Parental Guidance Recommended

Pregnancy and parenting for the perplexed

PG Recommends: Resources

Here is a list of things that you may find similarly useful.

During pregnancy

  • Bringing up Bébé (also published as French Children Don’t Throw Food) by Pamela Druckerman.

This is a wryly amusing book on the culture differences between French and American parenting, which has resonances, I’d say, for any Anglo/Westerner parents trying to figure out how to come up with a parenting philosophy.

Discovering the French assumptions behind raising children leads Druckerman to figure out her own style that incorporates sleeping more and better, unfussy eating, laying out few, but strict rules (and allowing great freedom within them), and understanding the child’s need for small acts of insignificant naughtiness (betises). My partner and I have both read it more than once and it has formed the basis of many conversations about parenting and what we want (and don’t want). Good for a laugh.

It’s also the book that lead me to the research paper Help Me Make It Through The Night, which definitely helped us to set up good sleep patterns with our Miss B.

  • Up The Duff (also published as The Rough Guide To Pregnancy and Birth) by Kaz Cooke.

Pretty much an Aussie staple for expectant parents, Cooke’s book combines a ‘what to expect’ vibe with excerpts from her own diary and helpful resources at each stage of the pregnancy. Rather than sugar-coating the experience and pretending that women should just find everything to do with pregnancy ‘natural’, ‘instinctive’, and ‘beautiful’, Cooke gives a matter-of-fact account of the less-talked-about elements of pregnancy which are not suited to an 8×10 glossy photograph.

  • Birth.com.au

For some reason this webpage isn’t loading correctly for me right now, but I’ll check back and see later and then add a link.

This website gives you a week-by-week what’s going on with your baby summary. It also gives you insights into your own body and changing physical state. I pretty much checked in each week to discover how big the baby was and what weird new thing it had developed — ‘ears!’, ‘fingerprints!’ being two examples.

I can’t recommend this enough. Sign up for the newsletters, they are dead on. Written again in a wry and down to earth fashion, this website, blog, and newsletter gives you crucial information, like what you really need to buy before the baby comes, and what to avoid; how your feels are going to track before and after the baby; what your body’s doing (and trust me there are going to be times when you desperately want to know!), and what’s going on with the babe now it’s leading a semi-independent external existence of its own. Invaluable. Really.

After the baby

If you’re anything like me and many friends I know, you’re going to read most of the Internet in your search for wtf is actually going on after the first couple of weeks of being home with your no-longer-mellow baby. A couple of key reference books are handy, some websites can be trusted; but there is an awful lot of BS out there in cyberspace, poorly considered opinion dressed up as fact, and the like. So be wary of what you choose to pay attention to. It will be hard. In the vulnerable emotional state of new-parenthood, with all the sleep-deprivation and confusion that entails, you’re going to be susceptible to anything that looks like a panacea. NOTHING IS THAT FOOLPROOF. Folk wisdom should be avoided every time. Whoever is offering you advice, think about when they last lived with a newborn. More than 12 months ago? Ditch their advice — they don’t remember. Life with a newborn is completely different to life with a baby. Well-meaning people forget this. Everyone forgets this. You’re meant to. It’s hard.

/end rant.

Here are the books I have, with quick summaries of the good and the not-so-good parts I found in them.

  • Baby Love by Robin Barker.

Another staple in many Aussie households, this is a less scary and more useful version of What To Expect In The First Year. Rather than convincing you that everything is significant, Ms Barker (a long-time midwife) talks about what’s normal, what’s unusual but fine, and what merits investigation, further attention, or immediate treatment. It’s broken up into, broadly, age-related sections, and has an excellent index. I can’t stress the importance of an excellent index enough — when you’re low on sleep and have no emotional resilience, you want to flip to the back, look it up, and read a reassuring paragraph or two. This is that book. It gives all the essential information on how much babies need to eat, some good breastfeeding tips and advice, wrapping and dressing (and bathing) a baby, what constitutes a temperature, and more besides. Of course it also has ‘milestone’ information that you can read when you have more time, too.

  • Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall.

The best part about this book is it gives you a framework to build your own ‘schedule’ around, when it comes time that you want to do this. So, for example, what the ideal 6-week-old baby schedule is, and then transitioning to 8 weeks and so on. It also gives (some) helpful advice on settling.

