February 27, 2020
They were straight-up petrified. A couple of new parents sitting there on the couch in my pediatrics office. Wide-eyed and hopeful, hopped up on information about “this year’s best stroller.” Filled to the brim with platitudes their friends and family all offered about what to expect when the timer went “ding” on their little bun in the oven. “It’ll be hard but you’ll love it. Enjoy your sleep now ‘cause it will never be the same again.” They had heard it all for months and, now, they were looking for REAL answers as to what would happen to their lives in those first few weeks. For the steps they actually could take to prepare themselves for the new little baby that was about to enter their world and turn it completely upside down (for a bunch of free help as you become a new mom, sign up for our free guide here).
I see it all the time in
They have no idea about the fact you have a limited maternity leave. It doesn’t matter to them that you’ve already lived 35 years and have a social life. They certainly don’t care if you have a certain level of sleep you’re used to. Their needs and desires are the same as the needs babies had thousands of years ago. When they are first born (and for the first three months afterward), they want only to keep things going as they were in that blissful, dark, loud, warm, cozy womb from which they just came. Dr. Harvey Karp wrote all about their primitive needs in his groundbreaking book, The Happiest Baby on the Block. It’s over 20 years old at this point but IT DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE BABIES HAVEN’T CHANGED ONE BIT since then and so the principles are just as true now as they were back in the day.
Before birth, your baby is swayed by the motion of your body throughout the day, lulled to sleep by the small and large movements you make. At night, it’s party time. If you are pregnant and reading this right now, you know EXACTLY what I mean. It’s reassuring on some level to feel a baby kicking around all night long, but it’s also hard to get some shut-eye some nights. All throughout the night, your body is not in motion and so your baby thinks it’s time to get active. After baby comes out, it takes awhile for your newborn to get the drift that night is actually night and day is actually day.
I know, I know, you already KNOW THAT. That’s why you’re so scared about this in the first place, right? But a new parent’s perspective gets thwarted easily. Somewhere along the line, people tend to forget this basic premise: this is not like all the modern things you normally do. They start trying to fix things instead. They try to make their baby get on a sleep schedule starting week one. (I do think that bedtime routines and sleep schedules can be a great thing, they’re just not the solution really early on for most babies.) They buy every product known to man. They fight and fight and fight baby sleep. I’ve been there. I’ve searched for hours for the perfect sleep solution. I’ve gotten frustrated with my baby, with my partner, and with the whole stinkin’ situation. And I’ve even lost sight of the fact that sometimes you can’t fix it. You just have to let it ride out. Let me give you a non-baby example: Think of the last really challenging exercise class or workout you did. The one where you had to psych yourself up to even make it down to the studio or to strap on those running shoes. You just KNEW that there would be a moment when you thought, “this is so hard.” Think of the moment you had to tell yourself, “just keep breathing, use your resources (distracting yourself with music, focusing on your form, thinking about your goal).” Think about how, at some point, your options were to just give up or to keep pushing through. There wasn’t anything you could do to make it substantially better, you just had to keep going. That’s kind of how, on some level, you have to approach new baby sleep. In the beginning, there are only so many things you can control (we’ll get to these in a second). Instead, you have to focus more on your own resources so that YOU can get through this tough time with resilience.
If someone tells you they can get EVERY baby to sleep well EVERY NIGHT using their methods, you’ve gotta be a little wary. I mean, come on, you are smart enough to never buy that when it comes to anything else in your life (think get-rich-quick schemes, perfect beauty tricks). So why would it be true for baby sleep when families and children are all so individual? No, babies are like Frank Sinatra – they do it THEIR WAY. A child’s temperament is a huge influencer of how well they sleep from the very, very beginning. Environment and parents sure help, but, in the end, temperament always plays a huge role. My first daughter was a bit of a nightmare when it came to sleeping well, but my second daughter was more of a breeze. Sure, I learned a bit about baby care in between. I’m not patting myself on the back, though. I can see the difference in their personalities in one hundred other ways, too.
Create an environment that is conducive to good sleep at night. Make the room dark, get the white noise going. Read Happiest Baby on the Block from cover to cover. Then read it again. Watch Youtube videos of how to soothe your baby. Make sure your partner understands the “5 S’s:” Swaddling, Shushing, Swinging, Side or Stomach (note: Side or Stomach is not a safe sleeping position for babies – but is great for soothing when awake) and Sucking. Don’t expect it, like any other book, will work perfectly, but expect it to give you a place to start when baby gets really worked up and won’t rest. You want to avoid feeling stuck, like you have no tricks up your sleeve. So, get the basics down ahead of time and add to your toolbox as you go, making lists of calming tricks if you need to and putting them on your fridge or phone so you can refer to them as you get familiar with what works for your baby.
