Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: Heading Home with Your Newborn


Many, many months ago, I read Cate's amazing birth story on Project Subrosa. When she got to the end, she described sitting on the couch with her partner and their new baby. In that moment, I realized that I had thought a lot about conception, pregnancy, and birth, but I had never thought much about the "happily ever after," about what you actually do when the baby finally joins your family.

In that moment, I made a decision to try and stay one step ahead in my learning. For example, I tried to read a little about pregnancy while I was trying to conceive. Now that I'm pregnant, I'm trying to read about caring for an infant.

I know my habit of reading books and seeking advice from others makes many of you think that I lack confidence in my ability as a mother. Last week, I was accused of harboring "an obsession to be perfect and live up to others' expectations." The advice was that I should "take a rest from all the 'resources' and just be [me]." But honestly, this is exactly who I am. I love learning as much as I can from books and websites and then filtering it all through my own critical lens in order to formulate an approach that makes sense to me. It's not that I don't trust myself to be a good mother or that I think the "experts" have all the answers. It's simply that I want to be the best mother that I can be and, for me, that means I want to approach motherhood with intention and learn as much as I can and prepare as much as I can (knowing full well that the preparation I'm doing through books and websites is only the tip of the iceberg and the rest will be revealed through actually doing). Reading more and talking with others makes me more confident and more relaxed about heading into the unknown.

I am having so much fun gobbling up books that help me think through and anticipate the changes that are in store for us. I don't feel pressure to be "perfect." I don't even believe that such a word could ever be used to describe a parent. I definitely don't feel pressure to live up to others' expectations. I don't even feel internal pressure to do more or read more. I've simply created a lot of space in my life for pregnancy (by eliminating other commitments), and I'm using that time to relax in my bed and read.

A friend of mine recommended the book Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, and I found it to be very useful. It goes over the basics of caring for an infant.

Here's some of what I learned:
  • In the first 2-5 days when a breastfeeding baby is drinking colostrum, it's normal for a baby to urinate only 2-3 times per day. After that, a more normal frequency is about 8-10 times per day.
  • A baby's first poops are thick, tarry, and black. Then they shift to pasty brown and then to mustardy yellow and seedy.
  • Red, black, or white poop can indicate a problem, so can bowel movements that become progressively more watery or outpaces the feeding frequency.
  • A normal frequency is once every several days to several poops a day.
  • To prevent gas, you should try to feed an infant before they start screaming for food. You should also try to feed a baby with their head higher than their stomach. When using a bottle, you should let milk fill the entire nipple, and you should keep the baby upright for a few minutes after feeding and before burping.
  • To help relieve a gaseous baby, you can put it on its back and bicycle pump its legs.
  • Newborns sleep about 16 hours/day. At 6 months, they sleep about 14 hours per day. At a year, they still sleep about 14 hours a day.
  • Babies generally don't have tears for the first month.
  • It's important to fold diapers down and off of the umbilical cord stump while it's healing.
  • Cords can take about 2-4 weeks to heal and it's best to sponge bathe babies before then.
  • Baby girls may have bloody vaginal discharge or their nipples may discharge a white substance, both of which are normal reactions to hormones.
  • In the first few months, if a baby has a fever you should call the doctor. A fever is anything over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. From birth to three months, it is best to use a rectal thermometer. Directions for doing so are on page 256.
  • Common breastfeeding holds include: cradle, football, and side-by-side or lying down.
  • Once a baby has latched on, you should relax your grip on its head to allow it to adjust itself as necessary.
  • A baby uses its tongue to lap or massage milk out of the breast. Therefore, the tongue needs to be positioned under the breast in such a way that the baby can draw the nipple and the darker colored area around it into its mouth as it sucks.
  • You can gently express a few drops of breast milk onto and around your nipple to help the baby hone in on its intended target.
  • To interest your baby in opening its mouth, you can lightly stroke its cheek just to the side of its mouth.
  • If a baby doesn't open wide enough, you can gently push down its chin.
  • Don't be fooled into thinking that any latching on is better than none. If the baby didn't open up wide enough, it seem to have only gotten the nipple in its mouth, or it continues to hurt when the baby sucks, take the baby off and try again. You can put your finger in its mouth to break the seal.
  • Mild irritation or discomfort that occurs only at the start of each feeding is generally associated with the newness of nursing. Nipple pain that persists or gets worse as your baby nurses is more likely to be a sign that the baby is not latched on correctly and is often accompanied by cracked or blistered nipples.
  • Let your nipples dry before putting your bra/shirt back on to help prevent yeast infections.
  • Uterine cramping during breastfeeding is normal and actually decreases the likelihood of uterine bleeding and shortens the amount of time it takes your uterus to shrink back down to its pre-pregnancy size.
  • The change from producing colostrum to transitional milk can take place over a couple hours or a day or two. It typically occurs anywhere from 2-5 days after the birth of the baby. To support the production of milk, it's important to keep up with fluid intake, ensure the baby latches on properly, and nurse frequently.
  • The best two ways to manage engorgement are to wear a supportive bra and to express a little milk whenever necessary to relieve the pain (being careful not to express so much that the body starts producing more). Using a warm compress, expressing milk, and feeding the baby more frequently may help relieve the symptoms.
  • To ensure the baby doesn't become dehydrated before your body reaches full milk production, it's recommended that you nurse more frequently during the day (at least every 2-3 hours, but more often if the baby is ready/willing/able) and less frequently at night (4-5 hours at the most, if the baby will sleep that long). When tracking the time between feedings, it's customary to use the time from the start of the first feeding to the start of the next.
  • If a newborn decides to skip two or more feedings, consult the baby's doctor.
  • Newborns are expected to lose as much as 10% of their birth weight in the week or two after birth. On average, they should gain it back by two weeks of age.
  • Resist the urge to follow a schedule for feeding during the first several weeks of your baby's life. It helps establish good breast feeding habits.