The bad parts of this book are that Hall gives no quarter to new mums whose babies don’t fall into line. This makes you feel like YOU are doing something wrong when your baby doesn’t miraculously go to sleep at 9am exactly and sleep for precisely two hours. Even though Hall says things like “resettle as necessary’ and ‘let the baby self-settle’, and, indeed, includes settling advice — all of which demonstrates that she knows babies cry off-schedule, as it were — nevertheless, the majority of the book’s advice is structured such that you feel a bit like a failure if your baby doesn’t co-operate. For me, it meant I was watching the clock more than listening to and learning about my own baby. This was a real problem for a few weeks, and definitely stopped me from bonding with her as closely as I feel I could have. For a while, though — everything is fine now. But to throw in another piece of unsolicited advice — watch the baby, not the clock. It’s the best way to learn what your baby is like. Books by definition are based on either highly subjective individual stories about different babies than yours, or aggregate information that fails to capture the specific differences your baby will demonstrate.

So. Read the book to get an idea of schedules, by all means. But be flexible. Be tuned in to your baby.

  • Baby on Board by Howard Chilton.

This book is pretty good and written by a paediatrician. While Chilton gives good advice, mostly reinforcing other good advice I’ve gleaned from different places, his exploration of the concept of the ‘fourth trimester’ is pretty interesting and good. It helps you think about what the baby might be going through, and that’s interesting and probably good for building empathy with your little one, apart from anything else. He is very reassuring about babies’ crying. That is, babies cry. It’s pretty much their one means of communication. So yeah, don’t worry about it too much.

I don’t like his take on co-sleeping and SIDS, personally, but I understand that that is a decision individual parents make. His association between unsafe sleeping and wilful infanticide is historically dubious, and does not follow health and safety best-practice guidelines. He also uses exclamation points too much, which bespeaks the kind of chipper attitude that really annoys me because it seems really patronising, when you consider that his audience is likely to be tertiary educated women who are looking for solid research on what’s best for them and their babies. But that’s a style issue more than anything else.

Other things I’ve used:

  • Baby ESP (app). This has a free trial and then if you like it, it’s about $5 to download. Very useful, has an excellent ‘scheduler’ function that helps you see patterns in your baby’s sleep/eating habits. This in turn helps you organise things like doctor’s appointments, coffee with friends, and suchlike, because you can start guessing when your baby will be awake. Used in combination with Hall’s ideal schedule, I’ve found this to be very helpful but am gradually weaning myself off using it, because I don’t like watching the clock so much. But in the early days when people ask you questions like “how many wet nappies has your baby done?” and “how long is it taking you to breastfeed?” and so on, this basically takes all that out of your working memory and allows your brain to be used for better purposes. Computers are good at counting, and act as an excellent artificial memory. Find your app. Use it.
  • Troublesome Tots (blog). Very well-written and with excellent advice (and mostly some great comments, too). She gives a great summary of the Wonder Weeks which means you don’t need to buy the book.

And finally…

A couple of tips I’ve got of my very own to share.

  • Sorbolene cream and toilet paper makes excellent baby wipes for nappy changes when your baby is especially tiny. It helps to clear up mild nappy rash (non-candida) as well, and is much gentler than regular nappy wipes which contain alcohol, since this dries out the skin more. We got a pump bottle and used this for a few weeks at every nappy change, and it’s better than the commercial wipes we’re now using (just to work out way through the stock we already bought). I’m going back to using this as soon as we’re through.
  • Lucas’s PawPaw Ointment is a better alternative than zinc-based nappy rash creams, because PawPaw is amazing for inflamed skin, it’s gentler by far to apply, and it’s see-through. We ditched our nappy creams almost immediately.
  • Nuk brand bottle teats fit into Avent brand bottles. This is also true for Pigeon brand teats, which are super soft and much more like a nipple for a fussy bottle-feeder to use. We missed the ideal window for introducing bottles to Miss B and that’s causing difficulty; Lactation Consultants would, I’m sure, frown on the advice to use a bottle early on, but the fact is that you need to get your baby used to it if anyone else is ever going to feed your child (babysitting, anyone?). So I say do it a couple times a week after you’re in the rhythm of your own breastfeeding.

Other recommendations? Comment below and I’ll look into them!

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