Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scrapbooking and the Normalization of Breastfeeding

Back in college, I got into scrapbooking. I can't draw or sculpt or paint, but I've done layout in some of my jobs and I feel like I'm halfway decent at arranging things on a page to look nice, so it's the closest to the visual arts I'm likely to get. I haven't done any in years, but having a baby seems like the perfect time to start back up.

On a recent visit to a scrapbooking store to find fun stickers and embellishments for E's first pages, I quickly realized that my life doesn't resemble that of the average scrapbooker. Now, I'm not too surprised to find stroller stickers but nothing for babywearing. Or "first foods" sets that have nothing but jars of baby food. I'm not even surprised at the number of bottles everywhere - it's a typical symbol of babyhood, and even most breastfed babies like E get bottles of expressed milk while mommy's working or away.

What really took me by surprise was the presence of explicit references to formula, but absolutely zero references to breastfeeding. The word "nursing" was nowhere to be found in all of the cute or touching phrases relating to babies, but you can get a sticker of a can of "Formulac."

I was further dismayed by the response when I brought this up on a scrapbooking message board. Women likened a scrapbook page about breastfeeding to one about poop or even wet dreams. These women later assured me they were "just joking," but how many times have you seen entirely serious arguments against nursing in public that use the same comparisons? And even so, you know what they did have at that store? Tons of stickers showing diapers and even phrases like "Poo Happens" - apparently scrapbooking about poop IS more acceptable than scrapbooking about feeding your baby naturally.

Some responders asked sarcastically if I expected stickers of bare boobs, even though I had specifically said all I was expecting was a phrase or two here and there, "Nursling" or "Mama's Milk." They said clearly there's not enough of a market for breastfeeding embellishments, or they'd be sold. Honestly, I wasn't even envisioning a breastfeeding-themed pack - and that's the thing. Formula and bottles don't get their own special packs; they don't need their own "market" beyond "people who have babies." They're just naturally worked in to general baby themes, because they are considered a normal part of having and being a baby. Breastfeeding clearly is not. It has no place in the decorations used to memorialize babyhood. It would be embarrassing to remind your grown child that once you fed him from your own body - and if it's embarrassing, the implication is that it is at best abnormal and at worst wrong.

This kind of omission is both a symptom of the problem and an aggravator. It's a clear sign that breastfeeding is not considered normal, of course. But it also sends its own message, one that perpetuates the problem: Hide the fact that you breastfeed. Make layouts about dirty diapers and baby's first tooth, but don't you dare make anyone think about how you fed him for the first six months of his life - an activity that probably took up the majority of your waking hours for several weeks! Only photos of those other few hours are acceptable. Breastfeeding is your dirty little secret.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cloth Diapers for the Total n00b - Part 2

The Players
aka, Is This a Diaper or a Cover?

The first step in getting a handle on the world of cloth diapers is working out what is what. But terminology by itself only gets you so far, so I'm including some info on the differences and when you might choose each of these options. As usual, this is all my opinion, and what works for me might not work for you!

Diapers that need covers
Prefolds - These are the classic that most people picture when you say "cloth diaper." Several layers of cotton folded on top of each other. I will be honest, I know there is Indian and Chinese cotton, but I've never gotten the differences straight and I have no clue which I own. Not convinced it matters. These require a cover, as the pee will soak right through them. You can lay them in the cover then put it on the baby, or fold the diaper and use pins or a snappi to put it on the baby and then put the cover over it. I find that the latter gives me less leaks, but others swear by the former. Prefolds are cheap - as little as a dollar each, though commonly more like $2.

Fitteds - A fitted diaper is like a prefold, but is precut to fit the baby with no folding, has elastic in the legs and waist, and closes with snaps or aplix (a version of velcro common on cloth diapers). They are also often made with a cool fabric on the outside layer, which leads to some brands (ie, Goodmamas) being highly sought-after as collectible. Like prefolds, these require covers; there is no waterproof layer in a fitted. Personally, I don't really get fitteds. They are far more expensive than prefolds - you might get a few for $5 each used, but new they're anywhere from $10-$40 each. And then you have to put a cover over the cool pattern anyhow! But again, some people swear by them. They cite the convenience and the elastic holding more poop in to keep covers clean longer, and many people enjoy the patterns even though they get covered up.

