Saturday, February 24, 2007

Advice for New Parents

I wrote this back in 2000, when Thing 1 was just under two years old, as part of a letter to a friend who had just had twins. Most of the notes are originally from The Wife, who scribbled a little list of advice, but I did turn them into actual sentences (and it's hard to remember exactly who had an idea first when you're getting by on two hours of sleep a night, anyway).

I'll pass it on, even though it has nothing to do with most of what I talk about in this blog, in the hopes that someone will find it useful and/or amusing. I have changed the actual name of my firstborn son to "Thing 1" throughout.

I'm posting it today, since Thing 1 was mildly ill last night, which reminded me of the good bad old days.

The list of Things That Worked For Us:
  • Mylacon drops (that’s the brand name – the stuff is called symethicone, but don’t trust my spelling) are taken orally and are great to reduce gas. Thing 1 was very gassy in the beginning, and being able to pass it did wonders for his personality.
  • Get as many free samples of Tylenol, etc. as you can from your doctor. Don’t be shy; take a bunch every time you go. There’ll come a time when it’s 3 AM and you need them…
  • Those hollow-handled medicine dispenser spoons look really good, but they’re impossible to clean and don’t actually work that well. You’ll have to try a few medicine droppers to find one you really like (and then save that one).
  • You won’t need them yet, but Diaper Doublers (I think Chris threw one in here, it’s the thing that looks like an absorbent pad of unknown use) will be very useful in your future. Once the kids are sleeping through the night for the first time, sometimes they start over-wetting and waking themselves up (and changing wet clothes in the middle of the night is not fun). Doublers go in the diaper and absorb a little more.
  • You might already have noticed that lots of the “cute” outfits are a pain to get on and off. We basically went to all “onesies” (undershirts that snap at the crotch), and it was a great thing. You develop an eye for clothes, and ask: can I change a diaper in public in this outfit?
  • We have several sets of sheets and waterproof mattress pads, and found that making the bed in three layers can help a lot. If the baby leaks, you only need to remove one layer, not remake the whole bed.
  • Thing 1 had some trouble sleeping, so we got a noise machine. At first, actually, it was going to be for us, but we both could hear patterns in the white noise, which was very distracting, so we couldn’t sleep. He seems to like it much better. I’m not sure if getting a baby used to a certain noise to sleep with is completely a good thing, but it’s worked so far for us.
  • More useful early on was a teddy bear that made womb noises. Thing 1 was a bit colicky for his first few months, and that helped him sleep. You might already be out of that stage.
  • Thing 1 loved to see what was going on, so both a “bouncy seat” (sling-like baby seat that sits on the floor — good up to six months or so) and a baby jumper (that hangs in doorways — we actually usually attached it to joists in the basement or a tree limb outside) were wonderful. Jumpers are particularly fun: the kid gets a little exercise, can move around a bit, and get to see everything that’s going on.
  • Chris swears by consignment shops; she’s got two that she goes to regularly, and she saves a lot on clothes. (Even more than you might think possible, since she also goes to the Salvation Army, buys clothes at 3 for a dollar, and sells them for store credit at the consignment place.)
  • She also loves outlet stores, particularly Stride-Rite. Some of the outlets are just lower-quality merchandise for practically the same cost, but you can actually get deals on good shoes at Stride-Rite.
  • There’s a note here that says “which diaper using coupons.” I think she means that you should clip all baby-related coupons, even if you don’t use that brand. You’ll end up trading with other parents either while shopping or at playgroups and things like that. (True Fact: we were shopping just Wednesday night and Chris and a woman she’d never met swapped diaper coupons.)
  • Chris also signed up for every single formula company’s promotional programs, and both her mother, my mother, and her sister do the same. So we got lots of formula coupons, lots of free samples. You can usually exchange the brands you don’t use for the ones you want by saying (as Chris did) “my husband got the wrong one.” But you might need to go to a larger number of supermarkets than usual, so they don’t get suspicious. (I’m sure several people at our local A&P think I’m feeble-minded.) Oh, and save receipts on all that stuff — you could suddenly need to switch them to soy formula or something like that, and most stores won’t take back baby products without a receipt (at least around here).
  • Sunshades in the car are very important, especially when the kids are little. I don’t know why Chris thinks you wouldn’t know that, but maybe she was just listing everything.
  • Thing 1 sleeps with one of Chris’s old nightgowns, which he named his night-night. He started doing that during another colicky phase, when nothing could get him to sleep. He fell asleep on our bed, clutching the nightgown, and has slept with it every night since. I’m sure at first it was because it had Chris’s scent on it, so you may want to try something similar with your girls if they’re unhappy or whiny.
  • If they’re getting shots at the doctor’s office, put their clothes back on before the shots. This is very important. Let me repeat that: shots happen to clothed babies.
  • Also give them Tylenol at home (or at the doctor’s office) before the shots — of course after making sure with the doctor that it’s OK. Thing 1 was much happier that way, instead of trying to give him medicine while he’s screaming about the shot.
  • Oh, she also writes “don’t lock kid in car,” but I think everybody does that once. But only once.
  • And, last, she sent you a sample baby lock. I know your girls won’t be up and about yet, but, once they are, you’ll need to baby-proof everything. Luckily, baby-proofing is a slow-motion business, so you can mostly keep ahead of them. First they can crawl, so you can’t leave things on the floor. Then, they start to pull up and open things. And once they start walking (and worse, climbing), everything needs to be tied down or to go into storage.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great post. Read it as title was advice for new parents. Everyone has their own ‘special’ way of parenting – some good and some that could be improved upon. I remember when my daughter was born, later my son. I should’ve done this, should’ve done that and maybe improved in some areas. Comments were all from well meaning individuals.

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