This is the most important tip I can give you about newborn sleep. When I finished residency, I thought I would be all set to deal with sleep deprivation. I was used to staying up all night long, sometimes for up to 30 hours at a time for one shift. But the thing I forgot when I got into the whole new baby thing was the fact that I was also used to, at some point, having uninterrupted rest for hours at a time. Plus some weekends off. That is very different from the sinking feeling that you may never sleep again when your infant is brand new. While you can’t completely control how your baby sleeps, you can make sure you optimize your own sleep. Here’s how: You need to feed your baby really frequently in the early days and weeks but you don’t need to be the only one who soothes him or her in-between feeding sessions. That means your partner (or someone else – a family member, a postpartum doula) needs to step in and become “soother-in-chief” for awhile, as my work colleague likes to say. Otherwise, you will be at higher risk for postpartum depression and anxiety. Or you could resent the people around you and be less able to actually enjoy your baby during the day. If (again, back to our ancestors), you lived with all 20 of your favorite relatives in one common dwelling, this would be easy. In our culture of isolation, it can be trickier to find help for most new moms but it is SOOOO worth it. Even if you have someone designated as a soother every other night for one week, it will do wonders for your mental and physical health. The whole point is having a time in the future you can look forward to when you know you will get sleep (even if that time is two days away).
Be patient with your baby and with yourself. For some babies, sleep is great right away but for others, you’ve got to wade through the murky water until you get to the fresh stream a little further ahead. Use your resources and mindfulness, just like you would for any other challenging obstacle in your life. Of course, if your baby seems excessively fussy or you are concerned about illness, seek help from your child’s pediatrician. Get help from a lactation consultant if things seem to be haywire in the feeding department. So, is it possible for a newborn to sleep like a baby? Well, technically yes. They will sleep like the immature, womb-seeking, still-developing humans that they are. That’s the truth. Remember how primitive your baby’s needs are. Get your mind right. Get educated about how to soothe a baby and set up a sleep environment that optimizes rest for both of you. Above all, since babies aren’t modernizing anytime soon, make sure you get YOUR sleep by getting a solid team around you from the get-go. That way, even if your baby isn’t quite up to speed on how to calm and sleep when they first arrive, you can teach them with patience and perspective until they find their way.
February 24, 2020
This week on the podcast, we’re welcoming
Brianne is also sharing her experience with developing a business from the ground up, and following your dreams even if you’re not sure exactly what direction they’ll take you. Brianne’s website, Stroller in the City, is total eye candy for those who love to travel.
Brianne primarily works out of her home and on the go, so she has had to learn early on how to balance work life and home life in the same space, a feat I’m entirely in awe of. We also talk all about how to get your work done the most efficiently if you run your own small business (like she and I do) and how to give yourself a break when you’re feeling unbalanced. If you work out of your home, this episode is chock full of professional wisdom for you, Mama.
February 17, 2020
Yep, I said it. Lady parts. Because, as Frida Mom said in their recently-banned Oscar ad depicting a new mom painfully hoisting herself out of bed, gingerly walking to the bathroom, and cringing while caring for herself on the toilet, “Postpartum recovery doesn’t have to be this hard.”
Dr. Jessica Voge, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist and mom of two, walks us through what moms can expect in the postpartum period, including
If you’re a new mom or a mom-to-be, this episode is for you, my friend, because I believe you need real, honest information from experts, not Dr. Google. I also believe the postpartum period can be better if you have the resources, information, and support that you need. Winning at parenting without losing can start even before your baby arrives.
If you’re well out of the postpartum stage, this is your chance to really help someone out. Remember your experience? I remember mine, for sure, and I wish I’d had a little more help understanding how I was going to change (along with what to expect when it came to my baby’s health). Share this episode with a friend you think would benefit from setting
November 11, 2019
You’ve made a work-through-your-emotions-when-you-go-back-to-work plan, you’ve thought about how you’re going to feed your baby when you’re back on the job. Now, who’s going to watch your little one? What about child care?