Contours - Like prefolds, but shaped to fit the baby without extra folding. Both conceptually and price-wise in between prefolds and fitteds. These do require a cover. I really don't see these mentioned much on the cloth diapering boards I read, so I get the feeling most people go fully to either the prefold end or the fitted end rather than taking this middle ground.

Covers - You'll need to put one of these over any of the above types of diapers. A cover is not a diaper itself, and generally has no absorbent material, only a layer of waterproof material to go over the absorber of your choice. Many commercial covers use PUL as the waterproof material, but there are also covers that use fleece or wool. You can usually use one cover repeatedly until it gets poop (or a lot of pee) on it. They range in price from about $8-20 each new, and for a newborn 5-8 of them will get you through laundry every other day. They come in every color and pattern possible, especially if you start looking at handmade ones on Etsy or Hyena Cart, and close with either snaps or aplix.

Diapers that don't need covers
Pockets - A pocket is a diaper that does not require a cover. It has the same kind of waterproof material (generally PUL) on the outside as a cover, a minimal layer of absorbent material on the inside (sometimes a material that wicks moisture away from the baby's skin), and a pocket between them to put more absorbent material into in the form of inserts, doublers, or even a trifolded prefold. Personally, I find stuffing pockets - then having to pull out the wet inserts - to be annoying enough that I've sold the few that I owned, but plenty of cloth diaperers use them exclusively. These are generally more expensive than prefolds + covers, though there are cheap brands sold mostly on eBay.

All-in-Ones - As the name implies, this is the whole shebang. A waterproof outer layer with all the absorbent materials you need attached. AIOs are the most expensive option, but many people keep a few around for use by babysitters or family who don't want to mess with snappis or pocket-stuffing; using an AIO is just as easy as a disposable. I like them better than pockets, but only have a few for overnights (with hemp doublers) because of the cost. Because of all the fabric, they often dry more slowly than other diapers.

All-in-Twos - What? Wouldn't that be a pocket? That was my initial reaction to the existence of AI2s, but the difference seems to be that the material snaps into place rather than going into a pocket. So I guess you can pull it off for faster drying, while not having to fish anything out of a soggy pocket.

Other bits and pieces
Inserts - These are what go into pockets. They are long, thin rectangles of absorbent material; microfiber, cotton, hemp, and bamboo are most common. Generally one will get you normal absorbency and two will do overnight duty. You can also lay them into a cover instead of a prefold - but remember that microfiber shouldn't touch a baby's skin directly and can cause rashes if it does.

Doublers - Are basically the same as inserts, though they may be thinner. The point of a doubler is to lay over another diaper to increase absorbency for overnight or heavy wetters.

Liners - These are there to act as a barrier between the diaper and something. You might use liners if you need to use a non-cloth-friendly diaper cream, or to make it easier to shake poop off into the toilet. There are both flushable paper and fabric liners; if you are washing liners to reuse that have diaper cream on them, don't put them in with your other diaper laundry.

Soakers/Longies/Woolies/Skirties - Various names for wool covers. Longies are pants-length, and skirties (duh) include a skirt. I honestly don't know much about how wool works; it's not actually waterproof, instead it somehow lets the moisture evaporate out slowly instead of leaking out. (I think.) Plenty of people swear by it even though a single soaker can cost $20-50.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Six months!

Happy six month birthday to E!

A natural birth began six months of breastfeeding, baby wearing, and cloth diapering, yet I still don't do it to be crunchy. I do it because the research supports it, or because it's what works for our family. Breastfeeding has definitely been the biggest challenge, but things have gotten much easier.

As I posted, the first month was torture. I seriously did not know how I could possibly make it to a year like that. Big thanks to the breastfeeding community on LiveJournal for encouraging me to keep looking for answers, and to get his posterior tongue tie clipped even though both the LC and the ENT who clipped it thought it was too minor to matter. Two days after the clipping, the pain was gone! I honestly hated breastfeeding that first month and couldn't understand how people enjoy it - now it's great snuggle time and convenient on the go food!

