Monday, 3 September 2012

Parenthood: day thirteen

I'm feeling much calmer today, but frustrated in a different way. I think these days could have been easier if someone had told us that our baby might cry between half an hour and six hours a day, sometimes for no particular or apparent reason, and that is totally normal—in fact, part of healthy baby development. Soothing, too, is important to child development, and new parents might have to hold or nurse their babies for the better part of the day. Are these things controversial? I hardly think so. But not even Canada's Baby Care Book, by a pair of Sick Kids' Hospital doctors ("A complete guide from birth to 12 months old") discusses these things in any detail.

Of course, I knew before we got into this baby business that babies cry, sometimes a lot, and that they cry to communicate their needs. But I didn't know whether it was important to stop the crying or whether the crying was harmful and many other things. Are these things obvious? I'm not sure they are, especially when the baby doesn't stop crying. I guess it's my own fault for not asking more questions. I suppose the controversial part is that there are competing schools of thought on how and whether to soothe an infant's crying, and it's up to parents to decide what to do.

It doesn't matter now. We're all learning to understand each other better. Danijela and I have been able to help Oliver nap during the day, which he has mainly refused to do, and to sleep better at night, which is helpful for all of us. Indeed, last night, he slept for six hours, nursed, and then slept for another two and a half hours. I was almost fresh in the morning, and Oliver was far less cranky, letting us change him twice without fuss. He was much easier to soothe. He napped several times. We even went out for coffee in the afternoon, our farthest and longest trip yet. He did cry when he awoke, but it was very hot and he was hungry.

His worst cries seem to be about bowel movements. But he'll definitely give us an earful with little apparent provocation.

Anyway, I've continued my reading and here are some resources that I've found helpful:

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, by Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau, offers lots of good general advice about starting infants on a structured (but flexible) routine.

The Happiest Baby on the Block video, by Dr. Harvey Karp, proposes that the first three months of life are like a fourth trimester, and offers techniques to engage a baby's "calming reflex" by mimicking the conditions of the womb. I'm interested in looking at the accompanying book, which I'm sure provides far greater insight into the techniques, but the demonstrations in the video were sufficient for us to get started—and they work. However, Karp's methods are somewhat controversial because they aim to stop the baby's crying, which may prevent the baby from communicating her needs, and limit the amount of general soothing parents provide their baby.

"Is 'The Happiest Baby On The Block' the Most Oppressed?", by Lisa Sunbury, criticizes Dr. Karp's methods as disrespectful and manipulative of babies. Sunbury makes fine points, and it's definitely worth a read, but I don't think her general dismissal of the techniques is realistic. However, she does offer a list of very good links to additional resources.

In particular, "What is this crying all about?" (PDF), by Dr. Ronald G. Barr for the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development. This 2007 article should be required reading for all new parents. Simply put, Barr notes that recent studies have found "that early increased crying—including the prolonged inconsolable crying bouts that so irritate caregivers—is actually a normal developmental phenomenon that occurs in completely normal developing infants. Further more, the outcome for these infants is excellent." Thank the good lord. There's lots more helpful information than that, too.

Another resource that Sunbury links to is The Period of Purple Crying, which, while clearly descriptive, is actually a simple acronym to help parents of infants react to baby crying. Essentially, research shows that from about two weeks to sixteen, infants cry more than any other time in their lives. The crying usually peaks around six to eight weeks, and then tapers off. If I had known that...


Oliver has had dry skin from the time he was born, likely because he was eleven days late to the party. I understand this is pretty common, and is usually done around two weeks. He's been peeling since the beginning, from his hands and arms, to his torso and legs, and now his head and feet. Seems like it's on schedule to clear up in a few days though. Then we have a brand new baby!

From the earliest of these early days, Oliver has been lifting and swinging his head like a champ. I feel like he's going to be rolling over in no time, yikes!

I haven't kept on top of Pippin's litter box, and now he's using the garden. It must be pretty bad in the box; he meowed through the night to get out, presumably to avoid stepping into the smell zone.

We eat fast and not according to any type of rational schedule. I have to be careful that I don't skip meals. Time, too, has become erratic, especially the afternoon. It disappears before I even notice it, swallowed by soothing and nap attempts (not my own) and laundry and whatever little household chores I can squeeze in (like changing that litter).

My mother-in-law stayed with us for the last week, which was very helpful, but also strange, and made me miss my parents! (Surely I've never said that before, although I may have felt it.) Conveniently, they had scheduled a vacation a three-week soon after Oliver's birth. But I can't blame them. Oliver made things hard on everyone by being so late!

Okay, enough. There's too much to say, but I must sleep. More later!

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