6.12.2007

New Parents Must-Reads

I'm feeling the little one really kicking around now and I'm starting to wonder how much I still remember about taking care of a newborn, the rough entry into regular breastfeeding, surviving massive sleep deprivation, pumping, etc. I've just ordered a new packet of books to help improve parenting of the 2-y.o. pooper in advance of the added stress on all of us of a new baby, such as How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk, Playful Parenting, and a book on helping siblings co-habitate peacefully. Or at least not send each other to the ER. Much. My thinking right now is that I want to help the pooper to develop as much self-care and independent skills now in preparation for the arrival of the baby as well as improve my parenting techniques so that I have more tools and strategies available when my personal resources are very low. At least that's the plan.

We were at a baby shower last weekend, and the couple are expecting their first child in two weeks. Like us, they started this later in life. They are both very laid back and apparently haven't picked up a single book yet on taking care of babies. And the wife was an only child, and the dad doesn't have any experience with babies, so they're both flying blind, which really blew me away and also made me a little envious of their ability not to fret. But, there are a few books that I found indispensable in the first year with the pooper, and I thought I'd share my brief list of most favorite reference books here. And I can't help myself, I'll include some copies of these from Half-Priced Books with their belated shower gift when we get around to delivering them. Hopefully this weekend. So that they can read them before the baby arrives (ha!).

1. Baby 411
Now I'm not just biased about this book because it's author also happens to be our pediatrician, although it was really great to have all of her care protocols and philosophies available and indexed at my fingertips so that she and I were almost always on the same page for what was/wasn't concerning and how to proceed treatment-wise. But this is really just a very accessible, no-nonsense, non-judgemental, highly comprehensive resource for everything from sleep cycle development to breastfeeding vs. formula (she is decidedly supportive of breastfeeding but also points out that she was raised on formula and is in great health and a graduate of Harvard Medical School so don't lose sleep if for some reason you end up taking this road) to hygiene and bathing to all types of illnesses and maladies and when to consult a nurse vs. make an appointment the next day vs. run to the ER vs. call an ambulance immediately. Her writing style is down-to-earth and reassuring and her care recommendations are consistent with current research. Plus, the index in the back is extremely helpful, in addition to the way the information is presented in bullet format in the text itself.

2. The Happiest Baby on the Block
In truth, this book could be pared down to a poster like the choking first aid poster that restaurants are required to have posted somewhere on the premises. The "gimic" of the book is that babies really have a "fourth trimester" that they have to pass through outside the womb because otherwise their big heads wouldn't fit through the birth canal, so to calm a baby during the fourth trimester (i.e., the first 13 weeks from birth), apply his 5 techniques for calming that are geared towards recreating the womb environment: swaddling (helpful how-to with diagrams is included), shushing (at least as loudly as the baby is crying), swinging (seriously - if you're standing in line somewhere and baby's having a meltdown in the carrier, pick it up and swing it - works like a charm), side-stomach position (hold baby so that they are tummy- or side-down because this feels more secure for them and the muscle reflexes they have during the early months), and sucking (pacifier, finger, whatever's handy). I still recommend buying the book because there are useful explanations and adaptations for the techniques in different circumstances that can be helpful.

3. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
This is written by one of the leading sleep researchers and experts in the U.S., and it is unfortunately not very well organized, important nuggets of information are buried in between endless case examples, and it is very ... very ... dry. If you can slog through it, however, the nuggets are worth it. Dr. Brown sums up the gist of the information where babies are concerned in about a paragraph in Baby 411, which is helpful if you're having trouble distilling what the "take away" points are, but I found the sections covering the development of sleep cycles in humans to be fascinating and also helpful context. Yes, we're wired to sleep in a certain way, but that normal development can be interrupted by any number of factors like health problems (we had a little of this early on due to pooper's severe acid reflux), incompatible family schedules, baby's temperament (pooper also would fight sleep until his eyes were actually rolling back in his head) and a difficult to accommodate early sleep cycle (pooper only napped for 30 mins. at a time and took up to 5 or 6 naps a day with just two hours in between - I went nowhere until he FINALLY started to consolidate his naps into fewer, longer naps as he got a bit older). Thanks to this book, by 4 months old I could lay pooper down in his crib for his morning nap while he was still awake and he would smile, roll onto his side, and happily fall asleep on his own while I finally got a small breather with a cup of coffee and conversation with a friend. The sleep techniques taught by the book are not necessarilly in keeping with the Attachment Parenting philosophies, if that's your preference, but I figured I'd go with the expert and pooper has generally slept solidly through the night, with a few exceptions for travel and teething, since he was about 4 months old. I give sleep the same priority as nutrition, so it's very satisfying that in spite of his rough beginning with the reflux and general disdain for going to sleep and missing out on all the fun that he's certain we get into while he's in bed, he is still a generally well-rested child, and for that I largely have this book to thank.

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