3 Months

Dear J,

You’re sleeping in your own room now (which was harder for me than it was for you) and you’ll sleep pretty much anywhere for naps.

J

You made Daddy’s first Father’s Day very special!

Bo and J

You took your first swim in the pool this month

J

and your Aunt Rosie came all the way from Aruba to meet you!

Rosie and J

You smile a lot these days and you’re getting close to really laughing (you’ve only laughed one good time for me). You do a lot of squealing and you’re such a happy baby! You reach for the toys you want, but you don’t really prefer one over another. In all, you’re a pretty cool little dude.

J

I love you Big,

Mommy

3 months

(6/28/12)

Lesson 37: Why you should vaccinate your baby (yeah, I went there)

There is absolutely no intro to this that doesn’t sound rude, callous, or sarcastic. So I’ll just dive right in:

(You guys, Dr. Wakefield had an unethical study with multiple conflicts of interest and Jenny McCarthy, as funny and awesome as she is, “cured” her son’s autism. I mean, really?)

  • Yes, some of the rare potential side-effects are scary. But guess what else is scary? Your kid dying from the measles.
  • No, you cannot rely on herd immunity. Know why? Because if too many people rely on herd immunity, it will cease to exist. Plus? My kid isn’t your kid’s shield, thank you very much.

Some people cannot get vaccinated. Very young babies, people with certain allergies and those with weakened immune systems cannot receive the vaccinations. They’re relying on herd mentality. Do your part; don’t rely on somebody else to do it for you.

  • Yes, there are some risks to vaccinations. There are risks to any medication you use. Weigh the risks! Plus? Your child has a 1 in 1 million risk of having a severe reaction to the measles (MMR) vaccine. You know how many kids die from measles? 2 in 1000. Do the math (2000 in 1 million–there, I did it for you). I stole that information from this article because I love how feisty, yet accurate, she is (though I have to disagree with calling a person stupid for not vaccinating–there are lots of reasons folks don’t vaccinate, and yeah, stupidity is probably one of them. But I think fear is a huge reason–and fear doesn’t mean you’re stupid.)
  • No, vaccines do not cause you to get the disease. Vaccines are not 100% effective, so many people will still catch whatever disease they are vaccinated against [after all, it stands to reason that since most people (thank God) still get vaccinated, then most of the people who catch a disease will have been vaccinated, right? Again, math.]; however, the length and severity of the disease is likely to be lessened. Plus, the severe complications that can come along with an illness tend to be experienced by those who are unvaccinated.

Still worried? Read this. I don’t even agree with a lot of what Dr. Sears says, but he takes a very gentle, and common sense, approach to those parents who are simply scared to vaccinate their children.

Look, I hate taking my son to get his vaccinations. I hate that he cries and that they initially hurt him. And I hate that sometimes he’s cranky and sore for a day or two after. I hate that the medicine makes him sleepy and look all pathetic, and I just want to snuggle him after (so I do).

J

But I love that I’m protecting him to the best of my ability. It’s so easy to get caught up worrying about the things we can’t change. But this is something we do have control over–so why not give your kid every advantage you possibly can?

Go here for the AAP recommended vaccine schedule.

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2 Months

Dear J,

You smiled and laughed for the first time this month! I was kissing your belly and chunky cheeks and you made my day with your sweet smile.

J

You met your Grammy and Bob-Bob for the first time this month.

Grammy and J

You and Bob-Bob liked taking naps together.

Bob-Bob and J

You sleep through the night frequently now, but not always. You spent the night away from home (at Nana’s) for the first time and I cried for hours when I left you. It was so hard at first, but I did enjoy sleeping in the next day.

You helped me celebrate my first Mother’s Day by bringing me flowers (I suspect your father was of some help on this one).

I love you Big,

Mommy

2 months

(5/28/12)

Lesson 36: The first time your baby smiles at you, your heart will be completely gone

J

This is known to be J’s first picture while he’s smiling, even though he’s less than 36 hours old here. So I know in my head that it’s not a social smile and instead is actually probably gas.

But my heart says smile–so we’ll go with that.

He didn’t give a real smile until he was about 2 months old. And while these reflex smiles are sweet, the first real social smile your child gives you–the one where he locks eyes with you and smiles in response to the silly noises you’re making at him–will make you a goner.

Lesson 34: Your friendships will change…

…but they don’t have to end.

Once you have a child you’re going to find that all of a sudden you don’t have quite as much free time (or energy!) to go out in the evenings. Saturday nights don’t look like this anymore:

Friends

(No more hanging with the girls every night–although the bunny slippers can probably stay.)

Friends

(No more hitting up the local pub on a whim.)

Friends

(It’s a theme party. Shut up.)

If you’re a working parent, you might find that those 3 hours you get to spend with your child each weekday are precious, sacred. It’s pretty hard to get me to give up a moment of that time.

The same goes for the weekends–after being able to spend very little time with my son during the week, I soak up the time on the weekends.

Not to mention, all of a sudden going out becomes more expensive. Now it’s not just dinner and drinks–you have to hire a babysitter. It adds up.

