Mama, You Really Don’t Need All That Stuff: What a Newborn Really Needs

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Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I thought that I required so many things for my daughter before she was born.  I was so excited for the baby to arrive that I got sucked in by all of the super cute baby items out there and all of the neat gadgets and gizmos.  I wanted to be prepared for every scenario that could possibly happen.

Even though I thought that I was ready for anything, things failed to work out as I had planned pretty much immediately.  My daughter arrived three weeks early and she weighed six pounds, yet I had refused to buy her any newborn clothing because I read that newborns wouldn’t get much, if any, use out of them.  So here I was with this teeny peanut and no clothes to put on her, except the hospital provided bodysuit. I thought I was so prepared, but, in reality, I hadn’t even bought adequate clothing for my daughter.  I certainly couldn’t dress her in my new baby monitor, Boppy pillow, or Bumbo seat.

The point here is that I “needed” almost none of the things that I accumulated for the baby (although a lot of the stuff sure was nice to have and made my life a heck of a lot easier).  I convinced myself that I had to have all of this stuff in order to make it through that first month.  I was wrong. I totally overbought and wasted money that could have gone to a better use (like my daughter’s college fund).

In reality, there are only a few things that a newborn really needs:

1.  Lots of love and interaction from her parents:  It has been found that early skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn is healthy for future programming and behavior.  Babies thrive on attention from their parents and they learn through interactions with their parents.  So talk to your newborn, read to your newborn, make eye contact with your newborn, or make faces and smile at your newborn. You are helping their development by doing what comes naturally, so play away!

2.  Diapers/Wipes/Diaper Cream: There are a lot of options out there.  Cloth diapers have come a long way and they are pretty awesome.  You can purchase adorable cloth diapers that are just like disposables and they even have Velcro closures.   Disposable diapers are super convenient and very absorbent.  There are also numerous wipes options: Disposable wipes or paper towels/washcloths in wipes solution.  I combined a little bit of everything.

3.  Baby Bodysuits/Sleep and Play Rompers: This is all my daughter wore for the first four weeks of her life.  I preferred the zip-up sleep and play rompers because they made the continuous nighttime diaper changes easier.  My daughter was born in the summer so she didn’t need to be bundled up.  For cold weather, add a coat, socks, and a couple sweaters to your baby’s wardrobe of body suits and footed sleep and plays.  I had no need for shirts that I had to pull over my daughter’s head and maneuver her delicate little arms through or pants that I constantly had to struggle pulling off and on during diaper changes.  Some people swear by gowns, but I found them to be more cumbersome than the zip-up rompers and they were drafty for baby.

4.  Car Seat:  Obviously necessary.  I loved my bucket.  I highly recommend the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Seat.  It is safe, convenient, and stylish.

5.  A Sling/Baby Carrier:  A sling/carrier was essential for me to get anything accomplished around the house.  I put the baby on and off I went, arms free!  There are numerous sling/carrier types.  I ended up trying three different ones before I found one that my daughter tolerated.  There are online sites that let you rent a sling/carrier to try it out first.  You could also buy a used one to save some money or borrow one from another parent to give it a try before committing.

6.  First Aid/Hygiene Items:  Baby soap, nail clippers, a nail file, a nasal aspirator, rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, cotton squares, a first aid kit, and a thermometer.  That’s the extent of it.

7.  A Place for Baby to Sleep:  Babies sleep a lot, like twelve to sixteen hours a day.  Babies don’t really care where they sleep.  Mama just needs to make it safe place.  I used a Graco Pack N’ Play with Bassinet, which was portable and versatile.

8.  Something for Baby to Eat:  If you plan on breast feeding, you probably want to invest in a small tube of Lansinoh cream because that first few weeks is painful.  Nobody warned me about the cracking, blistering, and bleeding.  If you formula feed, you will need to buy bottles and nipples. You really don’t need fancy bottle racks, brushes, or sterilizers. A rag, some hot, soapy water, and a towel clean bottles just fine.

This is all that a new parent requires.  These things meet all of baby’s basic needs and allow for mama to complete some tasks during the day. I wish I had realized this before blowing a portion of my daughter’s college fund on all of the other unnecessary newborn stuff!

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Baby, That’s Just Gross!