We've also had thrush twice, and a dairy intolerance, so it's still not all sunshine and rainbows. But he can tolerate yogurt (including frozen!) now and small amounts of dairy-containing chocolate (not quite there on cheese, sadly), so I feel better when I can ave a few treats.

We've nursed in public just about everywhere. I started keeping a mental list when he was born, but it got too long to remember! Restaurants, churches, in dressing rooms, in the car, in the sling or mei tai while shopping, in my office, just about anywhere we go, and have yet to get a rude comment or look - though I know as he gets older people might get less tolerant.

My intention when he was born was a year and then we'll see how it goes after that. That's still sort of where I fall, but I don't feel like he's halfway done nursing. A third of the way, maybe, a fourth of the way, very likely. I'll just keep going (after a year) til either he weans himself or circumstances change and it no longer fits in our life. I'm still fully committed to doing whatever it takes for the first year, though - but I think the second six months will be much easier than the first!

Adventures in Baby-Led Weaning

We are skipping "baby food" (purees) and going straight to finger foods, an approach known as "baby-led weaning." I actually don't like the name much, since the process really has nothing to do with weaning him - I don't plan to do that til he's at least a year old, probably closer to two. It really should be called "baby-led solids" or something.

But anyhow.

We started last week. Today is his six month birthday, but he was showing all the readiness signs (sitting up unsupported, can easily grab things and put them in his mouth, constantly trying to grab our food) so we let him start a little early. And it is clearly a hit - he's been getting easily bored/frustrated by toys at his high chair, but a hunk of broccoli will keep him happy plenty long enough for us to eat in peace!

So far, he's had sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli, celery, the lemon out of my drink, bananas, and a few little tastes of other things. Green veggies are MUCH easier to clean up after than banana or sweet potato. And baked sweet potato sticks led to enough gagging that the second time I mashed them with a little extra olive oil and almond milk, but still let him eat it himself. Gagging is a normal part of the process, but the gagging he does on the less starchy-sticky foods is just less likely to give mommy a heart attack. :) I'm sure his sweet potato gags were also perfectly normal, but for my sake we'll take it slow on those.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Babywearing

Don't get me wrong - I love babywearing. We would have bought a (non-broken) stroller long ago if I didn't. But there are advantages and disadvantages to any way of doing things, so I thought I'd lay out the pros and cons for anyone trying to decide on an Ergo vs a Peg Perego.

Pro: Never have to wrestle a stroller in and out of the car. Both of my carriers fit in the diaper bag (the sling better than the mei tai).
Con: Occasionally have to wrestle with the mei tai straps. They're long and there's just no good way to store them and get them in and out quickly. This is why I use the sling if I'll be making lots of stops.

Pro: Never have to drive a stroller through too-small aisles.
Con: It's much like being pregnant, in that sometimes you've got to squeeze yourself a bit. Also, nowhere to hang a diaper bag, so if you've got a huge one that adds heft. I recommend a small diaper bag or backpack to go with a carrier.

Pro: You can take the baby out and not be left trying to wrangle both a baby and an empty stroller.
Con: You look a little silly with an empty carrier hanging off you. At least with the sling I just look like a girl scout (my sling is solid khaki); we joke about the mei tai being my flak jacket. Also, no empty stroller to carry other things in.

Pro: If, like me, you're having trouble scheduling workouts post-baby, a good hour long shopping trip while wearing 10+ lbs of baby definitely counts as exercise! And with the mei tai, it's quite comfortable exercise, easy on the back.
Con: If you're really tired, it's still a workout.

Pro: Baby is right there, always kissable and it's easy to monitor where little hands are reaching.
Con: They might be reaching for your face or hair, though not too often because the rest of the world is so interesting.

Pro: It's possible (even easy for some people in the right carrier) to nurse while walking/hiking/shopping/etc.
Con: Once the baby knows this is an option, if they're hungry they may not take "later" for an answer. I usually have to turn him so he's facing out when he gets insistent at the wrong time.

Overall, for me the good outweighs the bad. For many, having both a stroller and a carrier available is best. And I'm sure there are some people that just weren't meant for babywearing. Good luck figuring out which is best for you!

