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Practical Parenting: Reflections on Mommyhood

My serious little guy, Werth (at 7 1/2 weeks)I’ve been a mom for eight weeks. In a lot of ways, the past eight weeks have been like my pediatric residency – I’m sleep deprived, not always wearing clean clothes, eating cereal around the clock, and I’m learning more every day about taking care of babies. In fact, I’ve jokingly referred to parenthood as my “pediatric fellowship,” as the all-encompassing experience of keeping a child alive outside of the office or hospital is quite different and is quickly expanding my horizons!

I’ve been asked over and over again what it’s like to be a new parent, while also being a pediatrician. The answer? It’s mostly fun and exciting, but is also mixed in with normal moments of anxiety and feelings of helplessness – especially when I realize that an 8 lb munchkin is pretty much in charge! It’s true that babies don’t come out with an instruction manual (mine certainly didn’t), thus, the most valuable lessons I’ve learned are to trust your gut and go with the flow.

Other lessons I’ve learned?

- Breastfeeding is hard work (I knew this one, but now I REALLY know). The first few days are spent figuring out what you’re doing (let’s be honest, neither of us had a clue) – and it feels like it takes forever for that milk to come in (mine took a good 4 days). We had some significant weight loss as a result, but turned things around pretty quickly with a little supplementation to help get us over the hump. As with anything, if you can do it for 2-3 weeks, it definitely gets easier!  

- It’s outrageous how many diapers you go through in the first few weeks. Seriously, I went through FOUR diapers in one changing at 3AM during week 2…how is that even possible?

- Swaddling is your best friend. I’ve always preached this, but almost retracted my claim after we saw how much our little guy liked to have his hands up by his face. After a stretch of several bad nights though, I whipped out the Miracle Blanket and we’ve slept much better since (SwaddleMe works well too). I really do think it helps!

- The 5 S’s totally work (swaddle, side lying, shush, sway, suck). If you haven’t seen my video blog, check it out (there’s a pretty cute little actor featured). I promise the video only took two takes – and it required two only due to poor video quality the first time.

- Always use a hands free bra when pumping, but don’t try to bend over to pick anything up during a pumping session. And yes, sometimes you do cry over spilled breast milk. Enough said. :)

- You can never have enough burp cloths.

Chores around the house- The exercise ball is our secret weapon for fussiness during the “witching hour” in the evenings (thank you, Dr. Brown!). The Baby Bjorn (or any other infant carrier device) is also a lifesaver for fussy times or for chores around the house…who said they were too young to help with laundry (see right)?

- White noise is magic for sleeping.

- You can never hold your baby too much. :)

While I’m at it, I might as well share with you some of the products that we can’t live without right now. I’ve already mentioned some of them, but here are our top 10 in no particular order (please note that I am definitely not paid to endorse any of these products!):

  1. Swaddle blankets (Miracle Blanket is our favorite, but the SwaddleMe and Halo sleepsacks work well too)
  2. Best buddy "Babs" the elephantWubbanub pacifier (Soothie pacifiers with an animal attached – we have an elephant, a duck, and a frog…all well loved!)
  3. Swing – we have both a Fisher Price swing that we’ve borrowed from friends and a Mamaroo. Depending on the day, we use them both. The Mamaroo is the newfangled swing on the market – it bounces and sways instead of swinging and comes complete with an iPod dock (crazy). The Fisher Price swing is your typical swing. I guess it just depends on which way he wants to move, but both are popular items in our living room!
  4. Exercise Ball – see above, our secret weapon during fussy times (in fact, I'm bouncing as I type this). Bonus ab workout!
  5. Hands free pumping bra – unfortunately it’s sold separately from the breast pump, but in my opinion, it’s a necessity if you’re pumping regularly!
  6. BOB Revolution stroller – We’re outside all the time and I like to run, so this was definitely the stroller for us. Drives like a dream. Bulky to put in the car, but totally worth it. The carseat attachment makes it usable from day one. We also have a snap ‘n go stroller that is super handy for quick errands.
  7. Gripe water – It might be coincidental, but the times we have used this for fussiness/gas, it seems to have helped. I also gave it for hiccups the other night and they miraculously disappeared – coincidence? Maybe!
  8. Sound Machine – We have a Cloud B Gentle Giraffe (like the Sleep Sheep) and we use it every night at bedtime and occasionally at naptime. It stays on for about 40 minutes and provides the white noise that is soothing to help go to sleep. The Pandora lullaby and Disney stations are frequently played as well!
  9. Baby carrier – Our Baby Bjorn is our go-to baby carrier for the newborn/early infant period. Pair it with the exercise ball or a dance party and you’ve got yourself a sleeping baby!
  10. Cloth Diapers as burp cloths are the way to go. They’re cheap and fairly absorbent and perfect for a spitty baby. We have them in every bag and corner of the house right now – never know when you might need one!

Everyone’s experience with a newborn and parenting is slightly different, but it’s often reassuring to know that other people are going through the same things as you. Here’s hoping some of my reflections are helpful as you navigate the waters of having an infant at home. There are definitely good days and bad days, but I try to just go with the flow, knowing that life is a little bit crazier, a whole lot messier, and completely unpredictable. At the end of the day, I often haven’t finished one single task that I had planned (this blog post has taken 6 weeks to write!), but I feel fulfilled knowing that I have fed, nurtured, and loved a little guy in a way I never knew possible. That’s what I didn’t learn during residency. :)


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Reader Comments (1)

If it makes you feel any better...being a obstetrician didn't teach me anything about breastfeeding either! I was also clueless that it would be so hard. Now after a year of doing it myself I tell my patients that it is harder than residency but so worth it. Congratulations on your little guy!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllie Ragsdale

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