I am a very particular, neat person.  I don’t like when my stuff is dirty.  I don’t like when my stuff is messy.  I don’t like when my stuff is not the perfect way that I want and expect it to be.  I think I have a mild case of OCD that I have learned to deal with over the years.  It is one of my many personality flaws.  As my child has grown, I am really struggling with this particular personality flaw of mine.  A grimy, germy toddler running around is very difficult for someone like me. When my daughter was a newborn, my house, my things, her things, pretty much everything had to be neat, clean, and 100% sanitized.  How things have changed in the last eighteen months.

I now tolerate many disgusting things.  The key word here is “tolerate.”  I don’t like the mess that is my house, person, or life and I wish that I could be more “put-together,” but until I win the lottery jackpot and I’m able to hire a personal assistant, maid, and chef, I am going to have to deal with just getting by (mess and all).

So here are the ten most disgusting things that I have learned to tolerate since having a child:

1.    Spit up/food on me/her.  Babies spit up a lot and it gets on whatever person happens to be holding her.  As babies grow, they become messy little eaters.  Unless you want to change her clothes and your clothes eight times a day (which means even more laundry), you learn to live with crusty spit up or peanut butter on your suit.  Wipe it off and move on with your day.

2.    Snot/boogers on me/her.  My shirt has become my daughter’s tissue.  She always has snot on her face, so every time she hugs me or I pick her up, I get snot on my shoulder.  It has gotten to the point where I just use my sleeve to wipe snot off of her face.  I figure that my shirt is already covered in mucus, so what difference a little bit more?

3.    Poop/pee on me/her.  I remove my daughter’s diaper and that’s when she decides to pee.  When I remove her diaper after a poop explosion, she kicks her foot in it.  Diapers leak all over car seats, cribs, chairs, or the floor.  I initially gagged and ran to the bathroom to wash everything.  Now I just grab a disinfectant wipe and wipe it all down.

4.    My daughter puts stuff on the floor into her mouth.  I used to wash every utensil, pacifier, or toy that my daughter threw on the floor.  After watching her take clumps of dog hair and shove them into her mouth, I figure that she really doesn’t care that her spoon fell on the floor and neither should I.

5.    My daughter’s saliva gets in my mouth.  I used to get grossed out when I watched other moms put their child’s utensils in their mouths after their kid ate off of it.  Now I do it myself.

6.    My daughter shares food with the dogs.  I tried to keep the dogs out of the kitchen once the baby was born.  They are smart and quickly realized who would give them table food.  Since my daughter is constantly handing them food from her plate, I can’t keep them away.  She gives them a bite and then she takes a bite.  They lick food off of her hands and then she puts her hands in her mouth.  It’s just gross, but there is nothing I can do about it.  Once again, she doesn’t care that it’s gross, so neither should I.

7.    My daughter plays on the dog bed.  My dogs are foul.  They eat cat poop out of the litter box and they roll in deer poop.  Then they come back to their bed in the living room.  My daughter also likes to hang out on this nasty bed. I bought her two different types of chairs, but she still prefers rolling around on the dog bed with the dogs.

8.    Animal hair on everything.  I have two dogs and two cats.  There are also three humans running around the house.  There is hair everywhere on everything.

9.    Daycare germs.  My daughter started daycare when she was twelve weeks old.  When she came home that first day, I wiped her down.  That was a pointless waste of my time.  She got sick within the first two weeks.  I caught her cold a few days later.  Then I caught her next cold, her flu, her stomach bug, and the next three colds after that.  I was sick from October through April.  The good news is that my daughter and I have built up immunities to daycare germs, and this year, neither of us are sick…yet.

10.    A house that is not as clean/disinfected as I would like it to be.  With all the traffic in my house, it gets nasty really fast. I have four shedding, barfing, peeing, garbage eating animals, one destructive toddler, and one messy husband.  I vacuum daily.  I do at least a load of laundry every day.  I wash dishes daily.  I try to wipe down my bathrooms, dust, clean the litter, and mop the floor when I get a spare minute on the weekend.    I told myself that the house is clean, but then I made the mistake of looking closely at the caulk on my shower door seam and noticed that it had developed an active mold culture.  This is something that I would expect in a college frat house, not my home.  I grabbed the bleach, killed that mold, and went back to telling myself that my house is clean.

  • Sigh. I continue to lower my expectations.