I had the world’s best nanny for my kids for my first five years of parenthood. She was an amazing childcare provider. I didn’t find her by luck, though (okay, there was probably a little luck). I found her by design. And, whatever childcare situation you’re looking for — in-home one-on-one care, a
As a private practice pediatrician, new and expecting parents ask me often about what type of setting is best for children—
The program or person also needs to provide the level of flexibility you need. Finally, you want the adults caring for your child to have the same parenting goals and values you do, backed by a working knowledge of the core principles of successful caregiving.
You don’t want them to try too hard to focus on a set “curriculum” for your children. Instead, you want them to provide opportunities for exposure to lots of books, music, one-on-one communication, and exploration. This could be in the care of a child care center, an in-home child care setting, a nanny, a nanny share, a friend, or a relative.
My top picks are nannies, family members, and in-home child care settings for young kids. Once kids reach preschool age, the need for structure and social skill development outweighs the home care aspect. At that point, a mix of preschool and sitter/nanny is my top choice. Of course, budget often comes into play, and traditional child care settings with quality, reliable caregivers are a great option too.
When you set out to find a child care center, start by talking with other parents in your area. Chances are seasoned parents will start recommending child care centers once their own kids are ready to start the next level of school in the fall. Depending on your location, you may need to get onto waiting lists early (eg, as soon as you’re pregnant; I know, we live in a competitive world). It’s never too soon to start researching.
Look for child care centers that share these goals for your kids, giving care in a way that helps kids.
• Contribute to society.
• Find contentment in their work and play.
• Form healthy relationships.
• Build resilience.
Consider the possibility of increased risk of illness. A child in child care will be exposed to more germs daily than a child in a one-on-one or nanny share setting just because of the sheer number of other children she’s around. Yes, over time that can contribute to a stronger immune system, but, for some families, it can mean a world of hurt every winter. Every child is different—some kids seem to skate by without a cold or rash—but it is a recurring theme.
Even though a nanny or smaller in-home setting can seem more expensive on the surface, your cost-benefit child care analysis should also account for potential days of work missed caused by your child’s illnesses if he’ll be in a group care setting. In my profession, it’s not impossible to take a day off, but it is a huge inconvenience to my patients and to my business partners. So that I can avoid missed workdays, I look for ways to avoid my kids catching major illnesses in the first place.
Likely because I’ve had such a good
The answer: there are a ton of places to look for quality caregiver suggestions—online caregiver search sites, friends, family, coworkers, social media groups, and even professional nanny companies. On the websites specifically designed for finding care, they’ll make it easy for you to go through all the steps—they’ll allow you to create a profile and a job posting where you then filter through applicants and set up in-person interviews.
From there, you can sign up for a paid trial during which the caregiver cares for your child for just an hour or so while you’re still in the house so that you can make sure you feel comfortable.
Here’s the secret, though: it’s not about where; it’s about how. It doesn’t matter what site you use or what friend makes an initial suggestion. It matters what process you go through to attract, evaluate
Click here for my best strategies for finding an amazing nanny.
Friends and family can also be amazing pinch-hit caregivers or caregivers for extended trips. If you have an open, honest relationship with a family member you trust, that person can also work well as a full-time nanny. The obvious bonus? Free care (or at least significantly reduced cost). The downside? For many parents, establishing long-term care with a family member can be more complicated than a traditional child care arrangement because there is no formal employer-employee relationship. The best way to address this is to set up expectations for what your needs are and your kids’ needs are and to let the chips fall where they may (as long as there are no major safety violations) if things aren’t to your exact specifications.
Paid caregivers will also vary in their willingness or ability to meet your expectations, but it’s a little easier when dealing with an employee because you are paying employees. If it doesn’t work out, you can usually end or alter your relationship with significantly less dramatic fallout. If the caregiving prowess or style doesn’t quite measure up, you can choose to find someone new without the emotional considerations that come with personal relationship negotiations.
On the flip side, it can be difficult for friends and family to understand or respect your boundaries or your parenting style. Sometimes you have to make a hard decision—is it worth it financially to muddy the friend and family waters and if it is, will you be able to let go of the smaller things that irk you?
Feeling stressed as you tackle this topic? Don’t be! Focus on finding experienced, quality providers. Like most things in life, what really matters when it comes to
November 4, 2019
Last week, we talked about heading back to work after your maternity leave, including the emotional ups and downs that come with that monumental transition. This week is focused exclusively on lactating moms who want to maximize their ability to pump while at work. It’s time to talk about breast pumping.
For those moms who are breastfeeding at home during maternity leave, the transition to breast pumping can be daunting.
