Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's Not Me, Really: Living With a 'High Needs' Baby

By Katie

When pregnant with my first child, I got all of the unsolicited advice of normal first-time mothers. I was told to "sleep now" while I still had the free time. I was told to go out to dinner, go to movies and do all sorts of other social things that I would no longer have time to do once I faced the social death sentence of becoming a parent.

One mother of three told me I would never need to buy an alarm clock again because I would own a human one. I got the overwhelming feeling that I was potentially in over my head. I braced for the worst.

And then it really wasn't so bad. Yes, I got less sleep. Yes, my daughter spit up on my shirt every time I changed it. Yes, every time I accidentally entered the wrong pin number at the gas pump I had to lug a cumbersome infant car seat in and stand in line to pay the cashier. But I still went out to dinner -- a lot. My daughter was a good napper and slept through the night by two months. My human alarm clock woke me in time to start the work I needed to do from home every morning.

She liked bouncey seats, play mats, swings and just laying on her back in her crib, checking out the ceiling. Some mornings I did not even know she was awake because she never cried. People eagerly offered to babysit and I eagerly accepted. She loved other people -- to the point that I once complained to a friend that I was not even sure she knew or cared that I was her mother. She was a "good baby," as they say. An ideal one, at that. She's still incredibly easy going and happy to entertain herself -- with the exception of a few typical four-year-old meltdowns and inundating me with questions around the clock.

So this pregnancy, I mentally prepared a little differently than I had for my first. I was fully prepared to face more difficulties than I had with my oldest. I knew that adding a fourth child to a recently combined family was much more difficult than bringing home one baby. I anticipated resistance or acting out from the older three kids. I was ready for just about anything -- except what I got.

A "high needs" baby.

Wordless Wednesday: Beach Baby

Submitted by Rachael

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Stay-At-Home Parent: Emotional Considerations

Many decisions define who we are as parents. Breastfeeding or formula. Disposable diapers or cloth. Co-sleep or use a crib. But few decisions make a stronger statement about who we are than the decision to stay home with our children or clock in at the office every day. It’s a decision wrought with complexities.

I spend my days with these cute little people!
If your finances allow you to consider staying at home, you are fortunate. For a closer look at the financial considerations that go into being a stay-at-home parent, read my husband Josh's post from yesterday on Mumbling Mommy. For a look at the emotional considerations, read on.

The Bad

Staying at home is not without its pitfalls. Most of all, at-home parents may struggle with feelings of isolation. My husband, a history teacher, likens it to life in the old days on a frontier settlement where the work was hard and the neighbors – if you had any – lived far away, and where a sizable number of people threw in the shovel and headed back east to civilization. (As high as eighty percent, according to some historians.) I’ve always somewhat romanticized pioneer life, so on some days this comparison is a fun challenge that makes me feel like baking bread and raising chickens, and on other days it’s, well, just a challenge.

The days as a stay-at-home parent can be long and tedious, with little to no adult conversation. Stay-at-home parents are more likely to suffer from depression. It’s important for parents and children to get out, especially to places where other parents and children are. It may be difficult for stay-at-home dads because they are likely to be the sole male among masses of moms at the playground, library story time, or play groups. Building a network of friends, especially other at-home parents, on Facebook or other social media sites helps, too.

Parents may feel weary spending long amounts of time with their children, who draw great amounts of mental and physical energy from their caregivers. To get a break, parents may be quicker to turn on the television. Because they spend almost all their time with their children, at-home parents may not always be as engaged or emotionally available compared to parents in two-income homes who feel they must make their limited time with their children count. At-home parents benefit from a break in the afternoon when children nap or, if they’ve outgrown naps, go to their rooms for some quiet time reading or playing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Stay-At-Home Parent: Financial Considerations

A guest post by Joshua

The biggest and most important decision faced by any parent or parents of young children is the question of child care. For some families, of course, the answer is obvious: single parents or low-income families may have no choice but to continue to work, entrusting their children to family, friends, a babysitter, or day care. For those with the means, however, some may ask if a parent (usually the mother, but occasionally the father) should stay at home with children, either taking on a part-time job with flexible scheduling, or having little or no outside work at all.