Babywearing 4eva

E will be six months old tomorrow! He will likely reach that point having never been in a stroller.

Not really on purpose, though. We never got a stroller for newborns (we did put one on the registry but didn't get it), but we did get a cheapo little umbrella stroller for free with our crib. Last week, I thought I'd take him for his first walk in a stroller, just for something new and different. I went to get out the stroller and put it together, and what do I find?

The bit that holds one of the wheels on was broken. I guess you get what you pay for.

So we officially don't own a (functional) stroller. I guess we'll keep on babywearing til we get around to buying a replacement!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Myth vs Reality: Breastfeeding (Part 2)

I'm going to have to live with this pain the entire time I breastfeed. - The first month of breastfeeding was agony for me. At the hospital, I told them it was hurting, but the nurses said his latch looked great. We didn't get to see a lactation consultant (LC) until we were about to leave, and E was too sleepy to nurse for her. She poked around in his mouth a little and said he was rolling his tongue, and suggested I mess with his tongue before latching him on. I could never get that to work - it always resulted in him crying, which undid anything I'd done before he got latched on.

A couple of weeks later, things were only worse. Sometime I would hit my head against the wall behind me to distract me from the pain as he latched on. My nipples were ultra-sensitive all the time from the damage. I called the LC hotline; they suggested some positioning changes. With those changes, if I did everything exactly perfect (which rarely happens with a wiggling, hungry baby), the pain would at least be less maybe half the time. I started to give up hope and resigned myself to a life of pain. I'd initially planned to breastfeed a minimum of a year - now the thought of a year of this made me cry, and I hoped I could tough it out to six months.

I finally made an appointment to see another LC in person. She saw both what looked to her like a dairy intolerance (oh, did I mention that he was also screaming his way through these feedings?), and a slight posterior tongue tie. However, she cautioned that she didn't really thing the tie was severe enough to cause my problems, and suggested more positioning changes rather than getting it clipped. If I did want it clipped, she said the only person they knew who would do it was a dentist over an hour away, and my insurance likely wouldn't cover him.

Her positioning recommendations, if done absolutely perfectly, now resulted in almost no pain about half the time. If I did it perfectly a quarter on the time (that's being generous), I was now spending only 87% of our feedings in agony. Woohoo! Luckily, I had the support of a BF community online, and mothers there encouraged me to pursue the tongue tie angle.

Also luckily, E had his one month checkup later that week. The doctor confirmed the dairy intolerance. I asked her about the tongue tie, and if she knew anyone who clips posterior ties. New to the practice and area, she left the room to ask around - and came back with the news that the ENTs upstairs would clip a posterior tie, and we could get in right after this appointment!

Upstairs, the ENT was on the same page as the LC - there was a slight tie, but he wasn't sure it was bad enough to bother clipping. After all the encouragement I'd received online, I knew I didn't want to go through another month of pain just to wind up back in this office. We told him to do it. A minute of pain for E, then nursing calmed him down and he never seemed to notice again. No bleeding, nothing.

Within two days the pain was gone, aside from a little residual sensitivity due to damage already done that was healing. We got that slight, probably-not-the-problem posterior tongue tie clipped 4.5 months ago, and nursing has been a pain-free breeze ever since. I called the LC back to tell her that it had, indeed, worked, and gave her the ENT's info so that she wouldn't have to refer patients an hour away anymore.

Breastfeeding should not hurt like that. A tiny bit of latch pain now and then, some rawness when they're comfort nursing and their latch starts to slide, that's normal. Pain that makes you want to quit nursing is not. You don't have to deal with that, and if one professional's advice doesn't fix it, keep asking more professionals until it's gone. And if anyone suggests there might possibly be a tongue or lip tie, no matter how slight, my advice is to clip it every time. It's minimal pain for the baby, and while it's not guaranteed to be the problem, it could save you a lot of pain and be the difference between giving up and nursing as long as you plan to.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cloth Diapers for the Total N00b - Part 1

A month before E was born, I was panicking. Everyone says all you really need when the baby comes home is a carseat (check), a place for them to sleep (check), and diapers - BIG NOT CHECK!!! Not only hadn't I bought my diapers, I didn't even know what I wanted to buy.

