or any kind of exercise, and I can't walk/shuffle for more than 10 minutes at time (which given my speed is about 100 feet.)

If there weren't a cute little bundle of joy at the base of all this I might be pretty mad.

Although apparently it doesn't help matters that said cute little bundle of joy is already sitting quite low with his head providing my very sore and tender and over-stretched pelvis with more pressure. But at least (knock on wood) he isn't breech!

Least I scare my friends into thinking that they want no part of pregnancy after reading my pelvic pain lament, rest assured, it usually happens only to those who are uber-flexible to begin with. (To give you some basis of comparison, I can go into a back-bend from standing. Without warming up or anything.) The horomone relaxin (which is SUPPOSED to loosen your pelvic joints so that baby's head can come out!) just loosens things up TOO much in those of us who are naturally already really, really flexible. But if you want to try and prevent it, then make sure you do lots of pilates BEFORE you get pregnant. That way you'll have a really strong core that can compensate for your failing pelvic ligaments and help keep your pelvis secure and in alignment. Regularly doing Kegel exercises would also help. But again, starting before pregnancy. I'm not a doctor but this is what my osteopath told me (who, errr, is also not a doctor.) But it makes good sense, and doing pilates regularly is a good thing for anybody! Yoga on the other hand.... not good for those who are already too flexible. Sad face for me because I loved yoga. Sad face. Oh well. I highly recommend yoga to everyone else though! Great for the mood and the body and the soul. Breathe in for five counts... one... two... three... four... five...

I imagine my pelvic pain floating away...

Ouch! Just tried to cross my legs... pelvic pain is definitely still a resident here. And probably will remain so until two weeks after the arrival of baby boy.

But I'm at 32 weeks! only 6-8 more to go!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bigger is not better

Bigger is not always better.

No, no, not by a long shot.

Now, those with itty bitty boobies might beg to disagree with me here, but big boobs have big drawbacks. These include but are not at all limited to: backache, posture problems, inability to sleep without some sort of support, inability to run without MASSIVE support, unwelcome staring, ill-fitting clothing and inability to find bras that actually FIT.

Now of all those drawbacks the last two actually have solutions. 1) Find a store that is well stocked with bras in ALL sizes and 2) find a store that tailors clothes specifically for women with large boobs. Say good-bye to Victoria Secret (what do you mean you only carry up to DDs?? BS!) and HELLO to the amazing UK store called Bravissimo! Which not only carries ALL cup sizes (seriously) but also has a relatively cute line of clothing tailored specifically to busty, very busty, and extremely busty women! (Not kidding, there are 3 sizes within each size!) This is just mind-boggling, amazing, wonderful. Why does Victoria Secret have such a stranglehold on the US lingerie market? Why does a country the size of CT and Rhode Island have it's own store specifically for big-breasted women of ALL sizes?

I would love to wax sociological about the various reasons why the UK caters better to women's boobs than the US but all my theories sound rather silly. Just another example of why bigger is not always better!

And it's not just this one store Bravissimo that has amazing selection. Check out this line of all wireless bras. (Wireless? Why would I even think about such an evil term? Well, when breast-feeding, wired bras can clog your ducts, or so they tell me. I'm not really sure what that means but it sounds scary.) This bra company even makes a nursing bra specifically for cup sizes F through (wait for it) L !! Which, given that I'm at a FF right now makes me happy. Yay, I can find bras that fit, at reasonable prices. Phew. I don't ever want to walk into a Victoria's Secret ever again. They don't even make nursing bras anyway. Super mom Heidi Klum should have a word with them about that one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Thank You to the Parisian People

Thank you, citizens of Paris, for immediately giving up your seat for me on the metro. I didn't even need to give a single one of you "that look." Nope, me and my baby bump standing by you for a millisecond was enough for you to jump out of your seat. Thank you.

Thank you also to all the museum guards who - the very moment I entered the line - dropped everything, waved frantically at me to get my attention, then motioned me immediately to the very front of the line. (Note to future pregnant friends: traveling at 7 and a half months pregnant - while not comfortable or convenient for many reasons - IS great for cutting long lines at museums.)

While I'm at it, I'd also like to thank you, Parisians, for your delightfully obsessive passion for good food. Your restaurants and cafes will be much missed by this pregnant patron.

A note to London - get better manners and better food and maybe I'll write a thank you to you too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

31 weeks... and baby's head is already engaged!?

Ignore the messy flat in the background.... five loads of baby laundry a day has slowed down my other housekeeping chores (err, as has a certain fantasy novel, The Wise Man's Fear, ahh so distractingly & absorbingly good).

But anyway... I'm huge! Right? Although I'm only going to get bigger!

