Posted in Blog, Friends, Mother, Shawna

Advice worth sharing (I hope!)

When you have a baby, everyone who has “been there” (and many people who haven’t) feel obligated to overload you with advice. These are mostly well-meaning attempts to make your life easier, or at least make the bearer feel they have done their part to pass on all the knowledge they accrued.

The only problem with that knowledge is it tends to fall into the following categories: Super obvious, super crazy or super unlikely.

Some super obvious advice that most parents get is the old “drive around the neighborhood to get baby to stop crying” routine. The weirdest part to me about this particular gem is how un-ironically it is bestowed. I received this piece of advice no less than 2,700 times, and not once did the person preface it with “You’ve probably heard this one, but…” or “This is so cliched, but…” or “It’s the oldest trick in the book, but…” I mean, come on people. Even if I were the rare ostrich who had NOT heard of that one before, wouldn’t I have likely figured it out on the car home from the birthing center/hospital in the early hours of my baby’s life?

The super crazy advice is the most fun, though definitely take note when it is being dispensed by your pediatrician. These little nuggets should be saved up for your baby journal! Some of my favorites include: Adding alcohol to your newborn’s “nightime bottle;” flicking your baby on the butt (ouch!) to get her to stop fussing on the changing table, and yelling at or disciplining your baby for any reason.

Then there is the advice that is obviously being given by someone who has re-written history quite a bit since their baby was wee:  “Well, Noah was always sleeping through the night by six weeks old. Maybe there is something wrong with little Ava?” “Her first word was ‘I love you mommy,'” and she said it at four months old,” etc. I have a general rule to not listen too carefully to people who had babies more than a few years ago. Unless it’s my mom (I had to say that!).

Because I really, really wish I had learned some of this “the easy way,” I’m daring to share my advice here, at the risk of being crazy, obvious or just plain obnoxious. Feel free to disregard it all! O.K.; here goes:

1. Remember that all babies are different. Repeat after me: ALL. BABIES. ARE. DIFFERENT. Really! Babies are a lot like little people, and even from their earliest days, they have different preferences, personalities and proclivities. It is not all you. Maybe yours will sleep through the night early, maybe he will scream every day for three hours for the first six months.

I think it’s important to bear this in mind and not beat yourself up if your baby seems “more difficult” than all the other babies in your playgroup. Just remember that while you might have the “worst sleeper” now, you could have the “best reader” in a few years, or even “the one who doesn’t steal things.” Check out this cool site to take a baby personality quiz. It also has predictions for how your baby will be at different ages based on her current behavior. Fun!

2. You don’t have to change diapers at night. Man, I wish I’d learned this one earlier. Unless the babe is poopy, fussy or fighting a nasty diaper rash, let that diaper lay and the baby will too. Also keep the lights off, and don’t talk. And no tuba playing!

3. Give baby a brief reprieve on the “no TV” rule to cut her nails. Baby will get a few minutes of horribly detrimental TV exposure, yes, but you will finally have an infant without machete marks on her face every morning.  Ignore the crazy people who tell you to clip nails while baby is sleeping. You will end up with an angry, sleepy baby who still has nine nails that need clipping! Do this one during the day, though. TV exposure right before bed will keep anyone up!

4. Your frontpack should look about a million years old by the time your baby is two. During those first few months, when many babies have their “Happy Hour” period of incessant screaming for hours on end, putting them in the frontpack or sling and walking around your neighborhood will help you stay saner and them stay calmer. Also, the beautiful thing about a frontpack, be it Ergo, Beco, Bjorn or otherwise, is that ANYONE can wear one. Your friends want to help out? Husband doesn’t know what to do? Mother-in-law unable to load a dishwasher without prodding? Babywearing is a chore that they’ll be happy to take around the block.

5. Don’t run yourself ragged. Set a rough timeframe for playdates, visitors, etc. and plan to do only one or two a day, tops. Most babies settle in to a two nap routine for quite some time, taking one in the late morning and one in the early afternoon, leaving you a hole of roughly 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and then another from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. when they will be awake and worth socializing with. Of course, not all babies even give you that much time!

6. When you introduce solids, think smocks. Babies are unbelievably messy eaters, and you will encounter all means of bibs meant to contain that mess. Some people will tell you to strip your baby down for eating. I’ve found that a bib is a joke and it’s way easier to clean clothes than your baby. I bought a half-dozen tops about two sizes too big for Quinn at the 99 cent rack at the consignment shop Kids on 45th in Wallingford. I just turn them inside out, put them on her, and then peel off and wash after every meal. I do put a bib on top though, just to lend her an air of dignity and refinement at the table.

7. Make a list of fun baby games/activities that you can refer to on those days when you’ve already played with all the usual toys and you look at the clock and you CAN’T BELIEVE it is only 3 p.m. Some ideas from my list (bear in mind that my daughter is 9.5 months so these might not all apply to you): Blow bubbles; Go to the park and swing; Stand on the deck and talk about what we see; Open up a random kitchen drawer and find a baby-safe item to play with (measuring cups, spatulas and tupperware are winners); Play with an icecube together; Pour water into the sink and dunk some toys in and out;  Put socks on our hands and laugh hysterically; Read more books; Give baby a massage; Lie on our backs and hold toys over our heads and look at them; Put on some music and have a dance party; Play peekaboo with ourselves and then with various favorite dolls; Call a friend or neighbor with a baby and have an impromptu playdate and maybe a glass of wine for the mommies!

8. Love yourself. Just try to see yourself as your baby does and you should be fine.

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  1. Another great post, Shawna! And yes, babies are all totally different- it’s hard to avoid competing or wishing for what you don’t have, but figuring out your baby’s strengths and awesome points and frequently reminding yourself of them is about the best thing you can do. And remembering that you’ll miss this era, even when they’re driving you bonkers 😉 Can’t wait to take the quiz!

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