The world of cloth diapers can be incredibly intimidating when you first approach it - so many options, so many price points, so many brands! Somehow, none of the (many, many) pages I read made it all clear. This intro probably won't either, but I'll make an effort, at least. Hopefully it will clarify something for someone!

Before we start, though, a few important things to remember:

1) You do NOT have to know everything there is to know about cloth diapering to get started. Things will make much more sense once you've actually tried a few.
2) You do NOT have to have every diaper you will ever need to get started. In fact, if you try to do this, you're likely to find that some of what you bought just doesn't work for you anyhow! Every baby and family is different - just focus on getting enough to get started, and then you'll figure out what fits your baby best, what you find most convenient for you, etc. You can sell what doesn't work and buy new things to try bit by bit.
3) You do NOT have to commit to a particular system, brand, or even type of diaper! You might use one type at home and one to go out, or one during the day and one at night, or you might just have a big mix of things that you use as you feel like it! I think the best approach is to buy a few different brands or styles at first to see what works for you. If you find you really love a particular diaper, you can stock up later.
4) As with anything in parenting, you will be amazed how quickly you go from n00b to expert once you're actually using these things in your day to day life. Remember, that was me up there panicking only about six months ago, and here I am now, writing my own intro!
5) A whole lot of this will be my own opinions, and I'll try to make that clear when it is. Different diapers work for different babies and families - what I hate, someone else swears by. Don't take my opinions (or anyone else's) as gospel.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Baby Loggers

If you don't have kids, you probably think the idea of a baby logger is at best obsessive and at worst pretty creepy. What is it? Just what it sounds like - an app that lets you track when your baby falls asleep, wakes up, has a diaper change and what was in that diaper, when he eats and either how long and which side if you're breastfeeding or how much if it's from a bottle. Some also let you track development, keep track of doctor's appointments, and more.

The thing is, when the baby is first born, the doctors want you to track this stuff. You need to make sure enough food is going in and coming out, and that the baby isn't sleeping too long between feedings, to make sure everything's working right. At first we wrote it all down on a paper they gave us at the hospital, but then I discovered apps that let you track it with one tap. More recently, it's been clear to us that E has never really slept as much as they claim newborns sleep, and we wanted to keep track so we could try and get his sleep patterns into more of a, well, pattern. With the help of a baby logger, we now know for sure that he sleeps an average of 11-12 hours a day instead of the usual 14-16, including only 2-3 hours of naps instead of 4-6. Now that we know what we're dealing with, and what a bad night looks like versus a good night, we can start to address the problem.

I've tried three baby loggers since E was born, and the one I've stuck with is Baby Geek. The interface takes a little exploring to figure out, but you'll have it mastered by the end of the day. I used this to track diapers and feedings for a few days, but have been tracking sleep with it for two months now, so that's the feature I'm most familiar with. Baby Geek gives you simple one-touch tracking, with the nice touch that if you go to change the time of an event, there is both a clock to adjust and buttons to automatically jump it back 5, 10, or 15 minutes. It has the best graphs of any of the loggers I tried - you can view totals of each type of event by day, or timelines with all or only one type of event shown, and it separates day and night sleep (at times you pick). You can email the entries and have the program sync across two devices, so both parents (or one Nd a childcare provider) can keep track. And probably a dozen other features I'm not thinking of because I only use the most basic one. And all this is only $.99.

The other two I tried are BabyBix and Baby Log. I liked Log better than Bix, but not well enough to shell out $4.99 for it once the free version ran out, which only took about a day.

Here is how the three stack up (Some are my subjective ratings 1-10, 10 highest): 
Baby BixBaby LogBaby GeekWinner
PriceFreeFree trial for a day or two, then $4.99$0.99Bix
Starting an eventSeveral tapsTwo tapsOne tapGeek
Email reportsNoYesYesLog & Geek
Quality of graphs588.5Geek
Ease of use389Geek
Unique featureIntegrated message boardBar and line graphsDay vs night sleep shown on graphLog or Geek
Unique annoyanceCrashes a lotPast events must be entered by start time and duration, not start and end timeOnly shows past two weeks' with of dataNo one wins this!

