From Only Child to Big Sibling

As your family grows you are, of course, filled with joy for the new life about to join your cozy family of three. When you brought your first baby home it was a major adjustment for you and your partner. Now bringing home a little sibling means an adjustment for all 3 of you. How do you get your first born ready to be a big sibling?

Involve Them in The Changes

Your child already feels a big shift before the baby even arrives. The addition of new furniture, toys, an entire room dedicated to a human who isn’t living there yet, and the emotion and physical changes their mother is going through.

Find time to make them feel special.

Involve them in the process. Let them pick out a very special new sibling toy, or the first outfit the baby might wear.

Attend a Big Sibling to-be Class

Find a class dedicated just towards helping young children prepare for a new baby.

These classes will often teach children how to hold their new sibling, change diapers, and other ways to be a big help to the new baby. The aim of the class is equally about learning how to care for a new baby, and getting excited about your growing family.

Find Time for Mommy Daddy Dates

It’s important to find special time to spend just the two of you. Come into work an hour late one morning and spend it at a breakfast date with your first born. Or take them to the park after work and have a picnic-style dinner outside. Do a special craft with them where your phone is away, and your focus is on spending time together. We know those cravings could be starting to hit hard- bake cupcakes together.

What you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that you do it together.

Don’t Change Their Routine

As mentioned above, so much of their life is changing.

Try to keep your rhythm and routine’s close to the same.

If they are in preschool, don’t pull them out. If they aren’t potty learning yet, wait to make that change. If they are still using a paci or other lovey, let them keep their lovey. Stability is important for young children, so keep the same routine.

Prepare for Regressions

Your child may not fully understand what bringing home a baby means. So be prepared to help them through the process.

Prepare ahead of time for your older child to need more of you.

Be prepared for them to have potty accidents, and possibly sleep less. This preparation can come in the form of a postpartum doula. She’ll come to your home and give you time set aside for you to enjoy your older child without caring for your infant. Or have your postpartum doula prepare a very special ‘big kid’ activity that she can do with your oldest.

We hope the transition from family of 3 to family of 4 is smooth sailing for your family. Preparing yourself and your child can make it an easier adjustment for everyone.  

When Your Husband Doesn’t Understand

So you have had your baby with you at home for a few weeks now. Your partner is back to work and you’re home with the baby. All day. Every day. When you tell him about your day he just doesn’t understand what was so hard. Because in his mind you only have one job- taking care of the baby.

 

Even with one responsibility of caring for this new little person, your day was hard. Because with that one responsibility comes so many other tasks. Keeping your tiny human alive means keeping your house semi-functional. Semi-functional is at least keeping up on laundry, dishes, making food, keeping the whole house sanitary enough for your baby, remembering to buy diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, and all the other things your baby and house need. That’s a full time job.

Let’s be real- pumping and nursing are both full time jobs. So if you are doing at least 2 of those things, you have 2 full time jobs. So even if the day goes exactly as planned, it’s already a hard day.

 

Then we remember that your baby has opinions and emotions. They have good days and not so good days. Maybe your baby wouldn’t latch today. And they cried at you. You’re offering them your breast because you know they are hungry. They. Wont. Latch. They just cry at you with your nipple in their mouth, refusing to latch. And they are hungry but they just will not not eat. And you cried with your baby.

 

Maybe they finally nursed, and you cried tears of joy because they finally stopped crying. Maybe you tried changing their diaper and when you zipped their cozy jammies back up you caught the tiniest bit of their baby skin in the zipper. And they cried, and you cried again.

 

Maybe you snuggled them and shushed and finally comforted them to sleep. You thought you’d jump into the shower and do a tiny bit of self care. Because at this point you’ve already cried at least 3 times, and your baby always sleeps 45 minutes. The warm water hits your back and you close your eyes. Envisioning the water as tension rolling down your skin and into the drain. You relax. Until you hear your baby cry. It’s only been 10 minutes.

 

You jump out of the shower. Wrap yourself in a towel. Bolt down the hall, water dripping behind you as you hurry to soothe your baby. You open the door to your baby’s room, and find them sound asleep. You cry again because phantom crying is both real and not real at the same time.