You can download a printer version, if you're interested.

The book gave a really good overview of what to expect and what to worry about. It was a quick, easy read and a good start for formulating some ideas about what to expect.

My midwife recommended a much thicker overview of raising an infant, entitled, The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age to Two. I'll probably skim that book in the next few weeks. Luckily, she gave me my own copy, so I can keep it around as a reference guide for many years.



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14 comments:

Rosalie said...

I was exactly like you and loved to read and prepare and it's fine to as long as you expect things not to go totally to plan! One thing I would say about nursing. Nothing prepared me for how hard it is, no matter how many books. Another is that books with nursing weren't as good preparation as reading a forum. I joined a baby forum and lurked in the breastfeeding group for a few months before my baby was born and it was so much more informative, so many things the books don't cover that were happening to mums so when I encountered them it wasn't so surprising. Another amazing nursing resource is kellymom if you don't know of it already. Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I've done ever.

Ms Bear Cub/ Allison said...

Sara, don't worry at all about those negative comments. I'm very much like you - I need to absorb as much information as possible, filter it, and then decide what I want to do with it/how (if) I want to implement it. Keep doing what you're good at!

Tiffany said...

I think the negative comments are insane. I am also like you and am not even trying to conceive, but have read lots of books about having a baby and read parenting blogs, etc. I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to have as much information as possible. Some people are better with just winging it, while others are very thoughtful with their actions and that shows in every aspect of life - not just motherhood.

Mindy said...

There is nothing wrong with getting as much info as you can so you can make educated decisions. I'm very much like you with planning and being one step ahead and I agree that reading about whatever life stage your in is helpful as long as you take everything you read as information to form your own opinions (marriage or parenting philosophies) which is what I think you're doing. If you were constantly (and radically) changing your views according to whatever book you were reading at the time then that might be troublesome but using the information you're gaining to synthesis your parenting philosophy is very responsible in my opinion. By the way: Congratulations!

Carrie Dee said...

I know it's hard to ignore the negative comments. But you're going about your learning the way you know is best for yourself. I understand that, because I'm the same way. I think the negativity stems from the "You'll see's" that people always try to bog others down with around life transitions (like marriage and having kids).

On a positive note, thank you for the great information. We are still in the pre-conception phase, but I love learning about all this!

redfrizzz said...

here's another one for you:
after the baby is born, and during their first week, use a bit of olive oil to lightly coat the baby's bottom. This will make changing those diapers with thick, black, tar-like poops much easier to clean, and happier for you and baby.

Aamba said...

Really good information!

I am like you, I love to read and study and prepare. I read books like this even though I'm not pregnant (and now my boyfriend and I have split up, so my whole two year spreadsheet is down the drain!)

Schmei said...

The negative comments don't make any sense. Every good mother seeks advice from those who have experience raising children. We're just fortunate enough to have piles of books, baby information sites and blogs available to us.

Heck, I've been reading birth/parenting sites just for hobby reading for a year, and I don't know if or when we'll have kids. It's interesting reading sometimes!

Sara said...

That is a lot of information and not to be nit picky, but stool frequency of a breast fed baby should be every day after the milk comes in. This is actually an indicator that the baby is getting enough hind milk. At about 6 weeks old, it is then normal to have several bowel movements a day or only one every several days, but in the very beginning you want to make sure they are happening every day.

