Thursday, October 28, 2010

Please don't wake me

So, my champion sleeper, who only woke up once per night starting around 4 weeks, has completely fallen apart. She's now waking up about three times per night and laughs in the face of naps. I tell her, "You know, lots of other babies take naps that last more than ten minutes! And they feel MUCH happier afterwards. You should try this." And she says, "Mom, those other babies are weaklings." And I beat my head against a wall and wonder what the hell is going on here.

Oh, and for extra fun, she's recently decided that I am the only one who is allowed to put her to bed. If Mr. Canuck tries it, she screams blue murder and tears our hearts out. It's brutal.

So, remember how I said I wasn't going to read any more parenting books? Well, I've stuck to that, I promise! But I never said anything about Googling. And my trusty friend Google tells me that this is very common and totally normal. Apparently around four months they have a big leap in cognitive development, and with all this new information running around their little brains, it's hard for them to stay asleep. Okay, I guess that's a good reason.

This does not stop me from trying to make her sleep during the day, however. We frequently have conversations that go like this:

What's that you say? It's naptime?

Hmm, she says. Let me think about this.

No, no. I don't think that's a good idea at all.

But, darling, I tell her, if you don't sleep then I can't sleep, and I will turn into a zombie. You don't want a zombie for a mama, do you?

No worries, ma, she tells me. It ain't no thing.

I will just hang out down here and eat my fist.

At this point my head explodes and I wail in despair that I will never sleep again. But then she does this...

...and my heart grows three sizes and I tell her that I will get up with her ten times a night until she's thirty if that's what she needs.

This motherhood gig is damned hard work, but I would not give it up for the world.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I've been to every single book I know

(Today's subject line is brought to you by Sting.)

There are a lot of parenting books out there. I have mixed feelings about them. If you are the kind of person who can take what you need out of a book and leave the rest, then the books would probably be very helpful for you and you should knock yourself out.

If, however, you are like me, and you overthink everything until it is at least ten times more difficult than it has any right to be, and if you are lacking in the self-confidence department, then DO NOT READ THE BOOKS. Oh my God, I have driven myself crazy.

At first it was fine. I figured, hey, I have never done this parenting thing before, there cannot be any harm in finding out what people have to say about it. Right? HA HA. Turns out that there is no such thing as an objective parenting book. They are all selling ideologies, and all of them conflict with all of the other ideologies. And they all say that if you do not follow this one specific method of parenting, you will ruin your child.

A big offender in that department is Dr. Sears, the "attachment parenting" dude. If you do not wear your baby in a sling all day long, she'll be much more likely to be insecure and clingy later on. If you don't co-sleep (the fancy term for letting the baby sleep in your bed), you'll be creating all kinds of sleep problems that will ruin your whole life. If you ever let your baby cry, he'll be much more likely to mow down the other kindergarteners with an AK-47. You get the picture.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for showing my baby all the love and attention I can give her. I believe that babies who know that their needs will be met will grow up to be confident kids. That makes sense to me. But I also believe that there is more than one way to go about this. I do often carry Ellie in a sling, just because it's so convenient to be able to snuggle my fussy baby and also get things done. But she doesn't sleep in our bed, and she is sometimes allowed to cry for a few minutes while I finish my dinner. This has yet to kill her.

Dr. Sears is also really bad about talking up parenting "in Africa," where presumably they are closer to nature and therefore more intuitive than we are here in North America. This drives me CRAZY. For one thing, he never specifies where in Africa. Egypt? Kenya? Botswana? Côte d'Ivoire? Dude, Africa is an enormous continent. You gotta be more specific. Also, I do not believe him when he says that babies don't cry in Africa because their mothers carry them all the time and don't worry so much about "modern" parenting methods. Babies are babies. They cry, even in third-world countries. I heard them personally when I was in Tanzania. Shut up with your stupid colonialist nonsense.

At the other end of the spectrum is that Baby Wise book. I have to admit that I've never actually read this one, but from what I understand they say you should control every single thing about your baby from day one. Won't sleep? Let him cry in his crib until he learns how to fall asleep on his own. Doesn't nurse for long enough? Keep her at it until your clock says it's time to stop, even if she's obviously finished. Um, no.

