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The Baby Experience


  12:03:47 pm, by Nimble   , 1837 words  
Categories: Thoughts, People

The Baby Experience

Dena and I haven't really been posting a ton, with the new baby in tow, but with five weeks and a bit of baby under our belts, I think I'm ready to share a bit of the whole experience :)

Now we started out with a big baby that was a week overdue, and he ended up being both hungrier and more mature than some babies. Every baby is unique, goes the standard disclaimer, but they're not totally dissimilar, so we'll give you a tour of life with baby.

To start with, it is very difficult to distinguish baby cries from one another. So much so that by the second week, I was looking semi-desperately for a Why Cry, but never did find one. You basically run down a list:

  • Hungry
  • Gas pains
  • Diaper
  • Pacifier
  • Comfort
  • Unknown

The thing that we had to find out the hard way is that you can never discount "hungry" as a reason. That goes whether it has been four hours or five minutes.

The way Axel's hunger works, and we of course cannot speak for other babies, is that he will essentially cry until some mystery amount of food has been reached. The other day, I gave him 150 mL of the milk that Dena had put into containers. Then he needed burping, had a little bit of gas, then started crying inconsolably just five minutes later. It turned out that he needed just 20 mL more, and then he was content and fell fast asleep.

That also means we can't "tide him over" with smaller amounts of food like you could do with an older human.

He also usually has zero patience when it comes to waiting for food, especially if he got hungry while he was asleep.

One other complication is the milk spewage. If he actually gets as much milk as he wants, he stands a decent chance of spewing it all up. Interrupting him and burping him helps, but it's no guarantee. The safest way to burp, I've found, is to lie him on his stomach... but it's also the least effective. Still, it has saved more than a few T-shirts to do it that way.

One tip here: baby wipes kick butt when it comes to cleaning milk. Way, way better than a cloth and soap, so if you've got milk on you, use it.

His sleep patterns started out pretty sporadic but short, varying anywhere from a half hour to two and a half. That's rough. The nicest thing you can do for your partner is spell them off for two to three feedings to let them get contiguous sleep.

We're now at five and a half weeks, and he one four-hour sleep, as well as another four-hour interval between feeding just yesterday, and then went for three and two, but it gives us hope. The four-hour interval between feeding showcased some other cool behaviour, but I'll get into that a little later :)

After a while, baby crying does not bother you to nearly the same extent, but with major exceptions in decreasing order of panic: trying to let your spouse sleep, being on a plane, being in a restaurant, and being in public. If you're at home and both awake, sometimes you just have to laugh and sigh.

We weren't originally going to get him a pacifier, but we're now glad we did, because it does seem to relieve his stress a bit sometimes, as well as occasionally help us out when he's starting to get agitated (often for food) and there's nothing we can really do to help him at the moment.

Diaper changes aren't actually all that bad. We're set up with a small changing station, and we basically have a drawer full of diapers, a change pad, baby wipes, Zincofax (zinc oxide paste) and Vaseline. First, we just undo the velcro tabs on the diaper. We have a boy, so we make sure to put something there to protect us from pee. We then wipe off all the crap with a baby wipe, being thorough. Slide the old diaper out, slide the new diaper under, and then just Zincofax and Vaseline the major areas that could get poo-covered and close up the diaper. The tabs go behind the back, and you just bring them forward and velcro them wherever on the front.

The smell is disturbing, but not horrible. I'd compare it to smelling that fake popcorn butter, but slightly worse. The truly bad smells apparently don't happen until later.

We've been slightly more relaxed on the bottle sanitation issue. I started out boiling water in a great big pot and boiling all the bottles and stuff in there for a while, but quite frankly, that's a lot of work, and in talking to parents with multiple children, doing this goes by the wayside by child number two or three, so why punish yourself for child number one? Hot water and soap does just fine.

Besides, in my estimation, we started getting more allergies at about the same time as we started hyper-sterilizing things, so don't worry so much. As the quote from the PARSIFAL project goes:

Is a lack of contact with germs from a very early age damaging to health? Does excessive hygiene lead to immune deficiency and risks of allergy? It seems that children in frequent contact with
animals - on farms, for example - are less prone to allergies. The same is true of those brought up according to the principles of anthroposophy who, among other things, receive fewer vaccines and antibiotics, and enjoy a diet that is richer in fermented products. But why?