Joshua last fall with his youngest daughter, Abigail
To be sure, there are all sorts of non-financial considerations. A parent may wonder, for example, if she or he can handle staying at home emotionally. Those emotional and practical questions are important, and they will be addressed by my wife and Mumbling Mommy deputy editor, Rachael, in a post tomorrow. Here, my primary focus is on the financial particulars behind keeping a parent at home. 

Financial Liabilities

Liabilities are expenses, the things of life families either choose or have to pay for. Liabilities are important because they have a big impact on whether or not a family can even keep a parent at home in the first place. Some of these liabilities are fixed: in other words, there isn’t much flexibility in either reducing or shedding them. Student loan debt, child support, and alimony are all examples of largely fixed expenses.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Three Reasons to Make Your Own Baby Food

By Heather C.

Photo Via Creative Commons
There are at least a dozen ways to provide food and nutrition to your baby before their first birthday. There’s breastfeeding and formula, typically done exclusively at least until four months with many moms choosing to wait until six months now.

Then there’s a variety of solid food options from buying jars of food (choosing a brand of food), to Baby Led Weaning, to making your own homemade purees. I've even examined a less common option, premastication, here before.

And while there is nothing wrong with any of those options, today I’m going to tell you why I choose to make my own baby food.

  1. I know exactly what is in it… There have been far too many recalls on baby food in my opinion. When pregnant with my oldest, there was a massive recall of baby food jars because parents had found a foreign substance mixed in that was later identified as rat poison. WHAT??!?!?
  2. I can make it the consistency and flavor of my preference… Let’s face it, plain ole carrots or green beans are pretty boring but mix them with some corn or squash and you've created a new flavor to keep your baby interested. We love getting creative with our purees making baby versions of our favorite meals: pureed chicken parm, cheese and broccoli rice, etc. We can wean our babies into eating chunkier foods by selecting different options on our food processor. We can even add breastmilk instead of water to change the consistency as well if we choose.
  3. It saves money. And is EASY… I remember being out at the mall with a friend. Lily was just 8 months old. My friend’s daughter was 5 weeks older than her. We sat in the food court. I pulled out a Take N Toss brand container of sweet potatoes and a spoon and started feeding Lily. My friend grabbed a jar of green beans and did the same. As we chatted, I was surprised that she didn't make her own food as she loved to cook and was always preparing huge intricate meals for her family.

A Sample of Our Baby Food
I don’t cook anything but prepping, cutting, steaming, and pureeing food for my girls is relaxing. I enjoyed it with Lily and I’m enjoying it even more for the twins. Lily even enjoys helping me get food ready for her sisters. Once made, we spoon the food into ice cube trays to freeze. Once frozen, we pop out the cubes and store them in freezer Ziploc bags labeled with the type and date. It is that simple. They are the perfect portions to grab a cube or two (or mix and match).  We typically only spent one Sunday a month making everything we needed.

Our first attempt at making our own food was with sweet potatoes. We bought one large sweet potato for $0.78. It then made 13 portions of sweet potatoes for Lily. We compared to the jars of sweet potatoes sold at our local store. One jar (which was about 2 portions) cost $0.59.

Like all decisions, how you feed your baby is up to you. But if you are interested in going the route of purees, I’d encourage you to give making your own a shot.

Heather C. owns and writes for the blog Our Magical Chaos. She uses the lessons her kids teach her to take each day at a time and embrace the twists life throws at her. Being a parent is what she knows best. Our Magical Chaos features stories, product reviews, and tips for parents just trying to make it through. You can like Our Magical Chaos on Facebook or follow Heather on Twitter. Heather is also a freelance writer and runner. She specializes in parenting girls, all things twins, and before staying home with her girls, she worked nearly a decade in retail banking. 

