Monday, March 19, 2012

The Happiest Baby on the Block

I just finished reading The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp.  I guess I'm feeling mixed emotions about it.  Our first child was a Babywise baby.  We followed it pretty well.  (I've heard criticisms about the method being too restrictive -- holding back feedings to maintain a schedule, but the book does say, feed the baby when the baby's hungry, which is what we did, so I didn't feel we were starving our kid at all under that technique.  He was a fatty.  I actually wonder if I over-fed him as I nursed him forever and he spit up all the time.)  I also had Secrets of the Baby Whisperer back then, but didn't really use it for our son.  It's similar to Babywise, but a bit nicer and gentler.

A couple years later when our daughter was born, I realized I'd felt jipped in a way because I'd always put our son down to sleep and never had all the snuggling I wanted.  So, when #2 came along, I snuggled her more and also carefully read the Baby Whisperer and tried to use that on her.  Our efforts were slightly curtailed, though, because at 3 weeks, she came down with RSV, which landed us in the hospital for five days.  After that she got reflux -- perhaps partly a result of the RSV -- something to do with the mucous left over from the RSV?  So, #2 got lots more snuggling, and we'd do anything to get that girl to sleep and not scream her guts out!  If a baby's sick, I wouldn't use these techniques on them.

A few years later, when #3 came along, we mainly used the Baby Whisperer, but she was just an easy baby as it was.  Everyone says how #3 is the one that throws you a curve ball.  In our case, though, 2 kids was hard, 3 was fairly easy -- all dependent on the kid.

I didn't re-read the books before #4 came along, but when she got here, she sure was (is) a mad, temperamental little thing (at least she's cute!). This baby has the problem of falling asleep then waking up about 2 minutes later.  She's done it anywhere between 4 - 14 hours in a 24 hour period.  It's caused her to sleep up to 9 hours a night (only once) because she's soooooo tired from being up for so long and crying so much.  I'm not so sure if so much sleep is a good thing at 2 weeks!  She's obviously tired, she just can't stay asleep.  She's also had the problem of sucking on the binky, but when it falls out, she wakes up and cries and wants it again.   I think I gave it to her 7 times this morning around 5:00.  Yesterday she took a 45 minute nap in the front-pack and a 2 hour nap later in the afternoon -- after an hour of coaxing her to sleep.  After 4 hours had gone by since her last feeding, I woke her up.  I feel like I haven't gotten that "sleepy newborn grace period" with this baby.  Two weeks is apparently when they get more alert and colic starts.  I'd say she was colicky from the get-go.  She's also a noisy sleeper -- lots of grunting -- maybe it wakes her up?  It doesn't help that the 3 older siblings want to see her ALL THE TIME.  That can't help her relax.

I'd heard a lot of good things about The Happiest Baby, and thought I'd give it a try.  I really wanted to find out how to get this baby to STAY asleep.  It seems like with the other kids, once they got drowsy, I'd put them down and they'd konk out.  They'd also get up on their own every 2-3 hours to eat.  Not with this one!  Anyway, after reading the book, I realized it's more of a how to calm your kid book, rather than a how to get them to be a good sleeper.  After being somewhat of a Babywise/Baby Whisperer convert (I guess I'm a control freak, and I find it a fun/freakish challenge to see if/how/when I can get the baby to sleep), I think I have a hard time believing that I can cuddle my baby so much now, and then convert my kid at 3-4 months to being a more independent sleeper.

I was talking to my sister about this today.  With her 2nd, a girl, who was also a bad sleeper, she did anything to get that girl to sleep (rocking, swinging, holding...).  Now that she's just over one, she's still a bad sleeper!  That's what I dread.  What if I do the Happiest Baby techniques now, and I end up with a lousy sleeper later?  My other 3 kids sleep great -- so I do have a little faith in the other books.

I did like the concept of the "4th trimester" (baby needing a more womb-like atmosphere) the first three months of life in The Happiest Baby.  I also appreciated the calming techniques (swaddling, side/stomach, shh, swing, suck) described in the book.  I feel pretty confident in getting a baby to calm down because of what I'd read in the other books, but just was stumped at what to do when you put the baby down, she wakes up, and cries, cries cries -- again, again, and again!!! (She's actually doing better today -- she's fallen asleep 2 times on her own.  Maybe it was just a bad first two weeks.)

What's your experience with the above mentioned books?  Did Happiest Baby work for you?  Were you able to get baby to sleep on his/her own around 3/4 months?  Were you able to discontinue binky and white noise use?  Any suggestions on what to do when baby just won't stay asleep?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Feeling Empowered

(OK, honestly, I'm not feeling very empowered at the moment, I'm feeling rather exhausted, but I wanted to put up this post anyway.)

I had a baby just over a week ago. She's a little doll. I chose to have this one "naturally," or I'd prefer to say unmedicated -- natural just doesn't sound quite right to me. My #3 was also "natural," but that was by accident. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be that time, so I thought I'd try it on purpose this time (I did get nervous about the choice and semi-seriously considered getting an epidural). There was just something about feeling the birth of a baby that is so real, so powerful. It made me feel so incredibly strong, so incredibly sacrificing.

After I had the baby, I typed up the entire birth story, embarrassing things and all, and put it on Facebook. I was shocked. I must have felt pretty good about myself and the whole experience or I wouldn't have done it. I suppose I'm over being shy about the whole birth thing. There's nothing to be ashamed about. It's birth! It's life! It's sad we don't talk about it more and teach women what a beautiful thing it is -- all the details. I'm happy especially now to see efforts such as those in The Gift of Giving Life.

Another thing that actually made me feel proud of my post-pregnancy body was an image someone recently posted on Facebook of a woman's middle, including stretchmarks. The caption was: "Your body is not ruined. Your a ... tiger who earned her stripes" [profanity omitted]. Heck yeah I am. Now if we looked at it that way, we all might be a little more content with these bodies that don't look like teen-age anorexic model bodies.

A last thing that made me feel pretty empowered about being a woman and bearing children was triggered by something I saw on PBS. I turned the show on while nursing or something and it was about the early Puritan women who helped settle our country. I wish I could remember the name of the show or the woman/women it was specifically about, but it's a bit fuzzy. The show mentioned how these early women were valued for their ability to bear children. Children were critical for the survival of the colonies -- both to help with work as well as to be a propagation of the species. The woman the show was mostly about had borne 10 children and was highly valued for her ability to do so.  I think there's a lot to learn here.  Imagine if we valued women for their abilities to reproduce, and also valued children for their ability to help out and be productive, not to be a drain.  Interesting.

(Look!  Becca made me a quote!!)

Update 4/5/12:  If you want the whole story, it was posted on The Gift of Giving Life blog.