AND I went to the osteopath the other day (for my increasing pelvic pain) and he was feeling where the baby's head was... and baby boy is already 2 - 3 cm engaged!! Now, the osteopath used to be a nurse, but he's not a midwife or OB, so I'm not sure exactly what he meant. I think it means baby's head is already 2-3 cm down into my pelvis - aka he's already "dropped." Which would explain why I haven't been experiencing the trademark breathlessness of the 3rd trimester (despite my very short torso.) It also explains the increasing pelvic pain. His head pressing down on my pelvis isn't helping my pelvis' stability issues.

I have a midwife appointment on Wednesday so hopefully I'll know more about the implications of his having already dropped by asking her. Although she's only a tad bit brighter than a ton of bricks sooooo I might not. I do have an appointment with an OB in mid-November though. Which is a real long ways away. I don't have any alarming symptoms (not even any Braxton-Hicks!) so I think baby boy is really just, as the osteopath put it, testing out his exit strategy - and everything is a-okay.

Sometimes I do think he's trying to bust out. He kicks and punches so hard! Last night he was kicking and punching - at. the. same. time. It feels like your belly is housing a seesaw instead of a cute little bitty baby. I always thought those little striped jail-bird baby onesies with the slogans about 9-months behind bars or whatnot were crass and very white-trashy. Well,  I still think they're crass and white-trashy, but I do see the relevance now. 

We're off to Paris this weekend! It will be a marathon of doing a lot of sitting and eating and absorbing the beauty that is Paris, by um, walking only 15 minutes at a time at a very, very, very, I-can't-believe-my-husband-isn't-going-stir-crazy-and-old-ladies-with-canes-are-passing-me pace. But there will be croissants. And other beautiful pastries. And chocolate. And crepes. And aren't you glad I don't have gestational diabetes?! Because I am!

Bon Weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baby essentials

I've started a group for pregnant women in my area to meet up and chat - and one of the women in my group just sent me an email asking me for my advice on baby products. It was a pretty tactless email. There were no thank yous, or could you pleases involved. Actually I think it's worth while to quote it: "My mother in law offered to get me everything I need from NY & Vegas.  Since you have done all the research, I was wondering if you can send me a list of what you considered to be the essential for after birth & for the baby.  The only thing I got so far is the breast pumps. She have babies r us & all it's chain, pea in the pod, destination maternity & motherhood stores near here. If you know which store the product comes from that would be helpful too."

Okay, really lady? First of all, you either don't know how to write in English or are so uninterested in the impression you make on me that you don't proof-read. Second, really?? You want me to give you a list of essential baby products AND go to the trouble of figuring out which stores your MIL can find them in, in Vegas?? Are you kidding? Seriously, you must be.

Which is maybe why I haven't written her back yet. I'm not sure such an email even deserves the dignity of a "maybe it would be helpful for you to do a bit of your own research since you also don't work" response.

However, she did get me thinking about how much I DO know about baby products based on the obsessively extensive amount of research I've done on everything from swaddling blankets to baby baths. (With clearly the vast majority of it going into cloth diapers - a product which clearly would not appeal to Mrs. I-can't-spell-or-do-research-on-things-affecting-my-unborn-child.) (Me? Judging? Never...)

It will also be fun to go through this list after several months of actual product-testing and see which ones I still consider essential!

(drum roll please!)