And if you’re breastfeeding your baby, it adds a whole new dimension to it. You can’t just leave a bottle of formula or expressed milk for the kid and forget about it. At some point during your fun-filled night, you’re going to have to excuse yourself to go sit in a dark car and pump. Sometimes twice.

And even if you make it all happen and you go out on a Friday evening with your buddies, there’s no sleeping in the next day. Junior doesn’t really care that you stayed out too late. 7am (if you’re lucky) comes at the same time, even on Saturday morning.

If you have a family support system who can help you out every now and then, count your blessings. We get to leave our son with his grandmother sometimes for an overnight stay. This allows us to go out on a Saturday night, and sleep late on Sunday. But that’s not free either. Our price is in the form of a Nana-hangover. J, like most kids, doesn’t sleep quite as well in his pack-n-play. He goes to sleep later, wakes up earlier, and usually refuses his nap. She’s way too cool and exciting–so he will fight sleep like the plague, and once the kid is off his self-imposed schedule, all hell breaks loose. By the time we pick him up on Sunday afternoon, he’s exhausted–which means we bring him home and struggle with him for the rest of the day. Then he wakes up frequently throughout the next night and way too early the next morning. It usually only takes 24 hours for him to fall back into his normal routine. But that’s a 24-hour debt we have to pay.

Is it worth it? Without a doubt. But we also don’t want to over-use our free babysitter. So for all of the above-mentioned reasons, going out just doesn’t happen as frequently as it did pre- Baby J.

This is how weekends look now:

Friday nights after kidsFriday nights after kids

Friday nights after kidsFriday nights after kids

(And I’m fine with that.)

Some friends understand this, some don’t. Some get tired of the rejected invitations and so you gradually stop hearing from them. It’s sometimes those without kids, those who are in a different place in their lives, that you might find yourself drifting away from. But I’ve also found that sometimes parents with kids who are older have forgotten what it’s like to have young kids. And sometimes parents who do have young kids just don’t have the same struggles we do, whether it’s because their kid is on a less-structured schedule, or they get to spend more time with them during the week so going out doesn’t feel like such a sacrifice, or paying a babysitter doesn’t cut into their budget quite as much–whatever the reason, they don’t always get it either. Everybody’s situation is different.

Still others make the best of it–they don’t mind coming to your house for a cookout and drinks. They don’t mind that at 9pm, you’re fighting to keep your eyes open. They just hug you, say they’ll see you soon, then head out to wherever their night is taking them–while you go to bed.

Your friendship circle will expand too. You’ll make “mom friends,” and they may be ladies who you wouldn’t have necessarily met or been friends with if you didn’t share the bond of motherhood. It’s important to balance your new friendships with your old ones. Maybe you think your mom friends “get it” more than your friends without kids–and maybe you’re right. But don’t jump on the “you don’t understand” wagon if you haven’t bothered to stop and explain it. They may not have kids, but they do have responsibilities–they might get a whole lot more than you think if you’ll give them the chance to do so.

And here’s where they’ll change for the good: you will have the opportunity to love them so much more. Those friends who stick around, who encourage you as a parent, who love your kid, who ask you about him, love on him, babysit him so you can go out with your husband. You will love those friends like you never knew you could love a friend. Because anybody who loves your baby, secures a place in your heart.

Lesson 33: Tummy Time!

J

Tummy time made J one pissed off baby. But still, I diligently placed him on his tummy several times a day. I watched him lift his head up and scowl at me, eventually learning to push himself up with his tiny arms. Once he learned to roll over, he didn’t mind it so much. But until then? He gave me the evil death glare every time I left him on his tummy for an extended period of time.

But why do so much forced tummy time? Is it really necessary?

The Healthy Child Care America Back to Sleep Campaign began in 2003 when the American Academy of Pediatrics partnered with several national child care and health organizations to promote the back to sleep message, among other things, to parents and child care programs. Although SIDS is certainly not preventable, placing an infant on her back to sleep can greatly reduce the risk.

The problem (if you want to call it that) is that babies’ skulls are soft and made up of movable plates. So while we’ve seen the rate of SIDS drop 50% since the AAP first began recommending that babies sleep on their backs in 1992, we’ve also seen an increase in flat head syndrome. Babies spend a lot of time sleeping, therefore they spend a lot of time lying flat on their backs, which can cause the back of the head to become flat.

One way to help prevent a flat head is to make sure your infant gets plenty of tummy time. In addition, tummy time can help make the neck and shoulder muscles stronger and can improve your baby’s motor skills.

Still, recent studies have questioned whether or not tummy time is actually necessary. A study published in Early Human Development in 2012 found that putting babies to sleep on their backs has had no impact on the age at which infants roll over. Further, the necessity of tummy time, according to the study, isn’t clear.

The verdict? Put your baby on his back to sleep to help protect against SIDS. Give him some tummy time every day, but don’t stress over it if it makes him pissy. It will certainly help strengthen his muscles, but he’ll get there anyway. Tummy time should be a fun time for him to see the world from a different perspective and to experiment with his little body. So don’t make it a timed exercise, just go with it.