This entry is cross-posted to Hey Hey, It's an iPad Blog!.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Myth vs Reality: Cloth Diapering

Let me tell you, becoming a parent provides fodder for a few dozen of these Myth vs Reality posts!

Cloth diapering is going to be difficult and tedious, but will be worth it so I'll muddle through - Actually, my husband and I agree that it's far easier and more enjoyable than we expected! Changing the diaper might take another step or two, but not so much that you notice it. And while yes, we have to do laundry every 2-3 days, even that has its upsides. There have been plenty of days where the only thing I managed to get done other than feeding the baby and letting him nap on me was diaper laundry, and it's nice to have something that's actually achievable in those early weeks! The laundry really only takes about 15 minutes total of human effort, and most of that is the putting away.

I have to make sense of all this information, figure out exactly what I want to use, and get all the diapers I will ever need before the baby is born! - This one had me going a little crazy a few weeks before he was due. The truth is, if you grab a couple dozen prefolds and a handful of covers you're set to start, and you can try out all the pockets and fitteds and AIOs or whatever you like a piece at a time as you go. Find something you like, buy more; something you don't, sell it. You can even start with disposables and build your stash a piece at a time from the ground up. There's no right or wrong. You don't have to fully invest in any one "system" or commit to one brand. And in the end, you won't know what fits your baby best in advance anyhow, so buying two dozen BumGenius 4.0s or nothing but Thirsties covers might result in having to rebuy your whole stash anyhow!

We'll use disposables or pocket diapers when we're out and about, and only use the prefolds at home - Some people do this and it works fine. But we found it annoying to keep track of what to put in the diaper bag separately, plus we'd either have to change him before we leave (whether he's wet or not), or else wind up with extra stuff at changing time. With disposables, we'd still have the wet diaper we just took off of him to deal with. And with pockets, we'd have a clean cover and snappi that we'd have to remember to dig out of the diaper bag later. Changing a prefold on the go is a little harder, especially if you're somewhere without a real changing station, but for us the annoyance factor is lower overall.

iPad Mama

I just wanted to mention that I also have an iPad blog, and from time to time I make posts about how I use my iPad in my parental duties. From now on, I'll cross-post those here, but in case you're curious here are the previous posts:

How my iPad taught me to cloth diaper and saved my (baby's) butt at 2am.

Why I would tell any expecting mom who can afford one to buy an iPad.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Attention Disposable Diaper Users

I have a very important message for you, from a cloth diaperer. No, I'm not here to judge or convert you. I mostly use cloth diapers to save money, though the lack of trash is nice, too. But I couldn't care less if you don't want to do extra laundry - totally understandable.

No, I'm here to help you out. Because from what I hear, many of you think it's normal to clean poop out of your baby's hair. To go through several extra outfits each week due to poop on both the baby's clothes and your own. To carry new clothes for both of you everywhere you go. I have never done any of these things, and neither have many (though not all, of course) cloth diaperers. How?

Diaper covers. Not the cheap decorative ones that come matching with an outfit from Target. Serious covers with PUL, snaps or velcro, and elastic leg gussets. I'm not here to judge, and neither are the covers - they don't care if they're covering a prefold, a fitted, a Huggies, or a Pampers. They hold the poop in no matter what diaper it's leaking out of. When we went out of town for a few days, we bought a pack of Huggies Swaddlers but also brought a few covers. At least twice in four days, poop wound up on the covers but not us.

They cost $9-15 each new (you can also find them, like all CD stuff, used). You can reuse them diaper after diaper, only tossing them in the laundry once they've contained some poop. They come in every color and pattern imaginable - my baby was born at the end of May, and I was annoyed when it started cooling off and we had to put pants over his cute covers. You may have to try a few to see which fit your baby the best, but you can recoup a lot of the money selling them used - or some places, like Cotton Babies, have a thirty day satisfaction guarantee. To get you started, take a look at Flip or Econobum from Cotton Babies, Thirsties, or Bummis, or check Etsy.

