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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

breaking the newborn "rules"

I had my last newborn a year ago. What a bittersweet time. It's so nice being done forever with night feedings and all that beginning newness where you're so unsure of yourself as a new mom. Yet, I miss those first moments so much and want to re-do them.

Having three babies, I've found my way through the haze of confusion and questions that lead you to becoming the mom you're going to be. I figured out what worked, what didn't; what I'd keep, what I'd toss to the side like dirty laundry.

I'm not a typical mom who does everything by the book. This is odd considering the fact that I read every book I can find, many about parenting. I get Parents magazine religiously and totally kept up with every month's chapter for What to Expect When Expecting, The First Year, AND The Toddler Years the first couple of times.

But I've found that I'm also the mom who does things her own way, her baby's way. I listen to me and my baby. I remember what I've seen work for moms I know and family members. I don't do what is "typical" sometimes.

I've "broken" a few newborn rules, things that "they" say to do. And it worked for me, times three babies! So I thought I'd document those here for you, in case you are like me and didn't care to follow the play by play that some moms follow.

Side note: NO judgment if you did these things. They work great for some. My point in writing this piece today is to share that after NOT having followed these rules for three babies and they all turned out just fine and dandy, YOU, too, could choose to do things differently and be an A-OK momma, too. Let the pressures go. It's ALL good.

Here are a few things that worked for me, breaking all kinda "rules" over here:

  • Pacifiers- We used these within a couple of days of birth in the hospital every time. We loved these. Babies have a natural soothing reflex in their mouth to suck. It helps them feel better, secure. One of my babies came out of my belly sucking his thumb, he did it in the womb, sucking is normal. I refused to be the pacifier. My breasts did not have to be in even more pain post nursing sessions with a baby attached. We bonded just fine, they latched just fine, with using a pacifier. It's OK to use these from the start.
  • Arm-less and short-term swaddling- My first baby didn't like his arms tightly put into his swaddle blanket at night as a newborn, he liked to move, he liked his thumb in his mouth from birth, so we swaddled his body tightly but left the arms out. Babies like to feel something on their face, and letting arms and hands out helps with that. It's also one less thing to transition to later on down the road if you let them experience sleeping in a swaddle but with arms out. Also, short-term swaddling. I don't find the need to swaddle tightly for months on end. Surely the first few months, but then do your best to transition your baby out of this phase by three months or so. I've heard of SO many moms struggling with babies who won't sleep, don't know how to sleep because their baby has always been swaddled from birth, and now it's 5-6 months later and baby is able to actually move and get out of said swaddle and it isn't working... eek! Avoid it all together - arm less swaddle and then short-term the swaddle all together, move on to a sleep sack. 
  • Bottles early on- We gave each of our babies bottles the first week they were born, most from the night home from the hospital - day 4-5. I strongly encourage moms to do this. I breastfed my second and third like champs for over a year and they all had bottles the first week home. I don't believe the hocus pocus for most babies that it's going to cause them nipple confusion or that you'll never be able to breastfeed if you give them bottles early on. I think it's OK for moms to have a break from being the only go-to feeder. I think dads deserve a chance to feed and experience that feeling of feeding an infant too. Keep up with nursing primarily, but feeding bottles at night is SO helpful. It also makes babies sleep longer and fill them up more. I don't know that to be scientifically true, but I've had three babies and they all slept through the night at 5, 8 and 9 weeks old, so I believe it to be true for sure! 
  • Yes, wake a sleeping baby. I know, this is a scary one, right? BUT if you EVER want to sleep again, I believe in waking your baby during the day as they start getting older. I fed my babies religiously every two hours from the day they were born in the hospital. I had them on a routine feeding - even nursing - from day one. OF COURSE I fed on demand, too, if they were hungry at 1.5 hours instead of 2, yes of course they ate. BUT if they were sleeping at the 2 hour mark, yes, I woke them up and changed their diaper and fed them, which helped us be on a routine early on, which led to babies sleeping MUCH better at night. We had 4-6 hour stretches week one. If baby is sleeping at night, by all means let them sleep. If there is a growth spurt, of course let them sleep. But for the most part, take your day to feed them, wake them, fill them up, so that at night they are more tired and full and will let you stay on more of a regular sleep routine yourself. 
  • No rock n' play- I didn't know what this thing was the first two times, but the third time I was offered one from a friend and I declined. I was too scared of the habits it would create and I didn't want one more thing to transition from later down the road. I believe in teaching my babies to sleep in the bassinet and crib as early as we can - flat and swaddled for better long term sleep. Yes, the swing is an amazing thing, so letting them sleep there early on was a lifesaver during the day naps. Night time sleep though was for the bassinet, flat. I didn't want my baby getting used to something that we didn't really need. Now, if I had a colicky or reflux baby, OF COURSE do whatever you have to do to survive. But if at all possible, if you can avoid doing things that may cause a bad habit to form that is difficult to transition down the road, try it! 
  • Get out! I think it's totally fine to get out with baby. Cover them up, keep them in a car seat bucket so people are less likely to touch them, but go ahead and get out if you need to. We were at Chuck E Cheese with baby #2 a week after her birth because older two year old sibling needed to burn energy. Not the greatest place for a newborn, but do what you gotta do. It's OK, not a bad mom for getting out.
  • Let people visit and hold baby. I think this helps everyone. It's OK. Just make sure good hand washing is implemented and people with sickness stay away. 
  • No mittens- I know people think these are adorable and all older grandparents think they are a necessity, but I had three babies and never used these and didn't need them. They are just one more thing to wash or deal with and aren't necessary. The reason people put these mittens on babies typically is to avoid baby scratching herself. Well, I find no reason to avoid dealing with the issue- just cut the nails. I could not cut my first baby's nails for months so had a sister in law do it! Whatever it takes. I also think babies like to touch their face with their hands, so that's an added bonus to avoid these things. I know many love them, so all the power to you. We actually used them for pee-pee-tee-pees to cover the baby boy's parts during diaper changes the first time around!
  • Formula is AWESOME- I stockpiled formula for my second baby. I took EVERY free can I could get my hands on the second time around, after sooooo much guilt after a failed attempt at nursing my first. It's OK if you use formula. It's fine, it's healthy and it's awesome. Do NOT feel ashamed if you need or choose formula. I never even needed the formula I stockpiled the second time, as she nursed great, but it made me feel better knowing I had it so that was a win for us. Do whatever works. FED IS BEST.

Just remember that YOU are their mother. You will know what's best, even if you don't know what's best, even if you're new at this and confused. Listen to yourself, watch and observe your baby. Pay attention to what works for you all, not what someone else suggests. Here I am suggesting stuff to you, too... geez. I share only in case it helps you. If it doesn't, toss it out like the laundry we try to avoid cleaning!

Remember that when it comes to your own babies, it's OK to break some rules now and again to make it work for you and them.

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