First time here? Like Mumbling Mommy on Facebook to continue the conversation!

While you are here, you might also enjoy these posts:

Premastication: What's The Big Deal Anyway?

The Skinny on My Petite Babies

Tips for Parents With Food-Picky Kids

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Ahoy, Matey!

Submitted by Elizabeth

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Monday, July 16, 2012

A Good-Bye To My Parental Hero: Who's Yours?

By Katie

People say that kids need good role models. Some would say that parents are the best role models kids can have and so these parents need to always be aware of their words and actions.

But what about role models for parents? It's a tough job bringing up little ones. Some days the task of lovingly rearing one's own children to accomplished adulthood seems downright impossible. It is on those days that a mentor is needed -- a superhero parent, of sorts. Someone to remind you that you are not alone in fighting the good fight of bringing up kids with manners and ones that will eventually sleep in their own beds. Alone. All. Night. Long.

All parents have these role models, even if they have never stopped to think about it. Maybe it is a parent of their own, or a spouse, or a friend who has "been there, done that." These people encourage us, either openly or subtly, to be all that we can be for our families.

Aunt Betty and Emilia in 2009
I lost my leading superhero last week. Elizabeth Valentine Powalski was the nicest lady to ever grace my presence. She was born and died in the same house on Felton Street, 86 years apart. She loved kids -- especially babies. She left this life clutching a rosary, a prayer on her lips.

She was my great-aunt -- the youngest sister of my grandfather, who I lost less than a year ago, and the ninth to die out of ten Powalski siblings. I didn't spend a lot of time around her as a child, or speak with her frequently as an adult. I saw her on Thanksgiving each year and at family weddings or anniversary parties. But I thought of her often, especially in these past five years that I have been a parent, and she will always be close to my heart.

She influenced me with her kindness, with her stubborn spirit, and with the dry way she told Polish jokes at her own expense. Aunt Betty was fun to be around, plain and simple. All of these personality traits are aspirations of mine, but not the real reason I grieve her guidance.

When I was expecting my first daughter, determined to be a good parent despite the realization that I was going to have to do it alone, Aunt Betty understood. She had a been a single mom too -- long before the Angelina Jolies of the world made it trendy. As a kid, I never really knew why Aunt Betty never married and I was too afraid to ask. I sort of forgot about it. Aunt Betty was Aunt Betty. No explanations needed.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Getting My Boobies Back: THE WEAN

By Heather Novak
I'm getting my boobies back!  In a few weeks, I might even be able to buy a bra that really fits.  I have too big bras.  I have TOO SMALL bras.  I have previously-lacey-now-ratty-around-the-edges nursing bras from Target I bought for both girliepies.  I want more sexy stuff.

Today is the first day I am officially weaning my second and last bebe.  She has been nursing to go to sleep mostly, but now and then for closeness or neediness too.  She is 19 months.  I am pretty ready.  She is pretty not ready. 

Oh yeah;  I am dumping the binky too except for bedtime.  You know, to sub for boobies.  Because silicone often stands in for boobies.  Right?

My first girl, Portia weaned herself too early for me at ten months.  Libby isn't going to wean herself until college, methinks.  And so we actively begin the end.  We have been dallying about for several months.  Today is the day. Maybe.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Feeding Frenzy Friday: Why I Like Skinny Babies

I have never really had plump babies. Those pudgy cherubs with pinchable, kissable fat rolls on their legs? Never had ‘em in our house.

My first daughter weighed a hearty 8 pounds, 3 ounces, at birth, but my husband and I are not stocky people. We weren’t surprised when Megan started to slip down the weight percentile chart around 6 months of age. She descended from a solid 50th percentile ranking to the 20th percentile. She has always ranged from average to just slightly tall in height. People said Megan was “delicate” or “petite.”