 

You repeat many of these steps all day long. All alone. Until your husband gets home. You want to tell him all about your day and how challenging it was. He replies with “I’d love to trade places. I’ll stay home all day and you can go to work.”

 

He loves you. He loves your baby. But he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand that you don’t have a sense of humor because you are too tired to laugh. He doesn’t understand that you don’t even understand your wave of emotions because you’re riding the hormone roller coaster. He doesn’t understand the struggles of nursing, even if he tries his hardest. He doesn’t understand the isolation because he goes to work. He doesn’t understand that it take 3 hours to execute dinner. Because planning, shopping, and cooking take at least 3 times as long with a newborn interrupting you. He loves you but he doesn’t understand because you’re too tired to explain it to him. He doesn’t understand because you’re a new person with a new identity.

 

What he does understand is that he loves you fiercely, and is trying to get to know the new you. He wants to grow with you, and become more than a couple. He wants to be a parent with you. He wants to be a family.

Involve him in your day where you can. There is no way that he could perfectly understand the changes and struggles you are experiencing. So when you can, be understanding that sometimes he just can’t understand.

 

~~~This blog post is written from a husband-wife perspective, but all couples go through a dramatic shift when they welcome a baby into their family. ~~~

Breastfeeding Q&A

Breastfeeding is a relationship, and can be a full time job. There is a tremendous range of normal so finding your own version of normal can be challenging. These are the most common questions our clients ask.

“Why doesn’t my breast pump work?”
A: You have good milk supply, but milk won’t come out when you pump. There are so many hormones associated with let down, the breast pump doesn’t typically inspire those feelings. Many women just don’t respond to the pump. You can try more pumps, you can try looking at pictures of your baby, and if you are very concerned about your milk supply you can talk to an IBCLC.

“How do I make more breast milk?”
A: If you are facing supply issues, it is important to see an IBCLC. Often you will think you have low milk supply, but that may not be the case. If you do have low milk supply, you can take a weekend and nurse at least every 2 hours, and pump in between. Or you can pump on one breast, while nursing on the other. Breast milk is about supply and demand. Typically, if you demand more, your body will produce more milk.

“Why does breastfeeding make me sad?”
A: Some parents don’t have the happy loving feelings associated with breastfeeding. If breastfeeding gives you intense feelings of sadness you may have D-MER, or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. The most important way to aid anyone experiencing D-MER is to validate their feelings. Studies have shown that anything that increases dopamine levels can help.

“Am I bad mom for not breastfeeding?”
A: Absolutely not. In every situation in life, we are faced with pros and cons. It is your job as a parent to weigh out those pros and cons to make the best choices for your family. At Southern Pacific Doulas we strongly believe that fed is best, and we encourage you to feed your baby in the way you are most comfortable with.

“Am I making enough milk?”
A: The best measure for if you’re making enough milk, is if your baby is gaining weight. As long as your baby is gaining enough weight, you are making enough milk.

“How can I stop my milk from drying up?”
A: It is very important to establish milk supply in the first 6 weeks. That is a critical time, as certain receivers are opened, and after 6 weeks they close. So the best way to keep your milk from drying up, is to find support, and solve any problems, during those first few weeks. After those 6 weeks, it’s supply and demand. Continue nursing, and/or pumping, as long as you want to.

“When should I stop nursing?”
A: This answer is very simple, whenever you and your baby no longer want to nurse. Regardless of your baby’s age, the right time to stop is when either of you are ready to stop nursing.

Why am I Hearing my Baby Cry?

Standing above her crib, you hold your baby who is peacefully asleep. Finally. Snuggled up in her cuddly little swaddle blanket, you know she’s safe and comfortable. So you gently lay her down into her little bed. Eww what’s that smell? Oh. It’s you. It’s ok, mommy funk is totally acceptable, especially with such a fresh little baby. You decide it’s the perfect time for some self care, as she sleeps.

A shower sounds nearly divine. You put your spit-upy shirt in the laundry, turn on the hot water, and climb in. It feels amazing. You close your eyes, letting the water fall onto your hair, and down your face. Suddenly you hear her. Your baby is SCREAMING. The water shuts off. You hastily wrap yourself in a towel, and rush down the hall, dripping water the whole way. You push past her door and find, she’s still asleep. What was that? You could have sworn she was crying.