And then there's the Baby Whisperer, who presents herself as the "happy medium" between these two ideas. I read her books cover-to-cover while I was pregnant and thought, "Yeah, this sounds reasonable, this is what we'll do!" And then the baby was born and - gasp! - reality did not match up to the book. I've also learned that a lot of what she says about breastfeeding is just plain wrong. I don't know how she expects a young breastfed baby to go three hours between feedings during the day. Ellie is three and a half months old and she still can't go that long. It's nuts.

But all of these authors are VERY persuasive, and they all have bits of useful information scattered into the ridiculousness. Just enough to be convincing, at least to me. So I spend quite a lot of time worrying that I'm doing it wrong, and then forcefully reminding myself that Ellie is MY kid and I can do it however I want. This is a very strange feeling. I am a person who likes to be thoroughly educated about a thing before I start doing it, but in this case that has totally worked against me. For the first time in my life, books are my enemy!

But it's getting better. I am gradually learning to trust my own instincts and ignore what the "experts" have to say. After all, they've never met my daughter. They don't know what's best for her. I do, and I'm learning to trust that. And if any of you catch me reading another parenting book, I want you to slap it out of my hand and set it on fire. SAVE ME FROM MYSELF.

And since I know y'all are really just here for the baby pictures, here ya go. Is she not the cutest baby you ever did see?

Thursday, October 7, 2010


The parenting decision we've made that tends to get the biggest reaction from people is cloth diapering. Yes, we use cloth diapers, and we love it.

There were a lot of reasons for this decision, but the primary one was money. It was a big initial layout - I think we spent around $600 altogether for the diapers, wipes (we're using cloth wipes as well), diaper pail (which is really just a kitchen garbage can with a lid) and pail liners - but we'll never have to buy diapers again. It's even better when you consider that these diapers will also be used on Child Number Two, whenever we get to that point.

Also, because I am a pinko commie tree-hugging hippie, I love that we are not filling up landfills with disposable diapers that will sit there taking up space for thousands of years. I am also wary of all the chemicals that are in disposable diapers and wipes. It turns out that I am very fussy about what goes on my baby's skin.

The first question people always ask is along the lines of, "You really want to handle baby poop all the time?" It's really not that bad, and no worse in that regard than disposables. Breastfed baby poop is fairly inoffensive, and all we do is pull the insert out of the diaper and throw everything into the diaper pail. No rinsing in the toilet or anything. Then, about every other day, I dump the pail liner into the washing machine and let it do all the work. It's not like I'm up to my elbows in baby poop all day long. I'm sure it will get grosser once she starts on solid food, but for right now it's really not a a big deal.

And, as I mentioned above, we're also using cloth wipes. This is even easier. We got a whole bunch of little, thin washcloths as gifts, and they make perfect wipes. We keep a little spray bottle by the change table filled with water and a little bit of baby soap, and spray the cloth to wipe her down with. I find that this works even better than regular baby wipes. Then it goes in the pail with the dirty diapers.

There are a gazillion different kinds of cloth diapers out there, and I am here to tell you that deciding on which kind was really difficult and intimidating. This is most likely because I overthink everything and make things at least ten times more difficult than they really need to be, but seriously, there is a ridiculous amount of choice out there. We ended up going with a mix of Rumparooz and BumGenius. (Yes, they ALL have cutesy names like that. Other brands include Thirsties, Happy Heinies, and Applecheeks.) They're both all-in-one (meaning we don't have to buy a separate diaper cover), one-size (adjustable so they'll fit her all the way up until potty training) pocket diapers (there's a pocket on the inside where you can put extra absorbent inserts). They do a fantastic job of keeping her contained - we've actually had more leaks with disposables than we have with these.

And here is where I have to admit that I lied a little bit when I said we'd never have to buy diapers again. Ellie was in disposables for the first couple of weeks of her life, until we got the hang of things and all the meconium was out (because holy hell, that stuff is VILE). We'll also most likely use disposables when we're traveling. Cloth diapering while you're on vacation certainly can be done, but it sounds like a huge pain in the ass and I don't want to deal with it. So exceptions will be made. All things in moderation, is what I say.

So cloth diapers are awesome. And for an extra perk, they look absolutely adorable, both on the baby...

...and on the clothesline.