Sometimes Life Gets In the Way

So I had every intention of writing on my blog several times each week. I wanted it to be some type of fun, therapeutic release for me. But, alas, I am a lawyer so I have no time for fun and I am a mother so I have no time for me. In addition to using this type of writing as a release, I also wanted to keep family and friends posted on happenings in my life. As always, life has gotten in the way.

I have been swamped at work and Little G requires more attention every day. I work, I come home, I feed the animals, I deal with dinner, I make G’s breakfast and lunch for the next day, I clean up dinner, I play with G for a minute, I handle her bedtime routine, I pick out G’s outfit for the following day, I do a load of laundry or put laundry away, I vacuum up after the four shedding animals, I handle any legal work that I failed to complete at the office, I deal with mail, bills, or other miscellaneous financial tasks involved in my business, and I take a shower. That is my daily routine. Some days I also have to clean the litter box or take out the garbage. Some days I also have appointments or grocery shopping after work. It is a tedious grind, but it has to be done.

By the time the daily tasks are completed, I am exhausted. I also feel guilty about spending a mere ten minutes of quality play time with my daughter. That leaves me no energy or motivation to work on my still incomplete and under construction house and, sadly, no energy or motivation to write.

It is the inflexible and highly demanding life of a working mother.

So that is what has been going on in my life.

Child Care Blues

Oh yes, I have the child care blues.  During pregnancy I didn’t give much thought to the premium I would have to pay to ensure my daughter’s well-being when I returned to work. One of my family members agreed to watch her part-time, so I figured that paying for child care wouldn’t be too bad. I signed my daughter up for part-time care before her birth and it was a major relief that I no longer had to worry about obtaining child care.

Then my family member backed out last minute and I had to frantically scramble to find full-time care.  With approximately a month before my return to work, my husband and I had to figure out what to do with my daughter.  We decided to place her in an actual school that also offered infant care.  Unfortunately, it was the most expensive place we looked at, but the infant classrooms were roomy and clean and we liked the curriculum (although, personally, I don’t really think a twelve week old learns that much in school).  So we enrolled my daughter, feeling desperate and overwhelmed.

Over the last year, I have wised up about the subject of child care.  I’ve had time to research and talk to other moms about my options.  Over the last year, I’ve also watched child care tuition consume over half of my take home pay from my day job.  Every time I look at my tuition bill, I get the child care blues.  It seems like I work just to pay for the tuition.  Well, it seems that I’m not alone in feeling the blues. An Opinionator article by Alissa Quart in the New York Times chronicles the difficulties facing educated, middle and upper-middle class families in finding affordable childcare.

The cost and the scarcity of day care has helped create what the sociologist Joya Misra calls “the motherhood penalty.” While women without children are closer to pay equity with men, women with children are lagging behind because they find that working doesn’t always make sense after considering the cost of child care. When women earn less than their partners, they are more likely to drop out of the work force, and if they do so for two years or more, they may not be able to get back in at anything approaching their prior job or earnings. The cost of taking care of one’s children outside the home is now so high that many women cannot be assured of both working and making a decent income after taxes and child care costs.

I have considered leaving the workforce due to child care costs and the absolute lack of flexibility that comes with being a lawyer, but I like the mental stimulation of legal work and it is nice to get out of the house and be with other adults.  I recently read an opinion piece by Margaret Heffernan for CBS MoneyWatch that made some interesting points regarding her choice not to leave the workforce when she had kids.  She described her choice to continue working as an investment in herself and in her family’s financial future.  She noted:

Yes, for a few years — quite a few in fact — I probably operated at a loss. But as my career advanced, I slowly but surely became a profit center, as it were. And, much more important, by the time I didn’t need child care any more, my career had advanced significantly and had momentum. I hadn’t taken the “off ramp,” I didn’t need to catch up on new technologies and job searching tactics, and as a family we had developed some healthy, thrifty habits.

I like this positive way of looking at this situation, even if day care costs eat up my entire salary.  Perhaps I am building a better future for my family by continuing to work. Perhaps this situation is best for both my family and me.  Perhaps.  Even so, I sure wish I had more flexibility in my career so I could spend a little extra time with my daughter and a little less money on day care.  Comparing that monthly tuition bill to my monthly salary makes me feel that my career is somehow inadequate and it’s just not worth the hassle.  I have the child care blues.