And just say no to poosplosions.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Myth vs Reality: Breastfeeding (Part 1)

These aren't necessarily all things I believed right up until my baby proved me wrong, but they are certainly things I believed at some point before getting pregnant and learning more on the topic.

Teeth are nature's way of telling you to wean the baby - First, of course, some babies get teeth at just a couple months old, or are even born with a tooth; but let's ignore those outliers. What I didn't know was that, even after starting solids, babies still have to have either breastmilk or formula until they're a year old. I was envisioning eight-month-olds living on nothing but jarred baby food, but that's not how it works. Why would I voluntarily "wean" if it just means switching to formula? I haven't yet had to nurse with teeth, but I've heard it's really not bad - and honestly, I know full well that he could bite me plenty hard with those gums if he wanted to.

Nursing in public is kinda weird and unnecessary - The truth is, it's very easy to nurse discreetly (until he pops off and tries to make me nipple-flash the world), and it's far from unnecessary. If I could never nurse him in public, I'd either never be able to go anywhere, or would have to pump a LOT more in order to always have a bottle on hand just in case. I think my opinion on nursing in public was changed by one experience: I'm a grad student, and a fellow student had brought her baby to a research meeting. She was sitting next to me, and at one point I snuck a peek at the baby and had to do a double-take when I realized she was nursing and I hadn't even noticed! I couldn't see any boob or anything, and if I hadn't looked right at her I never would have known it happened. I hadn't realized until then just how unintrusive it can be.

Pumping is easy, I'll always have plenty of pumped milk around! - For some people, it's tedious but not too bad. But I don't respond well to the pump. See, a baby gets milk by simultaneously squeezing and sucking. Their mouth is the ultimate mommy-milking machine, and is very efficient. The pump only has suction to work with; some people can get plenty of milk that way and some people have some trouble. I generally get 1-2 oz in a 20 minute pumping session. So I don't have a freezer stash; I'm doing well to have just enough to leave my husband one ounce per hour I want to work, which is just enough to keep the baby from rioting.

Mei Tai vs Pouch Sling

Babywearing can be a bit intimidating because there are just so many options (though cloth diapering is even scarier)! We have two carriers, and between them our five-month old has yet to touch a stroller. I'd thought people with multiple carriers were just looking for ways to spend money, but they're definitely good for different situations.

The mei tai
- Very comfortable and easy on the back, even after an hour or more.
- Several different positions and carries: facing in, facing out, legs in, legs out, on the back, etc.
- Basic positioning is very simple, I had no problem getting it on and the baby in comfortably the very first time.
- Great for a wide range of sizes. We started using it at just a couple days old, and many people use them up to 35 lbs.
- Baby is very secure in it, even asleep. I truly have both hands free.
- Difficult to store and carry neatly; those long straps want to fall everywhere.
- Takes a minute or two to put on and take off, and sometimes you feel like you're wrestling with an octopus.
- Wearing it without the baby looks and feels a bit goofy.
- I found it difficult to figure out how to nurse in it, though some women love their mei tais specifically because they find it easy to nurse in. I did work it out eventually, though switching from regular wear to nursing takes major readjustment of the carrier.
Best for:
- Anytime the baby will be in the carrier for a single long stretch - walks or hikes, or shopping trips to a single store.

The pouch sling:
- Very quick and easy to get on and off, and the baby in and out.
- Compact, easy to stick in the diaper bag to carry around.
- Cheap - cost $20 used vs the mei tai's $60 used.
- Wearing it without the baby in it looks minimally silly.
- I find it much easier to nurse in. Once I figured out how to correctly position the baby for carrying, I made a minor adjustment and was nursing.
- Several ways to carry the baby, though fewer than the mei tai.
- The #1 biggest problem: Because the weight is distributed unevenly, the sling hurts my back if I wear it for too long at a stretch.
- The baby is already getting too big for it. Soon I'll only be able to hold him in the hip carry, which requires one hand to balance him and isn't a position where he can nurse.
- Pretty much all carries will require you to use one hand now and then to steady the baby and keep him from leaning too far to one side. It's never a truly hands-free carrier the way the mei tai is.
- It took me a couple of days and quite a few YouTube videos to figure out correct positioning at first.
- Positioning is especially tricky before the baby has good head control. I don't recommend it for a newborn.
Best for:
- Short trips, or times when you'll be making several stops and the baby will be in and out of the carrier a lot.
- I use it more than the mei tai around the house; I toss him in it when I need a free hand to put laundry in or make myself lunch and he's feeling too clingy to be set down for a few minutes. I also use it when I want to nurse him while getting things done.
- Because it's so compact, this is the carrier I toss in the diaper bag when I'm not really expecting to need one, but you never know when you'll pop into the grocery store for something on the way home.