My pint-sized, kissable firstborn
By the time her 2-year-old checkup rolled around, she had dropped to the 9th percentile in weight. The doctor asked if she had a good appetite. I assured him she did eat. He recommended I continue offering whole milk, contrary to the common practice of switching toddlers to low-fat milk around their second birthdays.

I didn’t worry too much about my skinnier-than-average toddler. She had plenty of wet diapers, was reaching all the appropriate milestones, seemed happy, was eating a healthy diet, and was gaining weight steadily, even if slowly. She rarely ate large portions, but I didn’t force the issue.

We ditched the whole milk a few months prior to Megan’s third birthday, and her appetite increased noticeably. I’m convinced all that fatty milk was filling her tummy so she had little room for other nutritious foods; whole milk may have actually kept her from gaining weight. At her 3-year-old checkup, she was back up to the 25th percentile for weight and has remained there. It’s a good place to be, mostly because the doctor no longer asks if she’s eating enough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Girl Fight

Submitted by Heather C. 

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fourth of July Memories: Part 2

By Sally
Photo of Bicentennial Celebration, via
I can still vividly remember the most incredible 4th of July of my life.

It was 1976, the 200th anniversary of our nation’s founding. My husband and I were living in Arlington, Virginia with another newlywed couple.  We had volunteered for a year with a Christian organization to reach out and remind people that the United States was based on moral principles and rights for all its citizens.

Young people in general were reeling from the current war, political rebellion, and a sense of “down with the establishment.”

The group we were affiliated with was kind of a rag-tag army of young, idealistic, passionate people.   We were ready to change the world.  We knocked on doors in our neighborhood, we talked to people at street corners, we spoke to anyone who gave us a minute of their time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sleep. Ugh. What Is It Good For? (Absolutely Nothing)

By Heather C.

No sleep for the weary, photo via thegloss.com
There is nothing worse than a long, exhausting day where all you want to do is crawl in bed and pass out than that same day where you have to put a young child (or children) to bed first only to have bedtime turn into an hour long (or more) disaster. It’s just a fact of life. Bedtime never goes wrong when you are full of energy and ready to practice patience!

With our oldest, we used a variety of bedtime routines, all combined into one big “we are obviously new parents” mushy mess. We got lucky. Even if I managed to explain what we did, it is unlikely that it would work for anyone else. I can say though that we stuck to our routine. To me, that is the biggest piece.
Routine. We left parties at 6:30 p.m. to make sure we were home by 7:00 p.m. to start bedtime on time.

We gave her a bath every single night. We did infant massage. We read to her. I nursed her. She had white noise. She was swaddled until she was 10 months old. The nightlight was on. The light was dim. Everything was exactly the same. No, she didn’t sleep through the night but she woke, nursed for 10 minutes and was right back to sleep. Like I said, we got lucky.

Ferber Method: Don't Knock It 'Til You've Read The Book

My first daughter emerged from the womb a terrible sleeper. Megan awakened every hour or two nearly every night. I swaddled her. I let her sleep in the bouncy seat, in the swing, in her car seat. She only slept well when I held her, a common preference among infants. My sympathetic husband bought me a new recliner for our living room. I crashed there every night with Megan propped on the Boppy pillow in my lap, and I forgot what it was like to sleep in a bed.

I felt awful, and lingering pregnancy hormones made it worse. I burst into tears several times a week out of sheer exhaustion, I frequently resented my daughter for stealing my sleep, and I was a danger to myself and others while driving.

When Megan was four months old, I dragged my weary self to the library and tracked down Dr. Richard Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. For those unfamiliar with “Ferberization,” it’s about helping babies and young children learn to fall asleep without crutches like feeding, pacifiers, rocking, being held, etc. Those are all good things, but if a baby is accustomed to falling asleep nursing, when that baby wakes in the night, she will not know how to fall back asleep on her own without being nursed back to dreamland, over and over.