Crushed By the Cost of Childcare [New York Times]

For Women, Child Care Isn’t A Cost — It’s An Investment [cbsnews.com]

Baby Road Trip Prelude

I’m having panic attacks about our family trip with the baby this weekend when we travel to an out-of-state wedding.  This will be the first real road-trip with the baby where we have to stay in a hotel room far away from the comforts of my baby-proofed house and my daughter’s favorite annoying, musical toys.

We are renting a van with my in-laws for the six hour drive.  I don’t know what to pack or where we will put it all.  The necessities first: diapers, wipes, toys, blankets, playpen, books, car seat, sippy cups, baby spoons, a cooler, whole milk, three days worth of homemade baby food, baby soap, toothbrush, and bibs.  I guess I need to bring her clothes too. Although she prefers to just rock the diaper in this heat, that probably isn’t appropriate wedding attire.  I honestly cannot believe all of the stuff I have to bring to keep this one little person happy and comfortable. My husband and I are sharing a small suitcase, while the baby has a gigantic suitcase all to herself.

My husband said the van will hold five whole suitcases so we should have plenty of room. He must be ignoring the fact that there will be six adults and one baby in the van, along with all of our stuff.  Just her playpen is at least as big as one suitcase.

I don’t think anyone else in that van realizes what they are in for.  My daughter wakes up at six and doesn’t take a nap until noon.  Considering that mornings are her most active time and she can’t handle being in the car seat for more than fifteen minutes, I have a feeling I will be ready to jump out of the moving vehicle by the time hour two rolls around.  Six adults and a screaming baby squished in a mini-van for hours should be a great start to the weekend.  Couple that with forcing the baby to stay up way past her bedtime for the rehearsal dinner and she should be tired and super cranky for the wedding the next day.

Trying to get the baby to properly walk down the aisle without me or her father will turn out one of two ways: a hilarious fail or a very cute success.  I’m hoping for success so people will think that I am doing a fantastic job raising a well disciplined kid.  Since my husband is in the wedding, I won’t have any help with the baby during the ceremony (which means I will probably end up in the cry room, if the church has one, or outside in the August heat).

I was expecting to have to take the baby to the seven o’clock reception, which likely would have been an utter disaster, but the groom just told us they got a last minute sitter.  This means an evening without the baby. Hallelujah! Mommy time with cocktails. I can’t wait for cocktails and I will need them to mentally prepare myself for the long, scream-filled car ride the next morning.

I’m envisioning a weekend where the baby is tired, confused, and miserable.  I’m envisioning a weekend where I’m trying my best to make my tired, confused, and miserable baby happy, while feeling somewhat embarrassed that 1) my child is ruining the festivities for other guests and 2) I’m blowing people off because I’m entertaining an angry baby.  I’m envisioning a weekend where my husband will be living it up while I try my best to keep the baby content.  It should be really awesome…for my husband.  Sometimes it must be nice to not be “mom.”

Before the baby, road trips and weddings were fun, a chance to take a break from the grind and spend time with friends and family.  Now that I have a child, the thought of taking that child to a far-away wedding locale is giving me panic attacks.  Hopefully, it all works out and my kid proves me wrong.

Can I Make the Time to Write?

Writing used to be my release. I had fun writing. Then I entered the practice of law and writing became my job…technical, tedious, legalese-filled writing, every single day. Although I believe that my legal work makes a difference, my legal writing is not the type of stuff that people want to read for fun.

After having my daughter (which has been the awesomest experience ever), I returned to work full time. My personal life and professional life have clashed ever since. As someone who used to put all of her time into her career, it has been a difficult transition trying to split my time between my work and my family, while keeping each separate from one another. Both get some of my time, but neither gets enough for my liking. Even after being back to work for a year, I still struggle with it every day. Most days I feel like I am just getting by, but some days I feel like an absolute failure. I don’t have enough time for my family, my career, or my house. I don’t have any time for myself. I am so tired all of the time that when I walk past a storefront window, I don’t even recognize myself anymore. “Yikes, it’s a zombie…oh wait, that’s me. Ugh, I went out looking like this? Really?”

Which is why I’m here, writing this blog. I am going to make a conscious effort to put aside some time for me, even if it is only a couple of minutes a week. I want to write for fun again and focus on things that I find interesting. Selfish, I know, but too bad, it’s my blog.

I’m muddling through as a full time lawyer and a full time mother/wife, while also running a business and renovating a Victorian house. It is tough not having time to do everything, but I’m making it all work.

I gotta go.  My daughter just knocked the floor lamp over on the dog.