Lesson 32: Take a picture every month

One thing I’m so glad I did was to take a picture every month for J’s first 12 months. I used the same blanket in every picture, but the next time around I’ll use the same chair or stuffed animal so it’s easier to see Baby’s growth.

Dear J,

I love spending time with you, just holding you and staring at you–thinking how perfect and cute you are.

Mom and J

You celebrated your first Easter soon after you were born. The Easter Bunny came to visit you, even though you were way too young eat any Peeps this year.

You spend a lot of your time sleeping–and you look so cute doing it!

J J J

You’re so much more alert these days and you interact with people by making eye contact and “coo-ing.” You definitely recognize your mommy and daddy’s voices! You very rarely cry–only when you’re hungry or while we’re changing your diaper. This month you learned to lift your head while laying on your tummy.

I love you Big,

Mommy

1 month

(4/28/12)

Lesson 31: (for your visitors) What to say to and do for a New Mom

Chances are, after you actually have a baby, a lot of your ideas on parenting will change. Among those things is how to be of help to a new mom, what to say to her, and what to do to make her life a little easier.

Oh, and, what NOT to say.

What to Do

If you’ve been invited to visit the family in the hospital, call and ask Dad when it will be a good time to visit. Then, an hour or so before time to arrive, send him a text, ask if it’s still a good time and what you can bring them to eat or drink.

Wait for Mom to invite you to hold her baby. She may not be ready to give her up just yet. Maybe she wants her to sleep undisturbed. Maybe she doesn’t want to pass her around for whatever reason. Maybe she’s eyeing you, waiting for you to wash your hands. If some time goes by and Mom doesn’t offer to hand her over, then it’s probably okay to show her that you’d like to hold the baby by saying something like, She’s so beautiful. I’d love to get my hands on her when you’re ready. If Mom ignores or avoids your statement, leave it alone. For whatever reason, she doesn’t want you to hold her baby right now. Be okay with that. It’s (probably) not personal.

Wash and sanitize your hands before touching her baby. Don’t make her ask you to wash your hands; it’s uncomfortable. Just do it yourself and make sure she knows that you have.

Prepare a few meals in advance, freeze them, and bring them over to leave in her freezer.

Bring dinner for the family, clean out the dishwasher, offer to watch the baby while she takes a shower or naps, bring a basket of snacky items, etc. Just be helpful.

If you want to bring a gift for the baby, consider checking their baby registry to see if there are any lingering items that have yet to be purchased.

What to Say

You’re doing a great job! Chances are, Mom is feeling tired, overwhelmed and emotional. Tell her she’s doing a good job! And on top of that, pick out one specific thing that you’re truly impressed with/admire and point that one thing out to her.

Along the same lines, You’re a really good mom. It’s the best compliment you can pay a mom. Ever.

What a beautiful baby! Let me tell you, a genuine compliment about my child will get you further in my good graces than a glass of wine. And that’s saying a lot.

It will get better. Your baby won’t always cry. He will sleep through the night. He won’t always need to nurse every 2 hours. He will stop spitting up all over the place. He will eventually stop teething. The temper tantrums will stop. No phase is forever. You will learn how to balance your time better. There will come a day when it takes you less than 2 hours to leave the house. The days are long, but the years are, indeed, short. That doesn’t mean you have to cherish every moment, but just know that it does get better.

What NOT to Do or Say

Let me know if you need anything. That’s tough because it puts Mom in the position of having to call you and ask for a favor. Instead, say I’m going to bring dinner tomorrow. What would you like? or I’m at Publix. What do you need? or I’m going to do your laundry. Is that okay? or Where’s your vacuum cleaner?

Don’t stay too long. Go, bring dinner, help her out around the house, watch the baby for a bit so Mom can shower or take a nap–but then get out. Don’t cross the line between helping and becoming a guest. She doesn’t need to feel like she has to entertain you.

Sleep when the baby sleeps. That’s a great idea! So are you going to be the one to come prepare the meals, clean the house, take care of the other kids, or whatever else it is that she needs to accomplish in order to feel sane?

He’s so small! Since many people equate size with health, this type of comment can worry a new mom. The mom who thought her baby was just perfect may now look at him and start to wonder if something is wrong with him. Is he eating enough? Am I producing enough milk? Should I wake him to feed him more often? Instead, He’s so beautiful and has the most perfect _____! is always a good thing to say.

Isn’t motherhood the best thing ever? Motherhood is awesome. Most of the time. But sometimes it sucks. Please don’t make Mom feel guilty for sometimes wondering if she made a colossal mistake. Of course she loves her baby, but sometimes she’s exhausted and leaking milk everywhere and everybody is annoying the hell out of her and she’d like to run away. Maybe try, When you feel like leaving your husband and child and running off to Tahiti, you know you can call me so I can babysit while you get a pedicure, right?

Don’t give advice unless she asks for it.

Are you going to have more? Holy Jesus. At least let her episiotomy stitches heal first.