As far as bottle warming is concerned, the microwave truly wins over the specialty bottle warmers in my estimation. You just have to adjust for the amount of milk (40-45 seconds for 180 mL seemed to work for us from cold) but it's faster, and when you have a crying, hungry baby, seconds count.

We supplement a bit with formula. He started out big, so we had to at first because it took a while for milk production to start, but even these days, if I'm spelling Dena off or there's a good chance Axel will be hungry in the car (because of car seat regulations, of course, you would have to park somewhere to breast feed) and we don't have extra pumped milk, then we make up a bottle of formula. It doesn't smell very nice, but he doesn't seem to mind it terribly.

Today's vitamin D drops are a far cry from castor oil of yesteryears. Axel really likes the taste of them. Axel was a bit jaundiced to start, like many babies, which made his eye whites alarmingly yellow, but which also made him look nice and tanned. He still is, but this is slowly disappearing. This is what we get for being indoors in modern society, I suppose, because sun exposure would also clear this up (ah, the love/hate relationship we all have with the sun).

Axel did look directly at us not too long after he was born. He seems to like lights, the sky, patterns and faces. Babies haven't developed colour vision yet by this age (I'd like to know the physiology behind how it develops). He ignores a lot, too. The dogs, for example, he doesn't seem to be aware of.

That line of advice, "sleep when your baby sleeps" is pretty useless. If we were to do so, we would be falling asleep while driving, while walking and while attending social events, not to mention never managing to get anything accomplished.

Car seats are really annoying to install into some older cars, not to mention the space they take up from facing backwards, as they are legally mandated to do. We ended up having to pull the bench seat out and unbolt/rebolt some seatbelts to get a seatbelt that would work in the car.

I was initially worried that the baby would be denied some sights when facing backwards in the seat. but given how much he sleeps and that there's a little bit of a view out the sides anyhow, I'm no longer worried.

Babies are really uncoordinated. I know that seems like a given, but I've raised baby mice, and it's just impressive how much longer baby humans take to figure out their limbs when baby mice are already running around and jumping by two weeks :) Axel was quite well baked when he was born and, uncharacteristically, could hold up his head when he was born. He kicks quite a lot, and is taking quite a while to figure out his limbs. He actually often clocks himself in the head when he flails his arms (that's alarming!), though he has been doing less of that of late. Just before we went to the UK, he managed to scratch himself gloriously with his tiny fingernail. You wonder, though, whether to take the insane asylum approach and put gloves on him so he can't hurt himself, or to leave the gloves off and let him learn that it hurts. Gloves off seems to be working fine :)

We started getting rewarded with the occasional smile around three weeks, though I gather this is a bit unusually early. Now there's the "gassy" smile, which I've seen, which is a bit asymmetrical and involves a bit of kicking, but we got some genuine smiles, and the new grandparents in the UK got to experience some of this smiling full force, endearing him to them forever :)

We've been getting some more smiles as well, and yesterday, when we were out and about, we got a full-fledged smilefest. He even laughed out loud once, which was quite the treat. He was really good with the grocery run, too, even though that was starting to stretch into the 3-hours-since-last-fed time period. He started impressing us there, too, because we gave him the pacifier a little ways' through and when it fell out, he actually attempted and on a couple of occasions succeeded in getting the pacifier back in his mouth.

So all in all, it's pretty rough. Further rewards will be in a little bit, I guess. Everyone keeps telling us that it gets better, from an interactivity and sleep viewpoint, so we're looking forward to that. Quite frankly, if it wasn't for the sleep thing, it wouldn't be all that bad, but... dammit, the sleep thing is pretty bad :)

I bought a reclining sofa as well, something I probably should have done before Axel was born, quite frankly. Being able to feed Axel and pass out on it will really help Dena out. It will be here next week, halfway through my first week back at work.

Guys, if you can, and there's not a mother-in-law there for the baby as well 24/7, take six weeks of parental leave, especially if your wife had a C-section. It really helps.

I leave with the first captured-on-camera smile with Dena and Axel at the wedding in Rochester, UK:

Dena and Axel smiling


Comment from: Adam [Member]  

Based on my experience of new dads at work, you’re right about the six weeks. They might as well take the parental leave as they’re completely useless during that period due to sleep deprivation.

10/25/07 @ 13:23
Comment from: Nimble [Member]  

We were discussing parental leave with some folks in the UK, and it sounded like the fathers only get something on the order of a week or a week and a half. Ouch.

10/25/07 @ 22:32