Rachel said...

I think that with most things, balance is important. I love to read and research, too, and it's fun for me! I think that it's good when it is a joyful pursuit! For me, though, after I had my first baby, I had to ask my husband to hide all my books for a little while, because I was getting too stressed out about consulting them over too many little things and worrying over too many litle things. As one of my friends pointed out to me, there's no such thing as a robot baby, and every baby is going to be unique. It's hard to measure your newborn against the averages/standards presented in books, even the best ones! I think this is a user-issue and not a book-issue (the user I'm referring to in this case is me! :) I personally did better/felt better and relaxed with my baby better when I wasn't constantly consulting books in the early weeks and let myself look to him (my baby) for guidance.) For example, I discovered that my baby sometimes wanted to nurse frequently, and not just every 2-3 hours. This worked for us. If reading and researching is a joyful experience for you, which it sounds like it is, then that is great! It's nice to balance the research with thoughtful personal reflection/personal feelings, too. Enjoy the process!

Moxie said...

Glad the naysayers aren't getting you down. I also love to read books and research in-advance, and think you said it really well here: "I am having so much fun gobbling up books that help me think through and anticipate the changes that are in store for us. I don't feel pressure to be "perfect." "

Out of curiosity, do you know what your Myers-Briggs type is? I'm an INTJ and wondering if you're close to this and the naysayers are a more-opposite temperament, since they just don't seem to be able to relate about this.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one being referring to as "negative" which is just silly. Read my original post, which was rather encouraging and positive. I was responding to your comments that you did not trust your own intuition (you said that you feel that "most of our instincts come from unhealthy places" and that "my instinct is not to trust my instinct" which are pretty drastic statements!) and that you read a book and then wished the author had given you a bulleted list of directives of what to do. I was trying to encourage spontaneity and a more "go with it" attitude. OF COURSE I believe in gathering information and knowledge. My thoughts had to do with the difference between gathering info and being dependent on it/needing it to move forward. I love your blog & value your thoughts! I just felt your reading about every intricate detail of all aspects of child rearing/birthing left no room to make independent choices/discoveries. Maybe many are like your readers: reading about pregnancy when not pregnant, or reading baby blogs before they have babies, but most moms I know when they were pregnant, were reading about what was happening with their bodies and what to expect at birth, not which potty training philosophy was going to be right for their child. Many of us (like Rachel) felt that so many opinions and instructives weren't working and made us feel bad about our choices (sound familiar in the context of weddings?). We threw the books out and went with what Baby wanted/needed/seemed to like. There's no right or wrong, just a challenge to think about those ways and decide if they do/don't work for you. I don't get it--on your wedding blog you encourage us to throw out the instruction books and be ourselves. Here, you fall right into the "baby industrial complex" to borrow your phrasing (: I was trying to be encouraging and perhaps (constructively) critical, but in an attempt to HELP not hurt/ insult. I do think that planning everything down to 15 minute intervals and reading everything about everything CAN be harmful and I did sense you were insecure and I sensed a bit of desperation to do everything right (which is normal!). Blogs can't necessarily convey complex emotion so maybe I heard wrong. The commenters that felt I was a "nay sayer" are all like you, whereas I see things differently. No one is right or wrong, good or bad. But not cool to take my comments out of context/get defensive? You put your thoughts out there to share and to get people to think. When I tried to do the same, it seems everyone came down on me. Anyway, sorry for the long post, and peace to all. I will continue to enjoy your blog, but will keep my (different/creative) opinions and ideas to myself from now on. Good luck with everything!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Anonymous: Please don't stop sharing your "different/creative opinions!" I really do like to hear feedback on the stuff I put out into the world. Sometimes when I hear people's reactions to my thoughts, I think, "Oh, they're picking up on something that I didn't even realize about myself." Other times, I feel misunderstood, and I go back to read my original words to see if there's a discrepancy between my intent and my impact. With my response to your comment (and others' comments), I wasn't trying to shut down dialogue or make you feel like I don't want you to be critical of me on my blog. I just wanted a chance to explain myself again. That's all! Please keep sharing your thoughts...

Anonymous said...

I will also just add that I find it so silly that people are labeling one way of being as a "naysayer!" It's just another thought, people. No reason to get divisive, just creates a very negative tone. Using the us vs them mentality to put people down is so unnecessary. Blogs are supposed to encourage people to share their perspectives respectfully. Just because you disagree with a post or point something out that others have not, does not mean you should be labeled as negative and bad. Just makes me wonder if readers here are not actually open to a variety of approaches, but rather, only look to have their own ideas validated.

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