Even if you feel like you have the “breastfeeding from your breast” thing down, breast pumping successfully is a whole other ball of wax. When you’re home all day with your baby during maternity leave, your milk supply is often at its best. Once you go to
Yes, social media groups can seem helpful when you start breast pumping, giving you tips and tricks and support that don’t come in the pump manual but remember that the members’ advice is usually based only on their personal experiences. Instead, think about returning to a certified lactation specialist to guide you on this next part of your breastfeeding journey. Probably most importantly, the lactation specialist can measure you for the correct phalange size if you haven’t done this already—a critical step for making sure you don’t injure your breasts or nipples in the pumping process and that your pumping sessions are efficient. Set your appointment up for about one month before you go back to your job, if possible.
If you’re planning on breast pumping a lot, you’re going to want to invest in good equipment. It is important for the breast pump to be a “double-electric” pump, which means you can pump both breasts at the same time, and it has an electric motor, preferably with an adjustment for different suction levels.
It also needs to work with a breast pump system, which means it’s compatible with bottles for feeding, bottles for storing milk, cleaning supplies, cooler bags, freezer bags, and so on. You want all of this to work seamlessly together so you don’t waste your priceless time jerry rigging a ton of junk together.
One hidden consideration? Your pump needs to have easy-to-find replacement parts. Most of the major brands out there should qualify. If your pump parts are not online or readily accessible at the store, you’ll be frantic when you really need a pump accessory and you can’t find one.
When I had my first daughter, I had this huge pump that needed to be plugged into a wall at all times in order to work. I quickly switched over to one that had extreme portability. (Note: for some moms with production issues, the pump efficiency is the most important factor, making other considerations seem frivolous. Follow your pediatrician’s and lactation specialist’s advice.) Whichever setup you choose, most important is that you set it up and have it all sterilized before you have your baby. This is an awesome task to assign to a partner, but you’ll be using it, so make sure you have a working knowledge of the pump yourself.
Have a spare set of pump parts at work, a set in your pump bag, and a set at home. You will forget something important one day and be so happy for the spare. In the same vein, carry a manual pump to use in a pinch. Even more critical, if you have a pump that has to be plugged in, buy a compatible, rechargeable battery pack. Believe me, in the case of a power outage or a lack of power outlets, you will be happy you followed my advice. On the other hand, if you plan at all on traveling with your pump to conferences or for a getaway weekend, it pays to invest in a portable pump that doesn’t require plugging in at all.
Before you ever go back to work, consider a half-day breast pumping trial. Have a childcare provider (or a family member) stay with your baby for half the day while you learn how to pump and store your milk. Whatever your set up will be at the office, try to mimic the environment as much as possible. If you’ve arranged for a gradual return to work, this is an ideal way to get your feet wet as you start out. If you’re starting at full speed it’s even more important to try out your pumping gear ahead of time.
Slow flow, fast flow, vented, preemie—the possibilities seemed endless on the baby store shelves when moms-to-be are pregnant, trying to pick out bottles, already planning for their return to work postpartum. There’s a lot of information out there on bottle feeding. Unfortunately, though, there are hardly any forewarnings about how to help babies take a bottle once they’re already established exclusive breastfeeders. The lactation specialists I work with frequently see moms heading back to work who never bottle fed at all during maternity leave, or who tried it a few times early on, called it good, but then struggled once they started back on the job.
Not only does it help baby get used to drinking apart from you
First, try mimicking breastfeeding, holding your baby cradled in your arms like she’s nursing—maybe even starting with the breast in her mouth then swiftly swapping your nipple out for a bottle (hopefully) before she notices. If your baby is on to you, looking up with a quizzical look and spitting out the silicone nipple, try for the opposite: hold her facing outward, maybe looking up at a fan or outside at the birds in the sky, and sneak the bottle to her lips while she’s distracted. In this approach, you’re trying to make bottle feeding completely different from breastfeeding.
Being at the breast is different from being at the bottle. The rhythmic letdown is different, the feel in the mouth is different. Some babies just will not do it at first. If your child fights the bottle, take a second to breathe before becoming flustered. Most babies who refuse the bottle in the first few days after mom goes back to work get the hang of it relatively quickly (even if it feels like forever to their mothers).
Yes, breast pumping while you work is, for most moms who breastfeed, a task that’s just no fun but you can make the most of your time with your pump by getting help, getting effective gear, and planning ahead.
Look for our Working Mom Tools blog next week on choosing a childcare option that works for you and your baby!
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