Overall, I love them both and find that between the two of them I'm covered for just about any situation. I'm disappointed that he's outgrowing the sling so soon; I'm considering getting a ring sling, since they're more adjustable for size, but with all that fabric it does lose the compact portability of the pouch sling.

(In case you are wondering, my sling is a Hotsling, and my mei tai is from Mei Tai Baby. Very pleased with both brands, both are very well-made!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Myths vs Reality: Newborns

The books, the websites, the classes - they lied like rugs. And things would have been a little easier if I hadn't been fed these lines.

Babies sleep 14-18 hours/day - Ha! Not this one! Try 11-12, and yes, I've tracked it with iPad apps so that's not an estimate. Every single person who met him for the first three months - starting with a pediatrician the day he was born - commented on how "alert" he is. We decided that alert is a euphemism for awake, since most newborns that we met were asleep and he never was.

Babies eat every 2-3 hours - See, that's the longest a newborn goes without eating. In this case, I know E is normal. I've seen plenty of other new moms convinced that something is wrong because their baby eats every hour, or for several hours straight. Most newborns eat more often than every 2-3 hours, and almost all engage in "cluster feeding" for 2-4 hours (or more!) now and then, especially during growth spurts.

Babies sleep through the night by three months - Actually, he did this. Around three weeks, he started sleeping longer stretches, and from 3-12 weeks he reliably slept a 4-7 hour stretch every night. But after he was born, I found out about the four month sleep regression, when it all goes to shit. And he hit it a month early. So for nearly two months, he was back to sleeping in 1-2 hour chunks. Now, at 5 months, he's starting to alternate between bad nights and nights where he'll have one or two 3-hour stretches. So hopefully we're slowly coming out of that, although I know now that some babies don't sleep well til nearly a year. Just never listen to anyone who tells you that babies sleep through the night by X weeks/months.

Changing diapers is a nasty, disgusting chore - Reality isn't always worse than the myth! I don't mind the diaper changes at all (well, except when E is in a bad mood and screams through one). Maybe this is because cloth diapering slows the process down just a bit, but I often find diaper change time to be a nice bonding time. I sing him some songs, kiss his bare tummy, maybe even read him a book while letting him air out a little (but with a cloth over him just in case, of course). And everyone was right that exclusively-breastfed poo really isn't that bad. Sure sometimes a big poo that he manages to get on his feet while I'm removing the diaper is kinda gross, and he does pee everywhere now and then. But we change his diaper a good 10x a day, and those things happen maybe once a week. Overall, changing diapers? Not as bad as advertised!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm turning into a boob nazi!

I just defended breastfeeding on a Bones fan board, of all places.

A post quoted Hart Hanson (the showrunner) as not wanting to divulge whether Dr Brennan would breastfeed. I said, of course she will, she'll do whatever the scientific evidence supports, right?

And someone actually replied saying there isn't clear evidence in support of breastfeeding. What?

Luckily, someone who's actually studied it as part of her PhD thesis spoke up before I even could. Which is nice of her; I actually try to avoid arguing online about the topics I'm a certified expert in, but that's another story.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Yet another mommy blog

Look, I know the world doesn't need another mommy blog. It didn't need another food blog or gadget blog, but I have those, too. I just like to ramble, and right now I spend all day with a newborn on my boob and an iPad in my hand.

As the title says, I don't consider myself crunchy, but a lot of my parenting decisions so far would be classified as such. I hope that maybe this blog will help other mothers who don't consider themselves crunchy or hippies or whatever to realize that you can have a natural birth, breastfeed, cloth diaper, parent however you want - without the label.