Olivia's Essential Baby Product List

  • Swaddling blankets - the Miracle Blanket, and Aden + Anais muslim ones
  • Baby bouncer - Baby Bjorn babysitter, so cool, it folds up completely flat (I was able to put it in my suitcase) and the baby's own movements make it bounce!
  • Baby carrier - this is a three part answer: 1) Ergo Baby Carrier, can be used on the front, back and side, can be used from birth with an infant insert, can be adjusted to fit different people, is a great more traditional carrier but does not have the drawbacks of the BabyBjorn carrier (which can adversely affect baby's spinal development) 2) the Moby Wrap - basically a long piece of cloth you wrap around yourself, forming a pouch which you put baby into, baby is close to your skin and very comforted, but it's not bulky like the Ergo 3) The Peanut Shell - because it's beautiful and despite it's impracticality (since it's sized it can only be used by one person) some babies apparently like this pouch style sling the best
  • Travel crib - Baby Bjorn Travel crib, amazing! only 11 pounds (unlike the Graco pack and play which is 25!) and it's super easy to put together, just folds up, only drawback is it doesn't fit in a standard suitcase and is a bit too long for a standard carry-on but apparently airlines will let you bring it as part of your baby-paraphernalia carry-on allowance
  • Crib - obviously this depends on your living situation. If we had a real house, with a real nursery, we would have bought a nice big crib that would last for 2 years and a Moses basket on a stand or the Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper (a small crib with a drop down side that goes directly against your bed) that would go by our bed for the first three or four months. BUT we're short on space so we got the Bloom Alma mini crib, that will only last till baby boy is 1 year old, but folds up completely, is on wheels so it can be wheeled up to the side of the bed at night, and away in the morning, and means we only have to have one piece of furniture devoted to baby sleeping for at least a year. And it's super-duper beautiful and functional and I love it.
  • Baby swing - now there are lots out there, but as we were going for affordability and portability (how easily can we stash this in the closest given our flat is the size of a closet?) we choose the Fischer Price Take-Along Jungle Swing. But if space hadn't been an issue we would have gone same brand and jungle theme but the full-sized version, which swings side to side as well as back and forth. Apparently some babies only really like side-to-side. Also, apparently some babies hate all swings. So, we'll have to wait and see if baby boy approves of our choice.
  • Sophie the giraffe - uber-popular rubber squeaky teether which babies apparently adore
  • Lamaze toys - such as Olivia the Owl and Freddie the Firefly, apparently babies are faaaascinated by them (gotta admit that so am I)
  • Sleeping bags - HALO or Aden + Anais brands, it's much better for baby to be in a sleeping bag then covered with blankets. Blankets can suffocate, a sleeping bag cannot.
  • Fancy baby bath bucket - Prince Lionheart WashPod (or if you're in Europe, the Tummy Tub) - they're both basically fancy-pants buckets which, since they're for washing your precious baby in, the retailers feel justified price-gauging you for. The bucket enables you to wash your baby with your baby in the fetal position (instead of flat-on-back-and-flailing position) and is much more soothing and comforting to baby (again, anecdotally speaking).
  • Stroller - If I had money to burn, lived in an elevator building, and had spare square footage (Oh, if only) then I would have gotten the Bugaboo Bee for everyday from day one, and a Maclaren Quest or Triumph for when baby is older and we are traveling. As reality sits at the moment (no piles of hidden cash, one flight of stairs, and no room to breath) we got the Maclaren Techno XT, suitable from birth, folds like a dream with one hand (and a foot) is light, completely collapsible, very manouverable, and just lovely to behold. (We were debating on getting the City Mini, whose only appeal is that it folds with one tug of the hand - but it is ugly and takes up more space when folded and has less under-stroller basket storage.)

  • A breast pump - manual if you will only use it occasionally, electric if you plan on using it daily
  • Bottles - there are so many different kinds out there and each mom swears by a different brand, Dr. Browns and Born Free are probably the two most popular. I have yet to buy these, but do plan on getting a few of each
  • Level 1, slow flow nipples - apparently baby can develop a flow preference for a bottle over your breast, so using Level 1 or premmie nipples when you do give him a bottle will help prevent that from happening
  • Plain cotton prefold cloth diapers - for use as burp rags, general baby mess clean-up do-all
  • Layette - aka baby clothes, onesies, sleepers, cotton hats, bibs, fleece snowsuits for winter, socks
  • Scratch mitts - little thumb-less mittens so baby doesn't scratch himself!
  • Lanolin cream - for sore, dry, cracked nipples, and for prepping nipples in the months before you give birth (not supposed to be ordinary moisturizer on those puppies!)
  • Breast pads - disposable or washable, for leaky breasts (all breasts leak... apparently!) 
  • Changing pad and 2 covers - yes you want at least two, if you have to ask why then you should go give yourself some experience and babysit for a day, preferably for an 18-month old with tendencies to eat entire apples in a sitting (don't ask)
  • Crib sheets - must be tight fitting! also DON'T BUY CRIB BUMPERS! They increase the probability of SIDS, block air-flow to baby and are completely unnecessary flippery
  • Baby snot sucker - we were given the Frida, but apparently your mouth works just as well. (Gross, right? Well this is coming from DH's male co-workers!! Apparently, it's just really, really hard to get baby's teeeeeny tiiiny nostrils unclogged!)
  • Thermometer for baby's bath - maybe not essential? Just for paranoid new-moms like me who want their porridge just right?
  • Specially made thermometer for baby's butt - uhh yah, apparently the most accurate place to take baby's temperature is up their rear! But buy a special made-for-babies one so you don't accidentally rupture their rectum (ouch, cringe, eek!)
  • Rattles, baby books, and other mind-enriching toys - just wanted to end with you having a picture of a cute little baby boy rattling a rattle, or being read to, or watching his reflection in a mirror :) Aww, can't wait, really can't wait.

Woah there. I've written an essay. Already. AND I'm pretty sure I'm leaving something super important out. Will have to update later. Given my pregnancy brain (seriously there is such a thing - more on that later too) I most likely have forgotten a very important product. But I think I'm baby-product-ed-out right now. And sick of using the word "apparently." Actually don't want to see that word ever again. Can't wait till baby boy is out and I can give advice based on actual, active, direct experience!

And just in case you were wondering....

No, I'm not sending this list to her. Unless she brings me cookies. Then I might reconsider.