That was a phantom cry. And although the crying isn’t happening, phantom crying is real.

Some parents, or caregivers of small babies, will hear a baby cry when there is no actual crying happening. Phantom crying happens at the most unfortunate times. Usually when you know your baby is safe and doesn’t need you, so you attempt to care for yourself. While your showering, catching a quick wink of sleep, or cooking, just to name a few. This phantom crying can make you feel like you are going crazy. But you’re not. It is a real experience, with a few possible solutions.

If you’re feeling especially frustrated, you may consider a video baby monitor, so you can see if your baby is crying before you end your task. You may be over tired, and need to enlist the help of a friend, family member, or postpartum doula so you can get real sleep. If it’s affecting your daily life or giving you anxiety, you should talk to your doctor.

Early parenting will probably be stressful, but you should be able to enjoy parts of it. If you’re struggling to adjust to life after a new baby, find your village, talk to your doctor, and get on track to enjoy your postpartum experience.

Celebrate Yourself

As members of the human race, we put so much pressure on ourselves. We pressure ourselves to look a certain way, feel a certain way, dress a certain way, all of this pressure! This pressure that makes us have regrets, or find disappointment in ourselves. But it’s not fair, and it doesn’t improve your life.

Being a child care and birth professional (preschool teacher and doula agency owner), I see so many parents putting pressure and labels upon themselves. I see it in person when a parent struggles with a choice. “Should I start feeding her puree, or should I do infant lead weaning? My mom says I should start with rice cereal.”

I see physical struggles when newly postpartum moms feel like they are supposed to bounce back instantly. Celebrate your body, it just created a new life. You may never do something that awe inspiring and amazing ever again.

I read it online. So many facebook pages have women labeling themselves “I’m a regret momma, I didn’t know better!” or “I’m a loss mom.” or “I’m a bad dad today, I let my toddler eat a bowl full of chocolate.”

Just like that postpartum mom, let’s be gentle on ourselves. I believe that language is so powerful. Instead of giving yourself a negative title, give that title to the moment, and let that moment pass.

Sometimes we regret, sometimes we struggle, but we always do our best. Seeing where are, and moving past that moment is worth celebrating. Celebrate yourself. Celebrate that you left the house for the first time, with your new baby. Celebrate that you will be able to laugh about your toddlers candy meal years from now. Celebrate the challenging moments that you have overcome. Spend your life celebrating your triumphs instead of focusing on your failures.

Being a Dad

I think it’s the strangest thing. Our society seems to have some strange opinions on fathers and fatherhood. As Ali Wong said on Netflix “It takes so little to be a great dad…” We talk about pregnant women as if they are already mothers, which they are in many ways, but we ignore the other half who created this life. Or even worse than ignore them, we bash them.

When fathers meet the bare minimum we see them as attentive and involved. When fathers exceed the minimum requirements of parenthood we praise them highly, for doing something that they should already be doing.

One phrase I especially despise is when someone says that a dad is babysitting.

That’s degrading. A mother never babysits her children, she parents them. Fathers do the exact same thing. They aren’t weekend or date night sitting on moms’ night out. They are parenting their children.

Sometimes people pass judgment on stay at home dads. Some people might think or even gossip out loud “Doesn’t he want to provide for his family?” He is providing for his family. He is providing his children with a stay at home parent, a consistent caregiver who they can bond with intensely. They are providing their child with a fantastic childhood, filled with memories of cool explorations with their dad. Once again, they are parenting their child.

Someone got the strange idea that men can’t be teachers unless they have ill intentions. That accusation is so absurd. Teaching kids is so much fun.

Who can deny that seeing the world through the eyes of a child is magical?

What does your gender identity have to do with enjoying being silly, playing in the dirt, and enjoy children? I’ll tell you what- absolutely nothing. Some of my favorite teachers were men.

In fact my absolute all time favorite teacher was a man. I remember how passionate he would get during certain projects, and how much he wanted us to succeed. He encouraged us to be individuals and to involve our passions into our work. I enjoyed his class so much because he wanted to make school fun.