Ferber instructs parents to put a baby to bed relaxed but not asleep. If the baby cries, a parent goes into the nursery at increasing intervals (starting with as few as two or three minutes) to reassure the baby she is not alone. These visits are brief, and the baby will likely cry louder when the parent leaves but will soon learn to fall asleep on her own.

A word of advice: Don’t try this without reading the book! You can sabotage your efforts if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, and then you’ll claim unfairly that Ferber’s method doesn’t work. Read. The. Book.

I studied up and my husband and I steeled ourselves for Megan’s bedtime. She cried for about an hour the first night. The following night the crying lasted maybe 30 minutes. After two or three nights, I felt like I’d won the sleep lottery. Megan went to sleep easily and stayed asleep at night, waking only once around 5 a.m. to nurse, and she was a champion napper. She seemed happy with the routine, and I was transformed from a depressed zombie mom into an attentive, nurturing, well-rested mom. I began to enjoy Megan.

I eagerly told my friends about Ferber’s miracle book, but I often got disapproving frowns in return. Most moms would say, “I could never let my baby cry.” Ferber has gotten a bad rap, and an undeserved one at that. Misinformation about his method abounds. Again, it’s important to read the book! The following are the most commons reasons parents give me for not giving Ferber a try:

1.       My baby will be traumatized if I let her cry. Ferber writes, “A young child cannot yet understand what is best for him, and he may cry if he does not get what he wants. As his parents, you have to be the judge of what he can and cannot have or do … If he wanted to play with a sharp knife, you would not give it to him not matter how hard he cried, and you would not feel guilty or worry about psychological consequences. Poor sleep patterns are also harmful for your child and it is your job to correct them. Doing so is a sign of caring, not of selfishness.”
2.      I will be traumatized if I let my baby cry. This may be true. The worst crying usually happens during the first two nights. This is when I sit in the living room and repeatedly tell my husband, “I feel like a bad mom,” while he calmly plays video games and assures me I’m the best mom in the world. Rent a good action movie, listen to music with headphones, or invest in earplugs. Baby411 suggests, tongue-in-cheek, to make the best of it by planning your next vacation. Also, understand that you will be less irritable and a better parent overall once you are rested.
3.      I can’t abandon my baby. Ferber’s method calls for parents to check in on the baby starting at two- to three-minute intervals. You won’t be leaving your baby to cry alone indefinitely.
4.      My baby might really need me. She’s probably fine, but if you’re worried, or if your baby has a tendency to get her legs caught in the crib slats or get stuck in a standing position, get a video monitor. One friend said this made the process easier because she could see her son really was okay.
5.      I’m afraid my baby will cry all night. If you do it right, and if you’re lucky, sometimes the crying lasts as little as 20 minutes the first night. I have friends who attest to this, but don’t count on it. One hour (or two, if you’re unlucky) seems par for the course the first night.
6.      I tried letting my baby cry and it didn’t work. Ferber writes, “When parents tell me they have tried helping their child by ‘letting him cry for several nights,’ usually that’s exactly what they did: they let him cry, but they did not let him fall asleep on his own. They may have let him cry for a few minutes or for an hour or more … but in the end they always went in eventually to do whatever was necessary to help him go to sleep. In effect, then, all that crying was for nothing; their child only learned that he must cry longer to get what he wants. It is not practice in crying but practice in falling asleep under new conditions that a child needs to learn. If you are going to rock your baby to sleep in the end, you would do better to rock him at once and skip the crying altogether.”
For parents who have made this oopsie, be prepared for your child to cry a lot longer when you begin using the Ferber technique. Your kid knows that if he cries for an hour, you’ll come get him, so he’s ready to cry for two or three hours if needed. Better hope that action movie you rented is a good one.
7.      I’ll just wait for my child to begin sleeping through the night on her own. This could take years. You have no reason to put off sleep training if there is nothing medically wrong with your child. Poor sleep habits left unchecked are linked to social and behavior problems, obesity and other health issues, low grades in school, and lasting effects on cognitive ability. Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, says sleep deprivation has even been associated with ADHD, which ironically is often treated with stimulant medication.

