Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Newborn Days to Toddler Play Dates

Once of the nice things about babies entering toddlerhood is play dates with your friends’ kids. After 10 months, babies start to take an interest in playing with other children and it’s good for their social skills. It’s also an opportunity for mom to socialize. Just make sure you pick an activity that is appropriate for your children’s age group.

The day before Easter, my friend and I quickly discovered her almost-two-year-old and my just-one-year-old are too young for dying Easter Eggs. We knew it would be messy so spread an old sheet over my hardwood floor. We lined up cups of water and vinegar mixed with food coloring in red, blue, purple, green, and yellow. I brought out my carton of a dozen pre-boiled eggs and my friend set out her Tupperware of about the same quantity. The kids looked interested!

Within 30 seconds, my child had tipped a cup of red dye all over his white-socked foot and leg. So much for red eggs. The almost-two-year-old was faring better – at least he knew the cups were for dunking eggs. Problem was he was throwing several at a time forcefully into the cups. He relished removing the cracked shells and re-dying the naked hard-boiled egg. By now, my child is crying because I keep removing his hands as he dips them deep in the cups of dye. Then he spilled the blue dye on his other leg.
Between the egg-breaking and self-dying, by the end we only had about a dozen unbroken dyed eggs that my friend and I rescued, and one to two dyed children.
We cleaned up and moved the children to the more age-appropriate activity of bathing.
Even though our kids are too young for dying eggs, they are both old enough not to be breastfeeding anymore. My friend weaned her son a few months ago and I just finished weaning 2 days ago. We celebrated by splitting a bottle of wine while the kids wound down for the evening.

The weaning process ended up going well for me. I debated about keeping the early morning and late night feedings for a while to prolong the immunity benefits, but I stopped the evening for two reasons. One, I wanted to be sure he was drinking a large portion before bed in hopes he would sleep longer (so I wanted to SEE the amount in a bottle. Silly, I know). Second, I wanted the freedom to drink more than one cup of coffee or wine, to stop wearing those ever-so-sexy nursing bras, and not to be engorged if baby didn’t feel like eating one day. It wasn’t a total commitment because I still had the early morning feeding- convenient because I didn’t have to get up to make a bottle at 4:30 in the morning. But as soon as I was down to one feeding, it suddenly seemed like there was no more milk to be had. He was still acting hungry after nursing. I started offering a bottle in the morning, and just like that we were done.

Weaning is an emotional transition. As a mother, I seem to look for ways to feel guilty. Should I have breastfed longer? Would it have been better for my child? Is my child upset with me? There’s also a feeling of loss when your child doesn’t need you in that way anymore. Not to mention the transition causes hormonal shifts that bring on emotions for no particular reason. Overall though, I’m happy to be finished with breastfeeding. Now I can go to the gym at lunch instead of pump, and relinquish more feeding responsibilities to my husband.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since I brought my little guy home from the hospital. I still remember holding the tiny, fragile bundle in my arms and feeling like I knew this little guy. Although we had never met, he didn’t feel like a stranger – he felt like a part of me. I was comfortable holding him in my arms like I’d been with no other baby.

Comfortable or not, I still hadn’t a clue how to properly care for him. All the classes and books in the world can’t really prepare you. I didn’t realize diaper rash cream should be used after every changing, nor did I realize every poopy needed changing even if it was “only a spot,” and my poor little guy developed a horrible rash in his first two weeks of life. It got so bad I would have to leave his diaper off for hours at a time – I had cloth diapers so I put one under him and one over him. We ended up getting it under control with doctor-recommended Aquaphor after every change and by using warm, wet baby wash cloths instead of wipes for 4 months.

Besides the proper treatment of newborn bums, the hardest parts were his sleep patterns and my phsycological response to sleep deprivation. The first week or so, I was still running on adrenaline. My husband was off work and eager to make me a tuna sandwich or scrambled eggs whenever I needed it. The baby would sleep for 3 or 4 hours at a time. Then in the second week, hubby went back to work and baby went through a few days of waking every hour and a half – around the clock. It started to get to me. I abandoned daytime napping myself; I felt better if I was up and around for the day. But once I went to bed, being roused by crying shortly after became difficult. I sat in my rocker holding him at twelve, two, and four o’clock in the morning, every bone in my body screaming for sleep. I would start to doze while nursing him then fight to be awake, feeling guilty and afraid that he could suffocate on the pillow supporting my arm because he was too weak to lift his head. I ignored the fleeting impulse that I wanted him to suffocate. I was glad someone had told me these feelings are normal; I knew I needn’t worry unless a felt a might actually hurt my child or myself – signs of postpartum depression that require medical help.

I wasn’t excited about being a mom yet at that time either – another thing I’m glad someone told me was normal in contrast to reports of mothers instantly falling in love with their babies. I focused on getting through each day and tried to enjoy my baby when I could. He was really cute! At several days old he had his first periods of wakefulness that didn’t involve crying. He would just stare for about 20 minutes before going back to sleep. My husband and I stared back in amazement. “He’s awake!” we said. Those moments were exciting.
Nights improved too, once I stopped trying to rock him in the nursery and set up camp in front of the TV for night nursing. I got streamed TV shows from Netflix so I would have something to look forward to watching and only watched it at night. I’m not normally a fan of television, but it saved my sanity back then. Who knew, Aquaphor and TV would be critical to surviving the first month.

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