Dads are so awesome. Moms are so awesome too. When I see a really loving and attentive parent I think it’s so awesome. It’s awesome because I know that entire family is going to be happier.

At Southern Pacific Doulas we love dads.

Our doulas want to involve both parents as much as they want to be involved. There are times where your doula may need to doula the partner who isn’t giving birth. We want to include both parents every step of the way. You can count on us to include moms, dads, grandmas, uncles, siblings, friends, whomever your birth team consists of.

Our doulas make sure everyone is as included in the process as the pregnant person wants them to be.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Do you ever feel like you don’t belong? Maybe as if you’re a little girl wearing your mom’s pearls, and high heels to a PTA meeting. You sit at the table, sipping tea, and listening to other parents. But you’re scared that someone will see you. “Hey I recognize you!” You sink into your chair, high heels slipping off your child-size feet. “Yeah you!” She says pointing, suddenly all eyes turn to you. “I recognize you from the park, where you play with my son on the swing set!” Bang! Suddenly everyone knows. You’ve been spotted! Everyone knows that you’re just faking it. You aren’t really an adult, you’re just a little kid, and you certainly don’t belong here.

Except you do belong. Because you aren’t a little girl. Those high heels fit you fine, because they are yours. The pearl necklace actually sits quite elegantly against your neck. And, no one is pointing. Instead they seek your counsel. “What do you think about having a bake sale?” Someone wants your input.

Sometimes parents find themselves feeling like they are faking it. Everyone else around them seems to know exactly what to do all of the time. These perfect mothers go home to spotless homes, and children who clean their room, brush their teeth, and love brussel sprouts. Thier partner shares housework evenly, and these woman even has time to read a book in a bubble bath many nights a week. The worst part? This woman can wear white for an entire day.

Meanwhile your children run around like wild banshees, you haven’t even found time to sweep the floor in a week, you have spit up stains on your shirt, you’ll be lucky if you get your kids into the bath, let alone yourself.

But the other woman isn’t really that perfect. She is supported, and she might be faking it a little bit. Maybe she has a meal service who cooks for her. She probably has a house cleaner too. Those two tasks alone give her enough time for self care. And that clean white shirt she wears? She just swaps out the spit-up shirt before she gets out of the car for PTA meetings.

So don’t feel like the little girl playing dress up. When you don’t have the answer, or you need help, find it. Build your support network. Make friends. Find meetup groups, or events for kids your same age. Ask Ms. Seemingly-Perfect “Wow, what’s your secret to making motherhood so fun?” No one has to walk through life alone, find your support network. Remember, you can always bring a few shirts so you can feel clean all day long too. The extra laundry might be worth it.

The Loss of a Lifetime

When you lose a child, miscarry, or give birth to a sleeping baby you experience a tragedy unlike any other. You can’t compare this loss to any other, because it is so uniquely sad. Unlike losing a parent, although sad, they probably lived a full life.

Parents who experience the loss of a child don’t just mourn a lost love one, they are mourning the loss of their child‘s entire life.

Whether they were planned, or a surprise, someone was excited for this baby. Mothers felt their baby kick, and watched their bellies grow. Parents probably sat together discussing the life this child would have.

This tiny person had an entire life ahead of them.

Where or not it was the life they chose, their parents had memories they planned to make with this precious child. The baby was supposed to grow, laugh, and learn. They should have met milestones like rolling over, first steps, first word, and first food. Parents saw them becoming vibrant kids playing catch, creating art, exploring nature, and making messes. They were going to ride a bike for the very first time without training wheels. And if they fell and scraped their knee, a kiss from mom would make it all better.

These parents envision their baby becoming a teenager. Playing sports, going to school, and discovering themselves. They would become young adults attending college, and figuring out the career path that fit them the best.

No one plans to lose their child.

Although I strongly believe all things happen for a reason, the loss of a child is impossibly tragic. Every baby has a colorful life envisioned for them before they are even born. This is why parents lose more than a baby, they lose the lifetime of their child.