Megan is now 4 ½ years old and is a bright, well-adjusted preschooler. I also used Ferber’s method on my second daughter, 8-month-old Abigail. She was a better sleeper from the start, but when I began spending two or sometimes three hours getting her to go to bed each night, it was time to bring Ferber back. Both of my daughters go to bed easily and sleep through the night.

I ended up buying a used copy of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems on Amazon so I’d always have it to refer to. In addition to sleep-training and advice about scheduling and establishing routines, the book addresses sleep walking, nightmares, colic, bedwetting, apnea, travel-related sleep problems, and more. It is my sleep Bible, and my hope is that more parents would come to understand how good Ferber’s advice is.

It is not cruel. Your child won’t need therapy later. And with a good night’s sleep, you’ll be a better parent, which may further lessen the odds that your child will need therapy as an adult! When you and your child get a good night’s rest, everyone wins.

Thinking Outside the Crib

By Elizabeth

Dear Mumbling Mommy,

I write for any open suggestions on how to transition my child over to his crib? He is seven months old. He is quickly outgrowing the glider that he is currently sleeping over six hours a night in. When I try to put him in his crib his eyes instantly open and the fit begins. It's the same with nap time. Then you start the sleeping process all over again. When people find out he is not sleeping in his crib, I get the snickers and "the looks" like I am doing something wrong or am not strong enough to let him "cry it out". I've tried the cry it out method, multiple times. The child is strong willed, and determined, (which are great traits to have in life, just not toward bed time!) There is got to be a secret to make this a smooth transition.


Dear Frustrated Mommy,

Consider co-sleeping instead of a crib
The first piece of advice I have for you is “don’t worry about what your friends think.” Being a mom is hard enough without worrying about what everyone else thinks about the job we’re doing.

Friends, strangers, grandparents, etc. don’t get to decide how our babies sleep. That’s a personal decision that is up to the family involved only. And you’re under no obligation to give a status report on where he sleeps or how long, except perhaps to your baby’s doctor. Your baby reminds you of my second son, so I’d like to share from my experiences with my two boys.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Reader Comments: We Can Do Better Folks

By Katie

If you’ve ever read beyond the last line of a blog post or online article, you have encountered the comment section. We actually have a comment section on this blog here. Yessir. Right at the bottom. Of every post. Every time we put something up.
Sometimes I play a little game right before I hit the “publish” button on a blog post. It’s called “what is the worst thing someone can say about this?” I started playing this game after someone anonymously commented that I was a bad mother and would make a bad wife someday (on a different blog; different comment section). I find that anticipating the worst makes me pleasantly surprised when the real comments pop up.
There is only one thing that hurts writers worse than comments containing personal attacks or shots to the ego.
No comment at all.
It’s offensive, really.
Here I am, slaving away on the top ten reasons you should care about candle wax, listening to “Unwritten” or some other completely cliché writing song on my iPod, neglecting my screaming children who are likely murdering each other in the next room --  and all you can do is read my witty tips, chuckle in agreement and go back to your Facebook Newsfeed.

Fourth of July Memories: Part 1

By Sally
Photo via Scienceblogs.com
I think the 4th of July has always been a special day for me.  I grew up in an era of patriotism and pride in our country.  If there were scandals, we were shielded.   We truly believed we WERE the greatest nation on earth.

Our dads and granddads had fought in two world wars.   We had made the world a safer, better place.  There was a sense of honor, pride and contentment then. 

As a child, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem stirred my soul.  And even today, they still bring tears to my eyes.

My maternal grandfather fought in both World Wars.  He was only 14 years old in World War I.   He lied about his age, and records weren’t the best back then.  He grew up fast, and traveled to many places he had only heard of from others.
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